'Vestal' Wood Anemone
"Clinging to ephemeral life as did Adonis, for whom Zephyr named the Anemone, O wind-flower, too soon shaking off his petals, swift & soon to die."
-Ovid"Tears of the Paphian goddess comingle in the blood of Adonis, so that the earth gave birth to flowers. Her tears are the anemones, his blood the scentless rose. Adonis, pleasing Adonis, Adonis who is dead."
(43 BCE - 18 CE)
Several growers list this in their catalogs as "Rare," but not so rare that you can't get it from multiple growers, which one should certainly do if at all possible. Anemone nemerosa 'Vestal' is a double-white wood anemone or windflower with a frill or outer ring of petals around a pompom, in all looking like a miniature double-gardenia.
Truly, it cannot be exaggerated how marvelously it flowers in April, usually a couple weeks later than 'Robinsoniana' growing next to it. Its pure white flowers bring light down to its ground-level in semi-shaded woodland gardens or under shrubs. It blooms well even in rather deep shade.
It is often confused with 'Albaplena' which is indeed very similar & awfully wonderful, but has been described as shaped more like a shuttlecock than a double-gardenia, 'Albaplena' being just a tad shy of a complete double. 'Albaplena,' rather than 'Vestal,' was the one first discovered growing in a garden in 1830, but 'Vestal' was developed out of it
On both 'Albaplena' & 'Vestal,' there may be a "pretty dissonance" hard for the observer to quite put her finger on, until one realizes these anemones lack their anthers, rendering the flowers sterile, which causes them to be long-lasting in the garden, still having the instinctive desire to hold out, however hopelessly, until pollinated.
If there is any fault to this flower at all, it is that it tends to nod its face downward for its first few days & doesn't always show off its incredible center. Only when fully matured do the blooms turn upward into bright shade. I had to lift one of the blooms upward a bit to get the late-April close-up photograph above, which is about four times life size. About three days later the blooms turned upward on their own.
The snowy whiteness as an emblem of purity must've been what inspired the cultivation name 'Vestal,' alluding to the Vestal Virgins of Rome, who worshipped a form of the goddess Vesta with traits of warlike Cybele, Goddess of the Coloseum.
The Anemone's greater mythology is not associated with a Virgin Goddess, but with Aphrodite, who fell in love with Adonis, he that was called "the scentless rose."
His "scentless" nature meant that he was not capable of actually making love to Aphrodite, but was akin to Attis the sexless companion of Cybele, or Narcissus who was so enamored of himself he could not love the nymph Echo.
Persephone desired Adonis as well, & when the beautiful mortal was gored to death by a boar, he became her companion in Tartarus.
It was at that time Aphrodite wept so that her tears watered the earth, & Adonis returned from the dark realm in the form of spring's anemones which, however, for all the flower's strength & vigor, always died to the ground in summer. Thereafter Aphrodite had him half each year, & Persephone had him the other half.
The dark green leaves of 'Vestal' occasionally show a purplish sheen. The variety is a recipient of the Award of Garden Merit. Ours grows in the shade of the paperbark maple along with the blue-flowering anemone "Robinsoniana" & with a little clump of rue-leafed anemonella.
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