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Perennial Plant of the Year- 'Jack Frost' Brunnera
by Sarah Browning, UNL Extension Educator
It's worthwhile for gardeners to check out plants recommended by several organizations each year, such as Nebraska Statewide Arboretum's Great Plants for the Great Plains and All-America Selections. The Great Plants program promotes plants that are well-adapted to Nebraska's challenging growing conditions, while All-America Selections tests and selects plants with good vigor and disease resistance. Another such program is the Perennial Plant Association's (PPA) Plant of the Year, www.perennialplant.org.
The Perennial Plant Association is a professional horticulture trade organization dedicated to improving the perennial plant industry by providing education to enhance the production, promotion and utilization of perennial plants. Selection of plants is simple; PPA members nominate plants for consideration and then vote for the best plant, usually out of three or four plants on the ballot. Plants are nominated based on several criteria, such as suitability to a wide range of climatic conditions, multiple seasons of ornamental interest, low maintenance, pest resistance, availability, and ease of propagation. Plant of the Year selections often have such good characteristics that at the time of their nomination they already are, or soon become, landscape and garden center staples. In past years, the program has promoted such great plants as 'David' phlox, 'Husker Red' penstemon, 'Goldstrum' rudbeckia, and 'Karl Forester' feather reed grass.
Following in that great tradition, the 2012 Perennial Plant of the Year is 'Jack Frost' Brunnera macrophylla. This family of plants, often called by its genus name Brunnera, is part of the borage family. The cultivar 'Jack Frost' has heart-shaped, silver foliage with green veins and clusters of small, baby blue flowers from mid to late spring. The flowers are held above the foliage and have a delicate, airy appearance.
Plants prefer moist, shady locations and do particularly well around a shaded water feature or stream bank. Morning sun is fine when adequate soil moisture is provided, but shade is necessary from mid-day through the afternoon for plants to be vigorous and healthy. If soil is too dry, even with sufficient shade, plants may go dormant during the summer.
'Jack Frost' forms mounds of silvery foliage that blend well in shaded locations with Hosta, Heuchera, Epimedium and other shade lovers, and will brighten up dark corners of your garden. The silver variegated forms of Brunnera do not spread aggressively, but can be used as a groundcover or in a shaded perennial border. Brunnera is usually not a favored plant by rabbits or deer, so could be a good choice if wildlife is a problem in your landscape. Hardy in Zones 3 to 8.
For more information, or to view pictures visit the Perennial Plant Association website, www.perennialplant.org. 'Jack Frost' has been in the nursery trade for several years and is already widely available, so check your local nursery or garden center for plants this spring.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension in Lancaster County is your on-line yard and garden educational resource. The information on this Web site is valid for residents of southeastern Nebraska. It may or may not apply in your area. If you live outside southeastern Nebraska, visit your local Extension office
Contact Information University of Nebraska-Lincoln in Lancaster County
Web site: lancaster.unl.edu
444 Cherrycreek Road, Suite A, Lincoln, NE 68528 | 402-441-7180