Two centuries ago, when this evergreen perennial was brought from Asia and successfully cultivated in the UK, it got the funny name "elephant's ears" for the shape and size of its leaves. Today, known in Europe under the official botanical name of Bergenia (Bergenia), it grows in almost every garden.
In Russia, it is called badan, and the clumps of this plant are habitually crowned with rocky hills of private estates. Despite its wide popularity, few people know about the medicinal properties of badan and few are familiar with the wide possibilities of using badan in modern landscape architecture.
From leaves and rhizomes berry ciliate (Bergenia ciliata Sternb.) and badan reed (Bergenia ligulata Wall.) get bergenin (Bergenin) - a powerful immunomodulatory substance and paschnabhead (Paashaanbhed), one of the strongest drugs in Ayurveda. Overwintered leaves badan thick-leaved(Bergenia classifolia) has long been brewed and drunk like tea in Siberia and Mongolia.
Badan is an unpretentious and very “convenient”, easily adaptable plant. A native of Asia, in nature it grows in places with extreme temperature fluctuations: on mountain slopes, in crevices of the shady side of rocks, on stony taluses, along mountain streams, under the canopy of foothill coniferous forests and even in high-mountain tundra. Lighting conditions can be very diverse - the sun, light diffused light through loosely closed tree crowns, shadow, partial shade - everything is suitable for this hardy wanderer.
It is also undemanding to soils - it grows well on stony and medium loams, and even on heavy, dense clay soils. In addition, the soil layer can be very thin, since the root system of the berry is horizontal, superficial. Does not like badan only stagnant water. All of the above makes it possible to widely use badan not only in country gardens, but also in difficult urban conditions.
The thick leaves of evergreen bergenia will survive even under snow, and the only thing that can seriously damage their decorative effect in winter is stagnant and frozen water in the soil. When choosing plants for planting, pay special attention to the type and variety. The most common species in gardens is badan heart-leaved(Bergenia cordifolia)based on which, as well as incense purple(Bergenia purpurascens) and Badana Strechi(Bergenia strachei) a large number of decorative varieties have been created. Especially good varieties with medium-sized ovoid bright red leaves, such as the variety of berry purple Wintermarchen or Eric Smith, create a uniform and textured cover.
The main condition for the successful agrotechnology of badan is good drainage to avoid stagnation of water. Since the plant is durable, then, if possible, it is not transplanted for many years. With age, it forms crowded solid thickets, the leaves become slightly smaller and form a smoother cover. It is recommended to divide the berry immediately after flowering in June or later - in August, cutting thick rhizomes with a sharp knife or shovel. In optimal habitats, maintenance is not required. If the soils are poor, then the color of the leaves will be brighter, if the soils are rich, the flowering will become more magnificent.
In May-June, bergenia throws out thick stems with inflorescences. From suppliers you can find varieties that bloom in August. Its flowers are quite unusual and exquisite, they look exotic and sophisticated when cut. Cherries, plums and bulbs - tulips and daffodils - bloom at the same time as badan. In groups with them, it will provide a stable green dense cover. Currently, numerous varieties have been bred with purple, pink, lilac and white inflorescences. But the most valuable decorative properties, from my point of view, are not inflorescences, but the leaves of bergenia - large, textured, leathery, reddening by autumn.
I note that badan, thanks to the powerful architectonics of its foliage, is well combined with architectural objects: retaining walls made of natural stone and brickwork, small architectural and garden forms, garden fences, various types of paving. For example, on the terraced slopes of the historic landscape park under the walls of the Quinta da Regaleira Masonic castle in the city of Sintra (Portugal), badan has grown wildly in the ancient retaining stone walls. Gradually, he filled the entire lower tier in sunny areas and in the shade. It is important to note that, having formed a dense above-ground cover, bergenia does not allow weeds to grow, leaves the soil moist, therefore, relieves us of labor-intensive care.
In the Royal Baroque Garden of Herrenhausen, in Hannover, Germany, you can see some of the techniques for using incense in historical regular and modern linear planning. In both cases, it grows on flat terrain along gravel paths. In the shade of bosquets and old park trees in the round classic flower beds of the old garden, badan forms a dense and voluminous lower tier under the bushes. In the prince's private garden, renovated in a modern linear style by the Swiss landscape architect Guido Hager, incense is planted in the shade of lindens in narrow borders along the paths. By tying together in the plan the upper canopy of linden crowns overhead and the green carpet of badan leaves at the bottom, it was possible to form a continuous green corridor and a calm, intimate recreation area. In both cases, a non-blushing badan variety was chosen (for example, Baby Dol'l, Herbstblate, Morgenrate, Silberlicht), which forms a bright emerald cover until late autumn.
The bright picturesque appearance of badan is widely used in modern landscaped gardens and parks. In the autumn landscapes of the Sapokka water park in Kotka (Finland) at the very top of the hill, the badan leaves that turn red towards autumn look very expressive, creating a picturesque bright under cover in a group of common mountain ash(Sorbus aucuparia), mountain pine (Pinus mugo) and barberry Thunberg (Berberis Thunbergii).
The endurance of bergenia, the quick recovery of leaves after damage, allow it to be placed in places subject to heavy loads. Badan is successfully used in the design of eco-parking at the building of the Institute for Research and Environmental Protection in Dusseldorf (Germany); along the footpaths leading to the open auditorium of a small church in Joensuu, Finland; along the city sidewalks and embankments of Hamburg. All these territories with a high degree of anthropogenic load and environmental pollution are well developed by badan.
Drought resistance, shallow root system, decorative folded leaves, exotic inflorescences make it possible to use badan in container gardening. The modest but expressive silhouette of the plant allows it not to get lost even in large modern pots, and the dense texture and soft shades of foliage are in perfect harmony with classic terracotta.
The creeping rhizome creates prospects for the use of bergenia in vertical gardening. The famous designer of "living walls" Patrick Blanc has already put it on the wall of the legend of modern green architecture - the building of the Museum of Culture of Asia, Africa and Oceania on the Quai Branly in Paris. It is possible that in our harsh conditions such unusual habitats will be suitable for the growth of badan.
Summing up, we can say that well-drained sunny and semi-shady places, retaining walls, curbs along paths and fences, any areas with an insignificant soil layer are the most suitable for badan. In order to most clearly show the decorative qualities of badan, form massive arrays and curtains of large area. It is the extended areas that reveal the contrasting play of shadows on large foliage. In general, a catchy and stylish incense is able to expand our understanding of the range in modern urban landscaping.
Photo by the author
"Landscape solutions" No. 1 (12) - 2012