Epimedium fargesii native to China long blooming

The Chinese species Epimedium fargesii has been in bloom since May 3.

One last open weekend remains for the 2015 bloom season at Garden Vision Epimediums nursery and gardens in Phillipston, MA, on  Fri. – Sun. May 22-24; 10am-4pm. It’s your best chance to see the Epimediums and other companion shade perennials in the ground in a garden setting.  Bring your camera to capture the best of late season bloom.

Dry conditions and July-like spring temperatures of late followed by heavy rain and wind have fast-forwarded the Epimedium bloom season, with the very latest blooming species and varieties currently at their peak.

Epimedium truncatum uncommon Chinese epimedium

Visit this upcoming open nursery weekend to see the less common Chinese Epimedium species, such as truncatum, in full flower.

Visit this upcoming weekend May 22-24 to see the last of the Epimedium ×youngianum and assorted inter-specific hybrids, along with the evergreen Chinese species in full flower. Second growth foliage color and near-ultimate plant size will be evident. The companion plants Iris cristata and Primula sieboldii will be in their full glory. Whenever you visit, you will have plenty to observe as the species and varieties walk us through the spring.  Click here for more details and directions.

Darrell Probst, plant hunter, epimedium hybridizer and breeder

Darrell Probst was our special guest on Sat. May 16.

Darrell Probst, Epimedium expert and the creator of Garden Vision Epimediums, was on hand last Saturday to answer your plant questions. Many of the hybrids currently blooming that we offer are his introductions. Likewise, many of the clones of wild collected plants that we sell were originally collected by him in China, Japan and Korea. Many will be in their full glory this weekend.


Trade Secrets Epimedium Karen Perkins

Our spring on-site sales season ends with the massive Tower Hill Botanic Garden Plant Sale in Boylston, MA on May 30 with a Preview Party the evening of May 29.

For those of you further afield that can’t make the trip, our shipping starts in early June once the foliage has hardened off enough to withstand a tumble through the mail. However you get your Epimedium fix this  year, we hope that you enjoy it, as the spring magic they create will be gone before you know it.

Karen Perkins

Owner- Garden Vision Epimediums



Karen in epi gardenFrontPost

Welcome to Garden Vision Epimediums, established in 1997 and featuring the best selection of Bishops caps, Barrenworts and Fairy wings in the United States. Epimediums make the perfect addition to your woodland shade garden. Their delicate, fragile beauty belies their tough, long-lasting nature. They are easy to grow, spring blooming plants, and many also have amazing spring foliage colors. Their flowers also come in a wide range of shapes and colors.

Many gardeners know these plants simply as ground covers for dry shade, but recent hybrids and new species discoveries have added a whole new dimension to this intriguing genus. The Epimediums in our collection represent the collecting and hybridizing efforts of Epimedium expert, Darrell Probst.

You can see here the Epimediums listed in our print catalog, but with even more photos. Download an order form to send in by mail or by fax. Browse through the main catalogue, or you can sort by several characteristics including flower color, species, growth habit, drought tolerance, size, etc.

If you have a question, suggestion or just want to let us know what you think, please send me an email karen@epimediums.com.

You can order Epimediums by either by mail or fax.  Or if you prefer buying your plants in person, we’ve scheduled four Open Nursery Weekends for 2015 where you can see the plants growing in a garden setting here at the nursery. The 2015 dates are Fri. – Sun. May 1-3; May 8-10; May 15-17 & May 22-24; 10am-4pm. With the extreme snow and cold this winter, it is difficult to predict peak bloom. Check back for bloom updates closer to your visit. Or you can buy plants  at one of our upcoming off-site sales throughout the Northeast during the growing season. We ship within the United States during June, September and October. Happy reading!

Karen Perkins

Epimedium  macrosepalum 'Sweet Rachel' groundcover for shade

Epimedium macrosepalum ‘Sweet Rachel‘ with last year’s foliage, fresh spring growth and bloom, enjoying the company of its namesake.

