Pulmonaria saccharata ‘Glacier’
The tiny tot of the family, with a very neat tight clump of foliage sprinkled with snow and silver lacy markings. White flowers that open from palest glacier blue buds complete the wintery picture. 20cm. Begins flowering early spring. Native to France and Italy, so does not mind heat, as long as it has its preferred place in Full to Deep Shade. Frost hardy.
Growing: Pulmonaria saccharata ‘Glacier’
– Height with flowers: 20cm. approx.
– Width: Neat, round dense clump of silver coated foliage to a diameter of approx. 60cm.
– Growth: Evergreen perennial clump that spreads slowly by creeping rhizomes, but 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 sun in winter-early spring 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.
– Beneficial for wildlife: Because of their exceptionally early flowering season in winter, Pulmonarias 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.
– Water: 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.
– Deer & Rabbit resistant: Bliss!! Both rabbits and deer dislike the taste of Pulmonaria.
Pulmonaria saccharata is native southern France and Italy, where it grows in scrub, and both deciduous and evergreen forest. It has a particular liking for limestone country. It also favours areas with heavier clay based soils, as long as they are not waterlogged, making it very handy for gardeners dealing with clay.
A busy plant in history
“Pulmonaria” or “Lungwort” are rather unattractive names for such a pretty plant. But fortunately across the centuries, it has also acquired some more romantic common names .
Some of the most popular 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 silver spots).
“Lungwort” – a sign from heaven
The “Doctrine of Signatures” was a powerful belief amongst medieval healers and the faithful.
It explained that God had conveniently signed which plants we should use to treat which diseases. So the silver spotted leaves of Pulmonaria was a clear indication from heaven that this plant should be used to treat lung diseases such as Tuberculosis, which also produced similar spots on the lungs.
Hence the family name of “Pulmonaria”, which comes from the Latin word for lung, “Pulmo”.
Foliage coated in sugar
The second part of the botanical name “saccharata” comes from the Latin word “saccharatus” or “sugar sweet”.
Because the silvered foliage does look like it has been coated in sugar powder.