Pulmonaria rubra

Louise Sims

Pulmonarias are among the earliest herbaceous perennials to flower in springtime, and Pulmonaria rubra is the first; its hairy stems and fresh green leaves emerging in January are soon followed by the flowers.

These are a delightful shade of coral pink or red (with not a hint of blue!) and they associate well not only with some early bulbs, (snowdrops being the perfect partner), but also with hellebores, evergreen ferns and the delicate, bronze-tinted, fading leaves of many Epimediums.

Pulmonarias are happiest in partial to full shade, but they need light in the spring and so do well beneath deciduous shrubs and trees. Avoid, if you can, planting it under the winter jasmine, whose bright yellow flowers in combination with the coral pink of P rubra is just too much. In our garden it looks really special under the white Chaenomeles speciosa ‘Nivalis’.

Euphorbia stygiana – could do with underplanting

At this time of the year the back of the border can be a dreary place, whether planted with shrubs or tall summer-flowering herbaceous perennials; so this is another good spot for P rubra. Its cheerful flowers will brighten things up in the spring, and its large weed-suppressing leaves will do their job in the summer.

NB I have just come in from wandering in the garden and realise that I have missed a trick. Right now, many leaves of euphorbia stygiana have turned a beautiful red but its stems look bare and leggy and there is too much empty earth… I don’t have to look far to sort that problem!

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