Friday, May 3, 2013

A new favorite: Epimediums

They look dainty but Epimediums are sturdy and great workhorses in the partial shade garden. I started adding them to my garden in the last three years, seduced by the interesting foliage, the unusual flower form and wide variety of bloom color. Certainly their common names—rowdy lamb herb, Randy Beef Grass, barrenwort, bishop's hat, fairy wings, and horny goat weed—don’t do much to sell their great charm with the possible exception of bishop’s hat and fairy wings. The wire-thin stems, smaller leaves, and flower structure contrasts beautifully with bold-leaved hostas and striking fern leaves. I find they also work well with another favorite of mine: Pulmonaria. But I read “Epimediums with a Twist” and it suggests combining this wonderful genus of plants with other less obvious garden partners.

There are hundreds of varieties to choose from. I added several, including the glorious Amber Queen, as I reworked garden beds in anticipation of having my garden open for the Inviting Vines VI Garden Tour. The May 25 tour is a fundraiser for the extensive Rogerson Clematis Collection. (I probably should be writing about the 11 new Clematis I recently added to my garden, but that can wait until they start to bloom…although Clematis Guernsey Cream, a Clematis montana variety and others are starting to do their thing, including Clematis ‘Josephine’, which is just about ready to burst into bloom!)

If you haven’t succumbed yet to the charms of Epimediums and you have shade in your garden, give them a warm welcome. You’ll find fascinating varieties at specialty nurseries and I’m seeing more and more of them at local garden centers.

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