Pulmonaria longifolia subsp. cevennensis
One of my very favourite Pulmonaria longifolia is this tough little wild thing from the stony hillsides of southern France (of course I love everything French, but this little plant has earnt it over the tough, dry years). It has showy leaves up to 45cm long, dark green with silver spots. Grows as a neat, lush clump of this delightful foliage. Then large clusters of deep violet and cobalt blue flowers begin from late July. They make excellent cut flowers for a small vase, and the foliage is a joy all year. 30cm.
Happy in Part Sun to Deep Shade. Pulmonaria longifolia is also frost hardy. One of the toughest ever to tolerate heat, dry, some sun exposure, hot wind, poorer soil, humidity. Hardy species from the rock strewn Cevennes region of southern France, where a hot summer day can burn the pads off a lizard’s feet. Because they are such tough growers, those enthusiastic nursery cross pollinators have really been at it with the “longifolias”.
Given the Shade they love, and retentive soil laced with organic matter so the water does not race through, then Pulmonaria are not thirsty plants. Normal average garden watering is more than enough. Plus they can tolerate some periods of dry in shade because they have robust rhizome roots that can forage for water and nutrients well.
And they are particularly fond of clay based soils as long as they are not waterlogged.
Growing: Pulmonaria longifolia subsp. cevennensis
– Height with flowers: 30cm. approx.
– Width: Neat, round dense clump of foliage to a diameter of approx. 60cm.
– Growth: Evergreen perennial clump that is In no way invasive.
Where & how to grow
– Position: Full Shade to Part Shade, Morning Sun or Dappled Shade under trees and shrubs. Dislike direct hot summer sun, though a position under deciduous trees, where they get winter-early spring sun is fine, as it is not too hot. They are equally happy in year round shade.
– Soil: Pulmonarias are quite partial to lime, so they relish soil with a pH in the neutral to alkaline range. They like well-drained soil, as long as it has enough organic matter in it to retain moisture long enough for the roots to take it up.
They are after all natural born woodland plants, so they really thank you for leaf litter, compost, and any organic matter you can provide. Water-wise in shade gardens.
Nor are Pulmonarias hungry plants, so they require little to no extra fertilizing.
– Frost: Extremely frost hardy and ignores even very hard frosts to well below -10C.
– Beneficial for wildlife: Because of their exceptionally early flowering season, Pulmonaria are a wonderful source of nectar at a critical time for bees, butterflies and other beneficial pollinators.
– Care: Pulmonarias are hardy, easy, low maintenance plants. The only annual work is to tidy up the clump after flowering, by cutting spent flowers stems and the foliage down to the socks. This encourages fresh, new decorative leaves.
– Deer & Rabbit resistant: Bliss!! Both rabbits and deer dislike the taste of Pulmonaria.
Pulmonaria officinalis is native to Europe, and occurs widely, from the summer heat of central Italy and Croatia, to the winter chills of Sweden and Denmark. So it is clearly a very hardy and adaptable plant.
It is a woodland plant in both deciduous and evergreen forest and woodlands, and has a particular liking for limestone country, and areas with heavier clay based soils, as long as they are not waterlogged.
A busy plant in history
Pulmonaria is a rather unattractive name for such a pretty plant. But fortunately it has also acquired more romantic common names across the centuries. Some of the most popular common names are “Mary’s Tears”, “Our Lady’s Milk Drops”, “Jerusalem Cowslip”, “Soldiers and Sailors”, and “Spotted Dog” (it does slightly remind of a green Dalmation dog I suppose, with all those spots).