Ex­pert’s choice: epimedi­ums

These beau­ties brighten dap­pled shade with their pretty flow­ers and fo­liage, says Gra­ham Rice

Gardeners' World - - Contents -

From the forests of China and Korea, Iran and south­ern Europe comes this ap­peal­ing and in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar group of low, spring-flow­er­ing hardy peren­ni­als. Es­sen­tial in­gre­di­ents of any shady gar­den, they min­gle well with other early flow­ers to form an en­chant­ing spring tapestry. Their in­trigu­ing spi­dery flow­ers may look del­i­cate, but these plants are tough – some will even thrive in dry shade. A few epimedi­ums are ever­green, pro­duc­ing a carpet of over­lap­ping, weed-smoth­er­ing leaves on wiry stems, but most die back in au­tumn to a steadily spread­ing crown. Colour­ful emerg­ing fo­liage can be smoky, cop­pery or bronze – per­haps even with salmon tones. And then there are the flow­ers, which are like strings of dainty mon­keys swing­ing from the arch­ing or up­right stems. The colours range from white through pas­tel pink, lilac and pur­ple to bright yel­low and orange across the many va­ri­eties, with some es­pe­cially lovely bi-coloured forms. The flow­ers sparkle in spring sun­shine along­side prim­roses, tril­li­ums, wood anemones, vi­o­lets and emerg­ing hosta fo­liage, then as the leaves of nearby de­cid­u­ous shrubs and trees fill in to make a canopy over­head, the fo­liage set­tles in to pro­vide at­trac­tive sum­mer ground cover. You can even snip the stems for posies, as they al­ways re­pay close in­spec­tion.

Po­si­tion Best in fer­tile, hu­mus-rich but free-drain­ing soil in par­tial or dap­pled shade. Some will take more sun and drier con­di­tions. Care Mulch with well-rot­ted or­ganic mat­ter in early spring be­fore the new flow­er­ing stems emerge. Cut back ever­green va­ri­eties just as the new flower stems start to ap­pear in spring. Wa­ter new plants dur­ing dry spells in their first sea­son to help them set­tle in. Trim off the old fo­liage of de­cid­u­ous va­ri­eties in late au­tumn. Where to buy de­sir­able­plants.com, 01803 864489; edrom-nurs­eries.co.uk, 01890 771386; mill­cot­tage­plants.co.uk, 01749 676966

PLANT DIRECTORYFind the per­fect epimedium for your gar­den by us­ing our plant finder at gar­den­er­sworld.com/ plant-finder

E. ‘Pink Cham­pagne’ The new spring fo­liage is heav­ily mot­tled with pink, match­ing the pink and red flow­ers. HxS 40cm x 40cm

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