Epimedium

They had come wrapped in craft paper, formed into a little toothpaste sized tube. Supposedly 5 plants of this taxa, in reality 5 short pencil thin rhizomes. I had ordered as many of the listed species as I could reasonably afford, I had a lot of tiny tubes. I wasn’t holding my breath for them amounting to much. Chen Yi had gotten a bit of a bum rap, though never confessed undoubtably most of her plants were harvested on the dwindling wild hillsides of China. If  what I had received was any indication there were more collected Epimediums powdered in jars in any one of our numerous Chinese apothacaries here in Vancouver then Chen Yi had shipped out globally in the span of her career. Far better in my garden than treating someone’s erectile difficulties. Perhaps I’m just anthropomorphizing that. Starting with a dribble of introductions from Roy Lancaster followed by more from Mikinori Ogisui and Darrell Probst the half dozen or so species cultivated in European gardens for the last 2 centuries has expanded to over 50. Chen Yi has never gotten much credit for any of these introductions, though she might be responsible for the bulk, truth to tell nothing much  she sent was every properly identified. I cherished the tiny fragments, by  the third year something labeled as Epimedium latisepalum had turned into a monstrous sized plant, Epimedium wushanese; a trifling tyrst became a torrid affair. Gallery of Epimedium

 

Podophyllum

I was in what’s now referred to as my tweens when I planted the little May Apple under the eves behind our families house.  It seemed exotic at the time, I thought I was giving it a protected space. It never arose the next year.  So I put aside the Podophyllums for a couple of decades, my next brush was on the opposite coast. John Weagle and I were on a Cascadian lark, by that time whispers of  good things about Heronswood Nursery had even filtered to the east coast, we decided on the detour. At the time I had imagined myself to be somewhat plant savy, my eyes were quickly  opened to my misconception. But  amongst this horticopia Podophyllum pleiantum took  center stage in my memory of that visit, perhaps because I set it back, deterred by  the price and a total lack of confidence that it was anything other than tropical.  Now, almost 20 years later I’ve come to know all the members of this genus and am only astounded by how recent is the introduction of the most startling members of this group. By the by, its only whispered in the darkest of corners, alluded to in monographs,  but again Chen Yi almost single handedly introduced most of the newest species into cultivation. Gallery of Podophyllum

 

Paris

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Polygonatum

What a dogs dinner! There’s no genus of garden plants I find more confusing than Polygonatum.  Just try to key out Polygonatum biflorum, in cultivation for centuries , then  decide whether its not instead one of multiple other similar species or hybrids thereof. Wikipedias latest update implies there are over 70 species,  virtually everyone and certainly their grandmother has some form of the above mentioned bit of confusion growing somewhere nearby. Where is the treatise or garden book that more than brushes on them? Ok, so some are a bit subtle. And they’re terribly green. That is, aside from the seemingly  yearly slew of temptingly variegated forms coming out of Japan, instantly rebranded with a palatable English moniker. Though I have clones from she who must not be named but might be mentioned elsewhere my favourite taxa initially arrived  as a seedling from Heronswood, Polygonatum kingianum. Zealously guarded from marauding slugs  for 4 years, it was like my own little miracle when it finally bloomed. Who’d  have thought, a red Polygonatum. Gallery of Polygonatum