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Whether you choose to call them barrenwort, bishop’s hat, fairy wings, horny goat weed, yin yang huo or epimediums it is undeniable that these are such fantastic plants. With a ray of colour and flower shapes to choose from and such beautiful mottled and veined leaves in spring there is a epimedium to suit every taste.

Hugely popular as garden plants for centuries in Japan, epimediums are only just beginning to garner attention in the West. While they vary somewhat in their respective hardiness, all are essentially dwellers of the forest floor, and, as such, all require fundamentally similar conditions of moist, free-draining, humus-rich soil and cool shade, with some shelter for the newly emerging leaves. We do find they are great plants also for dry shade.

Given suitable conditions most epimediums will form a beautiful groundcover, with magnificent new leaves tinted in bronze, copper and reds combining with a huge variety of flower colours and forms in spring. These little beauties are herbaceous. Handsome and dense-growing foliage remains present for much of the year, with the leaves often turning purple, crimson and scarlet in autumn in some forms, and remaining evergreen in others. With all varieties, however, the foliage is best cut off at ground level shortly before new leaves emerge, so as to fully reveal their beauty of form and colour. A mulch should then be applied to protect the new growth from frosts.


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