Seen at The Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden - Chinese proverb

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Getting Foxy Amongst the Digitalis

Digitalis purpurea 'Excelsior Hybrids' - a form of our native biennial foxglove with flowers all round the 7ft high stems

After a morning's hard graft at the allotment today, Threadspider and I rewarded ourselves with a delicious afternoon at The Botanic Nursery. We've been there before for some of Terry's monthly workshops, but this time it was for Foxglove Week. The nursery holds the only National Collection of foxgloves, so this was an opportunity not to be missed as it's pretty much on our doorstep.

The nursery looks so different to my last visit a month ago. Lots of lush, choice plants in flower and quite a few people around ready to buy them. The collection itself is found in a serried row bordered by a yew hedge and my first surprise was the perennial species far outstrip the more widely known biennial ones. There are 22 species and Terry has 20 of them, plus 10 forms of our native Digitalis purpurea, making a grand total of 21 species. We saw that a number of the plants have escaped from the confines of their national collection border into other areas of the nursery - just like foxgloves are meant to do ;)

Unfortunately May's cool weather meant that many of the perennial species were yet to flower, including the sport D. 'Glory of Roundway' originally found in a garden less than 10 miles from the nursery. However, there was still plenty to keep us interested and Terry's enthusiasm was much in evidence as usual. I was surprised to learn the seed remains viable for 100 years, so who knows when the next foxgloves may pop up in my garden, even though I've not had any for a couple of years?

Naturally, we couldn't leave without taking a few plants home with us - for Threadspider a lovely Digitalis ferruginea plus a variegated Iris that just had to be bought for her pond. I resisted all the foxgloves as I want to replan my borders first, but caved in and bought the Heuchera 'Lime Rickey' I'd admired so much a couple of months ago that also was one of the 'plants of the show' at RHS Cardiff in April. I must apologise to Karen - we couldn't get you any seeds, Terry only does plants. Hopefully the following foxy feast will give you some ideas for your new wall though.

A closer look at D. 'Excelsior Hybrids'
Digitalis x mertonensis - a perennial form raised in the 1920sDigitalis parviflora - a perennial from the mountains of Northern Spain discovered in 1770. A striking flower spike with a lovely silvery edging to the leaves. I'll be returning for this little beauty
Digitalis lanata - a perennial from the Balkan peninsula discovered around 1753 and is the plant from which the heart drug Digoxin is obtained. A classic example of a scientist observing the local medicine women and then isolating the foxglove as the active ingredient in the herbal drink they were making to treat Dropsy

D. 'Apricot Shades' - a lovely biennial form

10 comments:

  1. I so love foxgloves I will have to look at getting some seeds. Have you come across Chiltern seeds, I found they usually have some really interesting things in their catalogue.

    I hope your allotment is going to pass muster, I must say I though it looked pretty good to me.

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  2. Wow, great pictures!! I really like the D. 'Excelsior Hybrids'

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  3. It was a fabulous visit! You are so organised getting the pictures up already-mine are still in the camera.The iris is in the pond now...

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  4. I love watching bumblebees visiting foxgloves - they seem made for each other.

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  5. These foxgloves are just gorgeous; I may have to break down and get some after all. I had a few for a couple of years...wonder if I stirred up the soil the seeds would sprout??
    It's so much fun to attend gardening events with a like-minded friend, isn't it? I think you two showed remarkable restraint in your shopping.

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  6. Hi VP. Foxgloxes are a favourite of mine. I've planted some around the allotment pond. For me there's no beating the bog standard wild variety, though those perennial ones do look interesting.

    Simon

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  7. Foxgloves are one of my favourites and I must say that I really like that apricot one, what a stunner!

    Great post!

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  8. Debbi - thanks, they are lovely

    dnd - Chiltern Seeds are great - such a choice though!

    Lets Plant - welcome! They're the biennial ones

    Threadspider - I can't wait to see how your Iris settles into its new home

    Easygardener - welcome! There were loads of bees, but sadly they kept on flying off each time we whipped our cameras out

    Rose - you're so right about gardening with a friend. It's pleasurable on its own, but so much more. Terry @ the nursery said soil stirring is exactly the way to get that doemant seed sprouting...

    HM - thanks!

    Simon - I love them too. I'm going to harvest some seed for guerilla gardening...

    Yolanda - it's gorgeous isn't it?

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