Epimedium

Barrenwort or Bishop’s Hat

Dense and leafy Epimedium is one of our most successful ground covers for the moist woodland setting. New heart-shaped leaves on wiry stems unfurl in spring with a rosy, marbled coloration that fades to green as summer approaches. In autumn, the marbling returns in coral and copper, enduring mild winters.

The tiny, unusual flowers (Bishop’s Hats) are held above the foliage in airy sprays, and resemble miniature Columbines. Durable and long-lived, Epimediums can adapt to drier conditions once established, spreading slowly and steadily. Both flowers and foliage are prized for small arrangements.

<i>Epimedium</i> ‘Amber Queen’

Bred by Blackthorn Nursery owner Robin White, this brand new Epimedium flavum and Epimedium wushanense cross is adorned with droves of large warm-hued blooms. Arranged in an open fashion on long, nearly invisible black stems, the whimsical deep yellow flowers feature light blonde hooked spurs, red-tinged sepal backs and speckled petals, all melding together for an overall amber shade. Toothed and elongated, tidy heart-shaped foliage heralds spring with a bold russet mottling.

Blooms late March – May.

Size: 10" high x 18" wide.

Hardy to zone 5.

We have American Epimedium maven, Darrell Probst, to thank for this wildly popular floriferous hybrid. Beneath the practically peerless bicolored floral display, long-pointed spiny edged leaves with hazel-hued bridling compose a stylish dense mound. The 2 ft. tall, arching maroon panicles gather a splendid legion of large white-spurred blooms, embellished by rosy wine-tinted tips. Though ‘Domino’ is uninteresting to deer and bunnies, it promises to entice many 2-legged garden visitors.

Blooms April–May

Size: 18" – 2' 0" high x 2' 0" – 3' 0" wide.

Hardy to zone 5.

‘Enchantress’ is the prized outcome of legendary plantswoman Elizabeth Strangman’s cross between Epimedium dolichostemon and Epimedium leptorrhizum. Buoyant tiny lavender-colored buds and medium-sized silvery lilac flowers with purple inner segments loll above large elongated heart-shaped green leaves. Heightened by undulating margins plus red, henna and crimson brindling in the winter and early spring, this distinctive low growing evergreen can be enjoyed along a pathway or near your favorite bench.

Blooms March–April

Size: 6" – 12" high x 12" – 15" wide.

Hardy to zone 5.

Fresh spring green foliage that’s flushed with cozy chestnut hues premiers large pastel flowers on pale apple green stems. Described by darker flip sides, pinkish lavender sepals plus spidery white-tipped and spurred lilac petals, a fine flood of fairytale-like blooms nearly conceals the handsome medium-sized habit of this easily maintained seldom offered Japanese gem.

Blooms late March–May

Size: 8" – 10" high x 12" wide.

Hardy to zone 4.

<i>Epimedium grandiflorum</i> ‘Lilafee’

‘Lilafee’ is a delicate delight as a ground cover. Its loose, tall sprays of elegant, long-spurred, lavender violet blossoms rise from a bed of vigorous oval-shaped foliage, purply bronze when new, and bright green as it matures. A carpet of ‘Lilafee’ under a Cercidiphyllum will echo its coloration.

Blooms late March–May.

Size: 6" – 8" high x 12" wide.

Hardy to zone 5.

With a name that’s quite apropos, this Richard Lighty introduction conjures fanciful flowers distinguished by vivid purple sepals and extended white spurs. Exquisitely detailed blooms dance on dark wire-thin stems above a marvelous bed of damson-flushed springtime foliage. Generating a compact, yet plucky ground cover, the heartlike leaves develop olive green hues and maroon margins as they mature.

‘Purple Pixie’ will impart enchanting accents to the dappled recesses of your garden, especially when nestled alongside Geranium ‘Claudine Dupont’. (pp#13,966)

Blooms April–May.

Size: 9" – 12" high x 12" – 15" wide.

Hardy to zone 5.

