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IN THE GARDEN THE TIME IS RIGHT FOR JAPANESE ANEMONES.

Byline: JOSHUA SISKIN

If you have not yet become acquainted with Japanese anemones, this is a good time of year to do so. These fall-blooming perennials will last for years and are carefree in the garden. They tend to disappear in our hot summers, but they reliably reappear when autumn comes.

Japanese anemones (Anemone x hybrida) have subtle charms. This might help explain why they are unfamiliar to most of the gardening public. We easily remember plants with brilliant blooms that flower in the shade. Orange clivias and the vivid pinks and reds of azaleas come to mind. By contrast, Japanese anemones (a-NEH-mo-neez) bloom in white, rose or pale pink. Also, since they are only visible in cooler months, they go unnoticed during the planting frenzy of spring. Japanese anemone flowers will remind you of flat-faced, wild roses. and you will swear their foliage was borrowed from a tree -- whether box elder, hawthorn or maple.

Prop them up, buttercup

Japanese anemones are sometimes faulted for their tendency to flop over. They grow to around 4 feet tall and lack sturdy stems, so you may have to keep them upright with stout stems cut from your bamboo or other stakes. On the plus side, they tolerate alkaline soil and frost and would be suitable for planting in the Antelope Valley. In colder areas, however, they would benefit from a root-protecting mulch of straw or compost.

Hellebores (pronounced HELL-uh-bors) are another group of subtle beauties for the shade. Although they do not bloom until late winter or early spring, they will soon be available in nurseries. Much hybridization has been done with hellebores in an effort to intensify their flower colors, which appear in cream white, pale green, pink, burgundy and scarlet.

Both anemones and hellebores belong to the buttercup family (Ranunculus), whose members include a number of other garden-worthy species, all with finely cut foliage and a garden performance that coincides with our cooler seasons. Columbine (Aquilegia species) is native to the western United States. It is a drought-tolerant biennial, which means that, planted from seed, it needs to be in the ground one year before it blooms. The name columbine is derived from the Latin word columbo, meaning dove and referring to its long flower spurs that resemble tail feathers. Aquilegia formosa, a California native columbine, is a real eye catcher. Columbines are typically bicolored, but the colors themselves are flat.

Brilliant hues

Aquilegia formosa, on the other hand, has brightly glowing blooms in scarlet and yellow. Columbines reseed themselves when the soil drains well and may be grown in sun to partial shade.

One of the most rewarding buttercup family plants is the self-sowing annual larkspur or delphinium (Consolida ajacis). Now is the time to plant its seeds for a heavy spring crop of flowers in all shades of pink and blue. When people think of delphinium, the Pacific Giant hybrids generally come to mind, famous for their huge spires of blue.

However, Pacific Giants are hardly trouble-free, requiring staking and generous applications of snail bait to keep mollusks, for which they are a magnet, at bay.

Annual delphinium, by contrast, blooms without requiring any special attention and then self-sows, increasing its friendly presence in the garden from year to year.

Two other California natives in this group come to mind. One is the California buttercup (Ranunculus californica `Buttercup'). It has strong yellow flowers and exquisitely cut foliage. The other is meadow rue (Thalictrum species). The foliage of meadow rue will remind you of maidenhair fern (Adiantum species).
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 14, 2006
Words:589
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