WHAT makes a plant special?
Garden writers, myself included, like to describe certain plants as being 'full of character', but what does this really mean?
An exotic scented lily has obvious distinctions (and oodles of charm and character) but what about a fascinating fuchsia or humble spring anemone?
Don't these have character also? Certainly, so character has little to do with size, rarity, or ostentation. I think it’s harder to nail than that.
Take two plants of similar colour, size and growth habit.
One might be full of character and the other look like a weed - it all depends on qualities which we value individually and see in some plants, never in others.
For all that, when it comes to a tidy, leafy grower called Brunnera Jack Frost, we have a plant so full of character that the word 'dramatic' could be added as a descriptive adjective.
This member of the borage family may be slow in clumping up at the beginning, but once it has settled itself, it puts on great spurts of luscious growth from mid-spring, year in and year out.
Jack Frost differs from the early-flowering common Brunnera macrophylla (which produces a cloud of little blue flowers above stubble-haired leaves in March) in its heavily veined aluminium foliage, superimposed on mid-green, heart-shaped leaves (see illustration).
The effect is sublime, and it oozes sophistication and character.
I grow my specimen in a sky-blue, glazed pot which stands outside the kitchen door, and all through summer it has been a feature hard to grow tired of admiring.
I mention ‘all through summer’ for other Brunneras (and indeed other variegated and coloured foliage plants) are generally at their freshest and best in spring, when they have yet to suffer the leaden oppressiveness that strikes in mid to late summer.
Not so with Jack Frost, for this will look as cool and luscious in August as in early April.
Be guided in its requirement for dappled shade, so avoid a position in hot scorching sun which could easily ruin it complexion.
For this reason, treat it like a hosta, placing it in lightly shaded ground which does not dry out in summer. Alternatively, use it in a pot, sited away from direct sunshine.
As I write, Brunnera Jack Frost is emerging from winter slumber and beginning to produce sky-blue flowers which are likened to forget-me-not.
Bear with these (they are, I assure you, quite attractive) or remove with secateurs, for their main beauty is in that striking foliage, wonderful shape and cool texture.
Source one this spring and delight in its colouring all through summer.