Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Rather Shady Character Will Tough It out; Epimediums Are Things of Beauty and Intrigue. Their New Foliage Has a Translucent Tenderness Unmatched by Any Other. Tough, Tolerant and Versatile, These Easy Plants Are Surprisingly Underused, despite Their Thrilling Looks. FEATURES GARDENS

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Rather Shady Character Will Tough It out; Epimediums Are Things of Beauty and Intrigue. Their New Foliage Has a Translucent Tenderness Unmatched by Any Other. Tough, Tolerant and Versatile, These Easy Plants Are Surprisingly Underused, despite Their Thrilling Looks. FEATURES GARDENS

Article excerpt

Byline: With Carol Klein of TV's Gardeners' World

EPIMEDIUMS are some of my favourite plants. They're incredibly useful, especially for any garden where shade is the prevailing condition. For such tolerant plants, they are surprisingly underused. Not only are they tough, easy and versatile but they are thrillingly different.

One of the most problematic areas in any garden is dry shade. Summer and winter, tree roots or the footings of walls and fences suck out the life-giving moisture from the soil.

Overhead canopy and tall walls steal any rain that falls. But epimediums take this hostile environment in their stride.

They come from all over the northern hemisphere - some are plants of deep shade, others inhabit scrubby woodland margins.

Wherever they grow, they colonise areas where other perennials might give up the ghost, adding handsome foliage and extraordinary flowers to the spring mix.

Ostentation is not the epimedium's style. They are modest, quiet plants and even the most boisterous species are no more than mildly showy. Not to say, though, that there is anything bland or utilitarian about them.

Not only are their flowers fascinating but the new foliage of both herbaceous and evergreen species has a translucent tenderness unmatched by any other genus.

If you are planting among tree roots, excavate carefully to find pockets of soil and add plenty of compost around the roots.

It is always worth getting the plant off to a good start - in nature, tree and epimedium would have grown up together so in a garden where the tree is established, it seems unfair not to give the epimedium a helping hand.

Epimedium grandiflorum hails from Japan and Korea. Totally herbaceous, its pristine new leaves start to push through in April alongside dainty buds that open to exquisite flowers.

As its name suggests, they are large in comparison to the plant, with slender spurs flaring out above neat bells.

In Epimedium grandiflorum 'Nanum' AGM, everything is in miniature. Stems of flowers and buds are maroon and the leaves are edged in the same colour.

'Rose Queen' and 'White Queen' have also been given the Award of Garden Merit by the RHS. In recent years there has been an influx of exciting Chinese species, such as Epimedium acuminatum.

All are breathtakingly beautiful, with wide, elegant flowers with petals and sepals in close-matched shades of lilac and purple.

They dangle from long, arching stems in some selections opening over several months. The foliage lasts even longer and is equally striking - new leaves are marbled with rich crimson.

Epimedium davidii is a gay species with dainty yellow flowers hovering on wiry stems above rich green foliage. Its new leaves are splashed with red.

Many of the Chinese species not only cope in shade but need the protection from cold winds afforded by trees and shrubs. …

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