Horticulture News and Tips
"EYE on HORTICULTURE"
THE APRIL GARDEN
Like last Winter, this past Winter was relatively mild and one can only hope we don't have a repeat of the April snow storm that robbed much of Spring's beauty. Spring is my favorite season. The beauty of the Spring-flowering trees and shrubs cannot be rivaled. The cheerfulness of Spring-flowering bulbs is invigorating and the fresh new growth of perennials not yet damaged by insects or drought is pure perfection.
However, all admiration aside, much still needs to be done in the April garden. One of the first chores I tend to every spring is to remove the spent leaves and stems of my Epimediums. Epimediums look great and hold their color well into early winter, so I do not cut them back during fall cleanup. Come Spring, they tend look a little ratty. Their stems will need to be cut to ground level as early as possible, before new growth begins to emerge. The new flowers will start to grow on wiry stems early in the season, and if you wait too long it will be impossible to cut the dead stems back without lopping off the current year's flowers.
Epimedium x. versicolor 'Sulphureum' at the end of winter, left, and in spring bloom at right.
Epimedium is a stoloniferous plant that is great used as a ground cover in shady areas. Hardy to zone 4, it will tolerate dry conditions and full sun but will be more luxuriant if given the rich soil and light shade it prefers. Commonly called Bishop's hat or Barrenwort, one of my favorites is an older variety called E. x versicolor 'Sulphureum.' It has 10-20 pale yellow flowers per stem that delicately nod above the red-tinged graceful, green foliage. I find it a refined alternative to Pachysandra.
Many exciting new varieties have been introduced. Breeders have done amazing things with them. Some of the new varieties have elongated, extremely serrated leaves that look like thorns. Some varieties have unusual splotchy coloring on the leaves. Flower colors range from yellow, pink, purple, white, to coral orange. There are even minute alpine varieties. Most are hardy here in Connecticut and make a great addition to the Spring garden.
As I stated earlier, the only fault I can find with these Spring beauties is that the removal of the spent foliage must be one of the first chores on your "to do" list. Once this is done, there is nothing else required by them but to admire their beauty and to proceed to step 2 on your list.
* Liz Rinaldi
"In the Garden"
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