The garden in which Mary was sitting must have been quite shady as lungwort does not tolerate full sun. Its summer hot penetrating rays can cause unsightly scorches on the delicate leaves. And the blotches never look as graceful as the metallic silver spots, the alleged milk drops. However, not all lungwort species have them. Pulmonaria obscura and Pulmonaria rubra develop dark green and light green leaves respectively. They are quite small in the spring but become longer and more showy after the blooming period is over. Still pure green. These two kinds of lungworm are especially breathtaking (whoops! they were supposed to promote perspiration) early in the spring when the last patches of snow are still to be seen here or there, but the coral red flowers of Pulmonaria rubra are already open. And visited. Hungry bees and other pollinating insects are busy collecting pollen and nectar from the generous flowers.
Now, let's present the species whose ancestors witnessed the legendary scene. Today it is called Pulmonaria officinalis. Its leaves are oval, hairy and spotted. But not as much as the leaves of Pulmonaria saccharata. This lungwort is simply crazy. Its leaves present all possible and impossible patterns painted with more or less silver pigment. Sometimes the whole leaves are just silver, a typical sign of the lack of imagination, I am sure. The flowers are white, pink, blue or purple. The pink ones usually change their colour when they become older and pollinated. They start as light pink, turn dark pink, than purple and eventually blue. It is great to observe it as you can see all the intermediate shades on the same plant as the flowers are at a different stage of their development. Another breathtaking view.
All species of lungwort produce seeds which germinate freely in the least expected places across the garden. New plants can display totally different patterns on the leaves than the mother plants. Well, if you do not want to wait too long for the seedlings you can always divide the older clumps in fall. The division can be done early spring but it certainly will disturb the flowering period. If you do not want to have more lungwort clumps you still have to divide the three- or four- year old individuals to keep them look young.
Lungwort requires a shady spot (the best choice is under trees or shrubs blooming at the same time e.g. magnolias, cherries, or among bigger perennial bulbs) and fertile, moist but well drained and slightly chalky soil. They make a perfect carpet of beautiful leaves. Only to look at it, never to sit on it!