Is it possible to have a favourite plant in spring? With so many varieties appearing with the lengthening days and vying for attention, it seems almost invidious to select just one species to the exclusion of all the others. However, I do have to admit to a degree of favouritism when it comes to Brunnera macrophylla, the Siberian Bugloss or ‘Great Forget-me-not’. It is simply a really useful plant and well worth growing, whatever your garden.
A member of the Borage family, it grows from a rhizome rather than a tap root, producing a clump of large, usually heart-shaped leaves and can be found as a strong fresh green, or a beautiful variegated form, patterned with white, It is relatively slow growing, reaching a height of 45 cm and spread of 60 cm after five years, but can be contained by division and propagation by root cuttings in winter if your clump is starting to look rather jaded. Slugs leave it alone too.
It has the happy habit of growing in sun or shade, though it prefers a cool site in partial shade and grows best moist but well drained soil. It is not picky about acid or alkaline, chalk, sand or clay. If you don’t dead-head after flowering, it will self-seed but not annoyingly, and the young plants can be lifted and moved without risk.
The flowers are held in fine sprays above the foliage on slender stems. Varieties to look out for are
– Jack Frost, with striking silver marbling on the leaves
– Betty Bowring, with green leaves and white flowers
– Langtree has darker green leaves with white marks around the edges and flowers may be a slightly darker, vivid blue
– Hadspen Cream has a deep margin of cream round the leaf edges
There is also Brunnera macrophylla ‘Dawsons White’ (was B.m. Variegata) which has striking lemon edges to the rounded leaves
Finally, the Brunneras are in flower from the warmest March days through to June after which their leaves will be faded and tired so shear them off and give the plants a feed and you will soon have beautiful new foliage and the occasional spray of blue flowers throughout the summer.
It is a plant which punches above its weight, masking spent foliage from early bulbs, under-planting roses until they get going, is low maintenance and works in formal and informal settings too. When planning a garden design I try to include them as they seem to flourish particularly well in this part of Sussex. They are readily available from reputable nurseries.