Since their introduction, the new Foxy Hybrids have been a sensation. Unlike most biennial digitalis; plants in the Foxy Group are noted for their ability to produce flowers in the first year, flowering in just five months from an early sowing. They can be planted in autumn for an early showing or eight weeks before frost to get late-summer blooms and although they are often seen advertised as an “annual” foxglove, they will also give a repeat showing in the second year.
This very useful dwarf variety can start blooming at a mere 45cm (18in) tall, and grow on to a metre (3ft) in height. They will bear up to nine dense spikes per plant with flowers in a mix of purple, rose, lavender, red, cream, yellow and white, each with distinctly speckled throats.
The large 7 to 8cm (3in) tubular flowers are fuller and are borne all the way around the stem and are held horizontally, they display the heavily spotted throat markings to better advantage.
This useful dwarf variety is invaluable for exposed sites and, as with other foxgloves, they are especially good for shaded areas. Colourful, prolific, and long-blooming, the flowers are very useful for cutting.
Sowing: Sow indoors in early spring or directly outdoors in autumn.
Because they require a growing season of five or more months to fully complete their blooming, seedlings of `Foxy' should be started in early winter and maintained in a greenhouse until spring transplanting.
Sow seeds on the surface of a peaty soil. Do not cover or bury seeds as the seed needs light to germinate, just press seeds lightly into the earth. Keep seed in constant moisture (not wet) they will usually germinate in 2 to 4 weeks at around 20°C (68°F).
Sow in Jan to March, at least 8 weeks before last frost. Sow seed thinly in trays of compost and place in a cold frame or greenhouse. Once germination occurs keep in cooler conditions. Prick out each seedling as it becomes large enough to handle, transplant into 7.5cm (3in) pots or trays to grow on. Gradually acclimatise to outdoor conditions for 10 to 15 days before planting out once all risk of frost has gone. Transplant to the flowering position planting 30cm (12in) apart.
Sow in late summer to autumn directly in a well prepared bed. Sow seed thinly in drills 30cm (12in) apart. Firm down gently. Keep the plants moist and free of weeds. Thin out seedlings to 15cm (6in) apart when large enough to handle.
As a rule, they are hardy plants and can cope with any soil unless it is very wet or very dry. They are fairly disease resistant, although the leaves may suffer slightly from powdery mildew if the summer is hot and humid.
In order to get a `Foxy' foxglove to survive a second season is best if you remove the flower stalks immediately upon completion of the first season's flowering. This will halt the movement of energy toward seed production, and focus energy where it will promote winter survival. Mulching will also be beneficial.
You can reseed from the second showing. Self-sown seedlings producing different shifting, untutored patterns of flowers each year, they can be easily transplanted to the location you want them to bloom. They are best transplanted when the leaves are about 10cm long. Make sure the newly moved plants are well watered to help them establish.
Cover the flowerspikes with paper bags (such as those used by bakers to wrap baguettes) to collect the seeds. When the seedheads have dried, shake them to remove the seed and scatter them where you want them to grow.
Shade/Woodland Garden. Cottage/Informal Garden, Cut Flower Arranging, Flowers Borders and Beds, Wildflower Gardens or Wildlife Gardens
Digitalis is a classic example of a drug derived from a plant formerly used by folklorists and herbalists. Digitalis slows the heart but provides a source of medicine used by doctors in heart medicine. In pure form are referred to by common chemical names such as digitoxin or digoxin, or by brand names such as Lanoxin, or Purgoxin.
Herbalists have largely abandoned its use because of its narrow therapeutic index and the difficulty of determining the amount of active drug in herbal preparations.
The whole foxglove plant is extremely poisonous. Fortunately it tastes very bitter and causes irritation of the mucous membranes in the mouth, actually causing pain and swelling. It also causes diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting, so if it does get in, it soon comes out. Because of these factors, it is not really a problem for wildlife, human or otherwise. However if you ever find a child who has been around this plant with symptoms of oral irritation, grab a stem or two and get to the emergency room.
Wear gloves when handling plants or seeds, plant only where children or animals will not have access.
If foxgloves are grown near most plants they will stimulate growth and help to resist disease and if grown near apples, potatoes and tomatoes their storage qualities will he greatly improved. Foxgloves in a flower arrangement make all the other flowers last longer - if you do not want the actual flowers in the vase make some foxglove tea from the stems or blossoms and add to the water.
Digitalis is a genus of about twenty species of herbaceous biennials, perennials and shrubs that was traditionally placed in the figwort family Scrophulariaceae. Due to new genetic research, it has now been placed in the much enlarged family Plantaginaceae.
In 1542, Leonhart Fuchs (or Leonhard Fuchs, 1501-1566) a German physician and one of the three founding fathers of botany after whom fuchsia is named, gave the plant it's current Latin moniker - Digitalis
The name Digitalis is a latinisation of the German name 'fingernut' from the Latin digitus meaning 'a finger'. The flower resembles the finger of a glove. The species epitaph purpurea was adapted by Linnaeus two centuries later.
Folklore & Legend:
The English name comes not from foxes, but from the phrase 'folk’s gloves' meaning belonging to the fairy folk.
Folklore tells that bad fairies gave the flowers to the fox to magically sheath their paws as they stealthily made their nocturnal raids into the poultry yards of rural folk. The association is natural for the foxgloves grew on the wooded hillside slopes that foxes chose for their dens. Not surprisingly, the flower meaning of Foxglove is insincerity. Another common name is “Fairy Thimbles”
The foxglove was believed to keep evil at bay if grown in the garden, but it was considered unlucky to bring the blooms inside.
The National Collection:
The National Collection of Digitalis is held at T.A. Baker, The Botanic Nursery, Rookery Nurseries, Cottles Lane, Atworth, Melksham, Wiltshire SN12 8HU. Tel: 07850 328 756 for opening hours.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 1 gram Average Seed Count 10,000 seeds Family Plantaginaceae Genus Digitalis Species purpurea Cultivar Foxy Common Name Dwarf, Annual Foxglove Hardiness Hardy Biennial Flowers Purple, rose, lavender, red, cream, yellow and white Natural Flower Time Late Spring to Mid Summer Foliage Mid Green Herbaceous (Velvet / Fuzzy) Height 60 to 90cm (24-36in) Spread 30 to 45cm (12 to18in) Position Full sun to part shade. Soil Prefers moist, humus-rich soil Time to Sow Sow early indoors in spring for an early showing
or directly outdoors in autumn for flowers the folowing year.
Germination 2 to 4 weeks at around 20°C (68°F).