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Great new plants for shade gardens

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.

EpimediumamberqueenwaysideAll 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,Epimediumfiredragonwayside 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.

Epimediumpinkelfwayside 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.


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Yum! You've elicited instant plant-lust in me, Graham--I have an orange-flowered epimedium (name escapes me) and the yellow-flowered one; they've settled in after my finding the right spot with adequate drainage in my sometimes overly-winter-soggy shade area. I think they're a wonderful and often underused plant, rather like Astrantia, which I fell in love with a couple of years ago.
Hard to say when these new plants will make it to my part of Canada, but I'll live in hope!


They are beautiful! I wonder, though, whether they're truly hardy to zone 5. Wayside always seems a bit promiscuous in its cold hardiness designations. I think I'll order just one of 'Amber Queen' and see if it's tough enough.

Very nice website, by the way.

Graham Rice

Glad to have tempted you, Jodi. These plants have been patented in Canada so even if they're not available there yet (Wayside does not ship to Canada at present) they should be before long.

As to hardiness, laura-mpls: Darrell Probst, who is the leading epimedium breeder in North America, grows all the species, and many new hybrids, in MA (zone 5b).

I'll be posting about him as spring approaches and will check which he recommends as the very toughest for z3 and z4 gardeners.

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