“One of the most obliging of all garden plants, and maybe the best perennial for the early fall garden, is the Japanese anemone. Once you have it, you have it. There is no question of replacing it every few years. It spreads moderately but is not invasive, and so far as I have seen it is not bothered by mildew, viruses, or bugs.
“From a tuft of basal leaves it sends up flower stalks three or four feet high, with many buds that open over a period of several weeks. The individual flowers are about the size of silver dollars, either white or rose pink, with conspicuous yellow stamens at the center. There are also semidouble forms. I like the plain single white ones best….
“In the bishop’s garden of Washington Cathedral… I have often admired the white anemone blooming amid fat old clumps of box, one of the happiest associations imaginable. The anemone also looks good in back of late-flowering hostas. But the hostas are too dense for the anemones to compete with, so they should be separated by three feet or so. When they bloom together (their bloom overlaps, though the hostas finish before the anemones), the two kinds of flowers almost touch.”
“The stock or kindred of the Anemones or Wind-flowers, especially in their varieties of colours, are without number, or at the least not sufficiently known unto any one that hath written of plants. For Dodonaeus hath set forth five sorts; Lobel eight; Tabernamontanus ten: myself have in my garden twelve different sorts: and yet I do hear of divers more differing very notably from any of these; which I have briefly touched, though not figured, every new year bringing with it new and strange kinds; and every country his peculiar plants of this sort, which are sent unto us from far countries….
“The first kind of Anemone or Wind-flowers hath small leaves very much snipped or jagged almost like unto Camomile, or Adonis flower: among which riseth up a stalk bare or naked almost unto the top; at which place is set two or three leaves like the other: and at the top of the stalk cometh forth a fair and beautiful flower compact of seven leaves, and sometimes eight, of a violet colour tending to purple. It is impossible to describe the colour in his full perfection, considering the variable mixtures….
“The second kind of Anemone hath leaves like to the precedent, insomuch that it is hard to distinguish the one from the other but by the flowers only: for those of this plant are of a most bright and fair scarlet colour, and as double as the Marigold; and the other not so….
“The [third] great Anemone hath double flowers, usually called the Anemone of Chalcedon (which is a city in Bithynia) and great broad leaves deeply cut in the edges, not unlike to those of the field Crow-Foot, of an overworn green colour: amongst which riseth up a naked bare stalk almost unto the top, where there stand two or three leaves in shape like the others, but lesser; sometimes changed into reddish stripes, confusedly mixed here and there in the said leaves. On the top of the stalk standeth a most gallant flower very double, of a perfect red colour….
“The fourth agreeth with the first kind of Anemone, in roots, leaves, stalks, and shape of flowers, differing in that, that this plant bringeth forth fair single red flowers, and the other of a violet colour….
“The fifth sort of Anemone hath many small jagged leaves like those of Coriander, proceeding from a knobby root resembling the root of Bulbocastanum or Earth Chestnut. The stalk rises up amongst the leaves of two hands high, bearing at the top a single flower, consisting of a pale or border of little purple leaves, sometimes red, and often of a white colour set about a blackish pointel, thrummed over with many small blackish hairs….”
I had not previously known that anemone plants were also called “windflowers” — the recent learning of which sent me into a research tizzy about the source of the common name. With a little help from ClaudeAI, I discovered that John Gerard’s book The Herball, or, Generall Historie of Plantes — often retitled as The Herbal, or General History of Plants (or simply Gerard’s Herbal) — contained some of the earliest written references to anemones as windflowers. There are several variations of the book available online, some of which appear to be scans of an original 1700-page 1597 version, where “windflower” was written as “winde-floure” — which I’ve decided is pronounced “windy-flurry” even if it’s not.
Gerard’s Herbal describes eleven kinds of anemone. I quoted through the fifth since that one sounds like the anemone I photographed for this first post — because of their white color and notably for their tiny, sparse leaves that are shaped like coriander leaves, or, as I’ve read elsewhere, parsley leaves. This batch of anemone was growing in the corner shadows of the W.A. Rawson Mausoleum — which you can read more about here, or see some images of here — whose textured gray stone provided a nice background for the white flowers and wispy green stems.
While I often use some magic tricks to extract text from scanned books like Gerard’s Herbal, they didn’t work too well with this version since there are ghostly images bleeding through from other pages. Luckily I found a text version — which I used for the quote up-top, and where the language is partially modernized, though many “haths” and “doths” remain. And from there I found this delightful explanation for the genesis of “windflower” as the plant’s common name….
“Anemone, or Wind-Flower is so called for the flower doth never open itself but when the wind doth blow, as Pliny writeth: whereupon also it is named of divers Herba venti: in English, Wind-Flower.”
… followed by some notes about the plant’s medicinal properties — called “The Virtues” — which include:
“The leaves stamped, and the juice sniffed up into the nose purgeth the head mightily…. “The root champed or chewed procureth spitting, and causeth water and phlegm to run forth out of the mouth.“
Good to know, I guess! 🙂
Across this post and the next one, the plants appear to be Japanese Anemones (Eriocapitella hupehensis) or Snowdrop Anemones (Anemonoides sylvestris) — both of which tend to be fall-blooming anemones in warmer climates, and I normally see them flowering here in the southeast from late summer through late September or early October. I took these photos on October 6th and October 19th — when many of the flowers had already bloomed yet there were plenty still preparing to open.