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Perennial Plant of the Year Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’

By Colleen

June 27th, 2012

      Gardening Tips                                          

Longtime readers of my column & blog know that I watch each January for the Perennial Plant Association’s choice of the Perennial Plant of the Year. Since 1990 this group has anointed a perennial each year with their crown of distinction.  The chosen one must be attractive, easy to grow in large swaths of America, not smitten by disease, fairly hardy, and readily available. In 2012 the award goes to Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’. A wise choice indeed. This 18-inch tall and wide plant boasts heart-shaped leaves of silvery white with green primary and secondary veins. It forms a hosta-like mound and is suitable as a specimen, in groups, or as a ground cover. It’s useful snugged into borders, in naturalized areas, damp woodlands or alongside streams.

Also known as Siberian bugloss, all brunneras including ‘Jack Frost’ enjoy shaded, moist locations, perfect for many Connecticut gardens. Another name for this plant is false forget-me-not for the spray of pretty blue flowers that decorate the plant in May, held above the foliage.

Happily, brunneras are largely deer-and-disease resistant, but do patrol for slugs. If small raggedy holes become apparent on the leaves, grab some organic slug repellent such as Slugg-O or Escar-Go and scatter at the base. These repellents are formulated with iron phosphate, and damage only slugs.

I grow brunnera ‘Jack Frost’ and its relative, brunnera ‘Variegata’ next to chelone ‘Hot Lips’ and fronting a couple of unnamed large hostas.  They’re tucked in next to an arbor over which scrambles honeysuckle ‘Alabama Crimson’ and nearby is a round patch of small hostas including ‘Pandora’s Box’, ‘Lakeside Cupcake’ and ‘Blue Mouse Ears’.  The only fertilizer my brunneras get is a scattering of Plant-tone each spring and some incidental Milorganite used to supplement by homemade deer repellent formula. ‘As with all perennials, you only get one chance to get it off to a good start, so site your new baby well, dig in some compost, and water sufficiently the first few weeks. Once established, brunnera should need no supplemental moisture, and even when not in bloom the variegated leaves will light up the shade garden.

An easy way to have a colorful, pest-resistant garden that glows all season is to choose Perennial Plants of the year. (see the listing at www.perennialplant.org  )  These attractive, disease-resistant selections make for a garden that’s almost heartbreak-proof. From 1990’s phlox stolonifera through today, you can’t go wrong.

In my personal patch, I grow many of the PPY’s and with one notable exception, love them all. (scabiosa ‘Butterfly Blue’ {2000} and I did not get on well together…. perhaps it wanted a more limey soil or more room to play)

Of the 22 plants, only two have I never even tried. Shasta daisy ‘Becky’ (2003) I don’t have enough sun nor space for, ditto for amsonia (2011). Feather reed grass ‘Karl Foerster’ (2001)  I had to give up on when the trees surrounding my property turned a sunny garden into a shaded one.

There are a few tricks of the trade to having a sumptuous garden in a short amount of time. Growing the tried and true Perennial Plants of the Year is a handy-dandy way to begin. Most independent nurseries carry ‘Jack Frost’ and its compatriots, in accordance with their designation as the best of plants. Look for them and enjoy!

 

 

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