Have you ever noticed that you see only closeup photos of the flowers of Anemone x hybrida 'Party Dress'? Have you ever wondered why? While the flowers are large and semi-double, as Kim/Blackswamp Girl (A Study in Contrasts) and I have found out, this plant can't stand up on its own, it is, in fact, the first "groundcover Anemone." This Party Dress is a spaghetti-strapped silk chemise on a woman of a certain age. Left au natural, it's a mess. With the proper support (thanks, Victoria's Secret), it can be stunning. As I'm still experimenting with methods of staking, I'm not sure these are the proper supports.
By contrast, Anemone x hybrida 'Andrea Atkinson' needs no support. This sturdy plant, with a height listed of 3-4 feet, has started topping out at well over 5 feet now that it is well-established. 'Andrea Atkinson' has presence and is the defining feature of my autumn garden. So why then am I considering ripping it all out? As Gail of Clay and Limestone will attest, I'm not the only one who has found a Japanese Anemone to be a thug.
But this goes beyond mere thuggery. 'Andrea Atkinson' has started trying to take over the garden by popping up in the middle of the path and has even started crowding out my new Cornus alternifolia 'WStackman' (Golden Shadows). I dig up the new growth; it grows right back.Circled in white is more of the plant that has regrown away from the mother plant, which is also threatening some Aquilegias. When I finally excavated a large section out of the path, this is what I found: long runners well below the surface. I have a phobia of plants that spread by underground runners. Plants that self-sow abundantly I can handle, I can see the seedlings all over. Plants that spread by above-ground runners are manageable too, but plants that spread by underground runners seem subversive, sneaky and dishonest.
I hereby apologize to everyone to whom I've given divisions of this plant, but the fact is that I didn't know it would do this! I planted these three Anemones over 10 years ago, and while they started getting wider, they never before this year (well, maybe a little last autumn) started sending out underground runners. Normally, I ruthlessly eradicate or confine plants that spread this way. I truly am at a loss for what to do about 'Andrea Atkinson.' It's such a great plant otherwise, long-blooming, low maintenance, big display. It's a sad thing when the gardener is afraid of her own plants.
(Edit. 9/28/08 Here's a link to the Chicago Botanic Garden's evaluation of Japanese Anemones.