Pulmonaria ‘Blue Ensign’
A strong vigorous clone producing masses of deep blue flowers throughout early spring. Indeed one of the richest and most strident of blues amongst the lungworts with a particularly large flower. Deep mat-green leaves that are completely without spots. Assorts well with bulbs. Best grown in a moist shaded position; away from hot sun. 30cm
Jerusalem Cowslip, Lungwort, Soldiers and Sailors
Pulmonarias are chiefly plants of light woodland, and form good ground cover, although they do vary in how dense they grow, some forming tight clumps and others tending more to spread thinly. They are on the whole evergreen, the spotted, or in some cases all silvered, leaves of many being a significant garden feature over winter. They are easily pleased as to soil type, but will be more prone to mildew in very dry sites, and would prefer a generous addition of organic matter. They tolerate clay soils well. Many Pulmonaria originate from deep humus rich soils over limestone, but Pulmonaria angustifolia (the least evergreen species) grows naturally on slightly acid sites.
All lungworts are excellent early nectar sources for insect.
Give plants a good haircut after flowering to regenerate a good leafy clump and again mid-season if you are of a tidy mind.
The species are apt to cross freely, so there is some argument on the origin of many varieties, as is there with the classification of the red Pulmonaria rubra, which is sometimes placed in Pulmonaria mollis, and at other times in Pulmonaria montana. Once established they will also self-seed, but will not usually come true.
Pulmonaria used to be used to treat ailments of the lung, a situation founded on the ‘doctrine of signatures’ as developed by Paracelsus (1491–1541) and later made popular by Jakob Böhme (1575–1624). The spotted leaves were thought to resemble the lung and therefore indicted its medical use.
‘..every part of the plant is mucilaginous, but its reputation for coughs arose not from this circumstance, but from the speckled appearance of the leaves, resembling the lungs !’ – J.E. Smith (English botanist and founder of the Linnean Society.)
The common name ‘Jerusalem Cowslip’ derives from Pulmonaria officinalis growing in meadows and flowering at a similar time to Primula veris (cowslip). The name Jerusalem was often added to names of plants that resembled, but were unrelated to common plants. Pulmonaria officinalis is more tolerant of sun than other species and will hence grow in open meadows.
Soldier and Sailors refers to the way the flowers are frequently blue (sailors) but can open and fade pink (soldiers) as the pH changes.
Named first by Linnaeus as Stricta pulmonaria.