Anemone blanda – Grecian windflower
Anemone blanda, now more correctly named Anemonoides blanda, is a low-growing plant that starts blooming with the last of the snowdrops and carries us through into spring with a continuous display of its beautiful, blue daisy-like flowers.
I’ll look at the name, how it grows, delve into its structure and where it sits in the plant world – with lots of photographs.
Anemone blanda – is it as dull as the name suggests?
Definitely not! The name anemone is derived from the Greek, anemos, wind but there dooesn’t seem to be any evident connection between the two. Perhaps the meaning has been lost by corruption, myth or legend. Anemonoides simply means resembling Anemone. However, we’re on surer ground with blanda, which is from Latin for mild, pleasing, or charming.
The common name, Grecian windflower, also helps us, in that it points the way to its homeland. Anemone blanda is native of SE Europe to Caucasus and W. Syria, which, of course, includes Geece, growing in rocky places in scrub up to 2000m.
With that sort of provenance it should surely be in very garden.
The plant in detail
Anemone blanda is a perennial with a tuberous rootstock. In Anemone the rootstock can range from a thin rhizome to a rounded tuber depending on the dryness of its habitat in summer. Coming from dry hillsides in the Mediterranean region, the tuber in A. blanda is large and knobbly.
There are 3-palmate dark green, basal and stem leaves with irregularly lobed leaflets, hairless below and often flushed purple. The basal leaves form a low carpet of foliage, above which solitary flowers are held on stems of about 10cm. The stem leaves are arranged in threes behind the flowers.
The flowers are about 4 cm across and range in colour from deep blue to white. Given a cursory glance, they look like daisies.
When is a daisy not a daisy? When it’s a buttercup!
Anemone blanda might look like a daisy but it’s far from it. What we normally refer to as a daisy is in the Asteraceae, the daisy family, and what appears to be a single flower is, in fact, a cluster of many very small flowers grouped together in a head.
Anemone blanda is in the buttercup family, Ranunculaceae, and each daisy-like flower is one single flower.
Let’s get in close on that flower
Each flower has 10 – 20 tepals, which, in this deep blue example, shade to white in the centre. In this species sepals and petals cannot be differentiated so are referred to as tepals.
Inside the tepals there are numerous, spirally arranged stamens and a mass of numerous, free carpels. You can see in the dissection image that these stamens and carpels are attached to a dome-shaped receptacle.
When the flower first opens, the stamens are arched over the carpels and, as the anthers open, they bend outwards from the centre. They ripen, the outer ones first, before the stigmas are receptive. You can see pollen on the outermost anthers in the image.
The stigmas become receptive after the pollen has been shed, favouring cross pollination. Pollinating insects are often rewarded with nectar and pollen but Anemone is one of the few members of Ranunculaceae that doesn’t produce nectar. Insect visitors to Anemone blanda only get pollen.
After pollination the tepals and stamens fall away and the stem, upright at first, bends over until the mass of carpels is hanging down. The carpels develop into achenes – fruits that are dry, one-seeded, and indehiscent (remaining closed at maturity). They eventually separate from the receptacle to aid fruit dispersal.
Return to Ranunculaceae
The Ranunculaceae is, with very few exceptions, a family of non-woody, herbaceous, mostly perennial plants. There are no buttercup trees. According to Plants of the World Online, it contains 51 accepted genera. There are various estimates of the number of species in the family, usually settling at around 2000. It is very successful family with members across the world, mainly in temperate and cold regions of the northern hemisphere.
The Ranunculaceae is considered to be a primative family, one of the first flowering plant families to evolve during the Early Cretaceous period. Flowers of the family show characteristics of primative ancestry: numerous free flower parts, which are spirally arranged, and a superior ovary. This makes pollinating easy for beetles, which were likely to have been the earliest pollinators of flowers. There are very few complex flower forms or scents in the family.
How should we grow Anemone blanda?
Most garden writers seem to be of the opinion that growing them is easy. They have certainly spread in my garden with no help from me.
The Royal Horticultural Society says it is hardy down to -15˚C and should be grown in a well-drained, humus-rich soil or a light, sandy soil in sun although it will tolerate partial shade. It needs to be given dry dormancy after flowering and can be mulched for winter protection if necessary.
Jack Elliott, who gardened in Kent in southern England, wrote, ” They seem to grow and flower well in my garden in rich soil in a partially shaded position, but in a nearby garden with pure chalk a few inches below the soil surface they are even better, planted in full sun.” He also advocated growing them under early-flowering shrubs such as forsythia, corylopsis, magnolia, and Prunus tenella.
Brian Mathew considers it, “A very well known and desirable plant, easy to grow and suitable for growing in half-shade or in grass.”
Rod Leeds recommends some of the named forms: ‘Charmer’, a small pink form; ‘Ingramii’, with the darkest blue flowers; ‘White Splendour’, with large white flowers flushed pink; and ‘Radar’, with very strong magenta flowers with a white centre, which he says needs careful placing. Along with many other writers, he also recommends keeping these colours apart so as not to end up with a dull-coloured mixture.
Surely, every garden has somewhere to grow Anemone blanda
It is one of the first spring flowers to make an appearance, sometimes even flowering with the snowdrops. It is undemanding, except of space, but that can easily be restricted, if necessary. It has simple, but beautiful, flowers in the most gorgeous colour blue, if you restrict yourself to the species, or a selection of other shades if you want to be more adventurous.
And then, having provided a beautiful carpet for weeks, it disappears. An ideal guest, I would say!
Find some useful information
Plants of the World Online – Anemonoides blanda
Common Families of Flowering Plants by Michael Hicky and Clive King
RHS Genealogy for Gardeners by Dr Ross Bayton and Simon Maughan
Bulbs for the Rock Garden by Jack Elliott.
The Plantfinders Guide to Early Bulbs by Rod Leeds.
Dwarf Bulbs by Brian Mathew.
You might also like to look at these categories to see some similar posts.