Some Exciting Additions to our Epimedium Collection.

I mentioned just before Christmas, that I had found a new supplier of unusual Epimediums. They arrived a few days ago and we are pleased with the quality of the plants. The supplier is a nursery called Tuckermarsh Plants and is owned by Mark Fillan down in Devon.

I have given the new plants their ‘posh’ labels with accession numbers, source code and year of aquisition, as you can see in the picture. I am looking forward to their flowering in the spring.

A Major Conversion Project.

Yet another Epimedium project to report on, I’m afraid. Wishing to make as good a National Collection as possible and and having acquired a considerable number of new Epimediums, we have been looking for more suitable areas to plant them out, within our limited space.

Once again, the aquatic side of our garden has taken a hit.

There were three concrete raised ponds arranged so that pumped water would over flow from the highest to the lowest.These were built nearly forty years ago and all were leaking, to the point that major repairs would be needed for them to function properly again, as ponds. Also over those years they have become rather shaded by surrounding Magnolias, for aquatic plants to give of their best.

Therefore back in mid September, we started the not inconsiderable task of converting the highest of the three ponds into a raised bed for Epimediums and other shade tolerant plants.

The first job was to pump out the water and to remove the aquatic plants. There were a couple of Peltandra plants which we moved to a new home, but a car full of mostly Iris pseudacorus var.bastardii went to be recycled at our local rubbish tip.

There were three brick built waterlily boxes and a brick retaining wall holding back coarse gravel in an ‘under-gravel’ filter. The soil from the lily boxes was bagged up for later use as was the gravel. The brick boxes and wall were then broken up with a sledge hammer.

I have been hankering for a concrete breaker for years to be told by the better half, I didn’t have enough possible future use to justify buying one. In a fantastic piece of syncronicity or fate, on the day I needed to start breaking up the bottom of the pond, Screwfix sent me an E-mail where their budget concrete breaker was £20.00 off, as a deal of the day. I was permitted to buy this impressive tool, and wasn’t I glad I did? I had forgotten that I had built the pond to hopefully see me out. The bottom was about 6 inches thick of good concrete, reinforced with chicken wire. The chicken wire would have made it nigh on impossible for an old man with a sledgehammer to break it up. As it was, it took quite a few sessions to puncture through the majority of the concrete bottom with the breaker. The broken bricks were spread over the broken concrete, plus other hardcore from around the garden and donated by our friendly builder. Over this went the filter gravel, some odd bags of dirty pea shingle and old aquarium gravel. We also had two sacks of old nylon pot scourers which had formed a ‘state of the art’ koi filter in the 1980s which went in the hole to help fill the void. The lily box muddy earth went over this.

Eighteen months earlier our next door neighbour got us to remove his small front lawn, as it was constantly being dug up by badgers. When we did this we found a lot of cockchaffer grubs which were obviously the cause of the badger activity.

About a cubic yard of the turf and soil which had been in plastic bags for well over a year was used next in the pond. Much to our surprise, there were cockchafer grubs still alive in the long dead turf. With all the above materials in the hole, there was still about 20 inches of soil and growing medium needed, to fill the remainder of the bed. At the end of the day it took 5 ton bags of soil, 20 builders’ bags of sharp sand, 6 x 150 litre bails of peat and 6 x 75 litre bags of multipurpose compost, to complete the job.

Three Japanese Maples have now been planted for structure and about thirty Epimediums plus a few Roscoeas, snowdrops and Cyclamen, to give a longer season of interest. A dozen or so of the Epimediums are new French hybrids from Thierry Dellabroye.We are waiting with a good deal of anticipation to hopefully see many of them flower for the first time for us.

When we are feeling strong again, we may start changing the other two ponds into raised woodland beds. Fortunately from the work and back filling point of view, the two together are probably smaller than the one we have completed.

New Epimedium Nursery Bed From Recycled Fibreglass Tank.

Since about 1989, a 6ft x 3ft fibreglass tank has sat on the greenhouse bench and been used for a number of purposes. The most notable were for the raising of pygmy water lilies, baby koi carp and tiger salamander tadpoles. For a few years it has been sitting there taking up valuable bench space and not being used. Linda came up with an idea to recycle the water tank as an additional 18sq ft nursery bed.

Recently having ordered more bare-root Epimedium plants from Koen Van Poucke ( in Belgium, extra protected nursery bed space was needed. The raised bed in the ‘air-raid shelter’ greenhouse, planted last autumn, has been very successful. Some of the plants have been lifted and potted, while others will be left in situ for the moment.

