Anemone nemorosa

April brings wood anemones to The Priory and about time too. Of all the wildflowers that were already here when I arrived, the gradual increase of anemones over the past ten years has given the best reward.

They have burgeoned in number using that simple – if obscure – technique of not strimming and mowing everything in sight, all year round. By leaving areas of the grounds uncut for most of the growing season, I try to encourage most wildflowers. If not ragwort, dock and thistle; then bluebell, orchid, scabious and anemone.

Anemone nemorosa (1)

In their preferred habitat – deciduous woodland with enough sunlight to coax open the flowers – Anemone nemorosa line The Priory’s driveway.  Study the flowers first thing in the morning and the petals will be furled; but as soon as the sun appears they open up their pale beauty.

Anemone nemorosa (2)

On the wooded bank below the greenhouses, there are now several hundred flowers where, ten years ago, there was but a handful.  As I only strim this north facing slope in late autumn rather than from spring onwards – as was done – they have come forth and multiplied.

Anemone nemorosa (4)

Flowering early in the year before the tree canopy shuts out the light, the plant will slowly die back as that light is cut off. But in the meantime, the anemone is perfect.

The flower has soft yellow stamens and six white petals sometimes flushed with pink; above cut palmate leaves.  The latter have, so I’ve read, a musky smell.  This suggests one of the plant’s common names, smell fox.  I can’t vouch whether that is an accurate name, but then I rarely get on my knees to sniff low-lying foliage … nor indeed sniff foxes.  Still, it’s a good name and better than fox smell would have been.

Wood anemone

Linda. Linda, do come out to the garden and smell my smell fox, do.”

In England, wood anemones spread mainly by rhizome (underground stem) rather than seed.  I’m surprised that I haven’t thought to transplant pieces of rhizome to help speed up its colonization and introduce the plant to new areas. It is a slow, patient spreader (though Wikipedia says otherwise) and I could easily have helped it to do so faster.  There is a spot under oak and ash on the meadow which would suit them beautifully.

As well as smell fox, Anemone nemorosa is called wood crowfoot, lady’s nightcap, helmet flower and thimble weed. Welsh has it as Blodyn gwynt.  In French, it is Anémone des bois, in German Buschwindröschen and in Dutch Bosanemoon.  In Iceland, it is called Skógarsóley but I think Finnish noses ahead in the naming stakes with Valkovuokko.* (Pronunciation help not on offer).

Another English name for the wood anemone is wind flower which is easily explained when you see a carpet of them nodding in the breeze.


Like this slowly increasing white carpet on the east lawn.  Other than a path through to the bridge, I don’t mow it during spring and summer.

My time at The Priory is drawing to a close – and I shall write more about that in the coming weeks.  But after I have left, I hope that one of my legacies will be the continued spread of smell fox.

*Thanks to Encyclopedia of Life for these names.

28 thoughts on “Anemone nemorosa

  1. Ah well, things must change. At least you’re going to be nearer this neck of the woods so when you’re not walking with Charles, who knows. We might actually meet. Don’t forget the final, all embracing, complete, comprehensive tour of The Priory before you depart. As to smell fox, having had a (semi-tame) fox curled up behind the sofa once, I can vouch for the fact that the smell of a fox is overpoweringly reminiscent of stale urine. I know the smell of stale urine from the open air pizzerias that used to appear along the roads in the south Wales valleys years ago. Oddly, there was no provision for females. I guess they were expected to stay home and cook or knit whilst the menfolk went to the pub (and used the pizzerias on the way home). Oh well, another quaint local tradition has bitten the dust.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ll be sure to look you up soon, John – can’t wait for the chance to meet a semi-tame fox. And catch a good lungful.

      Open air pizzerias with an overlying scent of stale urine is probably something which would stick in my mind too. It is so sad when such quaint traditions pass away – rather like regular poisoning from fast food after a night’s clubbing or Sunday afternoons in South East London in the 1980s when everything was shut. I used to bang my head against the pavement just to while away the tedium – at least till the pubs opened. Ah, happy days.



  2. You are leaving the Priory? That’s sad.
    Your eyes and words taught us affection for the Priory gardens; and I think that is an indication of how much you love them.
    I hope the next season of work brings as much (and hopefully more) beauty and joy for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Love them! Have you got any other colours? Occasionally, we see other light shades of blue and lilac in the woods around us. We have been trying to coax some into the garden so your swathes of anemones cheer me up. It is very difficult to collect the ripe seeds as they seem to fall off immediately the seeds are ripe. Amelia

    Liked by 1 person

    • I didn’t realise, Amelia, until I read up about them that in the UK the seed isn’t viable, or at least not usually. Hence my comment re transplanting bits of rhizome rather than spreading seed about. No other colours I’m afraid, except for some that have that flush of pink. Apparently, there was a wild blue but it seems to have died out in England – again that is from what I’ve read. Dave

      Liked by 1 person

  4. All my anemone nemerosa in wooded area have been eaten… not the rhizomes… just flower and leaf… I’m thinking rabbit or deer… have you noticed a culprit? Last year (when it was warm) I had loads… This year… only stalks… boo hooooo

    Liked by 1 person

    • I wish I could point out the culprit, but I have never had that problem. The anemones up on the drive are at the mercy of rabbit but they haven’t ever been nibbled – that I’ve noticed. Your arch-gardening-enemy with a pair of scissors? Or more likely, the RHS site has this – “Susceptible to leaf eelworms and damage from caterpillars and slugs.” D


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