In Praise of Pulmonarias

In Praise of Pulmonarias

Plant of the Month: The Humble Pulmonaria

After the ravages of winter, the garden in March can look pretty bleak. But with brighter days and warmer temperatures fast approaching, the greys and browns will soon give way to the vivid greens of spring.

There are a few flowers brightening up the border at the moment. The yellows, whites and creams of daffodils and the pinks of hellebores are certainly making a welcome sight this time of year.

One of my favourites for livening up your early borders is Pulmonaria. Its less glamorous common name of Common Lungwort hardly does it justice. It is a welcome addition to a spring flower bed. Many varieties sport pink funnel-shaped blooms which change to blue as we enter spring. Others, like ‘Sissinghurst White’ are more refined, with white flowers and dark green leaves.

Pulmonarias are semi-evergreen bushy perennials that provide interest well into the summer, even after the flowers have faded. Growing to around 30-40cm tall, the leaves are often heavily spotted with a silvery green.

A particular favourite of mine is Pulmonaria ‘Blue Ensign’. It combines dark green leaves with clusters of blue-violet flowers from March-May. ‘Blue Ensign’ prefers moist, but not waterlogged soil and full or partial shade, so it’s ideal in a north or east facing garden. It’s great in a cottage garden setting, and is equally happy acting as ground cover on a bank or slope.

‘Blue Ensign’ looks really good when grown under deciduous shrubs and the dark plum varieties of Helleborus orientalis. It also gives wonderful colour contrast planted alongside primroses, snowdrops and dwarf daffodils.

Over 5 years it will spread to 0.5m high and wide, and it makes an excellent early pollinator for our native insects. It’s also easy to divide, either after flowering or in the autumn.

We will have a selection of Pulmonaria at the nursery when we open next month.