The Perennial Plant Association (PPA) has announced the 'Jack Frost' false forget-me-not (Brunnera macrophylla) as the Perennial Plant of the Year for 2012. Included here are some of my best pictures of this awesome perennial. I've long admired this perennial and have used it extensively at RBG and at home. We probably have 30 or so specimens throughout all of our shady and partly shady garden areas. Also called Siberian bugloss, brunnera and heartleaf brunnera, this perennial is hardy to zone 3 and really packs a punch with nice blue blossoms in spring (to the right) followed by the "cracked porcelain" look of frosty silver on the leaves. This perennial will get 12-15" high with a spread of 20" wide at maturity. This variety was originally found as a "sport" of the well known variety 'Langtrees' at Walters Gardens, Inc. in Zeeland, MI.
This perennial grows best in shadier areas with good moisture-retentive soils. Exposed to excessive sun and/or drought, 'Jack Frost' will exhibit leaf scorching and look less than ideal. This perennial is an excellent companion for hostas, ferns, barrenworts (Epimedium), coral bells (Heuchera) and other perennials that perfer shady, moist conditions. The silver coloring of the leaves offers some nice "illumination" in the shade garden and we've used it for that exact purpose at RBG. I've rarely seen any insect or disease issues and have noticed that the deer don't browse this plant due to the "sand papery texture" of the leaves. The silvering of the leaves gets more intense after the brief flowering period in May. I would certainly rank this as one of my favorite, low-maintenance perennials, particularly for part-shade.
With another nice, sunny day, we had plenty of volunteers come in to help out this morning. Directly above is the beginning of our vertical, "pallet planter" that Terry is working on this week. I've seen these used in the past and plants will be spilling out of all those openings. However, there are some preparations involved with getting these secured, stabilized and ready for planting. Terry will construct two of these that we'll use out in the Ornamental Edible & Compact Vegetable Collection. I envision using herbs and other edibles out the gaps and we'll even plant the top. Should be fun to try it. Marv worked on our new bowl planter project and ultimately ended up with a nice silver on the pot he was working on (to the right). We'll ultimately prepare 15 of these "elevated bowl planters" and six will be painted a metallic silver for use in our silver/white theme this year. Larry worked on pouring more bases for our tree signs and Dick H. (to the left) continued cutting more aluminum stakes for Larry. Vern, Dave, Jim and Bob A. continued their work on the garbage and recycling bins. Urban was out pruning in the entrance garden and Dick W. was out doing some early spring clean-up as well. Marianne came in to work on preparing labels, seeds and some other odd jobs. Luis continued woody plant label production on the engraver. We also saw Gary, Tammy T., Kris and others today. Dr. Gredler was in for more obelisk work and started a red to powder blue transition. Look how happy he is about this project (to the right). I worked on myriad projects and still need to finish some plant orders.
See http://rotarybotanicalgardens.org/youth-family-education/leap-day-family-fun for information on some fun family activities coming up at the end of the month. The evening of February 28th will be our next volunteer soup social (5 pm). Current, past and potential volunteers can RSVP at our gift shop by calling (608) 752-3885 (extension 0). I'll talk about Gardens of Philadelphia and many of our 2012 plans out in the gardens. I've already received two submittals for our 2012 Photography Contest (see our website for details) and one of our participants, Jim T., sent along some extra shots that he said I could use as needed. Two of his excellent shots are included below. The curly branched plant is the Harry Lauder's walking stick or contorted European filbert (Corylus avellana 'Contorta'). Check out the details on this fun event.