Looking over the Wisley bergenia trial two or three times recently, an unfortunate conundrum emerges. If the flowers stand up well above the foliage so they show themselves off to the full, with a chance to really enliven the spring garden - they get frosted. If they open on shorter stems, down amongst the foliage, they're protected from the frost but they may be so hidden that their value is lost. So what's the answer?
Well, most important, don't plant them in a frost pocket. The bergenia trial is planted at the very bottom of the field so the cold air flows down the gentle slope and then the boundary hedge between the trials field and the busy A3 ensures that the icy air comes to a stop right where the bergenias are planted. It's probably the coldest place on the field, many of the bergenias have suffered while in other parts of the garden the same varieties often look rather better.
Planting in such a cold place would be an excellent way of determining which varieties can best cope with a cold snap - if it wasn't for the fact that the flowers on so many varieties were damaged.
But for me one variety, ‘Reitheim', stood out. It held its flowers partly amongst the foliage, which seemed to provide enough protection to prevent damage, but sufficiently visible to make a show. Other varieties which seemed less prone to frost damage or were so prolific as to look good in spite of being frosted include ‘Eroica', ‘Frau Holle', ‘Beethoven' and ‘Apple Court White'. ‘Morgenrote', which held an Award of Garden Merit prior to the trial, has been disappointing.
You can order Bergenia 'Reitheim' from Beeches Nursery.