I liked the idea of a perennial foxglove: I often forget to keep planting the biennial ones, so either I have to buy sometimes-anonymous plants at the drugstore, or go without. (I’m not sure why drugstores have become plant emporiums, or when it happened, but two chain drugstores in my area are some of the cheapest and easiest sources for common bedding plants. Maybe it’s a roundabout way of having herbalism come back: many of our common ornamental plants are actually medicinal.) Like other digitalis, D. laevigata also has cardiac stimulant and tonic qualities.
I had great hopes of Digitalis laevigata, also known as Grecian foxglove (although its origins are probably in SE Europe, there is a subspecies gracae with smaller flowers packed together) and smooth foxglove, a translation of its Latin species name. “Smooth” refers to the leaves, which have more in common with a large plantain than with Digitalis purpurea. I rather liked the way the old leaves turned into a sort of textured mosaic of colors and patterns.
But, honestly, I planted D. laevigata for its perennial qualities, and to have a different flower color in a foxglove. I thought a yellow foxglove would be nice. Since I had no pictures available at the time I planted it (it’s not a comon foxglove, and I got the seeds from JL Hudson’s wonderful but photoless catalogue), I was free to fantasize to my heart’s content, and envisioned a sort of blurry D. purpurea, with small creamy yellow flowers.
As you can see from the photo at the top of this page, D. laevigata flowers look a lot more like acanthus than foxglove. They also, as it turns out, look a lot like Digitalis ferruginea flowers. For a while I was worried I might have mixed my foxglove up with D. ferruginea, but a look at a picture of D. ferruginea relieved me of that worry; its flowers don’t have the characteristic white lip of D. laevigata. Given that I’m not overly thrilled with D. laevigata, that pretty much puts Digitalis ferruginea off my wish list, at least until I get my own personal botanic garden.
Digitalis laevigata is not a bad plant. And it’s certainly a plant that can take hard use: I grow it in a container with several other plants that crowd over it; and I’ve grown it in spots from quite shady to fairly sunny. But I have to say that this is a digitalis that didn’t really win my heart. It was interesting to see it grow, and I’ve kept it because it was so obliging, and because it’s hard for me to tear a plant out, especially one I have nurtured from a seed..
But I have no desire to propagate it. Maybe the best I can do for it is show its pictures here, in hopes that its particular temperament will appeal to others, if not to me: an indirect kind of propagation.
For more on Digitalis laevigata:
http://www.dianeseeds.com/digitalis-laevigata.html – has seeds and a more enticing-looking photo-taken from above the top of the plant, it looks more graceful
Botanical, medical, and horticultural rundown on this plant.
Next post: White foxgloves. These I like.
*Points to those who get the very obscure joke in this title.