I can’t remember ever seeing as many bees in the garden! This is mainly due the large number of foxgloves we have this year thanks in part to the mild winter we had. Without doubt one of our most beautiful weeds, the common foxglove Digitalis purpurea thrives in acidic soils like ours and tolerates partial sunlight to deep shade which makes it a common sight in and around Bergen. As such I have usually allowed them to grow wherever they choose to in this garden, only moving them if they settle too close to the edges of paths.
A biennial, the Common Foxglove produces only a rosette of basal leaves in the first year of growth. During the second year of the plant’s life, a long leafy flower spike anywhere from 50m to well over two meters tall grows displaying tubular flowers from purple to pink and occasionally white, often with spectacular markings inside the flowers.
For many years now I have also grown some of the wonderful hybrids available from seed companies. Since I first tried and fell in love with the ‘Excelsior hybrids’ and ‘Apricot Beauty’ in a former garden well over a decade ago I have grown many others such as ‘Camelot Cream’, ‘Pam’s Choice’, and Foxy which (only just here in Bergen) flowers in its first year from seed. My favorite this year is foxglove ‘Candy Mountain’ which has unique upward facing blooms.
I also have Digitalis Grandiflora in the garden which although less spectacular than some hybrids has the advantage that it is perennial. No surprise that it was a new perennial foxglove that won RHS Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year 2012 and I look forward to trying this one!
- If you have children in the garden, remember foxgloves are poisonous. Educate them.
- Sow them direct from spring until late summer for flowers the following year.
- If you start them in Feb/March under glass or indoors you will get larger/stronger plants that may even flower in their first year.
- Stake the tall ones to avoid them falling over.
- Deadhead them and encourage many new shorter flower spikes. They will flower until the frosts and may even survive for a 3rd year!
- Last year I Chelsea Chopped a few in order to encourage flowering in August when I had the garden open and it worked well!
- Let any interesting or unusual ones self-seed.