Alpine Garden Society

Ulster Group

            Plant of the Month, June  2012
Epimedium Galore - by David Ledsham
The genus Epimedium is a member of the Berberidaceae,  a family which also includes such disparate genera as the shrub Mahonia and the deciduous perennial Jeffersonia. The genus contains both Asian and European species. The European species will tolerate growing in relatively dry situations whereas the Asian species
thrive best in a damp, sheltered site. Epimedium is a plant for late springtime and many cultivars are prized as much for their new leaf growth as for their flowers which really do need to be examined closely in order to appreciate their intricate beauty.
In recent years the number of species and hybrids being made
available has significantly increased. This is largely a consequence of much better access to China and to the endeavours of a number of plant collectors including Roy Lancaster,  Mikinori Ogisu,  and Darrell Probst. The number has been helped along by the readiness of Epimedium species to hybridise with each other when brought into captivity. All of this has led to the current upsurge of interest in the genus in many countries worldwide.
Illustrated here are two of the relatively recent introductions which I grow, together with one of my favourite hybrid cultivars ... to date.
 Epimedium davidii EMR 4125
First collected by Père David in 1889. However, the clone commonly distributed was collected in 1985 by Martyn Rix and grown at the Washfield Nursery of Elizabeth Strangman. I obtained my plant from Robin White's Blackthorn Nursery ... two very influential nurseries now sadly no more. Robin White was one of the first plantsmen to make available a wide range of Epimedium in the U.K.

Epimedium davidii

Epimedium leptorhizum

Epimedium leptorhizum
Another species which was discovered in Sichuan Province in the late nineteenth century but was not introduced into cultivation until much later. I find it quite slow growing but well worth it. 


Epimedium 'Jean O'Neill'

Epimedium 'Jean O'Neill'
Just one of the recent influx of hybrids but, in my experience, a good one. This particular cultivar originated at Spinners in Hampshire (incidentally a nursery which is still alive and kicking) It was raised there by Peter Chappell and Kevin Hughes and is being distributed by Epimedium enthusiasts Sarah and Julian Sutton


The Genus Epimedium    William Stearn   Kew 2002