Friday, April 18, 2014

My Favorite Plant in the Garden This Week is Epimedium

One of my favorite plants for dry shade is Epimedium. It comes in such a wonderful variety of leaf shapes and flower colors. I have lots, all over my garden, in many different beds, but unfortunately have lost or misplaced or buried beyond retrieval most of the tags, so for the most part I have no idea which is which.

But I still want to share this great plant in all its variety. They are all blooming like crazy right now, and sending up new foliage.

'Frohnleiten,' the first Epimedium I planted here in Washington

The clump has spread nicely

'Frohnleiten' flowers at the same time as Brunnera, and the yellow and blue work well together

When we first moved here from Massachusetts, I had a steep learning curve regarding all the new plants I could grow in this climate and zone. But Epimedium is one that I was already familiar with. I had been growing it in my Massachusetts garden for at least 15 years or so, but when I first bought it there was nowhere near the variety that I see now at nurseries and at all the special spring sales.

Epimedium makes a great companion to other shade plants such as Hellebore, Hakone grass and Beesia.

Epimedium has a wide range of interesting and funny common names -- barrenwort, bishop's hat, fairy wings, horny goat weed, rowdy lamb herb, randy beef grass or yin yang huo. There are about 50 species of Epimedium, most of which come from China.

Epimedium grandiflorum 'Red Beauty'

Here in my Zone 7b/8a PNW garden, they are evergreen, although the old foliage does get ratty-looking after a harsh winter like the one we just had. It helps the plant's looks to cut the old foliage back in the late winter, which has the added benefit of making the new flowers stand out more (like many Hellebores). They are a great option for dry shade, but also thrive in our very wet and cool fall/winter/spring period. Epimediums increase slowly via underground rhizomes, but the rhizomes never travel far from the main plant, unlike other plants that run riot. In zones colder than 7 (like my previous Zone 6 Massachusetts garden) they are deciduous.

Some are grown primarily for their foliage. I have a small handful that I bought for their leaves, such as Epimedium wushanense, below.

I love the pattern on this leaf, it reminds me of stained glass

I can see the reason for the common name 'Fairy Wings.'

I don't know the name of this one, but I love its fabulous chocolate foliage

It eventually fades to green

You can find lots more info about all kinds of Epimediums here, at the website Plant Lust.

The favorite plant in the garden meme is hosted by Loree at the blog danger garden. Her favorite this week is Magnolia laevifolia, which looks like a fabulous plant (Read her post here)! Check out the comments to see what other bloggers are sharing this week.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A Different Kind of Spring Ephemeral

I don't know much about mayflies of the Pacific Northwest. But I've been seeing them lately hanging out on the outside of my greenhouse. According to Wikipedia, they belong to a group of insects called Ephemeroptera. They're aquatic insects, which in the adult stage have a very short lifespan, from a few minutes to a few days. The nymphs live longer than a year, in a body of water. The adults' primary function is to reproduce. They have vestigial mouthparts, which apparently are not used for eating (what a bummer that would be), and a digestive system full of air.

Not as pretty as butterflies or dragonflies, but then, they hold still longer.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Foliage Followup -- April 2014

There's so much new growth out in my garden right now, it's hard to focus on the flowers. It seems like every day I see something new leafing out. Some plants, like Rodgersia, come up late, and I always worry each year that they won't come back. I have lost a few things, like Melianthus major, to the harsh winter, but plenty of plants are coming back quite well.

Here's a little rundown on what's catching my eye.

Heuchera 'Miracle'

Mottled Podophyllum (I'm sure I have the name somewhere)

Solid green Podophyllum pleianthum has been in this spot for a couple of years now, and the number of leaves increases every year, so it must be happy

Ostrich ferns unfurling remind me of cobras getting ready to strike

Our native sword fern isn't quite as graceful as the ostrich fern

This one reminds me of an elephant's trunk

Little furry knots


When I finally got to this bed to tidy it after the winter, I was so thrilled to see this healthy Cardiocrinum giganteum foliage

Honeysuckle, trellis, fence

Hydrangea macrophylla 'New Wave'

Solomon's Seal

Trillium and PNW native Vanilla Leaf (Achlys triphylla)

New foliage on Corylopsis spicata


Tulip 'Fire of Love' in front and Carex 'Banana Boat'

Foliage Followup is hosted by Pam Penick of the blog Digging on the 16th of every month, the day after Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, and its purpose is to celebrate the unique contribution that foliage makes to our gardens. Check out Pam's blog post here, and be sure and visit the links in the comments.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day -- April 2014

Holy Smokes, April is busting out all over. All of a sudden, after a few warm, dry, sunny days, everything has popped!

Do I dare show everything I have in bloom? Surely you will get thoroughly, wretchedly bored. The Primroses have already had their own post, here. I think perhaps I'll save the Epimediums and give them their own parade too.

Here's the rest!

Iberis is such an ordinary plant most of the year, but it's also an early and long bloomer, which makes it alright in my book. I love the white flowers with the dark blotch on the Samobor Geranium leaves.

I could swear my Gold Heart Dicentra leaps out of the ground fully blooming, like Athena from the head of Zeus.

Fritillarias are flowering now too.

The plain white one as well

Gentian is such a luscious blue!

Dodecatheon meadia

White Dodecatheon

Trillium ovatum flowers start out white and age to pink

Pagoda lily

Dicentra formosa

My tiny Dawn Viburnum x bodnantense has one cluster of yummy flowers

Dicentra 'Valentine' I think

I only have a couple of patches of Anemone blanda, but I really should have more. They're such a cheerful, carefree early bloomer.

Viola labradorica, a sweet little violet with purplish foliage, so far has self-sown modestly, although I may have overlooked some tiny seedlings in my weeding.

Daffodils in the sunshine

The red Pulsatilla has finally opened its flowers (I wrote about the white one here)

Euphorbia flowers are so odd, I often forget that they're flowers

Uvularia grandiflora

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day is hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens, on  the 15th of every month. Check out her post here, where she shares what's blooming in her garden, and where others leave links to their own posts about what's flowering right now.