The Greek word ‘anemone’ translates quite literally into ‘daughter of the wind’, indeed, the plant is affectionately called the ‘wind-flower’, an apt name given that the flower, hoisted up by its wiry stems, dances gaily in the slightest breeze.
Roman mythology narrates that the goddess Flora, jealous of her husband’s attention towards the nymph Anemone, transformed her into the windflower, leaving her to the mercy of the North wind. Greek mythology narrates that Adonis was wounded by a fierce boar whilst hunting alone. Aphrodite, his lover, heard his cries and arrived to find Adonis bleeding to death. As he lay dying in her arms, red anemone sprang up from the earth where the drops of his blood fell.
In folk-lore, the anemone is reputed to bring good luck. It is also said to foretell rain when its petals (bot. tepals) close and fairies are supposed to sleep under the petals of the wood anemone although I’ve never noticed any.
The natural habitat of most anemones is the Himalayas and central China. Three species stand out as being important: A. ‘hupehensis’, A. ‘vitifolia’ and A. ‘tomentosa’, all three being useful garden plants in their own rights but were also used by plants-men for cross-breeding purposes.
In 1858, a French nurseryman named M. Jobert was tending his garden in the outskirts of Verdun in the north-east of France, a city better known for its battle-fields than its horticulture. Whilst weeding a bed of anemones, no doubt one of the three mentioned above, he noticed one plant had naturally mutated and was bearing lovely white flowers. This astute nurseryman, recognizing its aesthetic and commercial value, propagated and marketed this new plant, calling it Anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’ after his beloved daughter. One and a half centuries later, this plant is still treasured by gardeners across the world.
Anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’ has elegant, single, pure white flowers up to three inches in diameter with rather prominent golden yellow stamens; look on the other side of the tepals and you oft see a pink tinge. The flowers are carried on wiry branching stems, and in my garden they grow to about one and a half feet tall, flowering from July right through to the end of the autumn.
The young leaf is pleasant enough, mid-green and palmate, becoming rather coarse with age, as is the way with anemones; it’s the flowers that take all the glory. I find that they grow happily most everywhere, but I especially use them in slightly shaded areas where they bring a certain light and joy. They are not rampant or invasive as other anemone can be, but rather they spread naturally by suckering shoots. The plant can be propagated by division in early spring or by root-cuttings in the autumn. In early winter, as the flower fades away, I cut down the coarse old leaf, just leaving the fresh young leaf underneath, and then offer them a bucket of compost and a handful of bone-meal as thanks for all their help.
Vita Sackville-West commented that August could be such a dull, heavy time when everything has lost its youth and is overgrown and mature but yet the delicate anemone brings a certain lightness to the garden. Plants come and go in the gardening world as we constantly crave novelty but some plants transcend fashion and remain faithful friends that prove their worth over the years. Anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’ is one such friend.