We realised that it would be more convenient and less likely to be dug over by badgers or cats, if the soil surface were raised to bench height. With the considerable weight of soil and organic matter it would contain, it was obvious that a stand of substantial construction would be required. Therefore 3″ x 2″ and 4″ x 2″ timber has been used along, with two pieces of a very dense MDF type board. The MDF was given to us quite a few years ago having been used as temporary dining room table extensions, for Christmas dinners. It has been patiently waiting in the garage for another good use! We have painted it with yacht varnish and put two layers of polythene over it to avoid it getting wet. To prevent the wooden legs getting wet at the contact with the ground they have had lengths of drainage pipe pushed over their lower ends. The pipe was softened with a hot air gun to accommodate the wood and then driven on with a rubber mallett. The legs stand on 9″ square pieces of paving slab.

Drainage holes have been drilled along the outer edges of the base to prevent possible water-logging. We have filled the tank with a sandy loam mixed with sphagnum peat and fine composted bark. The bed will be shaded with netting shortly. The plants will hopefully arrive later this week.

Epimedium Display at Hyde Hall

We were asked shortly after being given National Collection status, whether we would be willing and able to put on a small display of Epimediums at the Plant Heritage Spring Plant Fair at Hyde Hall, at the end of April 2014. We potted on some of our recently acquired and un-planted plants with this in mind.

In the week leading up to the plant fair the weekend’s weather forecast seemed a bit unsettled and knowing we were not being supplied with any shelter we looked on Amazon and eBay and ordered a cheap pop-up gazebo. As it turned out there was not a great deal of rain but it was quite windy so the expense was deemed worthwhile.

The display created quite a lot of interest. Some people had never met the genus before, but the majority had no idea that Epimediums were so variable. The majority of people are only familiar with about half a dozen varieties that have been around for more than a hundred years.

One of the things we noticed was that almost everybody who came to look, touched the plants, to better look at the flowers. We were worried that there would be no flowers left on the plants for the second day, but most of them hung on. I guess they do have a certain tactile attraction, being dainty and airy.

I ended up with quite a few new plants at the end of the weekend, bought from a number of the specialist nursery traders at the fair. I bought a small selection of Arisaema tubers to have another go at keeping them happy. The plant I could not leave un-purchased, was a Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Snowflake’, which at a distance looked like four white Delphinium spikes. The flowers are white semi-double with a very attractive green eye.

National Collection of Epimedium

We have recently received confirmation from Plant Heritage that we have been given full National Collection status for Epimedium species, cultivars and hybrids.

As visitors to this website have probably guessed we are pretty keen on Epimediums, so earlier this year after discussing with various people whether we should aplply for a National Collection, we decided to approach Plant Heritage. Quite a lot of forms were filled in and a few days spent as we have worked hard, creating accession sheets. These allocate a unique number to each plant derived from a particular source.

Also we have devised a four letter code to identify each source, be it a nursery or an individual, and two numbers indicate year the plant was aquired since 2000. For example 239-Edru-13 (accession number- Edrum Nursery- 2013) The year before 2000 is a bit irrelevent even if we knew them.

We have purchased a Brother label printer which is connected to our PC and prints 36mm wide self adhesive labels which unlike Dymo seem to stick well to the tee labels, we have been using. Our son, Paul set up the printing of the labels so they include our Magnolia logo, which does give the completed label a touch of class. The labels also show the accession number, and source and date codes.

The work in doing the above was quite time consuming but I am already finding it useful to know where a plant came from and when, from the codes on the label.

As well as the documentation and labelling works, we have achieved a fair amount with buying quite a few new ones and preparing areas for new Epimedium plantings. Each new plant is protected with four short canes, against badgers digging up the recently planted specimens. This system works remarkably well as badgers regularly dig between the plants without disturbing them.

Plant Heritage like National Collection holders if possible to have more than one specimen of each plant, two growing in the ground and one in a pot. We probably will not manage this with many varieties, due in part to space constraints, but we will try to do this for all the species we can collect. Previously we had few Epimediums in pots, only those growing on to a sufficiently strong specimen to be planted out.

In order to show the potted plants off we have utilised our old plant sales, tiered area. To accomodate more potted specimens we have started clearing a rather neglected area behind our biggest greenhouse.

We would be please to hear from any other keen Epimedium collectors.