Plant of the month
Each month, OGV sub-committee member, Gayle Parkes presents the 'Plant of the month'. She also posts to OGV's Instagram - make sure you check back regularly for her latest post. This month Gayle brings us the bergenia.
This genus belonging to the saxifrage (Saxifragaceae) family is made up of eight species of perennials that are found in Asia, extending from Afghanistan to Mongolia.
Now here is a plant that has stood the test of time! From as early as I can remember, my dad had Bergenia planted all along the shady narrow garden bed between the old paling fence and the two strips of concrete that made up our driveway. Those sturdy shiny leaves stood to attention and the pretty paper like pink flowers heralded in the spring.
Bergenias are one of the most underrated garden plants. The foliage appears as large rosettes of glossy, leathery, gently toothed, dark-green to almost burgundy leaves that are heart-shape at the base. Deep-pink flowers appear from the center of the foliage on spikes that can reach up to 30cm in height.
An easy-to-grow, clump-forming perennial, this plant is fabulous used as a groundcover, a rockery plant or as edging for walkways. They are hardy and are able to cope with poor soil conditions.
They thrive in sun but are also happy in light shade. Bergenia would be a good choice for a ground cover under trees, as in such shady spots, their lush foliage excels. In sunnier spots they look great as border plants where their flowers dominate at the expense of foliage. Planting in partial shade will develop lush foliage, whereas full sun will encourage flower production at the expense of the leaves. Such a versatile plant.
These low maintenance reliable gems require little care. Simply deadhead the spent blooms by snipping off the spikes once the flowers brown and begin to fall off. Remove any dead, brown leaves you find through the summer as part of your Bergenia plant care.
They are easily propagated by division after flowering, always a satisfying exercise, helping to fill that bare patch in your garden or to share divisions with your neighbours and friends. A plant that keeps giving.
If you have a shady spot you want to brighten in your garden, then Bergenia might be just the plant you’re looking for. Your local garden centre will be sure to stock these popular plants. Look out for the different varieties that are available to the home gardener these days.