February 26, 2011

Purple Paddles

Tired of snow.  Tired of rain.  Went to the photo archives and found an old friend from summer:

Bergenia 'Rosi Klose':
Fat glossy green leaves in summer .....

.... turn to purple red paddles in fall
Honestly, sometimes I hear the sound of applause coming from my back garden as Bergenia claps those broad, wide palms together in smacking approval.

This shameless self promoter is called Pigsqueak.  That's because the leathery leaves actually make a squealing sound when you rub them in your fingers.  A plant that squeals!  A plant with paddles big enough to applaud with!  Green in summer, deep red in fall, a low grower.  A wide, sun-snatching shape that complements every other form of foliage it grows near.  This is such a keeper.

MoBot file photo
but you have to be on your knees to see this bloom detail
Perennial profiles always show you the little spikes of Bergenia cordifolia's pink (or white) flowers and tell you this is a charming spring bloomer.  No it isn't.  My Rosi Klose has the typical little wands of flowers, but they pop up in earliest spring when the overwintered foliage of Bergenia is ratty and wasted.  The flowers are not why you want this glossy groundcover in your shady damp garden.

It's the paddles of foliage.  It's the squeak when you rub the leaves.  It's the fall color.  And it's the sound of applause you hear on late summer nights, as Bergenia puts those big clappers together to celebrate being in your garden.

13 comments:

  1. I have the same feelings regarding bergenia. Much like hostas the spikes of flowers don't do much for me, it's the big glossy leaves that I adore.

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  2. Marguerite, exactly! I don't care for the ungainly hosta flower spikes either. but the foliage is another thing.

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  3. Hi Laurrie, I used to have this plant but it disappeared on me. I think my garden is a bit dry for it to do well. When I put in the pond I have been dreaming of it might find a home nearby. My ego is not so great that it couldn't use the boost of a little applause now and then.

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  4. I've got a couple of struggling plants and I know why they're struggling - they really prefer alkaline soil. I never remember to lime them when I do the lilacs and hellebores...You see them growing in great drifts in gardens in Seattle and the U.K. and they are just stunning. Your fall color is beautiful on this one.

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  5. I never heard of Pigsqueak. That is so cool that it squeals. The Bergenia really is a great textural plant, and I love that color in a garden too.

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  6. Jennifer, I have abused my Bergenia by moving it three times in the first year and dividing it when it was still too small in the second year and still it thrives. You should try Bergenia again!

    Cyndy, good to know about the lime, I'll have to sprinkle some to make sure they stay happy where they are.

    Donna, Isn't Pigsqueak the greatest name? Love it!

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  7. I am just green with envy. I have tried to grow berginia so many times. I thought I had finally found a spot it would survive here.It did for about 2 years. Then last summer the drought hit. It didn't stand a chance even with watering. Sigh~~ I guess I will just not try any more. I do love the plant though.

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  8. Lisa, most commenters here have had poor experiences with Bergenia. Mine are doing well, I'm not at all sure why!

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  9. I'm so glad you featured this plant, Laurrie. I've been looking at in catalogs and gardening books and thought it looked interesting. I may have to try one in the garden--alkaline soil is not a problem here.

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  10. Rose, I hope you do try it and let us know how it does. Several commenters here have not been able to keep Bergenia alive in their gardens.

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  11. Jane Nadel-KleinMarch 3, 2011 at 2:39 PM

    I have some bergenia outside my kitchen door, lightly shaded. Never flowers, but the leaves are great. No idea what variety, but I'll try to make it squeak this summer.

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  12. Jane, I've seen your Bergenia by your kitchen door, and they are absolutely beautiful. Yours are very large-leaved. Mine has quite petite leaves and is only a few inches high. I hope yours squeals!

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  13. Thank you for sharing the Bergenia Rosi Klose. My father cultivated many plants but it is so good to now my mom will be in may gardens around the world.

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