The leaves of this choice species are large- up to 30cm across, well rounded and covered in tiny hairs. Bergenia ciliata makes a large clump, but considerably less dense than most bergenias. The flowers are pink, held erect and slightly fragrant. Slightly more tender than the more robust species and deserving of a spot with some shelter, especially for the flowers. Foliage will die back somewhat in winter. Leaves colour red in Autumn. Native of Afghanistan and Tibet. Prefers cool moist shade.
Bergenia are native of damp rocky woodland and meadows and in cultivation are remarkably easy to grow in either sun or light shade in anything but the most boggy or dry, hot sites.
They are valuable for their bold, glossy leaves that are, in most varieties, evergreen. Frequently they colour spectacularly in Autumn and Winter taking on rich red tones that make them a significant garden feature. In some cultivars and species, notably Bergenia ciliate, Bergenia stracheyi and Bergenia x spathulata, the larger leaves are often lost in colder weather. The lovely twists in the leaves and rich colouring make them excellent candidates for the flower arranger. They make excellent ground cover. They make excellent alternatives to Hosta on drier and windier sites.
The flowers are largely in the white to ruddy pink range, held in dense heads in Spring. Bergenia emiensis and its hybrids have recently brought more open heads of lax flowers into the mix. Flowering is better in plants grown in sites with more light and ample moisture.
Bergenia can be grown very successfully in pots and were once favourite edging plants with Gertrude Jekyll.
Early breeding was undertaken by Mr T.Smith of Newry, using Bergenia cordifolia and Bergenia purpurascens. Whilst many of the original cultivars, praised by William Robinson, are now lost, breeding has continued by Arends and Klose and more recently by Eric Smith and Jim Archibald. Bergenias have now been so intensively interbred that few of the modern cultivars are assigned to any particular species.
Bergenia is named after the German Botanist Karl August von Bergen (1704-60) who made an extensive catalogue of plants from his surrounding area ‘Flora Francofurtana’ Bergenia originate in Eastern Asia.
Begenia was previously known by the name Megasea.
Bergenia – Saxifragaceae