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Plant of the Month April 2018

Anemones, of which there are around 100 species, are widely known to be very useful plants, and perhaps none more so than Anemone blanda. The tubers can be squeezed between plants, filling gaps, naturalising well and growing happily in semi-shade. It is a great alternative for those who want, but struggle to grow flowers like Hepaticas in the garden.
 


Anemone blanda in a woodland garden

Anemone blanda

Drifts of colour, they bind together a tapestry of other early spring flowers in woodland or naturalistic settings, spreading quicker than the wood anemone but also work well when the two are woven together. Very few plants provide the same reliable charm and blue colour of Anemone blanda at this time of year. If you consider the colour too purple or pink, keep an eye out for other shades as there are variations in other blue tones and even a white variation. 
 


White variation of Anemone blanda

Native to Greece and surrounding areas, they were introduced to Great Britain in 1989 and very popular with the likes of William Robinson and Gertrude Jekyll. These flowers lend themselves well to the mixed herbaceous borders, as well as ‘wild’ gardens that were so en vogue around this time. Robinson himself proclaimed that Anemone blanda is, ‘deserving to be cultivated in every garden’, extolling the virtues of its colour, hardiness, dwarf size and early flowering. 

This spring at Kew, it has been used not only under trees in the woodland, but also as a filler in large terracotta pots, mixed with ferns and underplanting small birch trees. This versatile plant is worthy of many a planting repertoire, and starts to fade back and go dormant after a couple weeks of flowering, paving the way for later spring flowers and providing a display that doesn’t outstay its welcome. 


Anemone blanda used in pots

The plant spreads by rhizomes in a good rich soil, grown in partial shade, but will tolerate full sun as long as the ground is reasonably moist. The small stature of Anemone blanda makes it the perfect plant to fill a small area early in the year. Being very resistant to cold and frost makes it a reliable guest in the spring garden.

The best method of propagating the plant is by lifting and dividing around June. The plant will self-seed around a shady area, but you can collect seed which will germinate the following spring if hand sown. Best planted in mid-late October in ground or pots – do not allow them to dry out while they establish.
 


Pull apart the tubers of Anemone blanda to divide

The plant suffers few problems, but can be attacked by slugs and snails and doesn’t like it overly wet. Keep a patch healthy by dividing when overcrowded. This versatile plant works well in rockeries, woodlands, at the front of a border or under winter flowering shrubs such as the scented and winter flowering Chimonanthus praecox (wintersweet). 

It is a worthy presence in gardens in all weathers. The flowers can be spotted bowed over on overcast days, and there is no sight quite as lovely as a drift of Anemone blanda lifting their faces to sun as spring skies clear. 

 

Andrew Luke and Miranda Janatka Posted by Andrew Luke and Miranda Janatka

Andrew Luke is Head Gardener at Wrest Park (English Heritage). He can be contacted on Twitter @PlantGrafter
Miranda Janatka is a Botanical Horticulturist at Kew Gardens, she can be contacted at Twitter on @Miranda_J​

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