As summer turns into fall, the garden begins to change. Some perennial flowers are finished blooming for the year and others are just coming into bloom. This is what makes gardening so fun.
Some of my summer annual flowers are looking quite ragged and are ready to be removed. I plan to replace them with some beautiful cool-season pansies, but my tough summer annual lantana is still going strong. It will look beautiful until a heavy frost so it will get to stay for now.
Established trees and shrubs seem to go into a holding pattern at this time of year. In early October, the green color changes ever so slightly to a duller shade of green, signaling that bright and beautiful fall colors are on the way.
Even with all these seasonal changes occurring, fall is still the best time for planting trees, shrubs, perennials, and spring-flowering bulbs. In fact, I think this is a great time to evaluate your garden over the last year and plan for a few new changes.
Fall flowering asters, in shades of pink and purple, perennial Amsonia that’s grown for its brilliant, yellow fall color, and several ornamental grasses—such as a switchgrass ‘Northwind’ and Hakone grass—all bring a bright yet Oriental flair to my side garden.
One popular fall-blooming plant that so far has escaped being added to my garden is Japanese anemone, Anemone x hybrida, also called windflower or thimbleweed. I have been recommending it to others for years, so this year I will plant one myself.
There are two types or groups of anemones: the fibrous-rooted and tuberous-rooted. Most tuberous-rooted anemones bloom in the spring, and the fibrous-rooted anemones bloom in late summer and fall. These fall-blooming anemones are commonly called Japanese or hybrid anemone, and are more commonly seen growing in gardens in our area.
The Japanese anemone is not a picky perennial. It will grow in a wide range of soils and likes wet, well-drained soils. Avoid poorly drained soils, especially in the winter. It is its most beautiful when planted in part shade, but it can grow in full sun and in part shade quite successfully.
Most Japanese anemones grow 2 to 3 feet tall when in bloom and can be quite vigorous in the garden. This is not a plant you need 10 or 12 of to make a show. One or two will usually work well unless you are collecting different varieties, and then you may want to choose four or five different ones. If you have several varieties, I recommend planting them in different locations throughout the garden so each fall you can enjoy their beauty in a variety of locations.
This vigorous perennial has often been labeled as a thug or bully of the garden due to its vigorous nature. I have seen gardens where it seems to be on the verge of taking over, but perhaps it was due in part to over-planting in the beginning, or not being diligent enough with maintenance to keep them weeded back to the area you designated for them. The Japanese anemone does seem to prosper and naturalize best in moist, rich soils, so planting them in areas that are drier or soils that are poor may be a way of containing them or keeping their vigor in check.
There are several beautiful cultivars to choose from, and many are not hard to find. One of the most popular, and my favorite, is ‘Honorine Jobert.’ Its white flowers with tiny yellow stamens in the center are beautiful in the fall garden and great to liven up fall borders. The flowers are easily 2 to 3 inches across and they cover the 3-foot-tall or taller plant by early October. I can’t imagine why I have allowed my own garden to go without this beauty for so long.
‘September Charm’ is another popular anemone. It has single, pink flowers with two shades of pink, giving it a slightly mottled yet beautiful appearance. The single-flowered anemones seem to be easier to find, but I have seen a few double-flowering forms growing in gardens over the years. Unfortunately, most were passed down from gardener to gardener without the variety names.
With flowers of white, pink, or darker rosy-pink, and in single or double forms, I am sure you can find a variety that is perfect for your garden. The Japanese anemone does have somewhat of an English garden look to it, but I think it can be successfully incorporated into many styles of gardens—even into a formal garden space.
Is there a plant you love that has somehow escaped your beautiful garden over the years? Fall is the best time for planting, so go ahead—spoil yourself and find that plant you have always wanted. The beautiful Japanese anemone has finally found a home in my own garden, and though it will be almost a year before I get to see the beautiful flowers, it will definitely be worth the wait.