University of Illinois Extension

Perennial Plant of the Year 2012

The members of the Perennial Plant Association have voted and the Perennial Plant of the Year for 2012 is Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’, said a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.

Brunnera species have long been popular shade garden plants,” said Martha Smith. “‘Jack Frost’ was introduced in 2000 by Walter’s Gardens in Michigan and has quickly become a popular and dependable addition to our shade gardens.”

Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’ offers silvery heart shaped leaves with green venation and a thin green margin giving it the common name Heartleaf Brunnera. The other common name is False-Forget-Me-Not due to the dainty azure blue flowers that resemble true Forget-Me-Nots.

The charming blue flowers also have a lovely yellow eye and bloom for several weeks in the spring,” she said.

Brunnera species are members of the Boraginaceae family thus the blue flowers.

‘Jack Frost’ grows well in a wide range of USDA zones from 3 – 7 so it does well throughout Illinois. Foliage reaches 12” in height but add an additional four to six inches while in spring flower.

“It will spread to a 20-inch clump and it prefers a shady spot with moisture retentive soils. Morning sun is fine but midday shade is best especially in the heat of summer,” she noted.

It should be planted alongside spring bulbs especially late spring bloomers to complement the flowers. ‘Jack Frost’ does well with Japanese Painted Fern for the textural contrast and the color complements.

Purple and chocolate leafed Coral Bells contrast beautifully as do hostas, bleeding hearts and astilbes. Another great combination is alongside the 2009 POY Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’. After flowering, the lovely silver variegated foliage of ‘Jack Frost’ offers color all the way through fall.

“Another perk to adding ‘Jack Frost’ to your garden is the rough textured and slightly hairy leaves are not attractive to deer.” Smith noted. “ Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’ is difficult to propagate from seed because of the tendency to revert back to solid green so tissue culture propagation is preferred.”