A Fluttering of Fairy Wings

We were late wading into the epimedium craze, and without the assistance of epimedium guru, Darrell Probst, still might not have done so. Up until the mid 2000s, we had avoided epimediums, due to both their confusing taxonomy as well as the lack of many showy garden forms. Early introductions such as Epimedium x rubrum, Epimedium setosum, Epimedium diphyllum, and most of the Epimedium x youngianum hybrids were not overly showy or long flowering in the garden. With Darrell’s guidance, we finally started offering some improved selections of Epimedium grandiflorum in 2005, followed over the next few years with some of his amazing new species and hybrids.

For us, these new showier Epimedium species from China were a game changer. Many of these were evergreen or partially so, compared to the mostly deciduous previous selections. The number of flowers, flower spikes, and length of the flowering season were both greatly extended. Although Darrell’s primary plant focus switched to coreopsis in succeeding years, he left us with quite a high base on which to build. We tried, as much as possible to pick up the torch, which has also now been picked up by plant breeder, Hans Hansen.

We trial new epimediums from a number of other breeders, but the top tier standard bar is so high now, that’s most plants we trial will never make it past the trial beds. Once we select a top tier epimedium for introduction, building up stock to share is a slow process, since there is no wholesale source for most of the varieties shown below. Often, 3-5 years is needed, after an initial offering, it may take 2-5 years for it to re-appear in the Plant Delights catalog.

Our epimedium collection now includes over 340 different taxa, so there’s a lot of camera time during the late winter/early spring season. Last year, a few of our hybrids continued to produce sporadic flowers until the end of October, so reblooming is a trait that has enormous possibilities. Below are a few flowers from this week’s photo sessions.

Epimedium wushanense ‘Sandy Claws’ is a low-growing form of the amazing, evergreen Chinese Epimedium wushanense, introduced by Darrell Probst.

Epimedium wushanense ‘Sandy Claws’

Epimedium x versicolor ‘Cupreum’ is a true oldie, but goodie. This 1854 European introduction holds its own with all of the new hybrids. In the 170 years since it’s introduction it’s still one of our favorites.

Epimedium x versicolor ‘Cupreum’

There are still some great new introductions coming from a small contingent of European breeders. Epimedium ‘Totnes Turbo’, that we picked up in the UK in 2020, has been absolutely outstanding. Last year, we recorded an eight week flowering duration. We look forward to making this more widely available in the US.

Epimedium ‘Totnes Turbo’

Epimedium ‘Sunny and Share’ is our 2012 introduction of a low-growing, slowly spreading groundcover. Last year, we recorded a sixteen week flowering duration.

Epimedium ‘Sunny and Share’

Epimedium ‘Stoplights’ is our 2019 introductions. In our trials, we’ve recorded a fourteen week flowering period.

Epimedium ‘Stoplights’

Epimedium ‘Rise and Shine’ is our 2020 introduction with stunning glossy foliage, and an incredible flower show. For us, this also has a fourteen week flowering period.

Epimedium ‘Rise and Shine’

Epimedium ‘Songbirds’, our 2014 introduction gives new meaning to the term, floral extravaganza. This also has a fourteen week floral duration.

Epimedium ‘Songbirds’

Epimedium ‘Lyrical Lemonade’ is a 2023 Plant Delights introduction of a Hans Hansen hybrid. This amazing plant forms an 18″ tall x 4′ wide, clumping specimen, with a nine week flowering season.

Epimedium ‘Lyrical Lemonade’

Epimedium ‘Cupid’s Arrow’ is another of Hans’s unique hybrids we introduced in 2023. We have yet to record bloom duration.

Epimedium ‘Cupid’s Arrow’

As the late Walt Disney remarked, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” Such was our desire for a variegated foliage epimedium. In 2010, we found one of our seedlings with a variegated streak in a single set of leaves. It’s taken us fourteen years to get it stabilized as you can see below. Now, we have to work on building up enough to share…wish us luck. This one’s a real zinger!

Epimedium ‘Lime Zinger’

3 thoughts on “A Fluttering of Fairy Wings”

  1. I am simply astonished at the time, effort, and patience that goes into the beautiful plants you offer. And Thank you for this “sharing” post that keeps us informed

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