Pulmonarias – or “Spotted Dogs”?

Pulmonaria1Pulmonaria hybrid

My first (happy) meeting with Pulmonaria flowers was in a car park in Blakeney, North Norfolk, UK. The whole of the front of the hotel we were staying at was planted with the pink and blue beauties and the bees were having a real party!

Since then I have been smitten.

Over the last few years I have collected several which I’d like to show you… some remain unidentified, but the more recent ones have been carefully labelled. One of these was the first to open in my garden this spring; “Sissinghurst White”. It has freckly, silvery green leaves and is a small and upright specimen. It has been flowering for about 3 weeks now.


And here a visitor is looking for some shade beneath it…


The next to open was one of the unidentified ones picked up from a garden centre, helpfully labelled “Pulmonaria”! It is situated in a very dry spot in full sun, but seeded itself there and seems very happy.


The tiny flowers change colour as they age, not fading but often becoming more vibrant. And the foliage, in various shades of green, both with and without silvery freckling, is an attractive extra, especially before and after the flowers appear. I have been very impressed with the plain-leafed “Azurea” below, which has flowered well and put on a lot of new growth.


A mild winter seems to have helped them all, and I will have to make sure they get some water in the summer occasionally too. In an extremely dry and hot garden like mine in summer it is a good idea to find spots where other plants provide shade later in the year.

I remarked a couple of weeks ago that the P. angustifolia “Azurea” is the only one I had seen with plain, unfreckled leaves…. well, I hadn’t been looking very closely!  I have since found two others in my garden that are not spotted;  Pulmonaria rubra ‘Redstart’ was a new addition to my garden last autumn and is doing well. Its flowers really are red, with no hint of pink, and the plain pale green leaves are not as elongated as most.


I have really fallen for Rubra!


The other plain-leafed one is possibly a hybrid as I have no recollection of planting this one! It is very delicate and has lovely pale pink flowers…


Another new one to my garden this year is “Trevi Fountain”. It has the same deep azure blue as “Azurea”, but with freckled leaves…


The last two are very similar: Dora Bielefeld, with pale geen freckled leaves and pinkish blue flowers…


… and “Wuppertal” with slightly darker green speckled foliage…


Pulmonaria should have a much prettier name; something evoking images of fairies and petticoats, candy and pearls. Just recently Steve at Portraits of Wildflowers found some more common names for me from Wikipedia, one of which I found quite cute: “Spotted Dog“. Still not quite fitting I feel, but fun!

Some other common names are, apparently, soldiers and sailors (the two hues of colour on each flower reflect the uniform colours), Joseph and Mary, Jerusalem cowslip, oak lungs, spotted comfrey, and Bethlehem sage. Some German common names include Hansel and Gretel, Adam and Eve, blue cowslip, deer cabbage (Hirschkohl), and baggy trousers (Schlotterhose)….

Which name do you think suits them best?

Do you grow Pulmonarias? Please share your photos too!



Pulmonaria Honey

Henriette’s Herbs (German)

Hardy Plant Society (UK)




Names, and a Forget-me-not?

Living in Bavaria, I naturally buy plants with German name tags. Of course, a botanical name will also often be on the label, but I have become very fond of many of the German common plant names. One particular name I love is “Sun Hat” (Sonnenhut) for cone flowers. Or “Weeping Heart” (Tränendes Herz) instead of Bleeding Heart (Dicentra/Lamprocapnus). I use Wikipedia and other reference sources in both German and English to find out more about them, and in doing so over the years it has become evident again and again that the German Wikipedia site seems – very often – to contain more information. Yet the plants are just as common in both the UK and Germany. Can anyone enlighten me as to why this is so….?


One example of this is Brunnera macrophylla


Brunnera macrophylla is perhaps known better in English as Siberian bugloss, but I feel the German name is so much prettier and more appropriate:

Caucasus Forget-me-not” (Kaukasusvergissmeinnicht)

Here is a white variety, ‘Betty Bowring’. It flowers early spring, lighting up the garden, and then intermittently all summer, depending on how hot it is. In a shadier position it might even flower non-stop, especially if deadheaded frequently.


My blue Brunnera also flowers well in a sunny position in spring, but doesn’t last all summer. The blue variety is better known and perhaps more reminiscent of Forget-me-nots (Myosotis) due to the colour. You can see that the foliage is, however, completely different – large heart-shaped leaves.


Brunnera and Myosotis are in fact both in the Boraginaceae family, which also includes Pulmonaria, Borage and Comfrey.

Do you grow Brunnera? Or are you a fan of Forget-me-nots?

Book Review: RHS Latin for Gardeners

RHS Latin for Gardeners2

If you love language and you love plants, then you’ll love this book. RHS Latin for Gardeners by Lorraine Harrison  explains all those tricky-to-pronounce botanical words attached to our dear plants, herbs and flowers.

The book itself – a hardback – has a lovely cover and is nicely bound… it looks pretty on your bookshelf! It is perfect as a reference book and for the odd dip into while drinking a cup of coffee. The main body of the book is an alphabetical list of botanical terms, each explained, with a pronunciation guide too. Here’s an example:

helix HEE-licks:

Spiral-shaped; applied to twining plants, as in Hedera helix

Now, I never knew “helix” meant that, but it makes sense….

I also never knew that the “novi-belgii” in Aster novi-belgii means “connected with New York”.

Or that the “bonariensis” in Verbena bonariensis means “from Buenos Aries”!

Or that “saccharata” in Pulmonaria saccharata means “sweet or sugared/as if dusted with sugar”.

And the list of discovery goes on!

I was pleasantly surprised how many I had guessed correctly, such as Cymbalaria muralis (“growing on walls”), and the information hidden within these words delivers excellent guidelines for planting… if a plant is from Buenos Aries it will like heat and sunshine, right?

A bonus is the pages in between the list… a few plants are profiled, with notes on how they got their name or certain associations and uses. And some famous plant hunters are also given a page or two, with examples of the plants they discovered on various continents.

This is the ideal gift for a keen gardener, and absolutely perfect for anyone fascinated by botanical plant names. It is already a favourite of mine, and the gardening season hasn’t even begun!

RHS Latin for Gardeners1

The Problem with Words…

“Language is the source of misunderstandings.”
from Le Petit Prince, by Antoine de Saunt-Exupéry


I always felt German was a hard language to learn – much harder than French, my first foreign language at school – but I do understand that the English language has its problems too…

Here are some sentences found, oh goodness knows where, many years ago, that I sometimes show to my students to console them when they have difficulties!

  1. The farm was used to produce produce.
  2. The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
  3. The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
  4. Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.
  5. I did not object to the object.
  6. There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
  7. They were too close to the door to close it.
  8. The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
  9. After a number of injections my jaw got number.
  10. I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.

And then there’s these:

  • The chicken is ready to eat.
  • Visiting relatives can be boring.
  • They are cooking apples.
  • They are hunting dogs.
  • We saw her duck.
  • He ate the cookies in the kitchen.
  • Mine exploded.
  • I know a man with a dog who has fleas.


Who says English is easy?!