The Elephant in the (Garden) Room

Although often planted for their glossy foliage, bergenias have attractive flowers in spring.

Although often planted for their glossy foliage, bergenias have attractive flowers in spring.

When designing planted areas for my clients I’m always thinking ahead and planning for colour in the garden for as many months of the year as possible. Colour in summer is easy, but I firmly believe that a garden is for life, not just for summer, and it should look (and be ) interesting in Spring, Autumn and Winter too. In fact these are the times when a garden should work its hardest, as you’re less likely to be spending time in it and more likely to be looking out at it from indoors.

One of the most reliable performers for year round colour is Bergenia cordifolia, also known as Elephant’s Ears because of it’s large, round, thick and glossy leaves. In fact the leaves are its main attraction for me – they’re tough enough to thrive in exposed areas, don’t mind a reasonable amount of shade and as they’re evergreen, they give good ground cover right throughout the seasons. I tend to plant them en masse at the front of mixed borders where the thick leaves make shiny mounds that contrast well with evergreen shrubs, perennials and grasses. As a low growing, clump forming perennial, they are great for bridging the gap between shrubs and lawn, especially in newly planted areas where shrubs will take several years to fill up their allotted space.

Leaves are usually a dark, shiny green, but ‘Purpurea’, as the name suggests, are a deep burgundy red, sometimes leaning towards purple. Flowers, depending on cultivar, are white, pale pink or deep pink, sometimes on pink or red tinged stems.

Flowers appear in early spring, bringing a welcome splash of colour when planted in generous groups, and this is where planning is important if you want to avoid a clash of colours. White flowered varieties will work well with pretty much anything, and pink and red will look fabulous with purple or red leaved shrubs and spring bulbs in white and shades of purple with blue. Beware, though, of pink flowered bergenias and bright yellow daffodils, unless you have a much stronger constitution than me!

Anne Byrne Garden Design provides easy to follow Garden Plans that you can implement right away or in stages. Anne’s design flair and passion for plants brings a touch of magic to gardens of all sizes.

Anne Byrne Garden Design – Creative Ideas – Practical Solutions – Stunning Gardens.

T: 086 683 8098 E: [email protected] www.annebyrnegardendesign.com

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