Anemone Cultivation

Anemones are flowers of great value both to the amateur and professional flower grower. Their value lies in their ease of cultivation, though few amateurs realize this, and in their ability to flower almost all the year round if planted at different times and the corms are covered with some glass during mid-winter. And yet, so many overs of the plant fight shy of their cultivation and many of those who do grow the corms rarely seem to achieve any worth while results.

Recently in a local seed shop, I picked up a few huge corms from a bowl on the counter and respectfully pointed out to the assistant that such large corms were only courting failure. He was amazed at my remarks and so were two lady enthusiasts who were buying seeds and who too, had achieved no worth while results from their favourite flower. To all would-be anemone growers the most important advice is to refuse all large corms. Anemone Cultivation

These have not only become acclimatized to the soil and surroundings and climate in which for several years they have been growing, but they have become ‘woody’ and tough, making a vigorous display of bloom quite out of the question. Again, their best flowering days have long since past. This same advice may also be given to growers of gladioli, freesias and begonias – it does not follow in any way that the largest corm will produce the most bloom. This may be true of most bulbs, but not with a corm – in fact, such monsters should be put straight on the fire, they are worth neither time nor space for their planting.

One may ask just what is a large corm? When it is realized that the large anemone growers of the West Country almost always plant a corm of 1-2 cm. or 2-3 cm. size, no larger than a garden pea, anything four times as large and of a woody, knobby appearance will only mean that it has seen its best days and should be avoided. Anemones grow readily from seed and the 2 cm. planting-size corm is attained within twelve months of sowing. The 3-4 cm. Corm may also be grown, they will cost almost twice as much as the smaller sizes and little will be gained by planting them in spring, though this should be the size used for frame or pot culture. Anything above the 5 cm. should be left on the seedsman’s counter for no good will come of its planting. It is pathetic to see corms up to 9 cm. in size being sold through the Press which has done so much to give the anemone the title of being “difficult to grow”. No cut flower is easier and none more useful in the home.


Yet another cause of failure may be due to planting too thickly. With the smallest corms, which are also the most vigorous, one is tempted to plant, like peas, much too closely. The anemone must be given room to develop its vigorous rooting system so instead of taking out a shallow trench and sowing the corms, make a drill 3 in. deep and carefully place the corms z in. deep and 4 in. apart, leaving 5 in. between the rows. Some prefer to plant two corms together at distances of ro in., placing them z in. apart, though I prefer the first method.

When to plant is important, especially where the flowers are being grown for profit. Those who use no glass covering during winter should aim to have the corms in bloom early in spring and planting is done during July or even a little later. In a heavy soil it often happens that the 3-4 cm. Corm is used for this late planting. The grower with cloches or frames should set out the corms during June so that they will commence to bloom late in autumn, when they may then be covered during November. About fourteen weeks will elapse from sowing to flowering time. anemone corms

The amateur may prefer to obtain a late summer crop by sowing in early May, when the corms will bloom from mid-August until severely cold weather prevents the formation of more buds. If the rows are then covered with decayed leaves or peat this will provide some winter protection, and need not be removed when growth commences again the following spring – it will act as a mulch which the anemone loves. The same plants will continue to bloom throughout summer and may well produce an amount of bloom on strong stems throughout the following year. Like strawberries, the question of just when to dig them up and replant must be left with the size and quantity of bloom. Generally two years will see them past their best though much will depend upon the strain of corm and the preparation of one’s land.


Strange as it may seem, the anemone produces a larger, more deeply coloured bloom and a greater quantity of buds when grown in a heavy loam compared with in a sandy soil. This is by no means to say that it enjoys a heavy, wet soil, for drainage it must have, and any soil not well drained will be useless for growing anemones. Should the soil be unduly heavy, it may be better to plant on raised drills or in raised beds so that no excess moisture will hang about the roots during winter. In any case, the soil will need some preparation.

