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Green Acre #212: Falling for (Fall) Anemones

AND WHAT OF anemones, LittleBird Janet, our fearless leader, asks. Such great fall flowers. 

Ah, Janet:

Assumably*, the mention of anemones was spawned by my last column, on liriope, which, by the way, caused a foofarah on a local gardening site, a battle between those who are adamant about using only plants native to the area, and those of us that say, Oh pretty! I want it! 

Guess which camp I’m in.

Liriope, the rather innocent-looking, hardy and prolific little fall flowering shrub was called invasive and, in a most cruel smear, a pollutant. Well, my stars. That was harsh, though a refreshing change from politics and plague, for which I applaud myself. 

I’m considering the anemone this morning, frothing above a patch of, yes, liriope on the terrace surrounding Radici, a delightful Italian deli in my Capitol Hill neighborhood, where patrons seeking an escape from Covid isolation idle with coffee, books and laptops beneath a flutter of red market umbrellas.

Unlike the riotously colorful spring-flowering anemones, Japanese anemones come into bloom in fall. Slumbering through the heat of summer, they burst into frills of daisyesque bloom with the first snap of fall chill. Which, you may have noticed, sprang forth this week. 

The palette of these charmers is delicate, from pale pinks to shades of white. The flower petals are fat, and almost translucent, which doesn’t seem possible, but is, and contributes to their fairytale beauty. Like the birthday card for a child of the feminine persuasion (me being PC), they should be doused with glitter and swarmed with butterflies. A bunny should be lurking nearby. 

 They stretch two to four feet above the groundcover, branches splaying, laden with buds, faces toward the sun. Meaning, they move. Right now, in the early morning, they’re watching DC’s historic Eastern Market across the way. By noon they’ll peer upward, and as the day fades they’ll turn toward the shop windows.

I know this because I’m so often here, though less so now as my coffee-drinking British buddy Maggie is across the pond. She’s putting the finishing touches on her Dracula opus, due out in October. But that’s another story. 

Janet’s request was timely, as Japanese anemones put on a delightful show. Unlike mums,  which shrivel and brown seemingly overnight in our often steamy climate, anemones go on and on, covered with buds that promise weeks of bloom—and enough branches to make even a small patch useful for cutting and plonking into a flower arrangement, adding airy pops to any assemblage.

I have tried them before, three, four, could have been 10 years ago, but they didn’t take. Who knows why. Then I forgot about them as we’re usually visiting my sisters in Florida in September, as Jeanie chose to be born at the peak of hurricane season, which has too often provided extravagant entertainment. By the time we’d return, they’d be out of stock.  

Lucky, for once, I dragged Tallula the grand-dog—staying for a bit—to Frager’s Hardware, which has a small but rather nice garden center. As she sniffed out a cat, or a rat, I found three varieties, including the one I was hunting, Queen Charlotte, a light pink. Surprisingly bushy, they will be lovely against the still-green leaves of the forsythia and hydrangea, arching over the tangle of vinca and ivy that swaddles the front garden, and partly shaded by a shapely red-leaf maple, its leaves turning deep maroon.

You might note that Japanese anemones are actually Chinese, imported from Shanghai in the mid 19th century, and most definitely non-native. Knowing them to be prolific spreaders (a kinder, gentler word for invasive), I have a vision of their multiplying each fall, adding joyful noise to the scarcely tamed wilderness that I aim for in my small patch. 

L’Shana Tova all. May you and yours be inscribed for another year of health and life. I shall fast on that this Yom Kippur.   

—Stephanie Cavanaugh

LittleBird “Stephanie Gardens” doesn’t like mums—or did you figure that out already? 

*Not a word but should be


2 thoughts on “Green Acre #212: Falling for (Fall) Anemones

  1. kelly janet says:

    Thanks, Stephanie,
    I’m so happy when these fall anemones make their appearance. Joyous. And they do keep merrily blooming.
    I don’t know about fasting this Monday but I’ll do my atoning best.

  2. Jean B. Gordon says:

    Thanks Stephanie, loved your article. Today, my ocean-view den has acquired two small rosebud plants with lots of blooms in their own metallic containers in greenish tones. I would love to have a mixture of some fall anemones to complete the feeling of lush outdoor gardens, but they wouldn’t work indoors. There is no feeling of fall mums here. Would love some ideas for indoor small flowering plants.

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