Monday, February 11, 2013

Barrenwort Accumulation

One of the many benefits of attending the Wisconsin Public Television Garden Expo this past weekend was to get the 2013 Flower Factory catalog.  The Flower Factory is one of many wonderful nurseries in the area although this nursery astounds me with the wide range of perennials that are offered each year.  I've already gone through the entire catalog with a yellow highlighter and there isn't a page that doesn't have "perennials of interest" marked!  I noted some new barrenworts (Epimedium sp.) that they're offering and reflected on how well these perennials have done in our partly shaded and shaded garden settings at RBG.  I've acquired many species and varieties and will continue to do so every year!  This perennial also goes by the common names of fairy wings, bishop's hat and horny goat weed (?).  When I promote this perennial, I use words like tough, durable, stalwart, low maintenance, long-lived, etc. which if of course what we all want in a perennial.  Epimediums not only tolerate limited light but have very clean foliage that typically has a spring color tinting and frequently an excellent fall color in late October through November.  I can't recall ever saying "What's been nibbling on these barrenworts!" as I've not seen insect damage, deer browsing or even fungal problems.  They are durable as clumping groundcovers (10" - 15" high in most cases), specimen plants and always combine well with other perennials that tolerate similar conditions.  It is important to never miss the early spring blooms (usually in May) that while small, are profuse, colorful and quite exquisite in appearance.  I've included my favorites in this blog and have not met an epimedium that I didn't like!  Above is the variety 'Mars' (Epimedium sempervirens) and all the photos below have the identification underneath the image.

Epimedium x warleyense 'Ellen Willmott'
Epimedium grandiflorum 'Yubae'
Epimedium 'Fire Dragon'
Epimedium pubigerum 'Orange King'
Epimedium x versicolor 'Sulphureum'
Epimedium grandiflorum 'Lilac Fairy' ('Lilafee')
Epimedium grandiflorum var. higoense 'Bandit'
Epimedium grandiflorum 'Purple Prince'
Epimedium x youngianum 'Starlet'
Epimedium x rubrum

We had a busy Horticulture Center this morning as it was icy, windy and snowy this early although not overly cold.  Above are Jim (green) and Urban working on one of the pyramids.  Urban, Rose, Dr. Gredler, Pat and Jim all painted this morning.  Vern, Jim and Dave all continued work on the benches with more sanding and re-staining.  Jim (with hat) and Dave can be seen below repairing some of the benches.  Ron Y. also continued his progress on sanding benches.  Dick H. ran some errands and worked on repairing a cart for the other building (see his sparks below!).  We also saw Del, Gene, Cindy B. and Bill O. later in the day.  Gary was here for a bit and then worked over at the Parker Education Center.  We had a nice visit from Marv and Marianne this morning and it was nice to catch up with them as they enjoy time to catch up with other tasks and duties.  I tried to lure them out of retirement but to no avail.  Larry was a big help with unloading our Expo stuff and he ran many other errands including picking up a nice tool donation.


Larry said...

Hi Mark... I too have been collecting Epimediums for some years and absolutely love them... particularly the clumpers. This past season my shade source (a flowering crab) for the majority of my collection lost leaves as it often does... the difference this time is that I had been redoing some of the rockery with additional rocks and improved drainage and of course "the sun was hotter" and "the wind was windier" this past season... bottom line, much of the epimedium foliage burned off despite maintaining watering. In retrospect, I should have provided some additional shade. In contacting "Garden Vision", I was told that there is a good chance the plants will come back from dormant buds this season, albeit perhaps less developed than they were. Needless to say I am on pins and needles awaiting the spring to see the outcome. Your photos of epimediums are wonderful and remind me that I cannot be without these wonderful plants! Larry

Mark Dwyer, Director of Horticulture, Rotary Botanical Gardens said...

Hi Larry,

Great observations and thanks for sharing. We've had epimediums also adjust to full sun and they get crispy on the leaf edges. I've seen epimediums in full sun plantings and they typically look good until August. I can't remember any of ours ever dying and they sure are tough. I bet yours will be back. I can't get enough of epimediums and I'm always shocked that more gardeners don't use them!