Brunnera is a most excellent shade plant. Early in spring, its clusters of striking clear blue flowers draw the eye and remind us that the time of lush abundance will soon return. New blooms continue to appear all through April and into May, during which time the leaves grow from tiny little hearts to big and showy in their own right, so that by the time the wiry green flowering stems are removed, an attractive foliage plant with big fuzzy leaves of silver or cream (depending on variety) takes their place.
A nearby planting of Dicentra spectabilis 'Gold Heart' (Bleeding Heart) will make for a striking combination the memory of which even summer won't dispel. A mass of silvery leafed Brunneras can brighten even the darkest of spots, and help draw people into secluded areas.
Brunneras are also compact enough to make good container plants. They can help smooth the transition from winter's subdued pots to the floriferous annuals of summer, and their silvery foliage blends well with a wide variety of colors.
Some varieties you can find at Portland Nursery include:
Brunnera macrophylla 'Hadspen Cream'
'Hadspen Cream' has the usual forget-me-not style blue flowers plus very large leaves with an irregularly shaped, creamy edge. 12-18" high x 12-18" wide, hardy in zones 3-9
Brunnera m. 'Variegata'
'Variegata' has the same blue flowers and irregularly shaped leaf edge as 'Hadspen Cream,' but the edge color is white. 12-18"h x 12-18"w z2-9
Brunnera m. 'Jack Frost'
'Jack Frost' has blue flowers in spring, and heart shaped leaves are have their vein pattern outlined in silver (very cool!). The amount of silver on the leaves increases as the season goes on. 8-15"h x 8-15"w z3-9
Brunnera m.'Emerald Mist'
'Emerald Mist' is a sport of 'Jack Frost' and has heart shaped leaves splashed with large strokes of silver and profuse blue blooms from March through May. 12-14"h x 24"w z4-9
Brunnera m.'Looking Glass'
The silverest of them all, 'Looking Glass's' leaves are entirely glossy silver, giving the plant a bright, surreal look. Blue flowers spring. Think dusty miller for the shade. 18"h x 15"w z4-9. Photo credit to our supplier Skagit Gardens.
'Diane's Gold' has chartreuse leaves which help the blue flowers stand out. 12-17"h x 24"w z4-9
Common Name: Bugloss, False Forget-Me-Not
Origin: The only species in common cultivation, Brunnera macrophylla, is native to Eastern Europe and Russia including Siberia, hence its common name, Siberian Bugloss. The other two species extend its native range as far southwest as Lebanon; none are native outside Europe and Asia.
Culture: Brunnera grows well in morning sun to full shade, in all but the driest of spots. In hot afternoon sun, it will need moist soil or the leaves will burn, but in the shade occasional water is sufficient. It performs well even in heavy soils, and requires very little to look good all season.
Maintenance: A very hardy and easy to grow perennial, Brunnera requires only occasional water, cutting back in the fall (it is herbaceous) and deadheading at the end of its bloom time in May. Propagation is best done by division, and only as needed, since older, undivided clumps will have bigger leaves. Brunnera sometimes seeds itself in the garden; remove seedlings for a tidy appearance, or leave them for an eye-catching mass planting.
Pest and Disease: Pests and diseases are not generally a concern for Brunnera.