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Foxglove Wish List 1: Variations on the Usual


Most of the foxgloves on these wish lists are ones I want to plant. But some of the foxgloves I’m describing in these two wish lists are ones I wish to avoid. That doesn’t mean they aren’t good plants,  perfect for your garden: it just means I’m as subject to the Dr. Fell Phenomenon as anyone. (“I do not like thee, Dr. Fell/The reason why I cannot tell/I do not like thee, Dr. Fell.”)

I’m going to take the Digitalis purpurea selections first (I mean, the ones I haven’t covered in my previous posts), and then continue with an alphabetical list of the other ones I rounded up. I’m including names of sources for plants or seeds, since most of these varieties are too obscure to be found everywhere.

If you have your own favorite varieties, I hope you’ll let us know what they are and why you like them.

Digitalis purpurea variations:

If I had infinite garden room, which unfortunately I do not, I might try Digitalis pupurea ‘Monstruosa’. Pine Tree seeds says, “The color and shape of this plant are seldom seen in gardens today. It is reminiscent of the heirloom varieties.” It’s hard for me to tell from the photo how they might vary from plain Digitalis purpurea; the five-foot height isn’t particularly monstrous for foxgloves in my experience – but subtle differences could make ‘Monstruosa’ worthwhile.

Another candidate for the “new and improved wild foxglove” theme is ‘Candy Mountain’, offered by Territorial Seed Company. The difference in this one is that the flowers face outward instead of drooping down. I’d like to see the change this makes in foxglove presence in my garden. Alas, it may be awhile before that happens: garden space is tight.

The ‘Excelsior’ selection of Digitalis purpurea seems to be an older variation of ‘Candy Mountain’; the flowers face outward, instead of down, and go all around the stem. Colors are the usual D. purpurea range, from cream to red-purple, and the spikes are said to be long. Since it’s been around for awhile, you can find this selection in several seed catalogues; JL Hudson or Pine Tree for two.

‘Rose Shades'(offered by Burpee) boasts a great example of catalogue puff-writing, but it still looks like plain old Digitalis purpurea to me.

‘Dwarf Red’ is a German development of Digitalis purpurea, offered by Pine Tree Seeds. For a foxglove, it is small: 30″ (76 cm) to 40″ (102 cm) tall. The family-owned seed company which bred it worked on getting blossoms all they way around the stem; the flowers are rosy pink, with maroon and yellow spots. Because it’s relatively small, you can use this foxglove in the front of borders and other small spots where a larger D. purpurea wouldn’t work.

Digitalis Gloxinaeflora – A cultivar of D. purpurea, it has open-mouthed flowers instead of bells (presumably like a gloxinia, as the name suggests). While I like gloxinias, for me a lot of the charm in foxgloves is in their secretive bell-like flowers. So, for either the same reason that I won’t be planting D. laevigata again, or for the opposite reason, D. Gloxinaeflora will not be appearing in my garden soon, no matter how rich the colors or large and dense the spikes. But if it sounds intriguing to you, you can get seed from JL Hudson.

Next post: the list continues: Strange and Unusual Foxgloves

{ 2 comments… add one }

  • Niels February 7, 2009, 5:52 am

    I so enjoy reading your posts about these wonderful garden plants. I must admit that I suffer from horrible foxglove envy too! Foxgloves in some peoples gardens appear fuller and taller than those growing in mine. I have a humus rich clayish soil that retains water well and still my foxgloves don´t do that well. One of the problems with foxgloves are that they are biannuals. This far north the self sowed seedlings do not have much time to establish themselves after they germinate in August. And the first year plants are small. They also seem not to take well to be moved around! I think I will try soing them in late april this year so my first year plants will be bigger before winter. Biannuals do take more planning and patience than other plants! But then again I grow delphiniums relly well! They flower twice a year and I hear so many complain that those are hard to grow for them. Go figure! So often we want to torture ourselves and desire plants that don´t do well for us, instead of sticking to those who do. Your foxgloves articles are great garden writing – I will return to read them again. Thank you!

  • inadvertentfarmer February 7, 2009, 4:50 pm

    I saw that one in the Territorial catalog and just had to order it…I can’t wait to see how it turns out!

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