Garden locations Culture Winter hardy to USDA Zones where it is easily grown in organically rich, consistently moist, well-drained soils in part shade cool summer climates or close to full shade hot summer climates. Tolerates full shade, but foliage appearance is best with some sunny or sun dappled conditions. Established plants have tolerance for brief periods of drought, but perform best with consistent moisture. Soils should not be allowed to completely dry out.
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Unfortunately, the genus does suffer from the fact that many people consider them untidy, rather boring and a perfect home for slugs and snails. Very often seen in large sprawling mats of creeping rhizomes and fitting of this such bad press perfectly is Bergenia x schmidtii, which has no winter foliage colour to speak of and flowers so early in the year that it is often damaged by inevitable frosts. The heavy soil and enclosed, dense style of the planting at Great Dixter is not ideally suited to growing bergenia.
So often consigned to dark, shady areas, where they grow but will never give of their best, as they really do need the opposite, maximum light and exposure in order to colour well in the winter and we find they grow best in open areas on our poorer, drier soils where they form an essential feature of our drought resistant Gravel Garden.
It is essential to choose those cultivars that have leaves which colour well, as many do not. All shades of white and pink are catered for. In fact, Summer sees all bergenias turn green, their thick leathery leaves, unperturbed during dry spells and proving the perfect foil for other, more colourful performers. Dealing with problems Problems; slugs and snails are certainly an issue although regular tiding up of old decaying leaves will help prevent this. Vine weevil; belonging to the saxifrage family, bergenias along with those other vine weevil favourites, heuchera, are prone to both adult vine weevils damaging the foliage and their grubs eating the roots.
Again regular tidying up of old foliage and growing in an open, sunny site will help limit the damage. For those with bad infestations, regular treatment with nematodes, Steinernema Kraussei during spring and again in autumn can prove to be effective. Overall they are an invaluable genus that we would find impossible to replace and are an essential and indispensable ingredient of our famous drought-resistant Gravel Garden.
I wonder if someone will comment expressing the opposite view, as Beth did to Christo. I somehow expect and hope they will! Dave Ward.
Garden and Nursery Director. February
Bergenia ciliata (Fringed Bergenia)
Indispensable Elephants ears, bergenia