Plants that provide two different displays at different times of year are invaluable; it’s like having two plants for the price of one. In fact they're such important iplants that I wrote a whole book about them – Powerhouse Plants. It’s just been published. Pulmonarias are amongst the easiest and most effective of this special dual-season breed.
These tough but very attractive hardy perennials feature masses of bright spring flowers followed by dense, weed-suppressing, silver or silver-spotted foliage. Just take a look at three pulmonaria varieties to make the point, starting with ‘Trevi Fountain’ (left, click to enlarge).
One of the best of the relatively recent introductions, it was first seen in 1999, its unusually large flowers open pink but very quickly mature to vivid cobalt blue. Then, as the flowers fade, there’s an eruption of big, bold silver-spotted foliage which lasts right through into late autumn.
‘Silver Bouquet’ (below left, click to enlarge) is rather different with flowers that open almost red, change to pink and them mature to violet blue. And they tend to face outwards and look at you, instead of hanging their heads as some do. Then, after flowering, there are bright pointed leaves which are almost entirely silver and really brighten the shade. And, unlike most pulmonarias, ‘Silver Bouquet' is also resistant to the dreaded powdery mildew.
Finally, ‘Bubble Gum’ proves that pulmonarias don’t have to be blue. Its genuinely bright rose pink flowers (not salmon or coral pink) are held high above the emerging foliage which later matures to reveal masses of bright silver spots. And this too rarely suffers from mildew.
All these two season pulmonarias are happy in any reasonable soil in shade,
and also in sun if the soil never dries out. Richer soil inspires lusher
growth. Nip off the fading flower stems to prevent the appearance of (almost
always) inferior self-sown seedlings and, instead of dividing the plants
regularly, allow them to develop into mature specimens until they start to look
thin in the centre – then split, and replant.