I’m going straight to Carol Klein here, writing in The Telegraph on 28th September 2002. This beautiful plant was a classic then, and for 150 years before that, and so it remains.
How to grow: Anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’
Carol Klein on the unexpected joy of these classy white flowers that shine in the shade
To find a flower that exhibits pristine whiteness at this time of year, dismisses autumn gales with a disdainful nod of its beautiful head and remains unsullied for months is an unexpected joy.
Anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’ does all this and much more. The tall, white Japanese anemone is widespread, but whether you meet it in the front garden of a terraced house or the wide herbaceous borders of a country estate, its lofty charm is equally magnetic.
At 5ft or so, it is one of the tallest of the autumn anemones and its round, pink-washed buds and substantial chalice-shaped flowers, held on branching stems, make it by far the classiest.
It has a double row of petals, giving each flower substance. Their whiteness is set off by a green centre surrounded by a corolla of bright-yellow stamens.
The variety has been around for about 150 years. It was a sport (spontaneous offspring) from the even more widespread anemone, the pale pink Anemone x hybrida, which was raised at the Royal Horticultural Society’s garden at Chiswick in 1848.
The white-flowered sport occurred 10 years later in France on a plant that had been imported from England. Soon afterwards, Anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’ made the trip back across the Channel.
The forebears of most Japanese anemones come from China, although Anemone vitifolia has a wide distribution in the wild, including Burma, Afghanistan and the Himalayas. It has been used extensively in breeding new hybrids and was one of the parents of the original Anemone x hybrida. Its genes are apparent in ‘Honorine Jobert’.
As well as rounded white flowers, the latter makes a hearty clump of dark-green, vine-like leaves. It also sets seed readily. Each seed head is a little sphere held at the end of a stem. As the heads ripen, they expand and their outer surface becomes soft. Eventually they erupt, each seed carried in its own woolly overcoat to pastures new.
Although anemones can tolerate sunny positions, ‘Honorine Jobert’ shines in the shade. It is always easier to see and appreciate white flowers out of the glare of direct sun.
A dark-green backgound shows them off to perfection. A yew hedge is the perfect backdrop; privet, holly or a painted fence will also do very well. They look wonderful wandering among pale-blue or white lace-cap hydrangeas.
Interplanted with early narcissi or among hellebores, they will allow their bedfellows to do their spring thing unchallenged and come to the peak of their own performance while the bulbs and hellebores rest.
Anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’ and its close relations are easy to grow in any reasonable soil, in sun or dappled shade. The pH of the soil seems to be irrelevant, although colonies on chalky soils sometimes develop chlorosis.
When planting, incorporate good compost. Mulch the area immediately around them once they are established to give them a cool root-run.
These are plants that make woody rootstocks and fine running roots through which they spread rapidly, establishing large communities and earning themselves a reputation for being invasive.
Because of this, gardeners often dig them up and donate the woody rootstocks to others in an attempt to eliminate or at least curtail their spread. This practice tends to be unsuccessful on two scores: the original plant is often given a new lease of life and the gift often fails to get going because it is so old and woody.
The best way to propagate these anemones is by root cuttings of the slender new roots, which bear new embryonic shoots along their length. Chop them up into small pieces and lay them on open compost with a layer of grit to hold them in place and keep them damp.
If you want to establish anemones, pot-grown plants are your best bet and can be relieved of some good root-cutting material before they reach their intended homes. Often, when you turf out a pot-grown anemone, tiny new shoots with their own leaves are already visible along the roots.