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March's Featured Conservation Plant

Bergenia ‘Pugsley's Pink’ AGM

This month’s featured plant has been part of the Conservation Scheme since 2001, when it was put forward by a member of the Somerset Group as a good plant that was not widely known or available. It gained an RHS AGM in the Wisley Bergenia Trial in 2007-9 when it was entered by the Beth Chatto Gardens, but in spite of this it is only listed by one nursery in the RHS Plantfinder 2016. (There was also a Bergenia ‘Pugsley's Purple’ now no longer listed in the Plantfinder.) They were bred by H.C. Pugsley who started his horticultural career at the John Innes Institute in Merton, South London in World War 1. The Institute was originally a training school in advanced horticulture for gardeners, a fruit-breeding research station for the Board of Agriculture and a national centre for horticultural experimentation and research including early work on plant genetics. It is not known in what capacity Mr Pugsley was there, whether a member of the gardening staff or involved in research, but the work of the Institute was severely disrupted by the War.

Belonging to the Saxifragaceae, bergenias, (originally called megaseas), differ from most saxifrages in having large, leathery, undivided and glossy foliage. Most garden bergenias are hybrids between the six or more species native to the Himalayas. B. ‘Pugsley’s Pink’ may be a x schmidtii cross.

Bergenia ‘Pugsley’s Pink’ has compact foliage with flower stems appearing above the leaves in spring and bearing clusters of showy purple-pink bell-shaped flowers. The main flowering period is March, but a further flush of flowers may occur later in the season. The foliage is evergreen and takes on a deep red colour in winter, returning to green through the summer. It does well on clay soils, but tolerates a wide range of conditions and is happy in sun or part shade. Propagation is not difficult either by division of the rhizome or by basal cuttings. Vine weevil may be a problem, with adults disfiguring the leaf edges and larvae eating away the rhizome.

Many local HPS groups have had this plant over the years, but it does not seem to have gained in popularity, perhaps because bergenias are rather out of favour today. I would welcome any comments from you if you grow Bergenia ‘Pugsley’s Pink’, whether you love it or hate it, and especially if you know anything more about Mr Pugsley and his bergenias.

Posted by Jan Vaughan

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