Here are three splendid Brunnera macrophylla (Siberian bugloss) that make the garden a prettier place. Their charming spring flowers and decorative foliage make them a choice garden plant. These Brunnera, ‘Jack Frost’, ‘Looking Glass’, and ‘Mr. Morse’ handle a a northern climate and a shady garden very well.
Delightful Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’ combines silver and green etched leaves with sky blue flowers. These charming flowers will bloom for about six weeks in spring.
The lovely flowers are held in sprays above the foliage, making an airy cloud of blue floating above the plants. Jack Frost is the first of the Brunnera to flower in my garden, shortly after the leaves emerge.
In this spring photo, the ‘Jack Frost’ leaves are still small. By summer, they can be two or three times as big. Their silver leaves are great in the shade, making the most of a shadowy area. Since the green follows the lines of the veins, it makes patterns like stained glass, not random blotches. The green edging set off the silver nicely. The intricate patterns make each leaf a work of art.
These leaves of Brunnera grow large, and overlap, so they are very good at suppressing the growth of unwanted plants. The maple keys don’t grow through them, which saves a little work.
Brunnera macrophylla ‘Mr. Morse’ has exquisite green and silver leaves that are very similar to ‘Jack Frost’, but the flowers are white. the leaves appear slightly more green, and a little less silver.
If blue flowers don’t fit in with your colour scheme, or you want even more lightness, then ‘Mr. Morse’ would be a good choice. Although I have trouble thinking of anything that blue clashes with, since I think it coordinates nicely with everything else in the garden.
Here Mr. Morse is in front of an Athyrium filix-femina ‘Lady in Red’ (lady fern). I particularly like the combination of silver hearts and feathery fronds.
The fern and Brunnera were both still small at the beginning of June, but now they’ve grown to just touch at the edges, and it makes a very effective display.
Brunnera macrophylla ‘Looking Glass’ has a more overall silver cast to the leaves, combined with the same striking blue flowers as ‘Jack Frost’. In early spring, the leaves appear very similar to ‘Jack Frost’, with the same strong green patterns running along the veins. However by summer, they develop a much stronger overall silver colour, with very little green. If you are looking for a very light coloured perennial to reflect the maximum amount of light in the shade, then ‘Looking Glass’ is a great choice. In the above photo, you can see the last of the white Chionodoxa bubs flowering too.
All three of these perennials tolerate a fair amount of shade and root competition. Many of my Brunnera are planted right next to trees, some only 30 cm (1 foot) from a trunk, yet thrive just fine. Some other plants seem to have trouble competing with the willow roots, but the Brunnera grow satisfactorily. The plants in denser shade under the willow grow a little smaller than the ones in semi-shade.
This little Jack Frost got one of the worst sites, but still grows and blooms four years later. When I was planting this group under the willow, I had to plant between the roots. There was one small space between two roots, that was too small for the Brunnera root ball to fit. I shook off most of the soil from the root ball to make it fit, and stuck it in the tiny pocket anyways. Then I covered it with a thin layer of mulch. It looked fine from the top, but I knew that there was no real soil or space underneath. Although it is much smaller than all of the other Brunnera, it still grows those perfect leaves and little blue flowers every year.
Brunnera macrophylla take the cold winter of zone 3 with no problem. For all of their hardiness, they do not bother other plants, and don’t try to take over the garden. They don’t send out runners, or self seed to take over your garden. Brunnera hits the sweet spot that gardeners are always searching for – wonderfully hardy and easy care, but never annoying or trying to take over. Here is a post I wrote last year on Brunnera Jack Frost. I have some of these silver leafed Brunnera between spruce in my front garden, as well.
These three Brunnera macrophylla are wonderful additions to the garden, with their superb foliage and flowers, exceptional hardiness, and shade tolerance. Did I mention those beautiful blue flowers?