foxglove love

The pink and white flower spires of common foxgloves (digitalis purpurea) have been festooning the garden for a few weeks now.

Their latin name digitalis – ‘finger-like’ – is given by the fact that each tubular flower is like a small glove for a person’s fingertip (the exact opposite of a fingerless glove).

Flower colours range from pinky-purple to softer pinks, whites and lemons.

They all have a curious smattering of white ringed burgundy freckles on the inside.

Seen close up those spots do look a bit scary. Indeed every part of the plant is so extremely toxic that people with small children are probably best not to grow them. Not that this ever deterred me.

The tubular flowers open progressively upwards along the stem, so each flower spike stays beautiful for a few weeks.

Foxgloves are excellent companion plants in a permaculture garden, generally increasing the health and growth of their neighbours. They are a good choice for the herbaceous layer in an apple tree guild, attracting bees for pollination and providing some protection against fungal diseases.

Being pioneer plants, they self-seed freely on the kind of disturbed ground that appears periodically in a garden. Our first two autumns in this garden I planted a couple of trays of foxglove plugs. Each spring since then, whole colonies of them have appeared wherever there is bare soil and dappled light.