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Sunday, April 27, 2008


Every spring I'm surprised by my lovely Epimediums. I really don't know much about them, just enough to make up one post. When you look at them you think of delicate, fussy plants but in truth they are the exact opposite.

The flowers are not long lasting and if you forget to trim out some of last years foliage you might miss half the show. The show though doesn't stop there, Epimediums have wonderful foliage and they continue to add beauty to the garden all year long.

Most of my Epimediums don't have names posted under them although this one might be named 'Orion'. A gardening friend shared a number of her Epimediums with me one fall. I really wasn't interested in them but she insisted I take some pieces and so I dug them up and popped them into plastic bags. I should know better because everything she's shared with me has been wonderful.

It's embarrassing to admit it but those bags sat on top of the ground in my shade area for a few months. One day I noticed the foliage was peeking out so I quickly heeled them into the ground. They didn't get extra compost, a handful of fertilizer, nothing special at all. Yet, the next spring there they were in all their glory with the most wonderful fairy-like blooms.

This one has a name, Epimedium sulphureum. Last year the day of the plant sale came and my mom asked me why I had never dug any of these for the sale. To be truthful I didn't know how to divide them and I also thought they'd never sell. Well I was wrong, we had this variety and rubrum for sale and they sold like hotcakes.

This is a sweet variety out front. It's in a dry, root bound, shade bed with the worst soil ever but every year it cheerfully puts out this amazing bloom. According to the descriptions I've got here it might be 'Rose Queen'.

This is the first Epimedium I ever grew. It needs to be divided desperately and I will do so in another week or two. You can see how lovely the foliage is on this variety. I won a piece of it as a door prize at a daylily meeting many years ago. Wait, actually my friend Mare won it and I immediately forced a trade on her (I had won a daylily) because the foliage was so entrancing.

This year I only potted up 5 Epimediums, you can see them here soaking up some moisture. They are quite woody and you need a sharp knife to divide them. Also, they have a pungent odor when you cut them, it surprised me. Since our season is more on time this year (last year was late) they probably won't be in bloom on May 10th. I wonder if they'll sell and have no idea what to price them. I'm thinking they'll be $5 per pot, these are full gallon pots and they wholesale here in 5 pint pots for $7.35.

Finally, here's what they look like in a pot on their own. It's hard to tell that they will be something special in the garden. As you can see by Calie the wonder-doodle's face, she's trying to figure out why I'm out there in the rain taking pictures. Calie, you need a bath and a haircut!


garden girl said...

Melanie, I've been eyeing these at the nursery where I work. Knowing from you that they do well in dry shade is just the nudge I needed. Before I read your post I was thinking about going to the nursery today to do a little shopping for myself and pre-shopping for a client. You just pushed me over the edge.

Northern Shade said...

Thanks for the information on Epimediums. They were on my list of possible plants, but I haven't tried them yet. I like good foliage shade perennials, and I especially like hardy ones, so these bag survivors sound great.

Frances, said...

Hi Melanie, wonderful plants, those epimediums. We have the yellow sulphureum and rubrum, plus Lilafee. I love them all now but was hesitant to get them, they are not much to look at in a pot, but had read such rave reviews in gardening magazines about them. $5 is a great price and yours look so healthy. I would gladly pay that. They are so much prettier when I remember to cut the old foliage away before they send up the new shoots in early March here. They are really tough in dry conditions, as you say. Great post.

Frances at Faire Garden

Helen said...

These are on my wish list as I have a very shady area which they would like but I rarely see them for sale

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

I bet they sell well even if not in bloom. I think Epimediums are the new Hellebores. If they weren't so expensive, I'd have more than 1 variety. Five dollars for one that size is a bargain.

garden girl said...

Melanie, I got one. Thank you for pushing me over the edge. I thought I'd come back to tell you it was $15.00 in a square gallon pot. I thought it might help you with pricing.

Gail said...

melanie, it's hard not to love Epimedium! They are elegant and hardworking. I have one that looks lovely all winter (but I am in zone 6b). Your photos show them off well!


Cinj said...

What lovely plants. I've never seen them for sale before, but then again I'm a stick to my favorites kind of person. I guess I put on the blinders if it doesn't have a favorite name and/or color attatched to them. I'm broadening my horizons, but now that I'm in an even colder zone I'm not so sure that it'll help me much....

Amy said...

I saw these for the first time last week in a magazine. I think it was a Better Homes and Gardens special issue about perennials. They featured someone who grows and breeds them - lovely plants!

Jean said...

Thanks Melanie for your post on epimediums.
Here in New Zealand of course they flower about October, but was never sure when to divide mine. I have a very large clump now of the pink one, and my friend has the gold one so we will be swappinbg now.
Love the shade loving plants, developing what I refer to as a hosta garen

Debbie said...

I love my Epimediums. They are such a wonderful shade plant. Thanks for the post.

Piondröm said...

Epimedium is one of our favorits.
Your pictures are beautiful, I cant wait until my own shall bloom.
Regards Ken from Sweden.

Sylvia said...

I have one Epimedium but has been in its pot for nearly a year! I really must have a look and see if it is flowering and find a home for it. If it does well I would like lots more I think they are enchanting.

Best wishes Sylvia (England)

melodye said...

j'aime beaucoup les epimediums, ils permettent de créer de tres beaux tapis pour les coins ombragés.
bonne journée et merci pour ces informations

Melanie said...

Linda, I'm so glad you bought an Epimedium, I would get more if I saw a new variety for sale.

Northern shade, they really were very hardy for me so I hope they do well in your area too.

Frances, if I hadn't been given pieces of these beauties I would never had considered buying them as they really don't look like much in pots.

Helen, I do think the reason they aren't for sale is that the public doesn't know what they are and garden centers can get stuck with a whole shipment if people don't buy them.

Mr. McGregor's daughter, you have me motivated to dig another variety for our sale. Really, our job as gardeners is to help spread the joy and people around here need to try this wonderful perennial.

Linda, $15 a pot! Wow, I had no idea they would cost that much. I'll have to price them around here when I finally get out and get plant shopping.

Gail, these are evergreen in the winter here too but I can't say I really looked at them. Maybe I'll remember to do so this coming winter.

Cinj, you need to ask at your library if there's an active garden club in your area. This way you can find out what grows well in your zone and maybe those gardeners would be willing to share slips of plants with you.

Amy, I read that article too. It made me want more Epimediums!

Jean, I didn't think they'd grow in New Zealand, how cool!

Debbie, I'm really falling in love with them too. Uh oh, just what I need, another plant addiction!

Piondrom, I hope your Epimedium start blooming soon, I can't imagine you are too far behind us in bloom time.

Sylvia, yes, it's time to get that baby in the ground so it can spread it's little roots around and bring lots of joy to you.

Melodye, what a lovely idea, a carpet of Epimediums. I like that thought very much and will have to do some combining of my plants here to get that effect.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your post on this wonderful plant. I stopped at a yard sale last year and they had it in their garden. I asked about it and they gave me a hugh cutting. I am hooked on them. I went to a plant sale this morning and bought 5 more. They had a display of them with ginger plant and sweet woodruff under a hugh tree. Beautiful. Thanks again.