21 November 2013
Bergenias for Borders
Bergenias are in most cases evergreen perennials with large, richly-coloured leaves - hence the nickname of 'elephant's ears' which relates to their size rather than their colour. They are good for ground cover and also work well as a foil for other winter plants as their foliage is at it's best during the colder months.
Their leathery rounded leaves can measure up to 12in across, rising from a stout rootstock. Some varieties form tight clumps while others have a more open appearance. They are attractive all year round but as the weather cools they develop their winter colouring of crimson, bronze and maroon. The shades may vary from year to year and through the winter. They work well when mixed with ferns and iris leaves.
Bergenias are happy in shade or sun provided that the soil isn't too dry. Their colour is often better when they are grown in less fertile soil though richer soil gives more impressive spring foliage and flowers. They appreciate an annual mulching.
Remove old foliage as it turns brown to keep plants looking smart before the spring bulbs appear. Eventually you may need to dig up the plants, remove the older woody growth and replant the young strong shoots.
Bergenias can be attacked by Vine weevil, so you may need to use either biological control or Provado Vine Weevil Killer 2.
Early bulbs mixed among bergenias is an excellent combination, ideally planted together in the autumn. Failing that, plant bulbs among established bergenias using a narrow trowel.
The following are some varieties to consider - all of which will grow in sun or partial shade:-
Bergenia 'Bressingham White' is a hardy, evergreen, clump-forming perennial to 35cm, with dull green, rounded leaves and plentiful erect racemes of pure white flowers in spring.
Bergenia cordifolia is a vigorous perennial with a bushy habit, making a spreading clump of rounded, slightly wavy leaves up to 30cm long, which often have a purple tinge in winter. Deep pink flowers are carried on erect red stems up to 60cm tall in early spring.
Bergenia purpurascens is a hardy, clump-forming evergreen perennial up to 40cm. It's erect, oval, dark green leaves turn beetroot-red in winter, while in spring it's slender stems turn red and bear clusters of deep pink flowers.
Bergenia'Silberlicht' is a hardy evergreen perennial forming a low clump of leathery, oval leaves which remain green all year round. In spring it's erect, red-tinged stems carry clusters of white flowers which often turn to light pink.
Bergenia ‘Eric Smith’ is a vigorous perennial which forms tight clumps of upright, rounded-ovate, puckered leaves, up to 20cm long. The leaves are a mid-green flushed with bronze, turning bronze-red in winter. The flowers are a deep coral-pink, borne on strong upright flower stems in mid to late spring.
I hope you decide to give bergenias a try. My neighbours seem to be able to grow them without any problems, so I'm sure you could too.