By: Darcy Larum, Landscape Designer
Gardening in shade can be a challenge for many gardeners. As a landscape designer, one of my specialties is shade gardening because many homeowners simply do not know what to do with their shady areas. For years now, hostas have been the go-to plant for shady areas. While hostas certainly work in shade beds, I am here to let you know that you have many other perennial options for a shady area. Bergenia, for example, is just one excellent and underused perennial for shade beds. Continue reading to learn more about the many beautiful bergenia varieties for shady gardens.
Bergenia is a perennial, hardy in U.S. zones 4-9, that grows best in dry, shady locations. Yes, I did say dry shade, which is a particularly difficult condition for plants. However, bergenia thrives in these sites where most plants struggle.
Another bonus is that deer and snails rarely graze on bergenia plants. Bergenia produces thick, leathery semi-evergreen to evergreen foliage which they find unpalatable. This foliage, depending on variety, may display hues of pink, red and purple throughout the growing season.
Bergenia also produces stalks of pink to white flower clusters that are very attractive to hummingbirds and pollinators.
How many kinds of bergenia are there? Like hosta, coral bells and other beloved shade plants, bergenia is available in different varieties which have unique foliage or flower colors.
Below I’ve listed just some of the unique types of bergenia:
Bergenia Dragonfly Series – Introduced by Terra Nova Nurseries, this series includes the popular bergenia varieties ‘Angel Kiss’ and ‘Sakura.’ The small clumping habit of ‘Angel Kiss’ grows only to about 10 inches (25 cm.) tall. In spring it produces a mass of white to light pink blooms. In fall and winter, the foliage of ‘Angel Kiss’ turns a deep red to purple. ‘Sakura’ grows to about 15 inches (38 cm.) tall and it produces deep pink blooms in spring.
Bergenia ‘Solar Flare’ – This variety is truly unique for the fact that it produces light to deep green variegated foliage. In spring this foliage is complemented by deep, magenta colored blooms. Then in autumn the foliage becomes pink to red.
Bergenia ‘Flirt’ – Introduced in 2014, ‘Flirt’ is a small variety of bergenia that does not tend to naturalize as widely as other varieties. This makes it ideal for containers or fairy gardens. It grows about 8 inches (20 cm.) tall and wide, producing deep pink blooms in spring and deep burgundy foliage through fall and winter.
Bergenia ‘Pigsqueak’ – Named for the squeaky sound produced from rubbing the leaves between your fingers, ‘Pigsqueak’ bergenia will widely naturalize in a dry, shady bed. It makes an excellent groundcover for hard to grow sites.
Bergenia ‘Bressingham’ Series – Available as ‘Bressingham Ruby’ or ‘Bressingham White,’ the ‘Bressingham series’ of bergenia is a classic favorite. Though these varieties produce beautiful ruby colored or white blooms, they are most often grown for their foliage which has a burgundy to purple tinge throughout the growing season.
Bergenia ‘Rosi Klose’ – This highly sought-after variety produces salmon colored, slightly bell-shaped blooms. This bloom color and shape is very unique for bergenia.
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M ost plants we use in the landscape have both a common name and a scientific or latin name.
Helenium autumnale is Common Sneezeweed in North America but not in Australia where another plant goes by that common name
The common name is just that - the name of the plant in common usage. This can sometimes be used to identify a plant but it is often not a unique identifier. For example there are are several plants that are called вЂњBlack-Eyed-SusanвЂќ if you specify Black-eyed-susan on a project plant list you might get what you want - then again you might not.В
Common names are further complicated, in that, the same plant may be referenced by several common names and different common names may be used in different parts of the country or world. Sneezeweed for example refers to various North
American species in the genus Helenium, but in Australia Centipeda cunninghamii is called common sneezeweed. The common garden annual Celosia argentea is used as a food crop in Africa and has many common names including Celosia, Lagos spinach, soko, quail grass, cocks comb, and mfungu to name a few.В
While it is useful to know the common name of a plant, plant professionals will always back up the use of a common name with the scientific name.
Scientific names (Latin names):
Sedum spurium is now called Phedimus spurius in some references. Although the name might change officially most suppliers and many references still list the plant as a sedum and may not even know what you are after if you call it by the name Phedimus
Scientific names are, at least in theory, unique identifiers for a plant that will be understood no matter where you are, and should result in your obtaining the desired specimen when you specify a plant using this name.В
In the past once you learned the scientific name of a plant it would seldom change. That is no longer true. Plants used to be classified and grouped based on their appearance, so plants with similar flower structures for example would be considered to be related and be grouped in the same family, and if they were similar enough, the same genus or species. Once classified there was little reason or logic in changing the name so things were pretty stable in the plant nomenclature world for several hundred years. В
You are fortunate, or maybe not in this case, to live in the age of genetic mapping. This has resulted in the re-examination of the relationships of one plant to another using genes rather than morphological characteristics. In the long run this will be a good thing, but in the short term what it means is that the name you learn this year may not be the name in the future. Changes in Family relationships are starting to settle down now and probably will not change too much more in the future but Genus and Species. expect a lot of changes as additional research is conducted.В
Chrysanthemum x morifolium Ramat. was Chrysanthemum morifolium when I was an undergrad. When I was in graduate school the name changed to Dendranthema grandiflorum but now as you can see it has changed back.
Parts of a scientific name of a plant:
The scientific names of plants follow a naming convention developed by the Swedish botanist Karl von Linne - or Carolus Linnaeus. The system is known as binomial nomenclature where each plant is given a two part name, Genus and species.В
The genus is always capitalized and the species is always lowercase.В
When written, the scientific name should either be in italics or underlined.В
In the scientific or botanical literature the species name is followed by the surname of the authority (the person who named the plant). Since Linnaeus named many plants, many scientific names are followed by an L. For example Salvia officinalis L. is the scientific name for culinary or kitchen sage.В
Pelargonium x hortorum is the common garden or zonal geranium. The (x) in the scientific name indicates that it is a hybrid.
