Some plants are recommended time and again whilst others, even though they are better, are completely ignored. This is I suppose not only the province of plants, people are also victims of such narrow vision. It is time to sing the praises of Pachyphragma machrophyllum which can more than hold its own along side the ever popular spring flowering pulmonarias and brunneras.
Any plants that will thrive in the tough conditions of the shade of nearby trees and shrubs are to be treasured which is why no woodland garden would be complete without a groundcover layer of anemones, pulmonarias with their flowers in shades of blue, purple, pink and white or the course clumps of Brunnera machrophylla foliage topped by clouds of starry blue flowers. All are spring flowering to take advantage of the then available light and together with various bulbs create a delightful carpet mosaic signalling the end of winter.
White flowered pachyphragma fits perfectly into this picture. Its starry flowers sit above the fresh green foliage and become more noticeable as they eventually reach up to nearly 45cm. Its lightness seems to perfectly complement the heavier clumps of pulmonarias that are its natural companions.
Unlike good old brunnera, which itself has seen significant improvement in recent years with the introduction of different flower coloured forms and others with bold variegated leaves, pachyphragma flowers for very much longer – easily six weeks – starting in mid March. The foliage is moderately bold and rounded and although evergreen does end the winter looking bedraggled. This is easily overlooked as for the rest of the year it makes an effective green ground-hugging carpet.
So why does nobody know or grow it? It does form seed so the nursery trade should surly find it suitable to propagate; in truth I have never tried. Division is a more obvious means to increase its numbers and this is certainly more difficult than other plants as the root system tends to be rather woody and less easily torn apart, but I have managed over the years to do so. I am sure if we start asking for it the growers will start to offer it. Isn’t it time you gave this underdog a try?