The Story of Anemone

COMMON NAME: anemone
GENUS: Anemone
SPECIES, HYBRIDS, CULTIVARS:
A. hybrida ‘Queen Charlotte’- deep pink; 2 1/2 to 3 feet tall. A.h. ‘Honorine Jobert’- white. A.h. ‘September Charm’- pink. A. coronaria ‘Flore Pleno’- double scarlet flowers.
Family: Ranunculaceae
BLOOMS: Fall
TYPE: perennial
DESCRIPTION: Flowers come in single or double forms and in shades of pink, red, and white, measuring 2 to 3 inches across. The foliage looks like grape leaves. Depending on the variety, the height may vary from 8 inches to 3 feet. The plants form attractive mounds that spread 1 to 2 feet. Golden stamens are a beautifully conspicuous part of this flower.
CULTIVATION: Anemones need rich, well-drained soil and plenty of moisture. In cold regions, a light mulch will be helpful. These plants do best in partial shade or filtered sun, or in full sun in areas where the summers do not get too hot. Anemone plants should be set out during spring, or seeds can be sown in spring. Plants are slow to become established and should never need dividing.
A Greek legend tells of the origin of anemone. This was the name of a nymph who was loved by Zephyr, the god of the West Wind. Flora, goddess of the flowers, became jealous and changed Anemone into a flower that always bloomed before the return of spring. Zephyr preferred her as a nymph and abandoned her to Boreas, god of the North Wind. Anemone never learned to love Boreas, but he aroused her emotions so that she always bloomed too early and faded too quickly.
Another Greek myth said that the anemones were formed from Venus’s tears when she cried over the body of Adonis.
The name anemone comes from the Sanskrit word anti, which means “he breathes.” Pliny wrote that the anemones would open only at the bidding of the wind. In the Far East, they were a symbol of disease, and it was thought that the flowers sometimes actually carried the disease. An early European custom was to hold one’s breath while running past a field of anemones, for the country folk felt that even the air was poisoned from these flowers. Lucky for us, this superstition quickly died out.
The Egyptians, and later the English, used these flowers as charms against disease and often wore them around their necks or arms.
The scarlet anemone, A. coronaria, was thought to be representative of the scarlet robes of Solomon. Some considered it to be the lilies of the field mentioned in the Song of Solomon. In Palestine, this flower is sometimes called “blood drops of Christ,” for it was thought to have grown from the cross. The species name comes from the fact that these blossoms were often used in wreaths, garlands, or crowns.
Robert Fortune, a nineteenth-century plant explorer, found the Japanese anemone {A. japonica} growing near Shanghai. The species name is from the fact this plant grows profusely in Japan.
The story is told of a French botanist who obtained anemone plants in the early 1600’s. For ten years he refused to give or sell any of these plants or the seeds they produced. This situation lasted until a great and famous plantsman came to visit the Frenchman’s garden and “dropped” his coat on the seed-laden plants. When he picked it up, many of the seeds stuck to his coat. He took these seeds home, planted them, and very generously shared the plants and seeds that resulted.
According to the Victorian language of flowers, the wild anemone symbolizes brevity and expectation {for the flower blooms for such a short time}, and the garden flower means forsaken, referring to the myth of its origin.
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