Alan Chadwick a Gardener of Souls

Lecture by Alan Chadwick in New Market, Virginia, 1979


Lecture 12: Anemone Culture, Part 2

An Introduction to Alan Chadwick's Lectures and a Glossary of Terms

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Place these into a drying sieve, one for each color. The rest go in a cutting bed the following year. No weeds should be allowed at all. The following year, plant the selected corms out at double spacing for taking seed. Remove the first two or three blooms. The plant will make about 25 blooms. Very carefully maintain the beds. From bloom number 4 to 10, either leave or remove. Leave five of the best flowers for taking seed. After the five are selected, remove all further blooms. The process for harvesting the seed is a little tricky. The little cone of seed unexpectedly blows open like a volcano. You must not collect the seed until it is about to fly away. You just have to watch carefully. Pulling off before it starts to fly will cause a diminished quality. Often you have to collect two times per flower, the first half as it ripens, then the rest when it is also beginning to fly. Store loosely in a paper bag. Sow in still air either in the spring or fall. Prepare seed boxes with a thick rotted leaf mold at the base, a layer of well rotted manure, then fill the flats with a mixture of 1/3 sand, 1/3 turf loam, and 1/3 well rotted leaf mold. Press the surface. Undo and spread the cotton wool in a thin layer on top. Under cover, do not over-cover. 50 degrees at night, 65 degrees during the day. Never allow to dry out. Some seed will germinate a month later. Corms live about 5 years. You will get up to 28 blooms after two years. The cut flowers drink the water madly. You can cut before the flower unfolds, and it will open in the vase. No need to cut the stalk to keep the flowers fresh in the vase. (13:37)



Full Text of this Lecture:



New Market, Virginia, September 12, 1979, Lecture 12


The Anemone, Part 2


...with their labelings into what you would call a drying sieve. So that all the reds go into one sieve, all the blues go into a sieve with their label and so on. Do you follow? Now these are the pick of the bunch which in the next year are going to be grown for seed production.  And the rest will go in en masse as a cutting bed again. So that same performance will take place. The longer you can delay the lifting without losing sight of them the better. But you see, to get up the labeled ones you must be able to still see where the plant meets the corm. Now you see the imperative importance of no weeds, for you cannot unearth or discover the matter at all. And what is more, they do not employ the liking of other plants around them. They like to be alone. 

Now you take a similar performance and you prepare a bed in the same way. And you plant those particular selections in their groups, and you now double space them. You give them plenty of room. That nomination is quite easily made when it comes to the technical performance of the planting, the exact distances.  Now as this plant comes up, again you run into… You will plant them a little later this time to be on the safe side, end of February or March according to when the moon is playing. And again you will prepare the bed in the same way, but that the planting is further apart to give them ample room. And again you will roll it before you plant. And again you will cover it in the same way. And indeed you can leave the coverage on again if that is required. 

The first two or three blooms shall in any case be removed. Now the plant is going to send up twenty-four, twenty-five, or twenty-six blooms this time. And now they are going to be verging upon full size. Very big. It's a very big anemone. So any number on the plant… Now this bed has got to be looked after by a staff with apprentices, and it's got to be looked after absolutely regularly and attended to. It’s utterly important. One little miss and you’re in trouble that you won't get over. But when you come to number four, up to about number ten, according to the performance of the flower from the bud and its appearance, you either leave it or remove it. And you will allow four or five per plant, total. So that after approximately number eight or number nine all blooms are now removed, as small buds. You can't even make use of them. So that the whole issue goes into those four or five who are to produce the seed. 

Now the seeds are very tricky. It develops a cone, a long pointed cone, and it withstands any weather, any wind. And suddenly out of that cone issues a little volcano. Suddenly, all unexpectedly the cone undoes from the tip downwards, and unfolds like a smoke of cotton wool. Sometimes spreading as much as that, an incredible thing hanging almost like a swarm of bees. And attached in that cotton wool are all the seeds, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds per blossom per cone. And every one of them is liable, almost certain, to be fertile and first class. Therefore, you must not lose this. But you must not collect it until it is about to fly. And there is no manner of telling that other than the technical on-the-spot obviousness. There is no other way. But to pull it off by force as you might pull a peach before it's ripe or fig when it is straight, the seed will not be in its ripe composition, which is required. In other words it must be about to take off.