An x in the scientific name between genus and species indicates that the plant is a hybrid. For example Pelargonium x hortorum L.H. Bailey (pro sp.) [inquinans x zonale] indicates that the вЂzonal geraniumвЂ™ is a hybrid between P. inquinans and P. zonale made by L.H. Bailey.В
Note that in the preceding sentence the genus Pelargonium was shortened to just the first letter. This is commonly done when referring to multiple species of a genus where the genus will be listed the first time and just the first letter will be used thereafter.В
The genus and species can also be followed by a subspecies designation (subsp.) or a botanical variety designation (var.).В
In some cases where a species can not be identified (sp.) will be used to designate a single unknown species and (spp.) is used to designate multiple unknown species. So Eupatorium sp.indicates that the plant is an unknown Eupatorium species and Eupatorium spp.means that you are referring to 2 or more species in the genus Eupatorium.
An x in front of the genus indicates that the plant is a hybrid between 2 genera. This is relatively rare since few intergeneric hybrids are viable. One example we are studying this semester is x Heucherella an intergeneric cross between Heuchera and Tiarella. Sometimes people leave out the xвЂ™s, particularly with intergeneric crosses likeВ Heucherella.
Cultivar names and trade names:
Many of the plants we use in ornamental horticulture are specific cultivars. A cultivar is a вЂњCULTIvated VARietyвЂќ.В
A cultivar will have unique characteristics that distinguish the plant from others in the species.В
Which trees, and shrubs give pleasure by flowering early in the spring time?
Two of my all time favourites are Magnolia and Camellia, there are 100,s of varieties to choose from. They both offer colour, texture, scent and interest. Whether you have a large or small outdoor space or even just containers there is a variety which is suitable.
Magnolia Stellata or Star Magnolia is a small tree, or it can be grown as a shrub. It comes into bud in February before the leaves and will be in full bloom through March to April, the large white showy flowers are delicate and star shaped. They grow to about 2.5m to 3m high and 2.5m to 3m width. I have one in my garden under planted with spring daffodil, crocus, snowdrops it looks spectacular. Hardy to -20 degrees but flower buds may get frost damage.
Here for a visit, doesn’t stay long,
Like a brief, beautiful love affair
Other varieties can grow much larger and have star shaped or tulip shaped flowers in a range of white, pink, purple and yellow. Their flowering season ranges from early spring to summer, they are mainly deciduous but there are some evergreen varieties such as Grandiflora.
Camellias are also coming into flower now, they are perfect plants for spring colour, their pink rose like blooms provide a welcome splash of colour from pale, almost white pinks to deep rose/salmon pinks and lemony yellow. These are acid loving plants so they need to have ericaceous soil. They can be grown in containers provided they have the correct compost and plenty of drainage.
They are woodland plants so find them a shady spot in your garden and whenever possible use rain water for watering. They will be perfectly happy with these conditions. Hardy to -20 degrees but flower buds may get frost damage.
Syringa/Lilac trees offer the most delicious fragrance for your spring garden. Beautiful trees or shrubs and dwarf varieties are available that are happy in containers with white, lilac or deep purple flowers, the bees and pollinators love them! Planted in a sunny spot with good drainage they will flower their heart out. They flower on old wood so keep pruning to a minimum immediately after flowering is finished. Any dead or diseased wood needs to be pruned out to keep your shrub healthy. Hardy to -15 degrees.
Dicentra or Bleeding heart is a deciduous perennial with a shrub forming habit, it dies back each year, its delicate feathery foliage is just starting to appear now. Pretty heart shaped pink or white flowers are borne along gracefully arching stems.
There are so many plants to choose from to give spring colour and interest to your garden
Spring time is of course the time for perennials and bulbs,Perennial Plants. First Year Flowering nothing heralds spring quite like a swathe of golden daffodils, tete a tete, crocus, snowdrops, hyacinth, tulips the list goes on. These are bulbs that show up every year and make perfect displays for borders or containers. Easy to grow they delight the senses, I await them with eager anticipation. They are some of the most rewarding spring flowers.Gardening for Well-being, Why Gardening is Good for your Health.
I have spoken of Iris and Hellebore in previous posts… Plants for Winter Colour and
Summer Flowering bulbs... I can’t stress enough how essential these are for me and my garden, Hellebore are quite delightful and have been in flower from the end of January and will continue through spring.
Iris is one of the most elegant bulbs and comes in such a wide variety of colour combinations there is something for every garden style and scheme.
Perennial plants such as Bergenia, Pulmonaria, Aubretia, Alpines, Pansies, Primroses and Viola are all starting to put on their spring time show and again there are varieties to suit all tastes, Bergenia have lovely clusters of pink flowers that peek out from large oval green, variegated, red, burgundy leaves. I cut some of the leaves away so that I can see the flowers better. Pulmonaria is a marvelous ground cover plant with dainty, pink, lilac, blue or white flowers.
Many Ground Cover Plants are perfect for providing a wealth of spring colour, spreading carpets of foliage and pretty blooms. Check out my article of 20 best flowering ground cover plants for inspiration.
The list is endless! Such a wide choice of plants, shrubs, trees and bulbs. I can only mention but a few but I hope there is something here to inspire you to plant something for spring that will continue to give you pleasure for many years.Hardy Evergreen Flowering Shrubs
If I have inspired you to grow some spring colour in your gardens and you found this article useful and interesting please share with friends and family.
Any thoughts, views or questions can be added in the comments box below, I always reply as soon as possible.