Introducing our first Flower of the Month for 2019 – the anemone, a stem that’s considered to be to be a harbinger of spring (something we’ll spend the next two and a half months longing for, right?). Famed for its vibrant petals, the delicate anemone is native to European countries, North America, and Japan, while its name derives from the Greek word ‘anemos’, meaning ‘daughter of the wind’…
Ovid’s Metamorphoses offers a fitting origin story for the anemone. According to the Roman poet, the plant was created by the goddess Venus, who sprinkled nectar upon the blood of her slain lover, Adonis. It is a fittingly Romantic creation story for a plant with blooms that are as rich and intense in colour as they are delicate.
Ancient history aside, anemone are part of of the ranunculaceae family, and a genus of over 200 species. Meanwhile, its star-shaped flowers are formed from anything from four to almost thirty intricately arranged petals, that can often be swept away at the slightest of gusts. Thus the ‘daughter of the wind’ translation. In turn, the anemone is often called the ‘windflower’, while others choose to refer to it as the ‘smellfox’ or the ‘crowfoot’. Meanwhile, in China, the anemone has adopted a not-so-romantic moniker: flower of death, and in Egypt the stem is regarded as a symbol of sickness. Words of warning: always do your cultural research before deciding which stems to send!
Many ‘meanings’ having been attributed to the anemone over the years, ranging from superstitious beliefs that the flower can protect from evil ill wishes and diseases to more epic, romantic gestures of forsaken love and bereavement. We’re probably most enamoured however with their association with fairies and the magic that occurs at twilight: a dusky light falling upon fantastical, twinkle-toed beings as they dance upon the delicate petals of an anemone in full bloom.
Native to European countries, North America, and Japan, over the years the Japanese anemone – which blooms from August until late October – has gained widespread popularity, partly due to its appearance, and partly due to its long-lasting nature. First discovered by plantsman Eric Smith at Hadspen House in Somerset in the late 1970s, the Japanese anemone was first listed by Ben Chatto in 1980. It’s the Japanese anemone’s unusual formation that makes it so unique – the flowers are made up of two smaller darker petals and three slightly larger, paler ones, set against dark foliage that equates to a distinctive two-tone effect. However, the term Japanese anemone is a little misleading, for the hupehensis stem is actually native to the Hupeh province in eastern China, but it was grown in Japanese gardens for centuries, hence the confusing name.
In medicine, anemones possess opposing uses – they can be used for both hurting and healing. While the anemone nemorosa is known to be highly poisonous to humans, the plant of the anemone pulsatilla – when in bloom – can be made into a tincture used to provide relief from ailments such as menstrual cramps and emotional distress. Meanwhile in Rome, anemones were once used as talismans, believed to prevent fevers.
Striking the vibrant stem might be, while the flower looks like it might have a scent to match its beauty, the anemone is in fact scentless. In other words, the hungry bumble bee turns its nose up to the anemone, so it has to rely on other insects for fertilization. During the day, the bewitching blooms turn their petals upwards toward the sunshine, but by night, the clever creatures bow their heads to protect their seed pods from unwanted drops of rain.