Ground-cover for dry shade is the most common refrain when I ask people if they are familiar with Epimediums.  (No, is another common answer!)  Although some species do spread and make great drought-tolerant ground covers, the vast majority of species are clump forming and all of them prefer adequate moisture and well-drained, humus-rich soils. Those that most often make the ground-cover cut– E. ×rubrum, E. ×versicolor ‘Sulphureum’ and E. ×perralchicum ‘Frohnleiten’– do so for several reasons. They are drought-tolerant after they become established, short in stature, with good quality foliage. They have also been on the market for many years. This year’s specialty collection of uncommon ground-covers will encourage you to expand your horizons and try some of the lesser known, but still useful, beautiful and spreading forms of Epimedium.

All Epimediums grow by woody rhizomes that live just below the soil surface. The woodiness of these rhizomes or “underground stems” accounts for their relatively slow growing nature (as compared to herbaceous perennials). It also makes them very tough (as does the fact that the stem is protected underground). Some species–grandiflorum, diphyllum and fargesii for example- have very short, incremental rhizome growth each year, so that over time, the stems of the plant form a woody underground “knot”. These types make an ever-enlarging clump over time, but essentially occupy the same real estate for many years. Generally the kinds whose annual rhizome growth can be measured in inches, rather than fractions of an inch, are considered to be spreading types or “ground-covers”.  Here I focus on some of the less commonly used spreading types.

E. macrosepalum 'Sweet Rachel' fol webE. macrosepalum ‘Sweet Rachel’ is a charming, very low-growing, spreader. Recently introduced to cultivation in the U.S., this selection is the result of a National Arboretum plant exploration of the southeast coastal region of Russia. I value this cultivar mostly for its evergreen foliage that displays some of the best fall color in all of Epimedium-land. Heart shaped, leathery leaves cover the ground at only about 3-5″ high. Limey green in spring, they turn a beautiful burgundy-red in fall when grown in bright shade or a bit of sun. Although a shy bloomer, this species has beautiful, large (for an Epimedium) flowers that I liken to eggs on an Easter egg hunt– an extra special treat to discover. Their large, rounded lavender-pink sepals arch back while the spur tips and the rim of the flower cup stretch forward and brighten to white. Their very thin rhizomes grow 4-8+” annually here in Massachusetts.

E. xversicolor 'Neosulphureum' webE. ×versicolor ‘Neosulphureum’ is often overlooked in the shadow of it’s well known sister plant ‘Sulphureum’. It does not spread as quickly, (the rhizomes grow only 2-4″ a year), but nevertheless, it forms a nice tight ground cover that just travels at a slower pace. A hearty bloomer, it is surprisingly showy in the shade, with its soft yellow flowers shining brightly against the delicately bronzed semi-evergreen spring leaflets. It makes a very classy addition to the woodland garden.

E. sempervirens 'Okuda's White' web

Many customers ask me for a white flowering spreader, but very few Epimediums fit that bill. Epimedium sempervirens ‘Okuda’s White’ is one of them. George Schenk introduced this unusual and rare cultivar from Japan in the 1970’s. Although most  sempervirens cultivars are clump forming, this gem spreads 4-6″ a year with large, pristine white flowers against light green leaves, a very fresh-looking combination. This very low growing, semi-evergreen groundcover only reaches 5-8″ in height.

E. xversicolor 'Cupreum' webIf you want a wonderfully warm pop of bright spring color, then you can’t do better than E. ×versicolor ‘Cupreum’. It is one of my very favorites. Cheerful pinkish-salmon flowers with a soft yellow cup hover above red-flushed leaflets, spider-veined in lime-green in springtime. In fall, the angular leaflets turn a distinctive and attractive blackish maroon. Plant it against a solid colored baE. x versicolor CupreumDSC01679 webckground, such as the white of a birch trunk, or the grey of a granite boulder, to best show the cacophony of spring color of this handsome variety. Semi-spreading at 4-5″ per year, with foliage 9-12″ tall. In good soil and bright shade, you can expect your clump to increase to a diameter of 2′ in 4-5 years.