A heavy soil will need lightening by the addition of some coarse sand, some peat or leaf mould, or even spent hops which are generally readily obtained from a local brewery. Some lime rubble or hydrated lime is also necessary, in fact, contrary to popular belief that the anemone favours an acid soil, this is not the case, for apart from the extremely lime-loving plants, it favours land of a very alkaline nature. A soil which is of an acid nature will give you only a light crop. When growing anemones in a town garden where deposits of soot and sulphur constantly give the soil an acid tendency, the rows should be given a yearly application of lime applied before a mulch is given in early autumn.

Anemones will grow well in town gardem pro vided these little details are given attention, for in the 1930’s I grew both anemones and mushrooms within hearing of the roar of the crowds at Braman Lane Sheffield, (a district noted for its smoke-laden atmosphere and the stoking of the boilers of the huge steel works) whenever the visiting side was batting when Yorkshire were playing cricket on Sheffield United’s famous ground.

Anemones in this atmosphere grew to perfection just as they do on my plantations in Somerset, and in Cornwall to the sound of the lapping of the deep blue waters of Gillan Creek. The only difference being that in the West Country, the blooms are picked in the open all through the winter and spring – in Yorkshire, frames were used to keep out frost and dirt. But there was little difference in returns as those growing in Yorkshire were readily sold within five minutes’ walk of where they grew, whilst those from the West had to be sent long distances at considerable expense. I mention all this to show that the monopoly in anemone-growing need not be confined to the West Country.

Those growing in light soils will have no drainage worries, but a light soil will produce a small bloom on a thin stem. Some method of adding humus is necessary and this should be by way of well-rotted manure such as old mushroom-bed compost, or a compost made up by mixing pig or poultry manure in the dried state with peat. This is often applied at the rate of 20 tons per acre with professional growers and augmented by a 5-cwt. per acre dressing with hoof or fish meal when the plants are coming into bloom. The amateur should add what is available to the soil before planting, some lime is essential, and the following spring a dressing of a 1-oz. per yard row of sulphate of potash should be raked into the ground between the rows. The professional grower will apply as much as 4 cwt. Of potash to the acre. And whether growing in light or heavy land, or in town or country, do not forget to provide a light mulch when the corms have been flowering for six months. Peat seems to be the best and good advice is to sprinkle the drills with peat just prior to planting the corms.

It must be remembered that where the plants are to be covered with lights, closer spacing of the rows is permissible, with the corms spaced slightly further apart in the rows. The width of the bed should correspond to the width of the lights used, which will be either 4 ft. or 6 ft. My own method is to have the plants coming into full bloom by late autumn when boards are placed around the beds and held into place by pegs. These will take the lights towards the end of October.

Should the weather be unduly cold during January and February, soil should be banked up round the outside of the boards and straw should also be placed both round and over the lights. As anemones resent any stuffy conditions there must be ample ventilation wherever glass is used. The glass should be removed entirely on all sunny days. Under cloches or Ganwicks, anemones flower to perfection for here they receive the much-appreciated protection from winds. Though their name is derived from the Greek, anemos, the anemone does in fact, detest strong winds and the growers of the West Country spend considerable time and expense in providing as much protection as possible. Wattle hurdles are often used, or a profitable hedge such as Pittosporum or Forsythia is planted at intervals to divide up the plantation as much as possible. Almost all forms of the anemone enjoy a position of full sun and this is important where winter bloom is required, but when planting in the garden at home, select as wind-free a position as possible, provided the plants will not be in too much shade.

Anemone Japonica

Most effective when used alone or with other flowers. A cool, well-drained soil rich in humus is needed. While not a market flower, since it travels badly, so long as the stems are plunged in water as soon as they are cut, they will remain fresh for a week or so. As they-flower from the end of August onwards, their value will be obvious. Among the good varieties are: A. japonica alba, white; ‘Louise Uhinle, also white but dwarfer and cleaner looking; ‘Queen Charlotte’, rose-pink; ‘Marguerite’, large semi-double pink, and ‘Prince Henry’, rosy-red.


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