Sunday, May 1, 2011


Take thy spade,
It is thy pencil;
Take thy seeds, thy plants,
They are thy colours.
~William Mason, The English Garden, 1782

Are you one that thinks red and magenta shouldn’t go together?

Perhaps Bergenia ‘Evening Glow’ will change your mind. The color combination is truly eye-candy, grabbing your attention from across the garden. When I originally purchased this plant, the tag was labeled Bergenia ‘Abend Glut’ which is German for Evening Glow. For some reason all the tags I see now have been translated to Evening Glow. I think I liked the German vernacular better but it seems to be changed, at least here. Look for either to be sure to find the correct hybrid.

Bergenia, also known as ‘pig squeak’ (I have no idea why) or ‘elephants ears’, is hardy in USDA zones 1-9. This variety seems to do better in my garden with more sun, providing they don’t completely dry out too often. I have some in less sun but they don’t bloom as well, the leaves are smaller and they don’t have as much winter color. Those planted in morning sun or early afternoon sun with partial shade in the hottest part of the day give me the best blooms. You may want to experiment with locations to find the best spot in your garden. As always, the further north you live from the equator the more sun these plants can handle. If you live in a hot region, try them in some afternoon shade or light dappled shade all day. If they get too much sun, you could see shriveling leaves, spotting on the leaves, crispy leaf edges, and/or general unhappiness in the plants appearance.

Left are the lovely, large leaves of ‘Evening Glow’ …green in summer turning a gorgeous wine color in winter’s chilly temps (below). The more winter sun they get the more the leaves color up. This variety also keeps its leaves all year. While other varieties I’ve seen become a mass of dried or mushy leaves after a freeze, ‘Evening Glow’ stays strong in the garden. The photo below was taken in March after an especially cold, icy, snowy winter; obviously unaffected.

Bergenia is a great ground cover filling in to form a nice mass of large leaves. Our city has it in these sidewalk plantings. It can handle a little abuse from pedestrians concentrating on texting when they should be watching where they’re walking. Also when the clump is established it can take some drying out. This city planting is not irrigated.

To divide your mass, simply begin lifting the plants out of the ground with the help of a garden fork. They’ll break into smaller chunks. You can trim the rootstock to manageable size and plant them.

Even if you don’t get any smaller roots with the main rootstalk, it’ll root out. A piece as small as seen below will be fine, providing you don’t let the surrounding soil dry out. They store a lot of water and energy in the rootstalk, stems and leaves.

Plant it and water it in…notice how the leaves look chopped off in the next photo? They are. That piece of root can’t support full leaves anymore so cut them in half. That will allow the energy to go into producing new roots and not be wasted on trying to keep the whole leaves hydrated. It will put out new leaves as the roots grow and strengthen. Cut all the leaves in half on all your root pieces, even if they look like the bigger one. This practice also helps the plants stability. On windy days leaves can act as a sail, wiggling the plant out of the soil. Cutting the leaves down (but not off) keep the plant stable so new roots won’t be damaged while they are trying to grow.

Not all varieties are as nice as ‘Evening Glow’. I used to have Bergenia ‘Silber Licht’ aka ‘Silver Light’. The leaves did not seem to be as sturdy so was constantly eaten by slugs, not as nice in winter and they spotted with red spots. It’s white flowers spotted too so I got rid of it and divided my ‘Evening Glow’ to replace it.

So now what do you think of red and magenta together? Bergenia ‘Evening Glow’…it’s a stunner!

In Bloom In My Garden Today: Bergenia, Ajuga, Kale, Tulips, Geum, Erythronium ‘pagoda, Fritillaria, Brunnera macrophylla, Anemone nemorosa, Dicenta alba (white bleeding heart), Skimmia, Muscari (Grape Hyacinths), Rhododendron, Mahonia, Clematis, Wood Hyacinths, primrose (double English), Heleborus, Bellis perennis (English daisy), violet primrose

Authors photos


Cindy said...

I had left a comment the other day but I guess it went to no mans land!

what gives???

I can't remember what I said but it had to do with being happy when you can split plants like that.

sorry for the lame comment :)


Joan said...

Hi Cindy,
I dunno what gives...that happens to me too on blog commenting sometimes. I wonder if it just disappears or sits out there on some database forever unconnected to anything. Thanks everso much for commenting twice're a peach!

I agree with you...getting free plants to fill your garden from plants you already have is great!

ddzeller said...

What beautiful colors and such delicate looking flowers yet study for a busy street. Makes me want to plant some today. Thanks for sharing.

Tracy Zhu said...

Very nice. I'm always looking for plants that look attractive in winter (well, and survive as well), and this looks perfect. I would love to know the reason for the "Pig Squeak" name.

Joan said...

Thanks for stopping by. You'll probably find them in nurseries easily now as mine are just coming into bloom. I hope you like them as much as I do if you get some.

Hi Tracy,
Nice to hear from you again. Of the Bergenias I've had this one is the best in winter. You'll love the wine color in the leaves. With the temps warming they are turning green again for the summer. I have no idea why pig squeak but it's something you've got me interested now to look up.

Anonymous said...

Hi Tracy: Just wanted to let you know your photo is wonderful
aka Pig squeak. If you go to your plant and rub the leaves the sound resembles a pigs squeak
Happy gardening and thanks for sharing with us

Tracy Zhu said...

Deb, thanks for the clarification on the Pig Squeak nickname, now I have to find some to rub and test it out!

Joan said...

Thanks for the origin of the pig squeak name! I never knew that and am glad to know it and be able to pass it on!

motherofthyme said...

I am a bergenia lover. I had two large areas covered with them when we lived on the prairies and they grew thick, hardy and wouldn't allow weed growth. One of them formed a gently curving border, beautifully compact and rounded mostly. Since moving to Victoria I planted some bergenia but they seem to have long stems that make them lie down with their weight rather than stand up firmly. I have a sprinkler for the summer so water is not the problem. Could lack of sun do that or is there a variety that is more likely to be less upright?

Joan said...

Hello and welcome!
An excellent question! And indeed a lack of sun can make sun loving plants reach or 'lay down' as they search for more light. The more the plant needs light the more elongated it can become. I would try moving it to the sunniest spot you have and give it a year to establish. If you still have a problem next year, inquire at your local nursery but I'd give it a good go with more light. Your prarie plants sound lovely...where was that? Perhaps this was a native variety? All that said I have definitely found some bergenia varieties superior to others. As you inquire at your nursery, it could be a varietal problem. If you are in love with the one you have, try moving it. If it continues to be problematic you may do best to replace it. I found 'Abend glut' to be far superior to 'Silber licht' in my garden and got rid of the latter over time.

Anonymous said...

Hey! This is my first visit to your blog! Your blog provided useful information to work on. You have done a marvelous job! I’ll be back!

Joan said...

Thank you for visiting! Glad to see you here and I'm happy you'll be back. Cheers!