Pulmonaria ‘Trevi Fountain’

Pulmonaria ‘Trevi Fountain’ is currently blooming in the garden.  Its flowers attract the early carpenter bees, when they aren’t too busy trying to bore holes in the side of our house.

IMG_7299
Pulmonaria ‘Trevi Fountain’

For a long time, I ignored lungworts.  They’re from Europe, which to me suggests a plant that probably won’t be happy during our summer, and they are reportedly subject to mildew in hot, humid weather.  Indeed, by late spring, the potted plants at local garden centers often look fairly ratty.  But a couple of years ago, I ran across Pulmonaria ‘Trevi Fountain’ and was hooked by its beautiful blue flowers and the claim that it is heat tolerant and mildew resistant

Pulmonaria ‘Trevi Fountain’ is a hybrid of Pulmonaria longifolia ‘Bertram Anderson’ and Pulmonaria ‘Marjery Fish’ which is variously listed as either a selection of Pulmonaria vallarsae or a hybrid with P. vallarsae in its background.  P. longifolia is from western Europe–Britain south to Spain and Portugal–while P. vallarsae is from Italy.  Whatever mix of genes P. ‘Trevi Fountain’ inherited, it adapts well to the North Carolina piedmont.

In my garden, it starts blooming in February and continues into late spring.  The leaves wilt in hot sun, but as long as the soil is moist, they perk up again in the evening.  As advertised, they do seem to be mildew resistant. I have several plants in parts of the garden where they receive afternoon shade, and the foliage looks pretty good year round.  In winter, the leaves collapse and lie flat on the ground, but they nevertheless add interest to barren flower beds when all the bulbs and most of the other perennials are sleeping snug under the mulch.  By late January, new leaves start to emerge, and the old foliage dies back.  So far, P. ‘Trevi Fountain’ shows no inclination to be invasive in my garden, and it plays well with native woodland species like Arisaema triphyllum, Spigelia marilandica, and Aquilegia canadensis.

IMG_4548
The color of Pulmonaria ‘Trevi Fountain’ flowers is difficult to capture. To the eye, they are more blue than they appear in this image.

Setting the Scene

The piedmont of the eastern USA is a plateau that separates the Atlantic coastal plain from the Appalachian mountain ranges.  Here in North Carolina, it extends almost 300 miles from the fall line  to the Blue Ridge Mountains.  The piedmont is part of the Eastern Deciduous Forest ecosystem, split between the mesophytic and oak-pine regions.

In North Carolina, the piedmont falls within USDA climate zone 7 (0 to 10 F, -17 to -12 C average winter minimum).  Winter minimums only tell part of the story, though. Tromsø, Norway is also Zone 7, and most of the UK is in the warmer Zone 8.  However, our summers are considerably hotter.  In July and August, the average daily high is ~85-90 F (29-32 C) and average night time low is ~68-70 F (20-21 C).  Rainfall is reasonably well distributed across the year, but in summer it mostly falls in localized thunderstorms.  We might get a couple of inches of rain in an hour, while a site a few miles away gets nothing.

Our little patch of the piedmont consists of two acres of woodland, partially cleared in 2006 for the house and septic system.  The land slopes down from north to south and is fairly dry.  The northern 1/3 is mixed deciduous forest dominated by oaks (Quercus spp.), hickories (Carya spp.), and tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) with an understory of red maple (Acer rubrum), sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum), black tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica), and American holly (Ilex opaca).

IMG_5344 crop
looking north in June, 2016

The southern 2/3 of the property was logged more recently and has regrown as an overcrowded stand of loblolly pines (Pinus taeda), presumably planted by the previous owners but never thinned before the property was sold for development.  The pines are interspersed with young sweetgums (Liquidambar styraciflua) and a few more interesting trees like sourwood and American persimmon (Diospyros virginiana).

IMG_2659
looking south in February, 2015

The main sunny growing area south of the house is the drainfield for the septic system, which precludes planting large shrubs.  The drainfield is currently a weedy lawn, subsiding where the buried stumps of pine trees are decaying, but I am slowly replacing the grass with flowerbeds.

The other sunny area is north of the house where a few trees damaged by building were removed.  This area is very dry, and it is where we built the greenhouse.

IMG_7101
The greenhouse today flanked by a row of leafless Fothergilla ‘Mt Airy’, leafy Gardenia jasminoides, and a small vegetable patch with net trellises.

The greenhouse contains my collection of orchids and other tropical plants:

greenhouse panorama resized
panoramic view of greenhouse interior with pachypodiums and ant plants left, orchids center, and more orchids and tropical amaryllids right. The skull on the support post is from a white-tailed deer.

The majority of the property, under both the deciduous trees and the pines, is heavily shaded in summer with hard, organic-deficient clay that can only be dug with a mattock. It has been a challenge getting shade perennials to survive under the trees, but a few native orchids (Tipularia and Goodyera) and striped  wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata) have established themselves naturally.  I’ll post about them in the future.

Up next:  Defences against garden pests