Foxgloves

They light up the garden and now’s an ideal time to plant them.

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There’s something rather brilliant about using foxgloves in the garden. With a minimum of expertise and effort when planted in drifts their collective spires transform the most mundane of plantings, turning it into some rather spectacular and out of the ordinary.

Our British native species Digitalis purpurea is such an adaptable plant, producing its stately spires of tubular pink or white, dark spotted blooms in the poorest of soil, as long as it retains some moisture in either sun or shade.

Breeders have also got to work creating a range of other tones, such as peach or apricot to pure white, with various spotting patterns and flower arrangements. Other species with different flower colours, such as yellow or bronze tones have also become an established part of the floral repertoire. The plants form clumping rosettes of leaves, each forming a single flower spike, usually blooming in succession, rather than all at the same time. The flowers are especially attractive to bees, so are excellent pollinator plants.

The bronze forms with slender spires and narrow or white-felted leaves do best in sunnier positions, among border perennials, while the leafier kinds, particularly D. purpurea are better in shade among ferns, primroses and other woodland plants. If you want them to self-seed allow the seed pods to open, otherwise cut them down, or thin out the spikes after the flowers are over to reduce the amount of seed spilt. With shorter-lived types try to establish rosettes of different ages, to help maintain a succession of bloom.

Digitalis are generally biennial, sometimes annual, especially if they are sown early in the year, or perennial, sometimes short-lived lasting around 3-4 years. They are easy to raise from seed, and many species will self-sow then happy, but can also be bought as young plants.