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Brunnera Jack Frost – 2012 Perennial Plant of the Year – Growing Tips

Silver foliage Brunnera combines effortlessly with so many other shade plants

Since its discovery, Brunnera Jack Frost PP 13,859  has won numerous awards including Perennial Plant of the Year in 2012 and Best New Perennial of the Year at Plantarium, The Netherlands.  Jack Frost has warmed the hearts of many gardeners both new and experienced.   I can’t think of a more beautiful deer proof shade plant and one that is so adaptable in perennial garden design.

Few shade perennials have such interesting silver foliage throughout the season.  This clump forming perennial is  a versatile groundcover grows 15-18″ tall x 15-18″ wide.   Hardy to zone 5 (probably hardier)

In spring, small oblong leaves gradually grow into larger heart-shaped leaves after the conclusion of the flowering period. Beautiful, wispy panicles of sky blue flowers appear in early spring.

How To Grow

  • Does best in moisture retentive soil in part shade.  In my area of the country (Michigan) it can take some pretty dry shade.
  • Plant in area where it receives morning sun and afternoon shade.  Watch for too much sun or hot spots.
  • Don’t worry that the leaves are small in spring – they will get much larger (5-8″ across) as the plant grows.
  • Best in moist soil.  Add 3 inches of mulch to keep moist
  • If you notice crispy leaf edges – plants are getting too dry.  I ofte  cut these leaves all the way back. Plants might stay dormant for a while before flushing out with new foliage growth.
  • Cut back blooms after fading.  Plants stays more attractive that way.

Here’s what you’ll love about this plant

  • Silver shade plant.   Why is that important? Silver infuses light into dark corners of theDeer proof Jack Frost Brunnera for the shade garden shade garden
  • Foliage stays colorful and attractive throughout the season
  • Blue flowers in spring – which compliments spring blooming bulbs
  • Easy to grow – Prefers consistent moisture
  • Low Maintenance
  • Deer & Rabbit Resistant
  • No serious insects or disease issues
  • Late evening gardening – still visible at dusk
  • It’s just plain gorgeous!

Stay tuned for our  hands on Garden Design Tips with Brunnera in our next article

Read more:

Garden Design with Brunnera Jack Frost

Brunnera Jack Frost

7 Expert Tips for Shade Garden Success

White flowering Annabelle Hydrangea and gold Hostas inject light & energy in a shaded north facing location.

Over the years of gardening, I have found shade gardening required less time and maintenance than my sunny perennial borders. It also became a tranquil place to relax and unwind after a hectic day.

Here are a few shade gardening tips that are quick and easy to do while making your shade retreat a place you want to spend time in.

1) Consider the Grand Design. You can create the illusion of space by installing a gently curved pathway. Create shade by installing a pergola or umbrellas if you have open sunny areas.

2) Most shade loving plants benefit from some sun (preferably morning which is less harsh)  Light colored foliage plants brighten up shaded areas and look colorful all season. Gold Hostas and moneywort gradually transition from gold to bright yellow. Black leaf plants such as Heuchera Obsidian really depend on some sunlight to bring out the deepest black leaves possible.

3)  How to add light to deep shade

Don’t hesitate to limb up lower branches of trees and shrubs. Those tired and overgrown shrubs will not only have a fresh new look but more oxygen circulates creating a healthier environment.

4 )  Plant Selection & Foliage

Hosta, Hellebore & Fern combine well with their different textures and shapes. The combination of blues & greens are calming in a shade garden

The less sun available, the less energy there is for plants to produce a lot of  flowers that you would normally get in a sunny perennial garden.  You can create a beautiful setting with the right mix of foliage color, shaped & textures.  Blue and green foliage create a calming and comforting feeling in a shade garden.

5 ) Tough Areas

If you are having a hard time getting anything to compete with tree roots, grow your favorite shade plants in containers.  Sink pots in the ground between roots or add height with taller pots.

6)  Berm or Terrace

For problematic areas, consider a berm or terrace. Make sure you don’t cover more than a third of tree roots.  A raised bed will be easier to maintain and bring in plants closer to you for your enjoyment.

7) Shade Garden Success

If you are just starting out, select plants that are more WIDELY ADAPTABLE to various degrees of light and soil conditions.

Enjoy season long bursts of foliage color in the shade

I once had a shade garden that included hundreds of shade plants, but there were a handful that were able to tough it out better than others.  It was an easy care shade border that was beautiful 3 seasons of the year and a terrific place to unwind after a hectic day.  As the plants got bigger, they filled in nicely covering bare spots and reducing maintenance.

For gardening inspiration, check out these shade garden collections.

Our next article will feature 12 Best Shade Loving Plants for Your Garden.

10 Expert Gardening Tips on Growing Hakonechloa – The Most Elegant Shade Groundcover Ever!

Hakonechloa Aureola - the most elegant shade groundcover ever!

Hakonechloa produces a gorgeous mound of narrow, arching leaves  that is useful for bringing bright color to the shade garden. It has a graceful, almost tropical like habit and is considered by some to be one of the most stunning groundcovers for the shade garden. Two of the more popular varieties include  bright gold leaf All Gold and Aureola which has gold leaves with stripes of bright green.

I’ve known gardeners that have been  successful with growing Hakonechloa and others who struggle growing this shade loving groundcover.  Essentially, this is a slow growing shade perennial that takes more than a couple of years to become mature.

Design Tips

Hakonechloa works well in so many shade settings as a foliage plant. Use it singly, in containers, or mass as a ground cover in front of a shady border.  For inspiring design ideas & photography check out  Design Ideas with Hakonechloa –Elegant Shade Ground Cover. Since you get 3 seasons of foliage color it combines terrific with various colors of Heuchera.

1o Tips on Growing the most beautiful Hakonechloa ever!

