The Plant Lover's Guide to Epimediums by Sally GregsonThe Plant Lover's Guide to Epimediums by Sally Gregson

The Plant Lover's Guide to Epimediums

bySally Gregson

Paper over Board | April 8, 2015

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Epimediums may have delicate, orchid-like flowers, but they are tough, shade-tolerant perennials that are incredibly low maintenance. Their heart and arrow-shaped foliage changes colors with the seasons, going from green to bronze as summer moves into fall. The Plant Lover’s Guide to Epimediums, by nursery owner Sally Gregson, features growing information for 126 commonly available varieties. It also includes lists of plants for particular purposes, tips on how to incorporate epimediums into gardens, and a resource guide that lists where to buy the plants and where to view them in public gardens. Hundreds of lush color photographs highlight the beauty of these charming plants.
Sally Gregson earned a National Certificate of Horticulture Distinction in nursery practice from Hadlow College in Kent and worked as a plant propagator before opening her own nursery, Mill Cottage Plants in Somerset. Gregson lectures throughout the British Isles and overseas on hydrangeas, epimediums, and plants for shade. She writes ...
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Title:The Plant Lover's Guide to EpimediumsFormat:Paper over BoardDimensions:240 pages, 9 × 8 × 0.75 inPublished:April 8, 2015Publisher:Timber PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1604694750

ISBN - 13:9781604694758

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Introduction: Why I Love Epimediums If you think of epimediums as quiet, useful little plants for dry shade, you haven’t seen the newly discovered species from China and their exciting hybrids. These showgirls, as I like to call them, lend an ethereal air to woodland gardens and grow well in most soils. In fact, more and more professional garden designers are placing groups of epimediums among other spring-flowering bulbs and plants to achieve a tapestry of colour and texture. Chinese epimediums are astonishing. They are new to most Western gardeners, and they have started a revolution in the horticultural world.      Easy-to-grow, undemanding epimediums contribute handsome evergreen foliage and elegant flowers to the garden. Some of these species have large blossoms that resemble hang-gliding spiders suspended above brightly splashed and marbled young leaves. Others have clouds of small starry flowers like pale moths in flight. Still others have dainty cup-shaped bells on thin wiry stems. I love them all. Their floral colours vary from white and pale yellow to pink, purple, brown, and red. Some flowers are bi-coloured; others have spurs with contrasting tips. Several species save their hues for their especially remarkable young foliage.      Let me backtrack for a minute. As a gardener, nursery owner, and garden writer, I often come across new forms of favourite old plants at flower shows and plant fairs. Every spring brings forth a new crop of must-have botanical stars. But occasionally a species unfamiliar to Western horticulture emerges from a plant-hunting expedition to an unvisited, unexploited part of the world. Twenty years ago Chinese epimediums were such a novelty. Their arrival heralded not just one or two species, but a deluge of new varietals from the provinces of Sichuan and Yunnan.      Surprisingly, the gardening world did not change overnight. Many gardeners have continued to grow the epimediums they already knew, such as Epimedium pinnatum, E. perralchicum ‘Fröhnleiten’, and various selections of E. grandiflorum. Most of us thought we understood them all. I know I did.      Then one day I visited the now-defunct Washfield Nursery in Kent, England, which was run by Elizabeth Strangman. While browsing among the treasures, I found a cache of rather different epimediums. One that immediately caught my eye was Epimedium ‘Enchantress’, a totally new form I had never seen. Its lavender buds opened to palest grey-lavender petals that deepened to purple, and its long-toothed young leaves had crimson spots and splashes. It was a world away from my experience of the old familiar epimediums growing in a shady rockery in my garden.      Upon witnessing my fascination with ‘Enchantress’, Elizabeth suggested that I visit Robin White’s Blackthorn Nursery in Hampshire, England. There I encountered Epimedium franchetii ‘Brimstone Butterfly’, which stole the show with its large-spurred primrose yellow flowers suspended above long bronze-pink young leaves. As more epimediums began appearing in small specialist nurseries, I began to collect them with enthusiasm. My eyes were opened. I was completely hooked.      One of the things that amazed me about these plants was their diversity of colours, shapes, and sizes. There were myriad possibilities to add to my burgeoning collection, from pale pink Epimedium acuminatum through pure white E. ogisui to caramel brown E. wushanense ‘Caramel’, with wiry flower shapes floating on wiry stems above red-splashed and spotted young leaves, or dainty spurless caps in vivid pink or yellow. The new epimediums were an Aladdin’s cave of jewels that introduced novelty into my garden.      As I collected epimediums, I took time to learn about the modern-day plant-hunters who introduced them, as well as the places where the plants were found. I heard stories of deep, dark valleys in China, each with its own population of one or two species. Within each valley those species had inter-bred and produced natural hybrids. One of the new plants I acquired at this time bore the name Epimedium omeiense ‘Emei Shan’ (now E. omeiense ‘Akane’) after the sacred Buddhist mountain where it was gathered. I learned about Emei Shan (Mount Omei) and was captivated by the thought of thousands of pilgrims dutifully climbing their way up steep steps and pathways to get closer to the 3000 m (10,000 ft.) peak to catch a glimpse of the “Buddha Light.” This curious effect is glimpsed when the peak is shrouded in a cloud. At dawn the shadow of each visitor is silhouetted against the nebula surrounded by a circular rainbow like a halo. The spectrum of colour is reflected at their feet in the flowers of multiple epimediums, not least E. omeiense ‘Akane’ itself. Alongside the epimediums, I planted Corydalis solida, C. flexuosa, Helleborus hybridus, Bergenia species and cultivars, and Dicentra formosa. The epimediums grow under roses and shrubs, beneath hydrangeas, and between winter-bright red-stemmed dogwoods. Here they increase gently without getting out of hand, and they contribute not just exquisite flowers but also beautiful foliage. Most of them are evergreen and thus have a presence throughout the year, while the herbaceous forms colour well in autumn before their leaves die back. Elsewhere in my garden, clumps of Epimedium versicolor ‘Sulphureum’ frolic in the shade of a weeping birch. Together with E. pinnatum subsp. colchicum these classic forms never fail to lift my winter spirits with their rafts of chestnut brown foliage, and in spring their demure yellow flowers make me smile. My steadily increasing collection of lime-hating E. grandiflorum and E. youngianum is housed in clay pots filled with ericaceous compost and placed beneath a pergola, where the plants enjoy sunshine in spring and are shaded during the summer.      The huge influx of new varieties is exciting and, at times, confusing. In this book, acid-lovers are separated from plants that thrive in dry shade, while the new Chinese species and their hybrids and cultivars, which grow in any shaded soil, are mentioned separately. The plant descriptions, however, are listed alphabetically by the plant’s botanical name. The list is by no means comprehensive. Rather, I have chosen readily available plants in the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia.      Epimediums are easy and hardy in the right conditions, and they mainly flower in spring. All make good companions to a jewel box of spring bulbs and early herbaceous perennials. Epimediums are poised to take the gardening world by storm. I hope this book will inspire you to try some of these wonderful plants in your garden.