Plant of the moment

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Bergenia

Dig up your hostas, the bergenia is a far better proposition. Not only is this plant more hardy and its flowers more attractive, it's also off the menu for slugs and rabbits

Hosta, schmosta. Every garden centre worth its salt now has two million varieties of the wretched things, in two million shades of well-bred green. Of course, plant purveyors love to sell them, because no sooner have they been planted than they are razed to the ground by hungry slugs. So, hostas, enough already! Especially as there is a substitute eagerly waiting on the bench. The bergenia (unfortunately also known as elephant's ears) is a breeze to grow, completely hardy, and its attractive round leaves are leathery enough when the plant is mature to provide some slug-resistance. (Apparently, rabbits also do not find it toothsome.) And while hostas produce gruesome, limp, flower-spikes in summer, which look like alien growths, bergenia flowers are petite and charmant, in pink or white. What's more, they appear as early as February, while the rest of the garden looks like a blasted heath. Some varieties even fade to an interesting purple in the autumn and winter, when hostas have long since suffered their cold-season collapse. As approved by Gertrude Jekyll and Beth Chatto - what's good enough for Hestercombe and Elmstead Market is certainly good enough for everyone else.

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