HARDY PERENNIALS: EPIMEDIUM

The’Globe Thistle’is an attractive plant, with its grey and jagged foliage, and stems carrying rounded blue flower heads from midsummer onwards. Some kinds are rather too coarse growing for small gardens, but the more compact are not only elective, but can be left alone for years with no attention beyond cutting back one seasons growth when faded, in readiness for the next to come. Any but damp soil will suffice and they are drought resistant, whilst flowers are of value for cutting.

The best known is E. ritro and at 3-3½ feet is imposingly erect, without being too tail as is inaptly named E. humilis, of which E. ‘Taplow Blue’ is a variety with paler blue flowers than ritro. E. ‘Blue Cloud’ is large flowered, 4-5 feet and E. ‘Veitch’s Blue’, of good colour at a similar height. The little known E. gmelini, is 2½ feet free flowering and neat growing, the colour being slightly lighter than ritro. The larger Echinops make massive plants and need ample space, but all will divide with a spade or knife and will come from root cuttings, as well as from pieces of root accidently left in the ground.

Echinops Globe Thistle

In the upsurge of interest taken in ground covering plants, Epimedium have come to the fore in recent years. They have very pretty foliage and a slowly creeping habit below ground which affords a canopy of greenery—often tinged bronze, lasting until late autumn. The new leaves follow the flowers. These appear in early spring, on short sprays and although individually small, they are capable of making quite a show with their starry formation and bright colours. Although adaptable, Epimediums respond best to good soil where shady, but not excessively dry. Dryness can be offset by using a coating of peat or compost Y2 inch to 1 inch deep, over the -surface during winter, for they are not deep rooting plants and when lifted come up as a mat of fibrous rooted crowns which divide quite easily. This is best done in autumn. E. rubrum, is compact growing with flower stems 9 inches high and foliage about 6 inches. E. macranthum, is of similar height, but the brighter pink E. Rose Queen, is dwarfer still. E. youngianum, with pink flowers is not so showy as the white form E. youngianum niveum, which is a much sought after subject. All the foregoing are grouped as being the choicest and slowest to spread, but the following are stronger growing and more adaptable. E. perralderianum is the strongest growing of them all, having bronzy yellow flowers on 12 inches sprays and leaves 9-12 inches above ground. E. pinnatum is canary yellow of similar height, with the variety E. elegans, the best form. E. cantabrigensis is a hybrid, having dense foliage, following browny orange flowers on 10 inches sprays, and the bright orange sprays of E. warleyense are really showy.

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