Shade loving Epimediums for sale.

A selection of Epimediums & other shade perennials that were available during the recent Open Garden Days.

Thanks to all who made the trek to Phillipston, MA this year to attend one of my Open Nursery days. The unusual stop and go spring weather preserved and lengthened bloom to insure that there were plenty of colorful flowers and foliage to see whenever you visited. Some of you even revisited several times to watch the progression. It makes my heart glad to have so many people that are so enthusiast about Epimediums come to enjoy my collection and gardens.

The weather was great, the garden beds showed off what mature Epimedium clumps look like in a landscape setting, and illustrated the range of conditions in which they flourish. Visitors are always surprised at how much sun Epimediums can take in our northern climate, or how LARGE some varieties can grow.

If you missed this year’s open days, you can visit vicariously through this delightful garden blog in Growing With Plants, posted by my long time friend and fellow plant enthusiast from Worcester, Matt Mattus, who spent the afternoon here last Friday. Or visit me at one of the upcoming regional plant sales in Connecticut and Pennsylvania, later this season. Subscribe to our email list and we will notify you of next year’s open nursery days, so you don’t miss them.

I am also still taking mail orders for shipping either in June, September or October. Request a print catalog or download an order form from this website to place an order. I do my best to keep the availability of specific plants current on this website. For me, it is time to concentrate on packing plants for those patient folks scattered across the country who have been awaiting their arrival. The process and the package is not fancy or pretty, but it works like a charm. Many customers tell me that when their plants arrive, they look like they never went through the shipping process at all. And as Matt says, you have no idea what joy and wonder that 2-1/2″ square pot of green can bring to your garden.

Karen Perkins

Garden Vision Epimediums

 
 
Karen in epi gardenFrontPost

Don’t miss the last of our 2016 Open Garden Days happening on Fri. May 20 and Sunday, May 22. Click here for details and an updated bloom report.

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. Many also have amazing spring (and sometimes fall) foliage colors. Their flowers also come in a wide range of shapes and hues.

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. Most of the Epimediums in our collection represent the collecting and hybridizing efforts of Epimedium expert, Darrell Probst.

You can see here the Epimediums listed in the print catalog, but with even more photos. To place an order, please 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. Email or call with any questions that you have, but no phone orders, please. Being the chief (and only) cook and bottle washer leaves me very little time in the office, especially at this time of year.

The 2016 printed catalog is also available here for download, along with the accompanying photo pages. If you would like a printed copy mailed to you, please email me at karen@epimediums.com.

I ship within the United States in June, September and October. Or if you prefer making your selections in person, the nursery is open to the public for sales and viewing mature plants in bloom during select open days in April/May. I also participate in several off-site plant sales  throughout the Northeast during the growing season. There you can find a schedule of my Epimedium talks across the country as well.

Continue to scroll down for posts on Epimedium characteristics and culture. Happy reading!

Karen Perkins

 
 
Karen with epimedium cold frames in April

Newly uncovered cold frames in late April. They are shaded by the adjacent woodland to the south, so that the plants stay dormant longer in the spring.

 

Epimediums can be drastically affected by fickle spring temperatures because they are such early bloomers, emerging as soon as the frost is out of the ground. Unseasonably early spring warmth pushes the new growth into overdrive, and then sudden, hard frosts can fry it all up into a pile of withered stems. Most years it is not much of a problem, but then there are years like the present.

Lately we have been riding a roller coaster of temperature changes in the Northeast, with warmth coming many, many weeks earlier than normal, pushing these early bloomers into premature growth. Now, in early April, we’ve had 4 days of lows in the mid-teens. Luckily we’ve also had recent snowfall, which provided nearly 6-8″ of protection, hallelujah! I think I was the only person I’ve encountered who was grateful rather than annoyed about it.

