The Anemone, known by many as the windflower (anemone is Greek for ‘daughter of the wind’), has a special form named after one of Ireland’s three patron saints, Saint Brigid of Kildare. Her story is one of miracles, and could be an indication of how the Anemone got to be named after the wind that spreads its breath across a land.
Legend has it that Saint Brigid once asked the Irish King of Leinster for a plot of land on which to build a convent – insisting that the land on which they stood would be the most suitable, with a forest alongside for wood and an abundance of berries, and a nearby lake for drinking and irrigation water. When the king refused, the nun prayed that God would turn his heart and then asked the king to grant her as much land as her cloak would cover. Seeing the size of her tiny coat, the king humoured her and obliged. When Brigid asked her friends to spread the four corners of her cloak on the ground, the garment grew to cover masses of land. The rest is history, and the convent established itself to be known for its berry jam made from the famous forest berries.
Anemones are known to spread just as easily as Saint Brigid’s cloak, a sight to behold in Jordan and Israel where these colourful flowers grow wild in their original habitat in the Middle East.
There are about 120 species of this plant, so the colour options are numerous – from mauve and pink to white, red and yellow, with most flowers displaying a contrasting central colour. Hybrids of A. coronaria (Spanish marigold) bred with A. fulgens and A. pavonina are most common in South Africa, known here as florist’s anemones. These come in single and double forms, the single, poppy-like forms called ‘de Caen’ (because of them first being grown in the French town of Caen), and the double or semi-double forms that were raised in Ireland named after the cloaked saint, and called ‘St Brigid’.
Now is the ideal time to plant these easy growers, for constant colour in your borders and containers with a gorgeous show through June. But you can also continue planting into May and June, for spring blooms that could last up until late September. Be aware, though, that these spring flowers will grow shorter than the ones you’d be planting now, which should grow to a full height of 25cm.
When planting, ensure you have good drainage in rich, light, sandy loam, so add sand if necessary to achieve this. Find a spot that offers both full sun and some shade during the hottest part of the day, and then plant your tubers 2cm below the ground, about 2.5cm apart from one another, with the pointed end facing downwards (when in doubt, plant it on its side). Water your plants regularly to ensure the soil never dries out. The best is to water deeply in the morning every four to five days. However, plants in containers will need more regular water. The trick is to find balance, as overwatering could lead to the tubers actually rotting, so if there’s a drainage saucer under your pot, empty this out after watering, so that the plant doesn’t have access to the unnecessary excess water.
For the best results with cut flowers, which can last up to nine days in a vase, pick your blooms early in the morning when it’s still a little cold and the flowers are still closed, then immerse them in room-temperature water to open, away from direct sunlight. In this way, you too could spread Anemones all around your home – just like the wind.