Last week Plant Delights' fall sale began, so if you are a cash-flush Epimedium enthusiast, hurry: their $150 Epimedium is now $120.
Epimediums are the latest cult plants, with the prices to prove it. At Plant Delights, most range from $24 to $35, and since Epimedium has yet to make it to Home Depot, you can expect to pay a lot no matter where you purchase them. They are sturdy plants and are great for dry shade, but they are not particularly showy and are unlikely to attract the attention of botanical neophytes.
Obviously "The Giant," Plant Delights' $150 specimen, is a collector's plant. It's a perennial for the gardener who has everything, including a very healthy bank account. Although I personally do not find "The Giant" tempting, I can understand why somebody might. It's what happens when you've been gardening for a while. Rudbeckia "Goldstrum" and Phlox "David" just aren't a challenge anymore. They come back year after year no matter what you do to them. They're pretty, but all your neighbors have them. What's the fun of that?
I have a low-rent version of the $150 Epimedium: my $25 Ruscus aculeatus, commonly known as Butcher's Broom. I stumbled across it at the State Farmer's Market in Raleigh and just had to have it. Never mind that it was $25 for a 3 inch pot, or that its growth rate was glacial. It was adorable. A bit like a minature pyracantha, it has prickly evergreen leaves that aren't really leaves at all (the technical term is cladodes) and every fall it is covered in big red berries. I am a sucker for any plant with berries, and this one was decidedly different. So I bought it.
Five years later, here it is. No big deal, right? The berry extravaganza has yet to materialize, and waiting for it to grow is like watching paint dry. To add insult to injury, no one has asked me what that fascinating plant is - they are too busy complimenting its mundane but traffic-stopping neighbor, my pyracantha "Mohave" ($10 at the Farmer's Market, thank you very much).
It doesn't end there. My garden includes a number of unusual duds, among them a cold and heat tolerant Fuchsia (there's a reason Fuchsia is usually planted in hanging baskets - it looks better that way), a weedly Scutellaria, and three weak, spindly white Chelone glabra that just sit there doing nothing while their more common pink sisters, "Hot Lips," put them to shame.
The moral of the story? There is none. I love plants, and I can't stop trying new ones. Just yesterday, I left the North Carolina Botanical Gardens with two Gentiana catesbaei (Elliot's Gentian) in tow. Welcome to the family. Now let's see what you can do.
The Galloping Horse Gardener is a native New Yorker who packed it in in 2005 to live under the radar in Cary, North Carolina. In 2014, she removed to a new secure location somewhere in Raleigh.
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