Now  sometimes that cotton wool will hang for two or three or four days in a swarm and increase. And not usually does the cotton wool form right down the cone all together. So you usually have to make two collections. Do you follow?  And they, of course, can go into the same bag. There is nothing much better than a large brown paper bag with a big opening, one of the very big ones. Safeway comes in useful for the first time. And you see, though there is a wind or a breeze, take it on the lower side and pop it in quickly. And you just, as it were, wipe it. Therefore, the unripe remains hanging on to the swarm and leads the rest of the cone into ripeness. So you do not pick off the cone because the cone would go sloppy and would rot.

So you've only got the cotton wool in the bag. And you leave that absolutely loose, tie it up around the collar and hang it up to dry. So you make two collections and there is your seed and you will sow it either in the fall or the spring. Both of them work perfectly.  Now this plant does not force. Therefore, you must not produce that seed under a forced heat such as you would raise the tomato. It must be a cooler raising such as you would use for cineraria and freesia and you will get a ninety-nine to a hundred percent germination. And when you come to sow that seed you will find that you've got one huge enormous mass of swarm of cotton wool with little seeds you can't see even. Therefore, you've got nothing but cotton wool. Do not worry. But don't try to sow in any form of draft for it will be away, which is exactly what it's meant to do to migrate. It can go from here down to South America. 

You will prepare your seed box, for this must be grown in this manner. You will prepare your seed box and on the day according to the moon, in a beautifully sheltered position. You will slightly press that soil, having filled the box with a special preparation. That preparation will be a thick rotted leaf mold at the base, a coverage of well-rotted, if possible, seed-proofed manure, and “a third, a third, a third.” One-third sharp; one-third well-rotted turf loam, seed proofed, turned, in other words; and one-third well-rotted leaf mold. All mixed in well together. Very, very fine and nice and full and pressed.

Now you take your cotton wool with your fingers and you simply spread it, undo it, as much as is possible. And don't get in a flummox over it because it doesn't separate.  So, in other words, you end up with a box of one sheet of cotton wool out of the bag. And of course, you must begin with a lump or several lumps in the middle of the box because otherwise the least little... I mean if you go, "ha ha," poof… the whole lot, gone. Do you follow? So it's no good mucking about or what have you. Or somebody comes in and says, "Wait," and it's all gone.

Now, it is very important for the coverage of this that you have the lightest of light. Again the finest sifted, well-rotted leaf with sifted sharp with sifted turf loam, “a third, a third, a third.” And nothing but the finest sifting so that you can still just see the cotton wool. In other words, Golden Rule: "under cover, do not over cover."  You could always add a little at germination. Golden Rule: "Under cover, do not over cover." Keep thoroughly moist, well-watered. No need for glass. Temperature of fifty at night, sixty-five by day and you will get an excellent germination. It's slow. There is in the seed the double procedure generally of the hard and the soft shell and, therefore, you are quite liable to get a repercussion, after a month, of a re-germination. It nearly always happens.

In this way you will produce plants which are superior to those that you grew from those corms. And that you have started an uplift of fertility in your corms. If you proceed on that line from those and take again the second year from those seedlings, not the first, the second and third year. The life of that corm will be approximately five years. And it  will start with eighteen blooms the second year, will go to twenty-four, twenty-five the next,  twenty-eight the next at full size, and then will begin to get smaller and remain numerous and then go back to eighteen rather small. And after five years as a cut flower you've finished with it.

Now the St. Brigid you will deal with in the same way, with the second issue that I've just described with sowing the seed. You will buy the seed and sow it in that manner. It's easy to get and it's cheap to buy the seed. If you buy the corms it's expensive. So I'm talking about economical.

This corm does not, does not force. Convolaria, freesia, daffodils, hyacinths, tulips, you can force them all. With a lot of heat you can have them on by Christmas, January. You cannot force the anemone. It does not. But it is a winter plant. In Cornwall it is in bloom in January and goes to London and the Scilly Isles even in December. It has the capacity, that even though the stalk is quite short with the cold weather, with the frost, and the little bud is only just showing color during the period of one month having picked it, it will come into full bloom in the London market and in the home where it is purchased. Its lasting power is enormous.

It is a colossal drinker. It drinks water at a tremendous pace. The vase, which you put it in, will be drunk in three days. And you must always resuscitate it. It does not need to have the stalk cut to keep the flower going. That color in the winter is one of the most beautiful cut flowers that you can have. Therefore, if you are in a wicked climate the ideal way to grow this…





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