It is extraordinary to think that these plants are related to simple buttercups, Love-in-a- Mist, Delphiniums and Hellebores. Japanese anemones (Anemone huphensis var. japonica) and its cultivars are the ‘must have’ border plant for the autumn display. They really help push the show into the autumn and well into that period where most gardens are starting to look tired and over. They are members of the large Ranunculaceae family.
The early growth is in late spring with strong basal clumps or mounds of divided semi-evergreen foliage. These are a lovely dark green on top and a pale green below, incised around the edges and arranged in a pattern of threes. That provides a lovely fissured texture to the planting palette against which to contrast other green material in the border.
This is a most encouraging start to what develops into a great flourish of thin branched and wiry flowering multi-stemmed stalks that emerge late in the season and often in August. These are topped off at 2-3ft with pale little globular flower buds which open out into simple flowers about 4cm across with five or more sepals and golden stamens. Japanese Anemones deserve their popular name of Windflower because it does just that - they catch the wind which also refers to the beautiful seed heads that accompanies the whole flowering cycle. I like to keep the whole structure intact until spring to give a pretty winter structure and provide an eco-friendly habitat for birds and insects. It all gets a good chop down in February in time for the new growth.
The flowers have just the right quality of yellow in the stamens to enable them to fit in with those other strong yellow autumn flowers often provided by Rudbeckias in a sort of needlepoint tapestry effect that Gertrude Jekyll adored. However they look pretty good anywhere in the border. The best of the bunch for my money is 'Honorine Jobert'. It is a single white which is so delicate in style and finish.
Japanese Anemones are from the mountains in the Hupeh province in China and so they survive in poor and dry conditions where their roots search out the little moisture in and amongst rocks and stones. They can often be a little reluctant to take hold but once their roots have discovered the secret moisture they really take off. They will quickly form a good clump in a season and if planted early enough from a 9cm pot. They also don’t mind being neglected or being moved about and they don't need any stalking
They do however require a well-prepared soil to give them a good start but I have subsequently seen them growing in complete gay abandon on waste land on broken stone where the only possible feed was from the nitrogenous debris produced by decomposing Comfrey leaves that rotted down every year. They were probably the best stand of Japanese Anemones that I have ever seen. Propagation is by root cutting which works very successfully or by a simple division of the clumps in October.
Some varieties of note include