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Strawberry Foxglove: Digitalis x mertonensis

Strawberry foxglove is tall. Strawberry foxglove has flowers of a unique, crushed-strawberry color. Many magical qualities are attributed to this foxglove.

Most of which pass me by.

JL Hudson lists it as Digitalis x mertonensis, and says it is a stable hybrid cross, from D. grandiflora and D. purpurea.

My memory was that D. grandiflora is a yellow type, but it’s been a while since I’ve seen it listed, and I never managed to grow it, so I wasn’t sure until I looked it up.  My old Sunset Western Garden book says D. grandiflora (formerly ambigua) flowers are large, 2 to 3 inches (about 5 to 7.5 cm) long, yellowish with brown markings. Antique Flowers says that Digitalis grandiflora hails from Greece, and has creamy yellow flowers; the picture proves this. Either everyone’s eye is a little different, or this variety sports the same way the purpurea ones do. Or perhaps it’s a difference in soils and climates.

Digitalis x mertonensis seems to have taken on the long-lived qualites of D. grandiflora, also its rather shorter dimensions: strawberry foxglove is a two- to three-foot perennial. At least this is what the experts say. All I can say is that mine was maybe two feet tall, and disappeared after one round of bloom. I didn’t have any problem growing D. mertonensis, though; it likes the same circumstances for growing that D. purpurea foxgloves do: moist soil and semishade.

I’m sorry to say that my pictures of D. mertonensis have fallen down the same digital abyss that sucked away my ‘Pam’s Choice’ photos, because color is the main subject of discussion in every Digitalis x mertonensis description. I read much about those crushed-strawberry flowers, so exotic and so desirable, they seemed to inspire purple prose: I can’t remember all the places where I read about it now, but believe me, they raved about this foxglove. Kitchen Gardens calls it “Strawberry Fayre”.

But my strawberry foxglove was only – well – fair. Only OK. It could have been the very-shady growing conditions that made the stem fairly short, and the  flowers so floppy and extra-downward-looking. It could have been my mood that made me feel their color was more like something that had gone past its prime than something delectable. Maybe even the deep green glossy leaves contributed: I really enjoy the hairy crinkled rugoseness of foxglove leaves. Maybe it was just a personal thing.

Perhaps I deserved my disappointment, because I was guilty of plant snobbery: I grew D. mertonensis because I wanted to grow as many digitalis as I could that weren’t D. purpurea, so common.

Whatever it was, Digitalis x mertonensis is not on my list of foxgloves to replant. But maybe you’ll want it on yours.

Next post: Annual foxgloves.  Maybe.

{ 4 comments… add one }

  • jodi January 27, 2009, 5:38 pm

    You have such a great sense of humour as you’re teaching us about plant experiences. I had D. mertonensis last summer and it seemed okay. We’ll see whether it comes back, seeds or otherwise acts like my other digitalis which DO perform well.

  • Nancy Bond January 27, 2009, 8:28 pm

    From the link you provided, it’s a very pretty colour. And I do love those little bell shaped blooms. (BTW, I checked out the link you sent me, and they aren’t accepting submissions right now, but I’ve bookmarked it for the future. Thx so much again, Pomona.)

  • Sylvia (England) January 28, 2009, 3:42 am

    Did you grow this from seed Pomona? I think some plants are very variable from seed and in an ideal world we would grow lots in a nursery bed to select the best! I am often wary of seed raised plants unless they are in flower when I buy them.

    Best wishes Sylvia (England)

  • Pomona Belvedere January 29, 2009, 1:04 pm

    I’d be interested to hear about the progress of your D. mertonensis, Jodi; I’d be curious to know if it turns out to be really perennial. And actually, Nancy, you’re quite right about that link, when I looked at them there I was almost tempted to grow them again. Sylvia may have the solution: either grow lots of seeds so you get some good variations, or buy plants.

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