I have tried to lessen any damage to the plants I have in pots by ignoring the temptation to uncover my cold frames early (much to the chagrin of my southern customers). Normally I open them up in mid-April since our frost free date doesn’t arrive til the end of May. In observing my Epimediums yesterday after the snow had melted under rising temperatures and warm rain, I found that some had weathered the trauma better than others, but most looked unscathed. Here’s my secret:

 I keep my plants as dormant as I can,  for as long as I can,  until the weather settles in spring.

Newly emerging Epimedium growth kept in check by shredded leaf mulch.

Mulch provides protection from fluctuating temperatures fall thru spring. (April 7, 2016)

 

When I cut back the old foliage in either fall or early spring, I mulch the roots with 2″ of chopped leaves (or any other lightweight mulch appropriate for perennials), and sprinkle a lighter covering of this ‘leaf confetti’ over the crowns of each plant. This keeps the soil cool/frozen until the weather moderates. Even covering them in early winter with the branches of your discarded holiday tree will give added protection.

Another trick to slow their eager, early emergence is to plant them where the spring sun does not reach, such as on the north side of the woods, a shrub border, or your house. I have my entire stock of overwintering pots in cold frames located on the north side of a woodland, whose shade serves to keep the plants dormant for longer than they would remain that way in a more open location.

A third method is to plant under the cover of a limbed-up evergreen tree or shrub that will give them a bit of overhead cover that moderates the temperature. My favorite way though, is my excuse for being a lazy gardener (in all fairness, I am not lazy, I just have LOTS of garden/nursery to cut back each year before the new shoots emerge).

 

Old foliage moderating the environment of the new spring buds.

Old foliage moderating the microclimate surrounding new spring buds. (April 7, 2016)

 

Leave last year’s foliage along with the fallen leaf debris to moderate the effect that quickly changing spring temperatures have on the new buds. Leave it in place until the weather settles or you have a chance to clean it up and re-mulch the area in readiness for bloom. If you use this technique, keep a sharp eye on the weather — thank goodness for the advent of the 10 day forecast–how could I live without it?! Do not postpone cleanup for too long however, or you will have the impossibly tedious task of removing the tangle of old stems and dried foliage from the tender, brittle new shoots. If that happens, it may be best to let things be and have the two fight it out. You will end up with taller plants in any case. As you can probably guess, I have long since given up what the neighbors think about my garden in earliest spring.

If all else fails and you have the threat of a late, hard frost looming, an old cardboard box and a rock to weight it down works in a pinch– at least for your most prized specimens.

 

Epimedium new growth and daffodils

Epimediums at a stage when the new growth is most vulnerable to hard frost.

 

Even if your Epimediums do get freezer burn, all is not lost. The underground woody rhizomes of most will activate dormant buds that will continue on. They will emerge a little later and with a lesser floral show, but thankfully, after the weather has settled.

If there is one thing that I have learned in life, it is that Mother Nature is a power greater than myself, and it is best not to stress, but to roll with the punches and enjoy the ride. In other words, work smarter, not harder. If you can do that, it makes life much, much better.

If you wish to see how successful I was this year at avoiding disaster, plan to visit the nursery during my Open Garden Days: Fri.-Sun. Apr. 29-May 1 & May 6-8 & Fri. May 20 & Sun. May 22, 2016. I will post updates on how the plants are progressing in order to better plan your visit. This year our open days have a bit of an odd flow to allow me to attend some other off-site sales in the Northeast. So double-check the dates to make sure the nursery will be open on the day you plan to visit.

With best wishes that your Epimediums have made it through spring so far unscathed. I am keeping my fingers crossed for more moderate spring temperatures from now on.

Karen Perkins

 
 

Unseasonably warm and dry, this fall has offered terrific weather for outdoor work. But colder temps have forced me indoors to work on the catalog and the website for the 2016 season. Plant availability and prices on the website are current for 2016. I will add a few new offerings as time permits. The print catalog is now available in pdf form on this website, or in the mail, just for the asking.

