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2012 Perennial of the Year

PERENNIAL OF THE YEAR by Jean Atkinson, Richbar Golf & Gardens

Perennial of the Year for 2012 is Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’. The winning plant must fill the criteria set out by the Perennial Plant Association.

First, it must suitably grow in a wide range of climatic conditions. Lucky for us Brunnera ‘Jack Frost will grow in zone 3. It does well in partial to full shade, preferring a moist soil .Add some organic matter such as compost or peat moss to your soil at planting time. Top dressing with a couple of inches of bark mulch or old leaves to retain moisture around the plant. Once established, Brunnera is drought tolerant. Plants with silver foliage are tough and thrive in drought, heat and cold.

The Perennial of the Year must be relatively pest and disease resistant. Neither slugs nor deer seem to be attracted to Brunnera. Apparently the deer don’t like the rough leaf texture. Just remove any tattered leaves and old flower stems throughout the growing season. They aren’t invasive and can be easily divided every 3 years in the spring.

The winner must also possess multiple seasons of ornamental interest and be readily available to gardeners. I’m going to be totally honest here and admit that I’m not the biggest fan of silvery spotted foliage. It reminds me of a virus riddled mutant plant! I’m sorry if I have offended any of you, but really, Pulmalaria? I rest my case. But I do like ‘Jack Frost’.

The heart shaped leaves are more silver than green. Sprays of delicate forget-me-not blue flowers appear in spring and seem to hang around for long time. The big bright foliage brightens up any shady spot from spring to fall. Use this plant in the front of the shady border or in a container. It grows in a tidy mound 45cm x 45cm.

It can be easily combined with other shade loving plants. The colour silver, links green and white in the garden creating a cool palette. For a simple and calming planting combination, use the green ruffled foliage of Hosta sieboldiana ‘Elegans’ in the background, ‘Jack Frost’ in the middle and white impatiens in front. Too subdued for you? Instead of the white impatiens, use hot pink or a mix.

In a container, plant ‘Jack Frost’ alongside the new white ‘Baby Wings’ begonia which is also heat tolerant and can grow in either sun or shade. I’m a huge fan of the pink Baby Wings begonia. It has to be one of the best annual performers out there, so nice to have another colour.

The Hosta of the Year is ‘Liberty’. I will try to squeeze this one into my garden. The thick dark green leaves are edged with a beautiful wide golden yellow border. The 100cm semi-upright clump makes quite a statement in the landscape. It is a sport of ‘Sagae’ and if it is like its parent plant it will be a winner. Thanks go out to Joan Murphy for putting me onto ‘Sagae’.

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