E. pinnatum ssp. pinnatumDSC09452 webFrom Iran comes the drought-tolerant, evergreen E. pinnatum ssp. pinnatum. Its foliage has an attractive reddish-blush in both spring and fall. This subspecies has far more textural foliage than E. pinnatum ssp. colchicum, with 9 leaflets per leaf instead of 3-5. Its bright lemon-yellow flowers erupt from the blush of the newly emerging foliage in spring to brighten any space. It is a good spreader with 8″ long rhizomes.

E. grandiflorum f. flav. 'Chocolate Lace' webOne of my favorite deciduous spreaders is E. grandiflorum f. flavescens ‘Chocolate Lace’. The new foliage looks like molten dark chocolate- with just a hint of red– against the tracings of its green veins. It makes an excellent backdrop for late blooming Narcissus such as ‘Thalia’. It is also spectacular when paired with blue-foliaged Hosta sp. in the garden, as are many Epimediums with dark spring foliage. 10″ tall in bloom, I consider it a “semi” spreader with rhizomes extending only 2-4” annually.

I hope this inspires you to try something new this season. Check out this year’s specialty collection “Not the Usual Suspects” featuring all of the plants highlighted in this article, and priced at a discount. They boast a variety of foliage shapes, plant heights, and flower and foliage colors to add a little pizzazz to your shade. All are uncommon in the trade.

As always I look forward to serving you– our loyal and enthusiastic customers. Thank you for your patronage and for helping to preserve, appreciate and perpetuate Barrenworts, Bishop’s Caps and Fairywings.

Karen Perkins

Owner- Garden Vision Epimediums

Wreath front pageDSC00307szd

Cold weather turns the evergreen leaves of Epimedium pinnatum ssp. colchicum ‘Thunderbolt’ to a beautiful shade of purple/black. Here, the foliage accents a winter wreath.

I awoke to a thermometer registering -8 degrees Fahrenheit this early January morning. Many nurseries have their catalogs out in the mail to you by now, so that you can sit by the fire, warm and cozy, hot chocolate at the ready, thinking of spring, and placing your orders for the garden of your dreams. I missed that boat!

Now that the weather has finally forced me indoors, I am working on this website and composing the 2015 print catalog, which will be available in early spring. The website plant availability and prices are current for 2015. I am adding a few new offerings as time permits.

Check out my schedule of on-site plant sales and Epimedium talks for 2015, possibly coming to a venue near you. I am venturing a bit further afield and have even added a new sale, in southern VA, at the end of February. This year, we’re adding additional days to the Open Nursery Weekend schedule to take advantage of the extended bloom of the many different types of Epimediums in our collections. One of those dates, Saturday, May 16, you will even be able to speak to the original Epimedium guru, Darrell Probst. He has graciously agreed to join us and to answer your questions about Epimediums on that day. I hope to see you at one of these events this year.

By the way, that is Epimedium ssp. pinnatum ‘Thunderbolt’ gracing the right side of the winter wreath on my front door. It holds up pretty well next to the other evergreens it accompanies, and I usually don’t take my winter wreath down until April 1, so that is saying something! Enjoy the unique beauty of your winter, it will be spring before you know it.

Karen Perkins


OpenHouse2014The year’s late arrival of spring did not put a damper on our two Open Nursery Weekends in early May. Although the Epimediums really didn’t start to open their blossoms in earnest until the last day, they did show off their beautiful spring foliage hues. The late spring also kept the bugs at bay, and the earliest blooming spring companion plants  including Jeffersonia dubia, Trillium pusillum ‘Roadrunner’ and the three Bloodroot cultivars that we offer, were glorious. Continue reading »


E. xperralchicum'Wisley'DSC00129

Beautiful late season foliage of Epimedium xperralchicum ‘Wisley’

Last summer, as I was weeding late one quiet afternoon in the nursery, I was struck by the understated beauty of the foliage of many of the Epimediums surrounding me. I decided to focus this article on green summer foliage, or the “sensible shoes” of the Epimedium world. Epimediums,  by their very nature, are not “in your face” kinds of plants, especially during the summer, when they are known more for their subtle, elegant foliage beauty. I have chosen the following selections as exceptional, particularly durable types that add structure and a long season of handsome foliage interest to the garden. Many of the newer Chinese species have exceptional, large, spiny leaflets of good substance, worthy of specimen plant status in the garden. But here, I am focusing on the leafier, faster-growing Continue reading »

