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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.