Check out my schedule of off-site plant sales and Epimedium talks for this year, possibly coming to a venue near you. After a year’s hiatus I will again be back at O’Brien’s Nursery in Granby, CT on Sun. May 15. If you have never visited this nursery, you are in for a treat! John specializes in shade plants, particularly hostas, but dabbles in all sorts of other unusual and hard to find woodies and herbaceous perennials. Check his calendar for open weekend dates.

This year our Open Nursery weekends have a bit of an odd flow, in order to allow me to attend some of the off-site sales that I am accustomed to participating in. So check the dates to make sure the nursery will be open on the day you plan to visit. My apologies, it was just the way the calendar fell this year.

evergreen deciduous epimedium foliage comparison in winter

Evergreen and semi-evergreen Epimediums (top and bottom left) compared to deciduous varieties (center, bottom right) against an early January snowfall in Massachusetts

I ventured out in single digit temps today to photograph Epimedium foliage in the nursery. It always surprises me when a customer asks what the difference is between evergreen and deciduous Epimediums.

Evergreen varieties have leaves with good substance that usually maintain their color (or a winter version of it) until spring. The leaves of deciduous varieties dry up and either blow away or hang limp with the first few frosts of the season. We actually classify the foliage into three categories, the third being semi-evergreen, meaning that the plant keeps its foliage in good condition throughout the fall, only succumbing when the weather really gets cold, usually right about now, in early January. Semi-evergreen types do not have much substance to their leaves. In the northeast, even evergreen Epimediums with thick, waxy leaves, suffer some winter burn by early spring, unless protected by snow cover. However, they do make a good showing up through the coldest part of the winter, even here in the Northeast.

So far this year, we have had the perfect amount of snow to show off our Epimedium winter wardrobe. Enjoy this quiet season, and I hope to see you in the spring.

Karen Perkins

Garden Vision Epimediums

 
 

Flat of epimediums ready for shipping DSC02998

 

Just as the last few stray blossoms of the latest/longest blooming epimediums are fading away as we enter into June here in Massachusetts, I am reminded by a flat of plants I am preparing to pack and ship, of a second call for attention many epimediums are making in the garden– right now.

Epimedium x 'Asiatic Hybrid' closeup second growthDSC03037

Epimedium x ‘Asiatic Hybrid’ is a very under-used variety, and one of my favorite for its pink new growth.

 

Many epimediums produce a first flush of colorful foliage and blossoms immediately upon emergence in spring. Then they take a break– harden off and green up their first leaves– and put their energies into producing a top knot, or second layer of new spring foliage, with the same beautiful colors that they possessed earlier in spring. From a distance it gives the impression that they are in bloom for a second time. During a long cool spring, we can get up to 6 weeks of colorful flowers and new spring growth in the garden before the plants green up for the summer.

Epimedium grandiflorum 'Lilac Seedliing' produces bright new leaves that resemble flowers on a sea of green.

Epimedium grandiflorum ‘Lilac Seedling’ produces bright new leaves that almost resemble flowers on a sea of green.

 

 

 

Epimedium sempervirens 'Aurora' new spring foliage

Epimedium sempervirens ‘Aurora’ is another under-used cultivar with beautiful new foliage and attractive rich lavender flowers.

Here are a few of the showiest selections,  photographed on a walk through the garden and nursery the evening of June 10, 2015.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Epimedium x versicolor 'Strawberry Blush' in second growth flush

Epimedium x versicolor ‘Strawberry Blush’ a runner with exceptional color on both flushes of new spring growth.

There is still plenty of time to order a few plants. I will be shipping through the month of June, and then again in September through mid-October.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Epimedium x 'Domino' second growth

Epimedium x ‘Domino’, puts on a great repeat show of foliage AND flowers during the season.

 
 
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. Hopefully this list of some uncommon ground-cover types 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. All of the above described plants 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

 
 

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.