Perennial Plant Pick for 2012: Jack Frost Brunnera

by Genevieve on January 5, 2012

Jack Frost Brunnera 2012 Perennial of the Year

I have mixed feelings about the Perennial Plant Association’s plant pick of 2012. I mean, I love it and all. Jack Frost Brunnera (Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’) is one of those shade plants that seems to thrive wherever you stick it, looks elegant and classy in a variety of gardening themes, and is unusual enough that when I plant it, clients say marvelous things about my fine taste for having chosen such an aesthetically-pleasing plant.

That, of course, is all over now.

Remember Geranium ‘Rozanne’? She was a lovely, exotic, unusual beauty too, in her time. But then she won 2008 Plant of the Year, and it changed her. Soon she was seen in parking lots, cavorting with the trashiest of Stella d’ Oro daylily/ Crimson Pygmy barberry combinations.

And what about golden Japanese forest grass? Now that was a looker. Went in English perennial beds, modern minimalist combinations, and ran the gamut in between. Until its gracious good looks and amicable growth habits landed it the 2009 Plant of the Year award, and it too became common.

Don’t get me wrong. These are some of my favorite plants! It’s right they should receive such an honor. But the last time I wrote about my darling ‘Rozanne’, I received mocking – mocking - emails from pals in the trade, saying, “oh, Rozanne is sooo 2007″.

So it was with sentimental feelings that I read about Jack Frost’s latest accolades. Yes, he deserves it. A finer specimen of shade perennial-hood is hard to find. But for folks in the trade, this award signals a fall from grace of kinds.

Brunners 'Jack Frost' flowersOh, we’ll still plan his curved spiderwebbed foliage into our shady garden corners. But after this year of promotion and popularity, it will be with a kind of ironic sadness. A feeling that we knew him way back when he was a rare little shade-lover, still needing a champion to urge him into the hands of uncertain homeowners. When we see him in the Target parking lot, we’ll know he’s really made it.

Will he still be our kind of plant? Only 2013 will tell.

If you invite him into your home, just don’t let him hit the Miracle-Gro too hard. Excess fertilizer can get him into trouble with the snails and slugs, and you know how much fun that can be.

Photos courtesy the Perennial Plant Association.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Erin @ The Impatient Gardener January 5, 2012 at 10:44 am

Is that really what you find your clients saying? That they aren’t interested in a plant if it’s not unusual enough? That’s so sad to me, because as you point out all of those plants are really, really nice plants (and I have all of them in multiple numbers … especially Hackenachloa -sp? – which I sort of wonder if I ‘ll ever fall out of love with). Of course it gives plant breeders a reason to go to work in the morning … to create the next best thing.

Nine years ago, the first thing we planted after we bought our house was a Serviceberry tree my mother-in-law bought for us. At the time (around here at least) it was relatively uncommon. Now there are Serviceberry trees in every Target parking lot in the state. Our city just planted about 300 of them on a street. But that doesn’t make me love my Serviceberry any less. In fact, I get a bit of smug satisfaction from knowing I had it first. Aren’t I just the smartypants?

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Genevieve January 5, 2012 at 11:02 am

LOL, no, Erin, I’m just being tongue in cheek. My clients actually love the tried-and-true, and I take pleasure in giving that to them if that’s what their lifestyle, aesthetics, and garden call for. I’ve written about this before: http://northcoastgardening.com/2010/08/independent-garden-center-advice/

It’s really the pros that get jaded. Pals in the nursery trade and designers who read all the magazines definitely get a “been there, done that” exhaustion with the same-old, same-old. Ever wonder why twisted, sickly-looking variegated things are sometimes lauded by the garden press or landscaping pros? It’s because we get a weird kind of blindness to the beauty of the ordinary, and long for something new.

It also explains why so many cooking professionals are now moving to using foam accents on their food. I don’t know anybody who thinks to themselves that they want a pile of shrimp-flavored foam on their steak, but boredom makes people do weird things.

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Erin @ The Impatient Gardener January 5, 2012 at 2:09 pm

Whew. Thank goodness. I just love little Jack Frost (and Looking Glass even more) for so many reasons, not the least of which is it’s charming itty bitty bright blue flowers. As for foam on food, yuck. Gross. I know that was a big thing on Top Chef and one of the judges said it looked a little bit like cat puke.

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Genevieve January 5, 2012 at 9:06 pm

Cat puke! Yes, yes it does!!

I am with you, all the Brunnera varieties are so sweet and exotic at the same time. Their little blue flowers? Heart shaped leaves? Count me in.

And I so relate to what you said about Serviceberry: “In fact, I get a bit of smug satisfaction from knowing I had it first. Aren’t I just the smartypants?” – awesome.

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Jay Hutchins January 5, 2012 at 11:30 am

I hear ya! Not sure if Purple Coneflower or Hostas were part of this line up in the past, but for years now, you see them EVERYWHERE! Last year on a business trip I attended bus tours of 5 or 6 home gardens. Stop #1…”Nice. Hostas and Purple Coneflowers.” Stop #2….”Oooo, look, Hostas and Purple Coneflowers.” Stop #3….”Wow, changed it up this time, Purple Coneflowers and Hostas.” Stop # 4….”I’ll be on the bus checking email.”

Over exposure leads to overuse which leads to a feeling much the same as your favorite song being played on the radio every hour. This is a beautiful plant and a good choice, but I, too, worry about it being in every home, garden center, strip mall and parking lot creating a “there goes the neighborhood” feeling about it.

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Genevieve January 5, 2012 at 9:08 pm

Jay, this is one of the reasons I love your company so much. Off the beaten path, unusual varieties that let you take the tried and true and give it a little twist of interestingness.

I am snickering about your scenario on the bus. . . And the way you described the feeling of hearing your favorite song on the radio, every hour on the hour – yes. You expressed it perfectly.

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Dell January 5, 2012 at 2:15 pm

We have here at home, exactly looks the same with Brunnera. I think it’s one of Brunnera’s family. My wife transferred it in a small pot and made it as indoor decoration. When you are planning to have this kind of plant, make sure that you trim or cut it once in awhile to prevent from mosquitoes. They love to live there. Just be more cautious.

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