Recently introduced from China, this medium-sized nearly evergreen Epimedium is a study in color-rich refinement. Copper-infused new growth and elongated, deep green serrated leaves present long racemes of pendulous, broad-petaled crisp white flowers with warm yellow-orange inner sepals and stamens. Unfazed by deer and occasional dry periods, ‘Mandarin Star’ shines brightly amid fellow shade aficionados such as Dryopteris pycnopteroides and Geranium p. ‘Lavender Pinwheel’.

Blooms April–May

Size: 16" high x 16" – 18" wide.

Hardy to zone 5.

<i>Epimedium</i> x <i>perralchicum</i> ‘Frohnleiten’

With a dainty style that defies its stoic nature, ‘Frohnleiten’ can handle dry conditions and is quick to colonize. Buoyant, loosely formed clusters of pendulous, vibrant yellow winged flowers perch above the tailored leafy clump. bright green veins dramatically pattern maroon-infused spring foliage, while summer brings verdant greenery, and autumn a florid fanfare that sometimes persists into winter.

Blooms April – May.

Size: 15" high x 12" – 15" wide.

Hardy to zone 5.

<i>Epimedium perralderianum</i>

Bronze serrated leaves in compact clumps are a spring prelude to bright starlike yellow flowers. The foliage turns green and lasts throughout the year, tolerating the shade of Styrax orViburnum.

Blooms March–April.

Size: 8" – 10" high x 16" wide.

Hardy to zone 5.

Originating from a Epimedium leptorrhizum and Epimedium pubescens cross, this delightful Robin White hybrid makes a vigorously spreading clump. Dappled with green and auburn shades, the evergreen leaves loll beneath a fairy’s fest of pink flowers marked by purple tinges and bronze-colored cups on thin stiff stems. (pp#17228)

Blooms late March – May.

Size: 12" high x 18" wide.

Hardy to zone 5.

Dwelling throughout the mountainous regions near Georgia’s Black Sea coast, this prized Epimedium begets good-sized jewel-box-like blooms with bright yellow petal-like inner sepals, red spurs and tiny brownish petals. Effulgent outfacing flowers dance above lean, tall leafless stems plus a dashing polished mound of reddish brown dappled younger leaves offset by cordate dark green mature ones. Considered one of the best ground covers for shady areas, the slow-spreading dense evergreen clump ensures sprightly floral accents, exceptional vigor and drought tolerance once established.

Blooms April-May

Size: 9" – 15" high x 12" – 18" wide.

Hardy to zone 4.

<i>Epimedium</i> x <i>rubrum</i>

So prolific are the crimson and white flowers on this Epimedium that the wiry stems are obscured by the origami-looking blossoms. It’s best served by planting in shade, fancying either the woodland or rock garden.

Blooms February–March.

Size: 9" high x 12" wide.

Hardy to zone 5.

<i>Epimedium stellulatum</i> ‘Wudang Star’

Aptly named ‘Wudang Star’ unfurls a floral delicacy of exquisite pure white blossoms that resemble 4-pointed stars in loosely arranged sprays. Highlighted by prominent yellow stamens, the abundant larger than average blooms are elevated on tall lean stems above a lustrous spiny green foundation, distinctive for its arrowhead- shaped leaves and newly emerging growth with bronzy pink margins. Let this rare Chinese gem brighten your garden’s shady nooks and you’ll see why acclaimed plantsman Roy Lancaster introduced it.

Blooms March–April.

Size: 18" high x 15" – 18" wide.

Hardy to zone 4.

Though this Epimedium grandiflorum and Epimedium pinnatum ssp. colchicum hybrid was selected well over 150 years ago, it still upholds an impeccable long-standing reputation as the go-to Epimedium for difficult shady garden recesses. The suave, closely hewn ground covering clump is described by trim bright red flower stalks plus sprightly pale yellow ornate blossoms above leathery heart-shaped green leaves, donning artful wine-hued etchings in spring and autumn maroon blotching. Fast growing, energetic and swarthy, ‘Sulphureum’ mingles well with early blooming Pulmonarias or Brunneras, while conquering a wide range of soil.

Blooms March–April

Size: 12" – 16" high x 12" – 18" wide.

Hardy to zone 5.

