Today, Easter Sunday, we have had a beautiful afternoon, just a little breeze, and good sunshine that brought out all the sometimes-hidden corners of the garden. And it seemed a good idea to showcase a trio of workhorse plants that I enjoy especially at this time of year.
Epimedium x versicolor ‘Sulphureum’ is at the very tiny end of the workhorse spectrum. The heart-shaped leaves slowly make a pleasing mass in dry shade or woodland edge, and the sprays of flowers wiggle their way through the leaves in order to be seen. Close-up they are incredibly delicate, cream with yellow, and they really do look like the tiny flower jewels that Faberge made for the Russian nobility last century. Easily missed, so some people like to trim the leaves back a bit, but I prefer just to be observant and find them. ‘Sulphureum’ flowers first for me in the Spring, I also have Epimedium. x purralchium ‘Frohnleiten’ and x. Warleyense, but these come a little later. The excellent Carolyn of Carolyn’s Shade Gardens in Pennsylvania has a great post on epimedium with some gorgeous varieties.
Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Purpurea’ is such a great plant. I think I bought a plant about 8 years ago, and now it wanders about in my woodland, shady, and in summer quite dry, area turning up in a bright and colourful way all over the place. It’s no bother, wear a pair of gloves as the milky sap is a skin irritant, and just pull it out wherever you don’t want it. I used to grow the big characias Euphorbia, but that has driven me crazy with self-seeding in our stony soil, so this wood spurge is the perfect pal. Andy Byfield in the ‘Guardian’ does a good run-down on other varieties. Val Bourne is quoted on the Crocus page, see the link, as loving it for bringing’ warmth and zing’, I agree.
Acanthus mollis ‘Hollard’s Gold’ is just like the photo- a glorious golden yellow and is spectacular in the Spring. But, for me, maybe not for you, all Acanthus take more than a few years to get going. I first bought a couple of small Acanthus Mollis in the first year of gardening here, and it is only in the last couple of years that they have really begun to deliver in big clumps. ‘Hollard’s Gold’ has been in the semi-shady bit for about 5 years, and entirely disappeared from view for at least 3 of those years. So, I had it down as a weedy thing that had been messed with by breeding. I was a bit harsh! It is now clumping up nicely, and whilst it has taken some patience to wait for it, I love the colour at this time of year and so am forgiving and generous to it. John Hoyland, a very good plantsman, has a good piece on Acanthus, but has closed his Pioneer Plants nursery, in Hertfordshire where I once bought some Cirsium. He has a great website, with the title ‘Mad with Joy’, and it is going on to my list of sites and blogs to stay in touch with. He used to garden at the other end of the Pyrenees. I love that.