Welcome to the inaugural plant profile post. I want to make this blog a helpful resource, and I thought profiling some plants might be a way to do just that. I know there are a number of sources of plant information on the web, but I've never found one that gave me all the information for which I've been looking. The plant profiles on Instrument of Grace will feature all the kinds of information I want to see, and if there's something missing, please add a comment and let me know what else I can provide to help you.
I have to blame Garden Rant for my love affair with Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost.' About a year ago, there was a post about Brunnera. I have a lot of both wet and dry shade, and Brunnera was perfect for shade. It also was drop-dead gorgeous, and I had to have some. But the cost . . . . Yes, Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost' is expensive. I found it at a local garden center for $18.99 for a tiny plant. The price was the same at Dutch Gardens online. Even though they are not my preferred online plant source, when Dutch Gardens had their summer clearance, I snapped up three for 8.99 each. That's a bargain, in my opinion. I agree with Michele of Garden Rant that the price is too high, but I'm really glad I bought these plants.
A group of three Jack Frost Brunnera is pictured at left. While the general rule for perennials is "first year sleep, second year creep, third year leap," I found Jack Frost to be a bit precocious. I'd have to say it was "first year creep, second year leap" for my plants which are planted in almost full shade in only slightly improved, heavy clay soil.
The first year, some of the plants appeared to rot a bit, and I was afraid I'd lost them, but they almost leaped out of the ground this spring. They've put on quite a long-running flower show, even though our spring has been wet and quite cool. I'm not sure if the cool spring delayed flowering, so I'll have to see when they start blooming next year.
Here's a comparison between three plants planted this spring, on the left, and three planted last spring, peeking out from Nandina on the right. You can see a huge difference in the sizes of their leaves, and the newer plants are less than half the size of the year old ones.
Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost'
Sun: Part shade to almost total shade
Size: 12-18 inches in height and spread, flowers extend above foliage
Moisture requirements: Medium to low but will tolerate heavy, somewhat damp soil. Some gardeners have had good success with dry shade but others have not. Tolerates a variety of soil conditions from somewhat alkaline through neutral to acidic.
Foliage: Heart shaped leaves, light green with heavy silver overlay, veining in green. The leaves are small before the plant blooms. Once blooming is complete, the leaves get much larger, almost making it look like a different plant. In the photo below, you can see both the smaller leaves and the oncoming larger ones.
Blooms: Mid April to early May (in the Mid-Atlantic, somewhat later bloom time as you go North and earlier as you go South)
Flowers: Blue, very true blue in clusters of small flowers held above the foliage
Propagation: Reportedly easy to divide, but I have not yet tried it.
Pros: Deer and rabbit resistant and somewhat slug resistant, establishes quickly, tolerates a wide variety of climates and conditions, has true-blue flowers and provides foliage interest all season
Cons: Patented plant variety (PPAF) so asexual propagation is prohibited; won't take foot traffic (but who would want to walk on it?)
The photo above shows the heart-shaped leaves with their lovely silver overlay and green veining.
This photo shows the intense blue of the flowers and how they are carried in clusters.
I give Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost' two enthusiastic green thumbs up, and I'll be adding more to my garden. I'd love to know about your experiences with this plant.