Epimedium grandiflorum ‘Lilafee’ (lilac fairy barrenwort or bishop’s hat) is a fabulous shade perennial. The leaves are especially nicely shaped, some like asymmetrical hearts, while the purple blooms start appearing shortly after the leaves.
This barrenwort goes by the marketing name ‘Lilac Fairy’, a fairly close metaphor for the flowers. I’m not sure how many more plants it sells than the ‘Lilafee’ designation, but I suppose a picturesque name can’t hurt.
The purple flower on this Epimedium has a unique shape, with long white spurs. The clusters of flowers are held above the foliage, with the blooms overlapping. They bloom for about 4 weeks.
Here is a closeup of the purple flower bunch of Lilafee. You can see the long, narrow petal tips. It’s nice to see the flowers held up high, and visible from a distance, since many spring shade perennials arrange their flowers demurely under the leaves.
The new leaves of this Epimedium are a dark red color in early spring. Then as the plants first grow, they keep a red border around the leaf edge.
The red of the new leaves fades away as the green takes over, and eventually the foliage is all green. Here you can see the little pink buds on the left. These appear very shortly after the tiny leaves. Epimedium grandiflorum ‘Lilafee’ is up and blooming early, but the leaves continue to be attractive after the flowers fade. The plant is about 30 cm (1 foot) tall.
Here is another Lilafee flower spike up close. I planted one of these perennials last fall, and liked it so much that I went back for more, but the remainder had had an unfortunate greenhouse glass accident. I’m going to expand the group this year, since the plants look great at the front of the garden border with their fresh looking leaves, plus the whole dancing fairies effect.
In the photo below you can just see a frond of Athyrium niponicum ‘Pictum’ (Japanese painted fern) off the left. I have a group of these ferns next to the Epimedium, and the colourful, textured fern foliage looks great next to the softer Epimedium leaves. If you click to enlarge the picture, you can see how the light green leaves of the barrenwort have a soft glow in the shade.
This Epimedium grandiflorum ‘Lilafee’ makes a great shade plant. It overwintered in zone 3 just fine, and sent up leaves early. These attractive leaves cover the ground well, while the purple flowers are pretty and display gracefully. You can see this Epimedium with its Fall colour change in this post.