Effusive, late-season displays of color become harder to come by as the days become cooler, which is why I enjoy growing the bright, carefree wands of windflower in my garden, and always make room for their clumping foliage between other spring and summer flowering perennials.
How to grow windflowers?First, choose a sheltered place. The wind flowers may dance in the breeze, but they will not be happy after the storm. They appreciate the moisturizing soil rich in organic matter, and once planted, they really would rather you let them take over the garden alone.
I regret every time I divide the wind direction flower, but every time I do this, I will send these divided objects to places where they have no commercial life-such as dry, silty soil or sunny sand. The recovery speed of the department is always slow, so take some time to settle them, otherwise you will eventually move.
If you give them organically rich soil, you will be rewarded with exceptionally vigorous plants whose foliage will emerge early in spring and could almost be classified as a ground cover throughout the growing season. They will quickly spread – I didn’t say ‘vigorous’ for nothing.
Note: In rich, partially shaded soil you’ll be digging them out within three years to stop them smothering other plants. I keep them on the hungrier, drier side and don’t need to do very much weeding.
Windflowers prefer shelter from burning afternoon sun. Hence they are very popular with gardeners trying to extend the season in their lightly shaded spots. One of my absolute favorite combinations is the pairing of pure white ‘Honorine Jobert’ blooms (A. x hybrida) with low-lying branches of winterberry (Ilex verticillata) before the leaves have dropped on the winterberry yet the branches are laden with red fruit.
This combination relies on the ability of the ilex to cope with slightly shadier conditions than it would prefer, and the anemone to take more sun than it would like — but some of the best things in life require compromise.
Which windflowers should you grow?
‘Honorine Jobert’ was the Perennial Plant Association’s Perennial of the Year a few years back, but I am equally fond of the slightly shorter ‘Andrea Atkinson’ and the lovely pink ‘September Charm.’ The pure white of Honorine is so wonderfully brightening in the late summer and early fall garden, and contrasts so well with other plants that it’s tough to go wrong with it.
Often times it is really about what I can get hold of easily during the spring planting season and as a grower friend always tells me, it’s tough to sell something that doesn’t bloom until fall. After a quick local nursery scan, anemone collectors are probably better off searching the internet to find those rarer cultivars.
Windflower and geranium flowers can be single, double or semi-double and most often are found in deepening shades of pink or white. The sepals are most often contrasted with striking orange stamens, but some are quite delicate, like A. tomentosa ‘Robustissima’ a cultivar that almost has a blueish cast to the sepals.
If you play your cards right and mix your cultivars, you can have windflowers blooming from late July through late October.
In fact, you can have them blooming even earlier than that – ‘Wild Swan,’ an exciting cultivar selected by Scottish nursery owner Elizabeth MacGregor, starts blooming in late spring and features white sepals with lilac-blue backsides. It’s absolutely stunning. I’ve killed it twice, but one lives in hope – I will no doubt try it again.
Other great pairings to try with Japanese anemones? Aster, Sheffield mums, pennisetum, panicum, aconitum, hosta, ligularia and just about anything else that can stand up to it and through which it can send those lovely wiry flowers.