HARDY PERENNIALS: BERGENIA

Where space needs filling almost regardless of .soil and situation, Bergenias rank highly not only trouble freedom but for giving practically year round ground cover and a show of flowers. The latter in fact, appear as old leaves begin to fade in March, and by late May, when flowering comes to an end, there is a fresh cover of large glossy foliage. Plants expand from slowly advancing woody rhizomes or crowns at ground level, rooting downwards as they go. Their roots are fibrous and it is a very easy matter to curb any excessive growth. Single crowns planted in a row as an edging would become a yard wide in about 3-4 years to give complete cover, but naturally growth spread rate depends on soil conditions. Bergenias will grow under trees where fairly dry, in the open, or where fairly moist.

The flowers are at first rather like hyacinths, in a close packed, stumpy spike, but they open out in most kinds to become more branched. In the case of B. ‘Ballawley’, which is probably the finest of them all, stems can reach almost 2 feet. The B. cordifolia type is most commonly seen and neither this nor its slightly purple leaved form B. cordifolia purpurea exceed 15 inches high, with leaves less large than B. ‘Ballawley’.

In recent years a number of named varieties have appeared, widening the range of colour. This includes silvery white in B. ‘Silberlichf, near crimson is the dwarf growing B. ‘Evening Glow’ (Abendglut) and a fine new pink is B. ‘Margery Fish’. Others are the salmon red B. ‘ Morgen-glut B. Pugleys Pink’ and lilac in B. ‘Pugleys Purple’. B. Schmidtii is light pink with dense foliage. Bergenias can be planted at almost any time and crowns with their woody rhizomes should be only just below surface. When dividing old plants it is best to discard any unthrifty or ugly roots.

BERGENIA 'Ballawley'

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