Plant of the Month – November
Bergenia ‘Bressingham Ruby’
(Bergenia, pigsqueak, elephant’s ears)
There are many different species and cultivars of Bergenia that are useful for ground cover in sun or part shade, but few are as outstanding as ‘Bressingham Ruby’, with bright green heart-shaped summer leaves that turn to deep ruby red with purple undersides in winter. Of easy cultivation, the best colour will come from those planted in a sunny situation. Deep rose pink flowers are an added bonus in spring.
Period of interest
Throughout the year
A truly year-round plant, Bergenia ‘Bressingham Ruby’ changes with the seasons, saving its most spectacular show for winter. Much breeding work over many years, from the original seven or eight species of Bergenia that mostly originate from central or eastern Asia, have today given gardeners an excellent choice of foliage and flowering perennials. Bergenias are mostly clump forming plants with evergreen, leathery-looking largely rounded leaves, and in spring emerging spikes carry many pendulous goblet-shaped flowers from white through pink to crimson. What has led to them being such useful and popular plants is the ability of certain species and selected cultivars to change leaf colour from green in summer to purple, crimson or ruby in winter. Having tried many of these, it is nice to know that B. ’Bressingham Ruby’, a selection we raised at Bressingham and introduced in 1984, is among the best (and of course, for me, the best). It forms a neat, compact plant with bright glossy green leaves in summer, gradually deepening to ruby red with crimson-purple undersides into winter, the colour more intense when plants are under stress and in full sun.
In spring new growth and old leaves turn back to green as deep pink flowers make a show on 60–cm (2–ft.) spikes, although (like all bergenias) these can be damaged by spring frosts. B. ‘Bressingham Ruby’ will grow in all but the wettest or driest soil and will thrive, but not colour so well, in shade where not too dry. Older clumps can be pulled apart and replanted in early autumn or after flowering in spring. Cut away dead or disfigured leaves at any time. In colder regions where no snow cover exists, prolonged drying or freezing winds can damage foliage. Covering with evergreen trimmings will help to protect the plants during these periods. 30–45 cm (1–1. ft.) Å~ 30–45 cm (1–1. ft.)