The pull of pulmonaria
Pulmonarias are one of our most loved perennials and have adorned British spring gardens for many years becoming particularly popular in the 1960s. Then there were only around 20 varieties, but they cross-pollinate freely and now there is a bewildering choice of varieties – some more garden-worthy than others.
A variety I’ve grown for many years is P. ‘Blue Ensign’ which produces its intensely deep blue flowers over several weeks in early spring; like other pulmonarias it’s excellent in dappled shade but will tolerate more sun than most varieties. For me one of the best white varieties is ‘Sissinghurst White’ which flowers throughout the spring, its pure white flowers complemented well by its dappled silver foliage which, in mild gardens, remains evergreen throughout the year.
A good pink-flowered variety is ‘Raspberry Splash’. It has clusters of upward-facing deep raspberry-pink flowers which turn purple then almost blue as they age; these are held above green leaves heavily spotted with silver which show good resistance to powdery mildew. A good newer variety to add the old favourites is ‘Trevi Fountain’. One of the longest-flowering blue varieties, it produces its cobalt flowers continuously from March through to May above its silver-spotted leaves.
Pulmonarias grow best in moist, humusrich soil in dappled shade, combining well with daffodils, ferns and other shade-loving perennials such as brunnera, euphorbia amygdaloides and hellebores. To avoid seedlings trim plants back after flowering and new foliage will appear within two weeks; plants can also be divided at this time.