When I was at the RHS Garden at Wisley the other day, most of the bergenias from the recent trial were still in place and were flowering away merrily. It was good to see how prolific some of them are. Three in particular caught my eye, all very different and all with less common species blood.
One of the white-flowered plants looked especially impressive. Bergenia stracheyi Alba Group was noticeably short and compact – no floppy leaves smothering neighbours unnecessarily - and this enhanced the mass of flowers to create clumps with real impact. The buds were slightly blushed, the flower heads tightly packed and well presented above the neat foliage.
Another that stood out for its flowers was B. ciliata ‘Patricia Furness’. Its arching spikes of flowers really were most distinctive and opened with the new leaves in March and April; this is a deciduous species. The individual flowers are two-tone pink and packed tightly along the arching stems with the flowers held facing upward and outward as the stem arches. Being deciduous, however, it’s not a pretty sight after the first hard frost.
Finally, one of a number of hybrids that have been introduced in recent years involving B. emiensis, discovered just over twenty years ago in China’s Sichuan Province. The as yet unnamed hybrid was sent by Waterperry Gardens in Oxfordshire. The leaves on these prolific plants lay rather flat, the better to appreciate the mass of reddish-green stems held vertically and showing off the flowers very effectively. And the pale pink flowers opening from a darker pink calyx gave a really delightful effect.
The trial was being dug as I looked it over, and some plants were being moved to another bed so that identification issues could be resolved next season. So in winter and spring 2011 there will still be bergenias to see on the Wisley trials field.