Few plants can send up a succession of flowers from August until late October and look elegant at every stage, whether tight bud, long-lasting flower or neatly spherical seed head. But the Japanese anemone manages it perfectly, and there are few more beautiful forms. This distinctive plant reaches 90cm tall and was discovered at Hadspen House in Somerset in the late 1970s by plantsman Eric Smith.
The term Japanese anemone is misleading. A. hupehensis is actually a native of Hupeh province in eastern China, but it was grown in Japanese gardens for centuries, hence the confusion. Robert Fortune (1812-1880) introduced it into Europe in 1844, having apparently discovered it running between the tombstones in a Shanghai graveyard. It was one of several long-lived, ethereal plants used to commemorate the dead. In the garden setting, too, they seem to enjoy popping up through stonework or paving close to buildings or paths.