The hyacinths that I planted in the autumn are blooming profusely in my garden, but unless well looked after over the winter it is unlikely that they will bloom well next year.  As an alternative I thought of the Hyacinth look alike – the Bergenia – which is a strong perennial blooming every year even after total neglect, I call it the poor man’s hyacinth as it does look similar although it has no scent. It can also be used as a cut flower and will last well in water.

Botanical  Name: Bergenia.  Common Name: Large leaved Saxifrage, or Elephant Ears.

The common Saxifrage is a low growing plant with small rosettes of leaves throwing up short stalks with starry flowers, it was once very common in cottage gardens, the Bergenia is a much larger version in every dimension. The other common name is also derived from its large leaves, which look like the ears of an elephant.  I suppose they are similar to the more rounded and smaller ears of the Asian elephant  as the African Elephant has a triangular ear resembling the shape of Africa, Whichever elephant you choose; the leaves of this plant still come nowhere near even the size of a baby elephant!

Back to gardening – the plant has small funnel shaped flowers around a tubular stalk, the flowers range from white to pink to red, and the stalk often has similar colouring. They will grow in any soil even in partial shade. The leathery leaves will usually stay in winter, in many species the cold weather adds a further dimension to the plant changing the leaves to a copper colour.

It has a strong root system with spreading thick rhizomes. A small plant will soon spread to a large low growing clump with all year round ground cover qualities. They are hardly damaged by disease, their main enemy is the wine weevil, although they don’t actually kill the plants, the adult weevils love munching on the leaves leaving you with a pattern of notches all around the circumference of the leaf. [As pictured]

bergenia leaf eaten by vine weevil

TIP For Displaying your flowers.

Now that flowers from your garden are becoming more abundant everyone needs a few more vases; whilst vases can be pricey – instead look in the drinks department in large department stores – and you can find some bargain vases. Ikea sell a vase for a five pounds whilst a similar drinks pitcher costs just one pound, Matalan sell this drinking glass with a lovely stem for just £2 does it not look good as pictured here used as a vase?

drinking glass used as vase

So is that lovely vase of flowers on the dining table worth more than a drink? You have to be a gardener to appreciate it!

Good gardening ,

Boris Legarni .