February 15, 2011 | Panayoti Kelaidis, Senior Curator & Director of Outreach

There's really no common name for these. Considering that one or another Adonis grows from Spain all the way to Manchuria...I'm sure that they have accrued no end of colorful names in their native range, usually in steppe, montane or subalpine meadows where they still occur in profusion here and there across Eurasia.I have seen "Pheasant's Eye" and a few other strange names inflicted upon these in English...but we may as well content ourselves with the Latin Adonis, derived from the Ancient Greek mythological youth who was so handsome he was lover of Aphrodite. When his blood was scattered, it sprang into flowers--presumably the scarlet annual Adonis annua, which you may find blooming later this spring in the Rock Alpine Garden...

But the glorious yellow perennial shown above originates in East Asia, where it has been cultivated for centuries and dozens of exquisite forms are sold to collectors at astronomical prices in Japan. We boast a dwarf form, a gift of a Japanese nurseryman just opening its flowers in the Southeast corner of the Rock Alpine Garden (near the two Christmas roses just north of the footpath). The way is soggy right now, but by this weekend it should be passable. The picture above is from my home garden, where it can come into bloom in January some years. This year it's tardy--mid February is still a good time of year for flowers with this sort of size and glory.

Adonis amurensis

You may wonder, "where might I find such a plant?" You will have to search rare plant catalogs I'm afraid. There are a few obscure rare plant nurseries where this is sold at very high prices. But most people obtain these as "passalong" plants: getting to know someone who grows it, and swapping or otherwise begging a piece when they divide it. Most sophisticated plant collectors on the East or West coast have large masses of Adonis in their gardens, and the March Bank at Winterthur is famous for its display...OK, Coloradoans! Time to schmooze your friends on the coast.


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