Saturday, February 07, 2009


Saturday, February 7, 2009

Already almost 11 AM here on the mountain. Karl the Wonder Dog has been driving me crazy with his in-out, in-out begging. Someone must have caught a fat brown trout at Peacham Pond recently as this morning has been a line of trucks and fisherman. Most smart fisherman were already on the ice by 4:30 to insure being set up before dawn but two loads of late risers just passed the house and I'll be surprised with their success.

Karl doesn't consider success. He feels some inherent responsibility to be the social activity director out on the corner, barking greetings and insults depending on the occupants or the accompanying noise. A loose tail pipe will get him going as fast as a truck bed with bouncing beer cans. People who know him shout "Hi Karl!" while others just wave, never knowing if we reciprocate or not.

There's lots of snow here on the mountain and the temperature is already warmer than it's been for well over a week. I have the machine shed to shovel this afternoon as I don't know if snow or rain will materialize for tonight's storm. It shouldn't be much of a storm but the shed hasn't been shoveled yet and I swear I heard it groan the other day. It's an old pole shed Gail's father built and over time rough cut spruce and fir succumbs to the weather.

In some parts of the country, snow is not a problem and I suspect that somewhere, a favorite plant of mine is already up. Epimediums are so very special to me that you would think I could remember where I first saw them. I doubt it was a garden around here and maybe it was Gail just buying me a present she knew I would like. She has always had this thing about buying "me" plants that might teeter on success, might become money makers, or might not make it through a full year. If there is failure, then I did something wrong but if it became a good decision, then the glory is often split. Someplace around here are some corydalis that I really wanted to live. I take full credit for the problems with them. Like epimediums I like them and maybe I'll ask Gail to get me a few more...."to try".

I just reworte some of our website yesterday in between tax preparation and I finished part of the shade plant page that involves epimediums. If you haven't tried these plants before, read through what I have to say below and do a little research. Chances are good that you will really like these plants. You may not like the price, but you will like the plants. What we have left for this year will be three year old plants so they should have "ok" size.

I have noticed that there are a number of nurseries selling these now so once you find a place with plants of interest, check references and place an order. They tend to be in short supply by the end of May.

Here's what I wrote for our web page. Drop me a line if you have any questions.


Barrenwort, Bishop's Cap, Fairywings

You may have heard "The garden is magic and you are the magician!" Try epimediums and you'll see the magic displayed right in front of you. These aren't new plants at all, they are special plants, and thus far they are seriously underused, and often unknown to gardeners. All that is changing as the nursery trade and some hard working plant hunters set out to offer gardeners new and interesting varieties.

Epimediums deserve consideration for rock gardens, woodlands, dry, shady areas, under trees and along rock lines and walls. Their delicate, spidery, star-shaped blooms and neat leathery foliage make writing a good description difficult. Once you see one, you're sure to ask yourself why you have missed them for so long. These are tough, long lived perennials which grow along by rhizomes with tenacity and beauty.

The world's authority on this fine plant is Darrell Probst. If you have a minute, take a look at The Epimedium Page. If your curiosity continues, check out Chapter 10, King of Epimediums, Garden Vision-Darrell Probst, The Plant Hunter's Garden by Bobby J. Ward.This is a nine page journey complete with enough photos to make you want to have your own collection. And if you need a final complement to these resources, go to W. George Schmid's The Encyclopedia of Shade Plants and turn to the section on epimediums.

Here at Vermont Flower Farm epimediums are about 6 years "new" to us. We have grown them without any winter protection, in full shade, partial shade, along a walkway, and under a huge James MacFarland lilac in full summer sun. They bloom beautifully in late spring and sometimes again in early September. They aren't the fastest growing ground cover in Vermont but they bring a texture and color palette that offers more opportunity and little after-planting care. Come see!

Good gardening wishes,

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Gardens
Vermont Flower Farm


Teza said...

These are absolutely one of the most indispensible plants for dry shade. They are also another one of those plants that one or two simply will not satiate the lust they inspire in people!
I think I am on my 11th.... just located E. brachyhizzum... beautiful with pink and lilac, larger than the genus spurred flowers..... egads, but this is an expensive addiction! Thanks for the imformation

jodi (bloomingwriter) said...

I have a couple of epimediums (epimedia? ) and I'm with Teza; they do surprisingly well in dry shade. My challenge hasn't been that- it's been getting them through the cold wet winter clay, but the past couple of years they've done better with lots of mushroom compost added to the location.

George Africa said...

Hi Jodi;

You are certainly correct on the difficulties with clay. Our new nursery is along a river and was at the bottom of an ocean a bazillion years ago. It's fine for kids looking for geological artifacts such as concretions but is the highest challenge to get things growing well.

This summer I purchased C.Colston Burrell's book, Perennial Combinations, because it was the first book I had come upon that every mentioned flowers that grow well in specific soil types including heavy clay. It clearly moves epimedium to other growing conditions but it does cover them well.

Wish I could get some mushroom compost here. Closest supplier is in New York and transportation is just too much. I have to settle for "home grown" maple leaves.

Good gardening!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener

lynn'sgarden said...

I've heard of epimediums but have not sucumbed to them (yet)as they are hard to come by in the local nurseries. The flowers seem to resemble a columbine? I vaguely remember a segment from Martha Stewart and how much she loved them. Like you mentioned, they ARE expensive, you think due to hard to locate or slow growth and spread?...Maybe both.