The entire plant turns deep purple, verging on beetroot, and demands the support of fiery neighbours such as bergenia
cordifolia (elephant's ears) and euphorbia characias (spurge).
Although it has been developed largely for use in greenhouses, I've found it very successful in the open garden, especially among primula and bergenia
produce spring flowers in white or pink and won't top 2ft.
They can be used to cover up any bare soil between mature shrubs with classic plant combinations such as Bergenia
crassifolia, Erica x darleyensis - known as Arthur Johnson - and Hedera colchica, or Sulphur Heart, to create impact at the drabbest time of the year.
Other plants that can give you that wow factor include bergenia
(Elephant Ears), acer palmatum hybrids, rheum palmatum (ornamental Rhubarb), cortaderia species (pampas grass), euphorbia species, yucca filamentosa (Adam's needle), kniphofia (red hot pokers), acanthus mollis (bear's breeches) and canna hybrids (Indian shot plant).
In early spring bergenia
, aka pigsqueak or elephant-ears, opens pink or purple blooms, followed by Solomon's seal, which grows arching stems dangling numerous white, bell-shaped flowers.
My clump of common Bergenia
cordifolia has bright lettuce-green leaves that will last through the winter.
You can set out annuals like calendulas, English daisies, pansies, primroses, snapdragons, stock, and violas and a host of flowering perennials, including bergenia
, bleeding hearts, and forget-me-nots.
Expert tip: Plant in shade with the round purple leaves of bergenia
, or between the burnished leaves of epimediums, and dot plants among drifts of snowdrops.
ALL through winter this valuable architectural plant, known more correctly as Bergenia
, has sat waiting for spring so that it can add to the festival of spring flowers that we all look forward to.
Good ground-cover plants include ivies with variegated or shapely leaves; lesser periwinkles, Vinca minor, Variegata, with gold-and-green foliage plus brilliant blue flowers; geraniums - the true form, cranesbill, not bedding pelargoniums - with red, pink or white flowers throughout summer; bugle, Ajuga reptans, with purple leaves and blue flowers; and bergenia
with "elephant ears" foliage and mauve winter flowers.
Some perennial favourites which will provide colour for much of the year and will survive at the seaside if they have some shelter from the wind include achillea, crocosmia, red hot pokers, potentilla, bergenia
, penstemon, geranium and zantedeschia.