Tag Archives: windflowers

Autumn flowering self-seeders

Cyclamen hederafolium gently drifting itself in a most rewarding fashion

Over the years, we have tried growing any and all of the cyclamen species we could find. I see there are 23 species but we wouldn’t have had that number available to us. Most of them come from dry parts of Europe and North Africa, often with cold, dry winters – conditions that could not be further from ours. This is why we have only ever succeeded in naturalising three different species. Coum is our winter cyclamen, repandum in spring but it is the carpets of hederafolium that are delighting me in autumn.

Cyclamen grow from round, flattish discs that start tiny but can get steadily larger over the years. This is just one tuber, about the size of a saucer, with a big show-off display of flowers.

We didn’t plant all these hederafolium in pretty pink and white. We probably started this area with maybe three or four tubers but, over time, they have gently spread. That is what I mean by naturalising. We have them growing in cultivated conditions all through the rockery and in other garden beds and also growing in grass in the park meadow. I thought this drifting area was interesting because of the conditions where they have spread and the showy display they make.

For context, this is the wider view of the drift of cyclamen in the top photo. That ground is never fed and never watered so is very poor and dry but cyclamen are adapted to such conditions

They are growing in extremely poor ground, bone-dry and bereft of goodness because the enormous rimu trees suck up all the available moisture. There is also a natural carpet of rimu needles covering them. But, there is no competition from other bulbs or shade loving perennials. This means they never get swamped or crowded out by other plants or so wet in the shade that the tubers rot when dormant. And when the seed spreads, it has a fair chance of germinating and growing because the whole area is largely left undisturbed. Hederafolium sets seed freely and Mark has been pleasantly surprised when he has scattered the seed further afield and found cyclamen flowering there a few years later. It is best sown or scattered fresh, though. Gather the ripe seed and spread it at the same time rather than storing it for later.

Moraea polystachya gently seeding its way around

While on bulbs naturalising, I don’t mind the lovely blue Moraea polystachya seeding down in even less hospitable conditions – the cracks in the old concrete. It gently seeds itself through the rockery but not at an alarming rate and it cohabits happily with other plants. Also, the corms are large enough to find easily if I want to move them. It also has the longest flowering season of any of the autumn bulbs because it keeps flowering down the stem. They are iris-like in appearance and if you trace back the family tree, you get to what most of us might call the broader iris family.

Windflowers or Japanese anemones

Also spreading alarmingly are the Japanese anemones which aren’t even from Japan, commonly known as windflowers. I love them and am prepared to wage ongoing war on their spreading ways but they should always come with a warning. Don’t plant them anywhere near treasures of a more refined disposition because they will swamp them. It is best not to plant them near trees and shrubs because they spread below ground and you will have them all through the root systems of other plants all too soon. If you can, define a space and keep them to it which means having a clear area around them so you can see when the roots are popping up growing tips beyond their allotted space.

Japanese anemones

Naturally, I haven’t done this myself – at least not on these clumps which are in the Iolanthe cottage garden/meadow. I know I will regret it but I still have a sentimental fondness for them at this time of the year.

Finally, unrelated in subject matter, but the recent cyclone opened up a view of the sunrise that we can see as we sit companionably over the pre-breakfast cup of tea. It is an ill wind etc

Windflower romance

Wind flowers are a personal marker of our wedding anniversary

Wind flowers are a personal marker of our wedding anniversary

On the evening before we married, Mark turned up with an armful of Japanese anemones that he had gathered from the Taihape roadside. Don’t even ask why we got married in Taihape when we neither lived there nor came from there. It’s a complicated story. Wind flowers, he called the anemones and believe me, although back in the mists of time, it was a romantic gesture I have never forgotten.

Every year the wind flowers bloom on our wedding anniversary and he often brings some indoors. Last week he followed the old cut flower wisdom – re-cut the stems and burned the ends and they have lasted a full week in water.

We have three different Japanese anemones, in light pink, white and a semi double dark pink which is more compact in growth. It seems that the first two are the straight species, A. hupehensis. Although known throughout the world as Japanese anemones, they are originally Chinese – from the eastern province of Hupeh, in fact. They have been grown so widely in Japan for so long that common parlance attributes them to that country. It is no surprise that the Japanese, with their cultural penchant for simplicity and natural form, took a liking to them.

Japanese anemones are commonly found in pinks and white although selections are being made to extend the colour range into lilac blues

Japanese anemones are commonly found in pinks and white although selections are being made to extend the colour range into lilac blues

The semi-double darker one will be a hybrid and a named form that was purchased. Mark commented vaguely that he thought it may carry a woman’s name but I see that this plant family is more highly prized overseas than in New Zealand and there are a fair number of named forms, several of them named after women. For the botanically inclined, the Japanese anemones classified as A. hybrida are likely to be mixes of A. hupehenis with A. elegans and A. vitifolia. This is a plant family that crosses readily – though to get a cross you generally need plants that flower around the same time.

Weeds, I hear some readers saying. Weeds. Yes they can be overly vigorous, given the right conditions and become rampant, bordering on invasive because they spread below ground. You probably don’t want to unleash them in areas with plant treasures which they may out-compete. Lovely though they are in flower, you can have too many of them.

That said, I see that there is general agreement that they are not always easy to establish which made me feel better about our meagre showing of white ones in the woodland garden. I had spotted a pretty patch down the road, growing as a roadside wild flower and it is those I photographed. I love the combination of the single, white flowers dancing above the dried grasses.

 The white Japanese anemone down the road looks better than the patch we have in our garden

The white Japanese anemone down the road looks better than the patch we have in our garden

Our pink ones are planted on our roadside and come into flower after the summer colour has largely faded. We have designated our rural road verges no-spray zones with the local council so we carry out our own maintenance. We mow a grassy strip immediately beside the road, get rid of noxious weeds like the dreaded bristle grass and we can do what we like with the rest. And what we like are roadside wild flowers – agapanthus, hydrangeas, robust begonia species, oenothera (evening primrose), belladonnas, crocosmia and the like. It is not just for passing motorists. It is also to feed the bees and to keep some roadside cover in an intensive dairying area which can otherwise resemble a green grass desert.

There are actually somewhere over 120 different anemone species. By far the most common in gardens are A. coronaria. These are the spring flowering corms that you buy as de Caen (the singles, mainly in blue and red but also in pinks and whites) and St Brigid (the doubles). They are very cheerful and cheap to buy. If you get a bulk pack, split it into four and soak one batch at a time overnight before planting. Done at weekly intervals, you can extend the flowering for the first season.

A. blanda is a little Greek species with predominantly blue flowers, more like a carpet if mass planted. A. nemerosa is the European wood anemone. We would like both of these dainty species to naturalise far more widely in our garden than we have achieved so far. They are transient early spring delights.

But in autumn it is time for the wind flowers to star.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with this permission.