E. grandiflorum 'Circe'

E. grandiflorum ‘Circe’

Many people complain that some Epimediums flower beneath their foliage, thus taking away from the display. That usually doesn’t spoil their intrigue for me, as the leaves are so immature and tiny during bloom, that I don’t think that they obscure the blossoms until the end of flowering, when the later flowers can be engulfed in the enthusiasm of the expanding foliage. One of my customers suggested that I list which types hold their flower heads high above the leaves, so you have her to thank for this article. Not surprisingly, many those plants are hybrids, the result of the breeder’s efforts to create a more dazzling spring show of flowers. The following selections not only bloom well above the foliage, but bloom in profusion when sited in bright shade and humus-rich, well drained soils, creating quite a show. Instead of relegating these shining stars to the ‘shady woodland border’ why not place them in a prominent spot in your garden as a specimen perennial, in as much sunlight as they can tolerate in your region for best growth and bloom.

E. pubigerum

E. pubigerum

Two species immediately come to mind, E. brevicornu and E. stellulatum, both from China and sporting billowing panicles of small star-shaped white flowers held high above heart shaped, deciduous papery-thin leaves in the case of the former, and rounded to arrow shaped, toothed evergreen leaflets on the latter. The two also are very early bloomers with long lasting bloom stems, and particularly cold tolerant for Epimediums. A third species, Epimedium pubigerum, a native of Turkey, also holds its towering columns of white or light pink flowers up high. Shaped like little “molars”, the flowers make up for their small size in their great numbers. This species is particularly drought tolerant, with semi-evergreen heart shaped leaves.

E. x Pink Chanpagne

E. x Pink Champagne

Two strong growing evergreen hybrids created by Darrell Probst from plants collected in China are E. × ‘Domino’ and E. בPink Champagne’. Sibling seedlings. I often think of ‘Domino’ as the male, and ‘Pink Champagne’ as it’s female counterpart. Both send up long sprays of spidery flowers well above the foliage- ‘Domino’ has a white flower with cranberry cup, and ‘P.C.’ has a pink wash to both flowers and the new growth. Both are very floriferous and often re-bloom and produce second growth foliage if they are happy in their environment.  They each have a graceful elegance about them, throwing their leaves out in a wide-spreading arch. Their new leaves are flecked with maroon spots, almost like gold flakes floating in a hopeful prospector’s pan. If you are looking for a specimen Epimedium for a special place in your garden, either of these cultivars fit the bill.

On the shorter side of the Epimedium spectrum, two selections of E. ×youngianum are ‘Fairy Dust’ and ‘Be My Valentine’. They bloom later and are covered in silvery-purple/white and hot cherry pink /white flowers respectively. Similarly E. grandiflorum ‘Circe’ will produce a vibrant patch of red-violet blooms atop the foliage, a color that easily reads from a distance. “Fairy Dust’ and ‘Circe’ both have a slight brownish tinge to the new growth, a backdrop which enhances the bloom color. Another yellow-flowered diminuitive reblooming hybrid from Kelly Dodson is E. x ‘Sunshowers’, with a raft of soft yellow flowers above new foliage speckled with maroon flecks.

E. x Flame Thrower

E. x Flame Thrower

A Diana Reeck introduction, E. × ‘Making Waves’, and Darrell Probst’s E. × ‘Flame Thrower’ are both late-season bloomers. ‘Making Waves’ as an undulating, banded edge to the new spring foliage. Its perky lavender flowers are held high above this wave of foliage for a good show. If it is an evergreen, particularly drought tolerant and long-blooming plant you want, E. x ‘Flame Thrower’ fits the bill. Its profuse flowers are held horizontally out to the sides of a mound of handsome, arrow-shaped evergreen leaflets.

I hope this short article brings to light some of the showiest epimediums in bloom, that hold their flowers high.