Anemone, the Windflower: Part 2 - the Fibrous-rooted SpeciesBy Todd Boland (Todd_Boland)
July 12, 2008
In part 2 of this 3 part series I will discuss the attributes of a few of the fibrous-rooted anemone species. As mentioned earlier, there are about 120 species of Anemone which fall into three groups; the tuberous-rooted, fibrous-rooted and tall, fall-flowering. By far the largest group are those with fibrous roots or at most, thin rhizomes. These grow in a wide range of habitats from semi-deserts, grasslands, woodland, subalpine, high alpine and even the high Arctic, throughout the world. The tuberous-rooted, on the other hand, are mostly European (refer to part 1 http://davesgarden.com/guides/articles/view/1021/ ) while the fall-flowering hail from China and Japan.
Let's start close to home with some American species. One of the most widespread is A. canadensis (zone 3), a widespread woodlander to grassland species which can reach 30-60 cm. This species has loose clusters of 3-5 cm white flowers in early summer. Plants spread rapidly so may be a bit of a bully in a perennial border. Probably better to grow this one in the wildflower garden. Confined to the east-central is the foliar look-alike species A. virginiana (zone 4), however, its flowers are not nearly as attractive, being rather small and dirty-white.
From the grassland regions of North America comes the very common species A. multifida (zone 2). The leaves are reminiscent of Pulsatilla , being fuzzy and feathery. Several flower stems arise 20-40 cm, topped by a few small white, yellow pink or red flower. Plants may bloom on and off all summer. Some forms, with larger, more spreading flowers, are reasonably showy while others have rather tiny, unassuming blossoms. They have interesting fuzzy seedheads. Similar in appearance is A. cylindrica (zone 3) and A. riparia (zone 4), both with small off-white flowers.
Perhaps the most choice alpine anemone in North America is A. parviflora (zone 1). This species is actually holarctic in distribution occurring in both northern North America and northern Eurasia. It also extends south in North America in alpine zones of the Rockies. Plants are ground-hugging with relatively large glistening white blooms. Alas, this species is very difficult in cultivation. Another western alpine species is A. drummondii, a species much more amenable to cultivation. It produces solitary cream-white flowers with a pale blue reverse on 15-20 cm stems.
Some examples of American anemone species are A. canadensis (X2), A. multifida (pink or cream), A. parviflora, A. drummondii and A. virginiana
Next we come to the Eurasian species. The European counterpart of A. canadensis and A. virginiana is the snowdrop windflower, A. sylvestris (zone 4). This species is shorter (15-30 cm) with semi-nodding white, fragrant flowers and blooms a little earlier than its close American relatives. Often growing with A. sylvestris is the exquisite A. ranunculoides (zone 4), a small, early-flowering, dainty European with yellow, buttercup-like flowers. These two make admirable additions to any woodland garden. The European counterpart to A. multifida is A. baldensis (zone 5), a shorter (20 cm) version with larger, showier, white flowers and ideal for sunny rockeries.
From Europe come A. sylvestris and A. baldensis
From China come some very choice similar-looking species. Anemone rupicola (zone 6) is the Asian counterpart to the European A. baldensis, with clusters of white whites on compact 15 cm stems. It is a choice rock garden plant. Two other choice anemones from China are A. obtusiloba (zone 5) and A. trullifolia (zone 5). The former has small, crinkled leaves like miniature parsley and white, red, blue or rarely yellow flowers. The latter is quite distinct from all the previous anemones mentioned as its leaves are spoon-shaped, not deeply dissected and feathery. Its flowers come in white, blue or yellow. Both reach about 20 cm. Perhaps the most dainty of all is A. coerulea, a small, blue-flowered species from the Altai Mountains. These are all suitable for dappled shade or sun if the soil stays reasonably moist.
Among the most choice Chinese species are A. trullifolia and A. obtusiloba
The last three fibrous-rooted species of particular note are A. narcissiflora (zone 3), A. demissa (zone 5) and A. rivularis (zone 5). The former species grows across Eurasia and barely makes it into Alaska. This species produces an umbel of 3-8 white flowers at the end of 40 cm stems. It is among the most showy species in this group. Anemone demissa, from SW China, is more dwarf but otherwise similar and also quite a choice plant for rock garden enthusiasts. While the previous two have fuzzy, dissected leaves, Anemone rivularis has coarser leaves more like those of A. sylvestris. It is one of the tallest species in this group (to 90 cm) with umbels of 3-5 white flowers. This species does best in part-shade and moist sites.
Perhaps the most spectacular species is A. narcissiflora while A. rivularis has contrasting blue anthers
Availability of these fibrous-rooted anemones is variable. Some, such as A. sylvestris, A. canadensis and A. virginiana are available at specialty woodland nurseries. Some of the alpine types are available at alpine nurseries. Others are only available as seed from specialty catalogues or seed exchanges. They are not the easiest to germinate from seed and certainly require at least 8 weeks of stratification. My best germination rates were by sowing seeds in the fall and leaving them outside for the winter. Some seeds will wait 2 years before germinating...I guess patience is a virtue!
The last installment in this series will be the fall-flowering anemone from China and Japan...coming soon!
I would like to thank the following people for the use if their pictures: Galanthophile (A. rivularis), KMAC (A. obtusiloba), TamiMcNally (A. virginiana) and Weezingreens (A. narcissiflora)