We bet you’ll take your hats off to this ‘Bishop’s Hat’. Its intriguing flowers have petals of yellow, sepals of coppery orange, anthers of green, and spurs adorned with red streaks. The light green spring foliage is spiny-toothed and has a reddish margin. We plant it alongside our shaded steps and benches amid Helleborus ‘Ivory Prince’, so that we can enjoy the detail and contrasting colors.

Blooms April–May.

Size: 12" high x 12" wide.

Hardy to zone 5.

Lauded as one of the most colorful warleyense species, this toasty hued hybrid between E. alpinum and E. pinnatum ssp. colchicum occurred in the Warley Place garden of Britain’s infamous curmudgeon plantswoman, Miss Willmott. A central yellow cup and subtle salmon overtones enrich the burnt reddish orange flowers, which are poised on 15 in. narrow stems. Below the wondrous blooms, a fast growing mostly evergreen foundation of ample-sized foliage hosts young plum-imbued leaves maturing to green, then ending the season brinled with bronze and burgundy tones.

Blooms April-May

Size: 16" high x 16" – 18" wide.

Hardy to zone 5.

We bet you’ll take your hats off to this fabulous ‘Bishop’s Hat’, an Ernest Pagels Epimedium alpinum and Epimedium pinnatum ssp. colchicum cross. Its intriguing flowers are defined by soft coppery tangerine-colored petals, greenish anthers and spurs painted with red streaks. The light green spring foliage is spiny toothed and warmed by reddish margins.

We place it alongside our shaded steps and benches amid Helleborus ‘Ivory Prince’, so that we can enjoy the detail and contrasting colors.

Blooms March–April.

Size: 16" high x 16" – 18" wide.

Hardy to zone 5.

Springing forth as a chance seedling in esteemed plantswoman Amy Doncaster’s British garden, this small growing Epimedium conjures pointed wine-colored buds and lovely 2-toned blooms. Plump spurless flowers, distinguished by dusky mauve-purple petals with white bases, populate dense sprays atop thread-like stems. A tailored clump of pointed close-set foliage plus violet and cocoa-tinted young spring growth anchors the unusual nodding blossoms. Lodge ‘Merlin’ in the shadows and a magical spectacle is yours for the viewing.

Blooms April–May

Size: 10" – 12" high x 12" wide.

Hardy to zone 5.

<i>Epimedium</i> x <i>youngianum</i> ‘Niveum’

Illuminated by a sprightly, overhead display of starry, pure white flowers, the emerging henna-hued leaves grow into a compact mass that stays tidy all season. Smaller sized, handsome pointed leaflets have toothed margins and impart scarlet and crimson colors for a lambent fall finale.

Blooms April–May.

Size: 8" – 10" high x 12" wide.

Hardy to zone 5.

Documented in a 1863 Parisian herbarium, this ladylike Epimedium premiers fleurs d’un rose clair. Sprays of soft lilac-pink, narcissus-like flowers dangle from stiff, needle-thin reddish stems. Fashioning an attractive bushy mound, the pointed ovate leaflets first emerge with warm auburn hues and green-up as spring progresses.

Blooms April – May.

Size: 8" high x 15" wide.

Hardy to zone 5.

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Current Staff's Favorite Plant

Current Staff's Favorite Plant

Helianthus 'Sheila's Sunshine', Persicaria 'Summer Dance', and Selinum wallichianum

Helianthus ‘Sheila’s Sunshine - P-0461

The sunflower was once an emblem of the Sun God of the Incas. Our sunflowers tolerate a wide range of garden soils, attract bees, and make great cut flowers. Blooms early August – October.

Persicaria ‘Summer Dance’ - P-1312

With foliage that’s close to lime-green, and spiky floral tails that approach the scarlet spectrum of rosy pink, this slow spreading perennial is sure to please. Happiest in semishade with ample moisture. Blooms August–November.

Selinum wallichianum - P-1406

This refined Himalayan beauty happens to be one of our favorite perennial umbellifers. With untold elegance, infinitely divided leaves craft a delicate, lacelike transparency. The compact yet airy green canopy is framed by distinctive, purple-infused branching stems that elevate a charming, late season display of white flattened umbels.

Subduing the riotous array of summertime blooms, it seldom needs staking, and appreciates a well draining moist niche. Blooms June–August.

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