Top British Garden Designer's Current 'It' Plant

While walking the dogs this week, I listened to a Gardens Illustrated podcast in which Dan Pearson and Fergus Garrett chat about their influences and current trends in gardens. It was a lot of fun, especially because we had the chance to meet Fergus just this past February, but what I wanted to share with you here is Dan Pearson's opinion that the 'must have' plant to have now is the epimedium.

Have you heard of epimedium? Common name of barrenwort, oh how dreary. Sometimes called fairy wings because of the delicate stems of its leaves and petite flowers, or bishop's hat, named again for the shape of the flower, or horny goat weed, which is, Bruce Crawford likes to tell us, because goats in China express a certain 'enthusiasm' after eating it. These latter medicinal claims have not been proven, but all this does give you fodder enough for cocktail party banter.

But what about the plant? It's such a wonderful low groundcover that is almost everygreen, browning out just before the new growth and flowers appear in April. Heights range from six inches to a foot or so and the lovely, delicate flowers rise above the emerging leaves in all kinds of wonderful colors. Despite its fine stems, this plant is rugged and easily withstands dog feet tearing through it on a daily basis. Plus, even though goats may love it, the deer stay away so it's a great substitute for the much more agressive vinca that you may have in your shady beds now.

We didn't have any epimedium at last year's sale due to a very late spring, but this year we've ordered a huge batch of at least 8 different varieties.

Some are blooming now, others will bloom into the summer. Plus, some will turn great shades of red in the fall. Starting to feel enthusiastic?

== Patti Millar & Ilona Ontscherenki, Co-Chairs