Brunnera macrophylla belongs to the group of so-called harsh-leaved plants, Boraginacea. Many plants belong to this family, for example Symphytum officinale and Borago officinalis The plant is named after Samuel Brunner,a famous botanist and plant collector who was born in Bern, Switzerland in 1790. He passed away in 1844. Samuel was awidely-travelled person. Many articles about his botanical trips have been published.
Brunnera macrophylla also known as a synonym of Anchusa myosotifolia, is originating from the Caucasus and native to Siberia. That’s why the common name is Siberian bugloss or false forget-me-not. It is also called: the hardy Myosotis
The name Bugloss comes from two Greek words meaning ox and tonguethat describes the approximate shape and rough texture of the leaf. If one ever have felt or been licked by an ox tongue ( cow) it easily can be understand why it is called harsh-leaved plant.
Ketzel Levine-an American gardener- describes the Brunnera macrophylla variety Langtrees as follows;
Quite a few gardeners are so inundated by the annual forget-me-not MYOSOTIS SYLVATICA that they would just forget it as soon as possible. Yet even the most battle-weary cannot deny that, for sparkling and vivacity, it´s tough to beat the brilliance of forget-me-not-blue.
Ms. Flora hankered something bad after the colour blue, this much is clear. Witness the whole family, Boraginacea, an embarrassment of azure riches from dawn sky to midnight blue. For the six of you obsessed with the borage of blues, feast your eyes on the “give me more” list.
If all you really want is the name of the stunning foliage plantwith “forget-me-not” flowers, meet BRUNNERA MACROPHYLLA ‘LANGTREES’. I have here on my desk a one-year-old, four-inch pot of the plant, with no fewer than twenty-two African violet-sized leaves anxious to break out of the box. Even at this immature stage, it sports a big cluster of salt grain-sized blossoms tucked within the leaves, a cluster that might even flower if I’d quit picking the foliage apart.
The heart-shaped, grey-green leaves are covered with short hairs that make the plant look very fuzzy, but that’s not what makes it shine. Instead, it is the irregular, brief brush strokes of metallic silver spots that adorn each leave, aluminium highlights that will pop this plant out of the shade.
In defense of good old plain green leaves, you are bound to be delighted with the infinitely more affordable straight species, BRUNNERA MACROPHYLLA. This one is a piece of cake to grow in morning sun to light shade, copes with occasional dryness once established, and makes impressive large-leaved mounds that get airier as they grow taller –waving the banner that much higher “forget-me-not-blue”.
About 6 years ago, the perennial specialist and Brunnera-lover Mr. Luc Klinkhamer, visited his friend John Walters, owner of the famous American companyWaltersGardens, and found in this nursery a mutation of Brunnera Langtrees.Luc was so impressed by this mutation that he got the exclusive rights to protect the variety by breeder rights and sell it all over Europe. This variety became nowadays very famous and is named JACK FROST. It is an unique variety. The leaves have a heavy silver overlay and prominent green veining. The plant produces the same tiny, baby-blue forget-me-not like flowers as the species.
It looks if the old variety Brunnera Langtrees is an mutation generating variety. A couple of years after WatersGardens had found Brunnera Jack Frost a new mutation in Brunnera Jack Frost was discovered and is now known as Brunnera Looking Glass. When the leaves of this variety age, they become solid silver and cupped downward.
We are expecting more new Brunnera varieties from WALTERSGARDENS in the near future, since KEVIN. A. HURD, who is in charge of Walters research and breeding department, started breeding with Brunnera. Walter’s Gardens is going to introduce in 2008 Brunnera Emerald Mist, which is much more variegated than Brunnera Langtrees and an exceptional new variety, the yellow edged “ look-alike” Jack Frost, named Brunnera ‘King’s Ramsom’.
Also the American gardener Hans Hansen, owner of “Shady Oaks Nursery” has found a mutation in Brunnera Langtrees. It is offered as Brunnera Silver Wings.
A real break-through in breeding Brunnera came from the famous Belgium garden architect Mr. Chris Ghyselen.
Chris already is over 20 years oriented towards the design of creative gardens; well-thought over borders and fascinating garden concepts.
Chris couples his professional know-how with his exceptional fundamental knowledge of plants, its growth characteristics and its specific requirements. By this combination, Chris designs durable and inspiring gardens.
Because of his professionalism, Chris nothing can be but a Brunnera-lover “pur sang”. As it is one of the first-flowering plants in Spring, Brunnera may not lack in the garden. The eye-catching intense blue colour of the flowers, easily to combine with Spring flowering flower-bulbs, causes a special effect.
Having this in mind, Chris started breeding Brunnera in the beginning of 2000’s. His first successful introduction was Brunnera Mr. Morse a cross with Brunnera Betty Browning and the non-introduced variety Brunnera Inspector Morse. Brunnera Mr. Morse is a white-flowering variegated Brunnera. It will be introduced in Spring 2008. His second succesful introduction is Brunnera Spring Yellow, showing nice and big yellow leaves in Spring and having big blue flowers.
In Autumn 2008/Spring 2009 3 other new varieties of Chris Ghyselen will be introduced. Two varieties are named after his twin Children Mary and Henry. It are Brunnera Mary’s Eyes, having green leaves and powder-blue flowers with a narrow white edge and Brunnera Henry’s Eyes, a variety with green leaves and light blue flowers. It blooms very early. As the blue is darker than Mary’s Eyes, the contrast between the blue and the white edge is more apperent.
The most impressive new introduction in 2009 is undoubtedly Brunnera Starry Eyes. It has white flowers with a rich-blue edge. It looks like a reversed Omphalodes Starry Eyes.
We may expect more new Brunnera introductions of the leading Brunnera breeders CHRIS GHYSELEN and KEVIN HURD OF WALTERS GARDENS, bringing increased diversity in Spring gardens.
The older varieties such as Brunnera Betty Browning; Brunnera Hadspen Cream; Brunnera Langtrees and Brunnera Variegata are still valuable.
Samuel Brunner, after whom the Brunnera is named, never could have had any imagination of the effect of his discovering of Brunnera but thanks to him, there are multitudes of Brunnera lovers nowadays.
Text: Jan Verschoor