Monday, April 19, 2010

Meet. . .Bergenia!

How can you resist a plant called pig squeak? Bergenia cordifolia, also known as heartleaf bergenia, Is one of the first herbaceous perennials to bloom in my garden each year. A number of hybrids are available with flower colors ranging from pink to white to salmon. Foliage size is also variable with leaves in the 9"-12" range.
The large, fleshy leaves are moderately shiny and, wonder-of-wonders, evergreen! The photo below shows some damage on the margins of last year's leaves (thanks to the leaf-cutter bees) with this year's foliage just starting to emerge.
Bergenia spreads by rhizomes and can be propagated by division in early spring. Bergenia prefers moderately moist soils rich in organic matter and will tolerate part (morning) sun or full shade. My photo illustrates Bergenia surviving, but not thriving, in my garden's lean, sandy soil. Bergenia is rated to USDA zone 3 and an altitude of 8,000 feet.

Beautiful companion plants include Heuchera, Aquilegia, and Geranium.


Kelly Van Calcar said...

Jocelyn I love Bergenia and have a few in a section of my NJ garden (zone 6b) near some Sweet William, Stella D'Oros and a climbing rose. For some reason I have become somewhat obsessed with maintaining the leaves and take off any w/damage. Any idea as to what causes those large brown and blackish areas you so often see during the growing season? Nematodes? Fungus? Both (God forbid) :-) I did fertilize about a month or so ago and the soil has good moisture as well as being in a semi shaded area covered most of the day by the taller things around it. I would be grateful for any suggestions or advice. Thx -- Kelly V.

Jocelyn H. Chilvers said...

Kelly, sounds like an attractive planting you have there! I have not had the kind of of problem with my bergenia that you describe. I checked three reference books and did not find anything listed at all (theoretically, a very trouble-free plant!)....soooo, probably your best bet is to contact your local county extension agent for a diagnosis and treatment recommendation. Good luck!