Digitalis or foxgloves are another of my favourite plants. I love to see them growing wild in the countryside amongst hedgerows or in the dappled shade of a wood and confess, I cannot get enough of them in my own garden.
These low maintenance stately plants bring vertical interest to borders, equally happy in full sun or shade, and it goes without saying, no cottage garden is complete without this romantic plant.
Easily grown from seeds, these bi-annual plants are perfect for pollinators. Their bell-shaped flowers open from the base of the flower spike right to the top are rich in nectar making them bee magnets. It is great fun to watch a fat bumble bee squash itself inside a tubular flower to emerge again covered in a dusting of yellow pollen.
The common variety Digitalis purpurea, has spires of pink or white tubular flowers, sometimes heavily spotted with dark-red or soft grey spots on the inside, it can grow to 6 feet tall flowering from June to July. This short-lived plant self-seeds readily if you allow the seed to disperse, so to avoid unwanted seedlings deadhead after flowering.
Foxgloves like moist well drained soil that is rich in humus. They are bi-annual which means the plant forms its root and rosette of green foliage in the first year before producing a flower spike, setting seed and dying in the second year, however there are varieties of foxglove that are perennial.
Foxgloves are beautiful but deadly, they contain a chemical called digitalis used to treat heart failure and high blood pressure. It is often said that foxgloves can both ‘raise the dead and kill the living’, as all parts of the plant are poisonous if ingested, so always wear gloves when handling them. It is also worth noting if you have pets that are partial to nibbling your plants, it is probably best to avoid growing them.
New varieties of foxgloves have been developed by crossing the native purpurea to give us gardeners the choice of more colour and perennial varieties, such as Digitalis purpurea ‘Suttons Apricot’ that has pink/apricot flowers that grow to 1.5 m tall, or the pale-yellow perennial Digitalis Lutea growing to 60cms tall.
If you fancy something a little bit different, try Digitalis parviflora this perennial variety has a flower spike tightly packed with small brown flowers from May to July grows to 60cms and looks great planted with bronze fennel to bring out those lovely chocolate tones, or maybe the new semi-evergreen variety Digitalis x valinii ‘Firebird’ that has rich apricot/pink and gold flowers with glossy dark green foliage.
Before I go, just a quick update on our latest projects. We have completed the landscaping on two of my recent garden designs for very happy clients with their planting to follow, so they now have the summer to look forward to in their new outdoor space. If you are thinking about a new garden design or want advice on refreshing your borders, then visit my website www.sandhurstgardendesign.co.uk
Until next time