Sunday, November 16, 2008

Epimediums In Fall

One fine, crisp November morning you wake up and realize you've pretty much got a foliage garden now; except for a handful of intrepid blooms, there is not a flower to be seen in the garden. If we're lucky, the early snowdrops may be back in a January thaw (or, if unlucky, they'll not be back until they dazedly emerge from March's snowbanks, like last year).
In the meantime, there is still lots of interesting foliage to look at and, in fact, the epimediums, while they may not hog the center of the stage, certainly edge on to it from the wings.
Many different species are quite hardy here; some are wisely deciduous, but a number are semi-evergreen, and in mild winters a few are truly evergreen. I'm not sure why epimediums aren't more popular; certainly the flowers are small, but there are lots of them. They require essentially no care, and grow about anywhere. I like to tuck them into little odd nooks and crannies all along the pathways; the foliage shines in spring and fall, the flowers are lovely in late spring, and they just kind of blend into (or perhaps I should say they form) the background during the summer, but their summer foliage always looks fresh and never wilts during summer's heat. Their lack of popularity may stem partly from not having an easily recognized, attractive common name (barrenwort doesn't do much for most folks). I've seen catalog writers try, without much success, to label them "angel wings" because of the shape of the flowers.
In the fall, the foliage of many epimediums seems to become shinier, and gets a moody undertone of pink or purple; this is Epimedium x youngianum 'Tamabotan', with its pinkish fall foliage and reddish petioles. It's a deciduous clumper, with lovely pale rose flowers in the spring.
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I just planted Epimedium grandiflorum 'Lilafee' this fall, and immediately wondered why I hadn't planted any before. The foliage looked great under the trees, and is still looking good after a month of frosts. If it survives the winter fine, I intend to plant more next year.
I read a wonderful article this year about a grower who specialises in epimediums. Since then I've often wished they were hardy in my zone.
I tried planting one interesting-looking variety this spring, but it didn't make it. (I was late in getting it into the ground.) :-(

Hope to try again this coming Spring. The foliage on your plant is beautiful. :-)
Northern... Lilafee is a nice one, and very hardy. Nice start!

Amy... you sure they wouldn't be hardy there... I grew them in z4.

Shady... I've lost one or two by planting small, poorly rooted plants in a spot with too much sun. They have kind of fibrous, tangled nets of roots, and sometimes you see plants that just haven't got good root systems yet.

I really love these little gems!!!
I grow my Epimediums in zone 7b, so I dont have problems in winter. Three years ago I planted Epimedium perralchicum 'Frohnleiten'(Frohnleiten being the name of a small town near my hometown)and Epimedium sulphureum. Both are rather drought resistent when planted in shade. But I know they will also grow in a much colder climate than mine, because my brother has them in his garden in the Alps.

Because they have such nice flowers and interesting foliage I am now looking for some other varienties which will tolerate the slightly dry contitions in my garden.

greeting from Austria
No... you have dry conditions in Austria?? Guess it depends on what you consider dry (or maybe you're in a mountain rainshadow). Epimediums tolerate dry conditions better than about any plant in our garden.
IBoy.... what we consider dry conditions here are about 500mm/year rain. Parts of Austria get up to 1800mm/year and more. But we are the wine-growing part of Austria - with the climates to go with it - so there are also many positive aspects to it. But because of that I have to put a lot of plants more shady than I would have to otherwise.

Greetings from Austria
No... we get about 1000 mm here.
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