JAPANESE ANEMONES are in full bloom, and for a month now we shall have five-petaled saucers the size of half-dollars to brighten the garden at summer's end.
If you acquire 'September Charm,' you will have the one I most often see; and the plain white one, which is sold under a variety of names is the best of all.
These are not showy flowers, but I never ran into anybody who did not admire them. Their broad palmate of hand-shaped leaves are basal; and from them arise several stems, depending on the size of the clump, which bears up well (or reasonably well) in late-summer windstorms.
How tall they grow depends on the site. In a full open place, after a dry summer, they may reach 30 inches. But after a wet summer, and in a sheltered place in half shade, the flower stems reach 5 feet. There are several dozen blooms on the stem, opening off and on as the spirit and the waning sun move them.
Nothing is handsomer than these white anemones against old box bushes, as you may see at the Bishop's Garden at Washington Cathedral, or against ivy and walls clad with winter jasmine, as you may see at Dumbarton Oaks (where they always have tied the stems in cat's cradles of string to keep them from leaning into the path).
This is the kind of flower you want in very small gardens, where plants must do triple duty and where it is not enough for a plant to have beautiful flowers merely.
What you want are plants handsome in flower, handsome in foliage, orderly in habit. The Japanese anemone fills every reasonable desire, and moreover blooms from late August to November, a time when few fine things are blooming.
A quite different creature of early fall is the sternbergia, which grows from a bulb that looks so much like a daffodil that I have sometimes confused them.
The sternbergia is often called the autumn daffodil, for no good reason, since it resembles a waxy deep-yellow large crocus.
It likes well-drained soil, a sandy loam and full sun. Yet some of the prettiest I ever saw were in a light woodland in Albemarle County. They do not increase very rapidly, and they should always be planted where you can keep an eye on them. They are not at all what you want for growing in crabgrass, but are fine in pockets of good soil between large boulders, or (in neat gardens) in front of boxwood edgings to beds.
All along alleys and tumbling down banks and over fences we now have the almond-scented Japanese clematis.
I need not carry on about it, having yammered substantially in past years, beyond pointing out it is a vine of the highest quality for gardens.
Although it comes from Japan, it has made itself as much at home on the East Coast as that other Japanese vine, Hall's honeysuckle.
It ranks in the first order of clematis; and if I could have only one, it would certainly be this. Unfortunately, it does not flourish in England, the nation that dominates clematis lore, so it is not made much of in books.
It is a plant, however, like the dogwood, that has no faults and every virtue. The individual blooms are only 1 1/2 wide but pure white and born in astounding quantity, so that the effect of a white blanket is produced.
The foliage is dark green.
I thought for a long time about what would be best on my summer house, and with all the wealth of vines in the world, I chose this clematis,
I am sorry it is not rare, so gardeners could have the pleasure of explaining they got their seeds from the botanic garden of Calcutta, etc., etc., and nursed it along for 27 years before the first bloom, but it was well worth waiting for, etc., etc.
Unfortunately for snobs (and there is something to be said for snobs, after all) it grows like a weed; and while it is easily controlled with a yank if it gets carried away with itself, still it grows freely.
If you stop to think of it, few vines have total grace. The ivy, the creeping fig, and Boston ivy, all make tight sheets of foliage, often useful, but not graceful.
Of climbing roses, the less said the better as far as grace is concerned, since the ones usually seen are decidedly angular and gawky. And the wisteria, which is luxuriant enough, is only graceful when it is allowed to tear down the fence and smother a tree or two.
But this clematis has hit the happiest mean, and I can hardly imagine a garden without it. And again, it is glorious at just the season everything else looks tired and vaguely discolored. It is the season of dusty squirrels, and here is a vine more virginal, more exuberant, more lovely than spring itself.