Affectionately known as the Snowdrop Anemone, Anemone sylvestris is a charming perennial with satiny white flowers. Blooming in spring, the buds emerge on bent stems, dangling downwards like snowdrops. As the flowers start to open the stems straighten and the flowers face outwards to soak up the spring sunshine and attract bees and other pollinators to its scented flowers.
The foliage of Snowdrop Windflower forms a mound of deeply cut, palmate green leaves 30cm (12in) tall. The plants begin to flower in spring and continues intermittently throughout summer.
The delicate, cup-shaped flowers usually have five petals with yellow anthers clustered in their centre. They are somewhat fragrant and grow to around 5 to 7cm (2 to 3in) in diameter. They are borne singly on upright, wiry stems that stand above the foliage, 30 to 45cm (12 to 18in) tall.
Positioned in sun it can behave as a spring ephemeral and withdraw underground when the weather gets warm, but in cool shade it will have a very long flowering season. Later the plants develop decorative cottonlike seed heads.
Anemone sylvestris is native to the meadows and dry deciduous woodlands of Central and Western Europe. It is perfectly suited for the woodland or shade garden, where they thrive in bright shade and humus-rich soil. They love medium moisture, loose soils and tolerate even full shade. Given the same conditions over time, this lovely little anemone will form a lustrous dense ground cover forming drifts of snowy white blooms running through shady borders.
Unfussy and maintenance-free, Deer and rabbits tend to avoid them. They make a good underplanting for tall perennials, combine well with spring bulbs and are a wonderful addition to cut flower arrangements.
Sowing: Sow in Spring or Autumn.
Sow 1.5mm (1/16in) deep in a good quality, moist seed compost. For best results the seeds should be pre-chilled before sowing. To do this sow as above and seal inside a polythene bag, leave for 2 weeks at 15 to 18°C (60 to 65°F) then place in a fridge (not freezer) for six weeks. Then return to 15 to 18°C and exclude light until germination starts in one to three months. Keep a check on the compost to make sure it does not dry out.
When the seedlings are large enough to handle transplant into 7.5cm (3in) pots and place in a cold frame. After the first season, plant out 30 to 45cm (12 to 18in) apart in moist, well drained soil in sun or part shade.
Any shady spot can support a thriving colony of anemones. Even urban gardens where shade is cast from tall buildings, rather than trees, can offer adequate hospitality. It is important to choose a partly-shaded spot, in full shade the plants will struggle and the blooms are best in sunshine.
Anemones, along with other woodlanders prefer a well-drained, humus-rich soil. They will tolerate dry gardens, but spread better in moist soil and a mulch will help to keep the moisture in. However, they do not like standing in water during winter and they don't need feeding.
Before planting, work a bucket or two of leaf mould or composted bark into the top few inches of the soil. Avoid manure or other rich food. If you are planting among tree roots, be tentative. Use a trowel or hand fork to detect main roots and make small, shallow planting holes between them. Water well and mulch. Do not build raised beds over tree roots. Once established do not replant, the plants flower best in the second and subsequent years.
Plant 30 to 45cm (12 to 18in) apart in moist, fertile well-drained soils in sun or dappled shade. Overly dry soils will retard good growth.
Anemone sylvestris needs some shade in order to remain fresh and for the flowers to last longest. It will not bloom as well in deep shade, and will look scruffy if positioned in too much sun.
In spring, apply a generous 5 to 7cm (2 to 3in) mulch of well-rotted garden compost or manure around the base of the plant. Cut back to just above ground level if they start to look messy and they will quickly rejuvenate.
Extra water is needed in exceptionally dry sites only.
Shade and Woodland Gardens, Shaded beds and borders, Underplanting
Anemones, also known as windflowers, are a diverse group, with various species blooming in spring and in autumn. Most are from the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, and many are natural woodland or woodland edge plants.
Some species have fibrous roots and are found in the perennials section of seed suppliers, nurseries and garden centres. Others such as Grecian windflower (Anemone blanda) and poppy anemone (A. coronaria) grow from tubers. They are planted in the autumn along with spring-flowering bulbs.
Anemone sylvestris is native to Central and Western Europe where it grows in meadows and dry deciduous woodlands.
They are members of the Buttercup family, Ranunculaceae and like other members Anemones contain the irritating, acrid oil protoanemonin and are not edible.
The genus name anemone literally means 'the daughter of the Wind’. It is derived from the Greek word for wind, anemos. When a gust blows across the woodland floor, thousands of anemone flowers shiver on flower stalks that are as slender as a thread.
Many modern books repeat the story that the Roman naturalist Pliny (c. 77AD) believed that it was the wind that brought anemones into bloom in the spring "The flower never opens, except while the wind is blowing, a circumstance to which it owes its name"; however, it wouldn't have been this species that he had in mind, but the far more robust, scarlet-flowered Anemone coronaria that blooms throughout the eastern Mediterranean in spring. Pliny's writings are fascinating source of natural history information, some of it fanciful, some of it accurate and perceptive.
The specific epithet sylvestris is from the Latin for wood, and so, a woodland plant but the application is often extended to mean a plant which grows in the wild.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 10mg Average Seed Count 35 Seeds Family Ranunculaceae Genus Anemone Species sylvestris Cultivar Often marketed as 'Madonna' Common Name Snowdrop Windflower Other Common Names Snowdrop Anemony Hardiness Hardy Perennial Flowers Usually white but may be tinted pinkish, lilac or blue Natural Flower Time March to May Height Flowers 30 to 45cm (12 to 18in) tall Spread to 30cm (12in) Position Well-drained, humus-rich soil