Great news for shade gardeners. Three superb new evergreen epimediums bred in Britain and launched there last year are now available in the US for the first time – from Wayside Gardens. Believe me, they’re gorgeous – they really impressed me when I saw them in England last spring - and they’re tough too, hardy to zone 5. The pictures, I'm afarid, do not reveal how amazingly prolific they are. They, and more newcomers, are also available in Britain this spring from Wildside Nursery (by mail order) and Foxgrove Plants (for callers to the nursery and at RHS and Alpine Garden Society flower shows).
Bred by Robin White of Blackthorn Nursery, who created the Party Dress double hellebores, all are hybrids between evergreen species introduced from China relatively recently and chosen from thousands of seedlings resulting from carefully controlled pollinations.
All three have been chosen because they hold their flowers well clear of the foliage, they have an extended flowering season so that if the first flowers are frosted you’ll still get a good display, and all three also have attractively coloured spring leaves. They were originally created in the early 1990s and have proved their worth over many years before finally being introduced.
‘Amber Queen’ (above left), in amber peach and yellow, is a hybrid between 'Caramel', a form of E. wushanense collected in China by the celebrated Japanese botanist Mikinori Ogisu, and another of his finds, E. flavum. The result is a clump-forming plant with exquisite flowers carried in great numbers. ‘Amber Queen’ is available from Wayside Gardens in the US, and from Wildside Nursery and Foxgrove Plants in the UK.
‘Fire Dragon’, in yellow and purple, is a prolific hybrid between E. davidii, introduced in 1985 by British botanist Martyn Rix, and E. leptorrhizum, another of Mikinori Ogisu’s introductions. ‘Fire Dragon’ is available from Wayside Gardens in the US, and from Wildside Nursery and Foxgrove Plants in the UK.
‘Pink Elf’, in pink and purple, is an impressively prolific and strongly spreading ground covering hybrid between E. leptorrhizum and probably E. pubescens, another introduction by Mikinori Ogisu. ‘Pink Elf’is available from Wayside Gardens in the US, and from Wildside Nursery and Foxgrove Plants in the UK.
They may look delicate but these exquisite shade lovers are tough – just be sure they’re never parched and never waterlogged. I’m really looking forward to trying them here in my ever expanding Pennsylvania shade garden.
In Britain, Wildside Nursery and Foxgrove Plants will also have stock of three new introductions from Robin White and these should be available in North America later this year. I’ll let you know when.