Snowdrops have been in flower for weeks and more bulbs are following hot on their heels, but perhaps the true essence of spring is when perennials start to bloom.
Which is why so many people grow Pulmonaria, the lungwort, which begins to bloom as the days grow longer and there’s a hint of warmth in the air. These little plants are also simple to cultivate – they are very low maintenance – and a joy to behold.
They keep their heads low to the ground, producing plenty of long, spotty leaves topped with clusters of tiny trumpet-like flowers. They’re mainly blue or purple but some, like P officinalis ‘Sissinghurst White’ have loads of small white blooms.
Plant them in a shady spot, or beneath deciduous trees or hedges, and they will thrive in a decent, water-retentive but not waterlogged soil, and flourish for years.
Since lungwort doesn’t come true from seed, dividing is the best method of propagation in late spring after blooming or in early autumn. Space transplants 30 to 45 centimetres apart and provide plenty of water to help them re-establish.
The earliest to flower is normally Pulmonaria rubra, and there are two very good forms – ‘Redstart’ and ‘Bowles’ Red’.
The big drawback to Pulmonaria is hairy leaves which can cause an uncomfortable red rash. So handle with care; if in doubt, wear decent gloves. But that’s a small price to pay for a wonderful family of plants.