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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

IN BLOOM

Anemone


That weeps at daybreak, like a silly girl
Before her love, and hardly lets the butterflies unfurl
Their painted wings beside it — bid it pine
In pale virginity; the winter snow
Will suit it better than those lips of thine
Whose fires would but scorch it.

From "The Garden of Eros" by Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

In Oscar Wilde's poem, the fiery "lips" refer to the Sun, and he rightly observes the delicate nature of spring-flowering anemones. Anemones belong to the large Ranunculaceae or buttercup family of plants that typically have silky or velvety petals, a distinctive circle of stamens, and divided leaves. In Japan, the name "anemone" denotes the large red or purple flowers of Anemone coronaria, which is a popular florists' bloom. There are, hoever, many species of anemones, and the type pictured above is the wild Anemone blanda, or Mountain Anemone of Greece. The flowers are about 4 cm across and are usually blue, but they also come in pink or white. It is a popular garden plant and easy to grow. I planted a few small corms of A. blanda on a west-facing slope in my garden, and in early spring, when the ground was still dusted with frost, these brave little plants started to stir. First a bud emerged with its head bent down. Then a pair of leaves appeared, and gradually the bud looked up and fine, silky petals flared out. Another common name for wild anemones is "windflowers," and it is wonderful to see a mass of windflowers in the wild. In Japan you can find the pure-white nirin-sou (A. flaccida) blooming in April or May. It likes moist ground, on high plains or at the forest edge, and can colonize large areas.



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