1)     Soil. It thrives in a rich, somewhat acidic soil in well drained site. If you give them average soil, they will be small to average in size.

2)     Planting. Dig a hole 3 times the height & width of your container and fill in with good organic matter.  Take the time to do this because it will make a difference

3)    Exposure. Full sun to part shade.  Hakonechloa grows well in full sun (in the north anyway) Protect from the hot afternoon sun.

4)    Water. Hakonechloa require lots of moisture. Water frequently the first year. If you have an irrigation system – terrific.

5)    Keep away from tree roots. Best to plant near but not directly under trees or large shrubs. Depending on the type, tree & shrub roots are moisture & nutrient robbers.  Plants often will stay small and often struggle if competing with neighboring roots.

6)    Keep roots cool. Plant in a location where they will receive shade during the hottest part of the day.   Use 3” of mulch after planting to keep roots cool until plants become established.

7)   Feeding. Use a slow release fertilizer such as Osmocote according to package directions.

8)    Don’t cut back in the fall. If you are in a northern climate, wait until spring to either cut back or rake away previous year’s growth.

9)    Winter protection. My friend, Barb is a landscape designer in Minnesota (Zone 4) and use LOTS of Hakonechloa is in her garden design.  She uses pine boughs as a winter mulch. She has always been successful overwintering these plants.

10)   Planting & Spacing. I’ll often space Hakonechloa closer than other groundcovers (8-10” apart).  That way they fill in faster.  Plant in the spring so roots can establish themselves and be patient.

Container Growing

My friend Jayne, grows Hakonechloa in containers in her Zone 4 garden.  Here are her tips for container growing:

  • Use drip irrigation  (keeps the plants  evenly moist)
  • Slow Release liquid feed
  • Replace soil every 2 years
  • Bury the pots & cover with pine boughs for the winter

Growing Hakonechloa is a bit like reading Tolstoy’s War & Peace.  It is a bit of an undertaking, but don’t  let these proven  growing tips intimidate you from growing this magnificent shade loving groundcover in your perennial garden.

Where to Buy

Design Ideas with Hakonechloa – Elegant Shade Ground Cover

The leaves of Hakonechloa fall nicely in one direction along this shaded pathway

My friend Jayne is gardener in Minnesota  (Zone 4) who has been in LOVE with Hakonechloa and growing it as a shade ground cover for  as long as I can remember. There are few grasses that are both deer proof & elegant yet impart an exotic, almost bamboo look that provides up to 9 months of interest!  The two varieties that we are both pretty fond of are Aureola & All Gold which do a bang up job livening up any shade garden. There is a new variety called Fubuki which I’m anxious to try this year.

Adding blue pottery creates maximum contrast & energy in this small space

Line a Shaded Pathway.  Use Hakone grass along a shaded pathway where  their leaves fall in one direction.  The above picture shows a pleasing shade perennial combination with dark foliage  Actaea or Cimicifuga.

Create Contrast! The narrow foliage of Hakonechloa with the bold, rounded foliage of Hosta makes this combination interesting!

Add blue! Put some quick finishing touches to your garden design by adding blue pottery placed next to your plants.

Create Contrast! The narrow foliage combines elegantly with the bold, rounded foliage of Hostas.

Raise it! This gardener raised this container - to better appreciate the arching leaves!

Raise It! Elevate your containers on the shaded patio or garden where you can appreciate the cascading foliage.

Shaded Entryway.  Place Hakonechloa pots along a shaded patio entryway. This softens the entryway in addition to being more welcoming to guests.

Hakonechloa is a wonderful shade plant to add to the garden. I hope you  enjoyed a few garden design ideas. I’m anxious to hear about yours!

Garden Tip:  Hakonechloa will have a brighter appearance if it receives some morning or filtered sun.

We’ve got more valuable garden tips on how to have success growing Hakonechloa coming next!


The cascading foliage looks elegant & softens this patio entryway

Gardening with Hostas

Hosta JuneHostas are an all time favorite shade perennial – and quite honestly I’m pretty passionate about them.  I have found throughout my 25 years of gardening that I can plant them any time of the year the ground is not frozen.  They are as tough as a pair of old boots and speaking of boots you can even take an old pair and use them as a planter. I even dug out a few clumps one year in the middle of summer, left them in the garage, went on vacation for a week , then planted them and they did just fine

Hostas come in all kinds of sizes, shapes, colors and even blooms times.  Having grown over 300 of them at one time I do attest to some favorites.  Somebody once asked my what makes a Hosta a favorite – so here you go.

1)  I don’t  like those little holes that pop up all of a sudden in the leaves.  This is caused by slugs.   I have found over the years that slugs are drawn more to old varieties which have a thinner substance than many of the newer varieties with thicker substance.   As long as I know what  is filet mignon to them, I’ll stick with the newer stuff.

2)  Now that I’ve moved recently I have a lot more sunnier areas – so I like varieties that can do well in both sun and shade

3)  Hostas look great in the spring – but what about late summer & fall.  Hey – that’s when my gardening is really starting to kick in and sure don’t want any wimpy performers that start to shut down in August.

So here’s my I-can’t-live-without Hosta list:

June – nice medium size – just looks darn beautiful even into September

Stained Glass – wow can this take some sun  and the leaves are SO shiny

Touch of Class the name says it all

Sum & Substance – no garden should be without this beauty – it just gets bigger & more impressive every year.

Regal Splendor – Its the vase shaped style this is just awesome.

Hosta Sum and Substance

TIP: Grows the best in well drained soil & moist conditions.

COMBINATION IDEAS: If I had only 3 plants to use in a shade garden, they would be Hostas, Ferns &  Hakonechloa macra Aureola

by Mary Walters. www.GreatGardenPlants.com.

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