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Thursday, Sept. 4, 2008 03:49 pm

Flower power for fall

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Just when you think that the perennial garden is starting to fade, fall-blooming anemones add a splash of color to the garden. These prolific bloomers will continue blooming for up to
five weeks.

As a group, the genus Anemone consists of 100 species of plants, including spring, summer and fall blooming flowers. The fall flowering anemones species are the showstoppers of
the group.

Fall anemones, also called Japanese anemones, bloom from late July to early October. None of the anemones originated from Japan so it makes more sense to call them fall anemones than Japanese anemones.

Fall anemones will grow in full sun but prefer a partial shade, performing best with morning sun and afternoon shade. Foliage tends to burn in hot, dry, summer conditions. Soil should be fertile, moist, well-drained and high in organic matter. Plants prefer consistently moist soil, so mulching is beneficial. Plants can be killed by wet winter conditions.

Slow to establish, fall anemones will become prolific when grown in an ideal site. Be sure to give the plants room by spacing them two to three feet apart in the garden. Spring planting is best. Sometimes the plants will start to spill out of their space; in that case, just dig out the unwanted intruders and share them with friends.

Mounded plants will grow two to five feet tall. Taller plants may need staking. Place plants in the mid-border to background of the garden.

The dark green foliage is attractive from spring to fall. Foliage darkens after a hard frost. It is best to remove the foliage in late fall.

Flowers are white, pink, rose or lilac. There are single, semi-double or double cultivars. The slightly cupped flowers are two to three inches in diameter. Flowers don't need to be deadheaded to prolong bloom.

Some of the fall blooming anemone species are Anemone hupehensis, Anemone x hybrida, and Anemonetomentosa. All of these species produce similar flowers but have a few differences.

Hybrid anemones, Anemone x hybrida, are mixtures of several species and are well-adapted to our gardens. Plants can reach five feet in height. Cultivars include Elegantissima, which grows three to four feet tall and has double pink flowers, and Honorine Jobert, which has a single white flower. Discovered in 1858, Honorine Jobert is still the most popular white anemone.

Anemone hupehensis flowers a week or so earlier and is generally shorter (two to three feet tall) than A. x hybrida. A. hupehensis also has smaller flowers and tolerates drier, sunnier sites. Cultivars include Bressingham Glow, which has deep rose-pink, semi-double flowers, Prinz Heinrich (Prince Henry), which has early flowering, rosy red semi-double flowers, and September Charm, which produces single, rose-pink flowers.

Anemonetomentosa is an earlier flowering anemone and more tolerant of temperature extremes than A. hybrida. Called the "grapeleaf anemone," its foliage resembles grape leaves, and has a white pubescence on the underside of the leaves. Robutissima is a cultivar that produces mauve-pink flowers held above the foliage. Adapted to both sun and shade, Robutissima is a hardy selection. (This cultivar is grown in the perennial garden at the U of I Extension Sangamon-Menard Unit.)

Consider adding fall anemones to your perennial garden. They add beauty just as summer bloomers are fading away and just before mums begin to bloom.

Jennifer Fishburn is a horticulture educator with the University of Illinois Extension Sangamon-Menard Unit. Contact her at fishburn@uiuc.edu.

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