The name Digitalis is a latinisation of the German name ‘fingernut’ from the Latin digitus meaning ‘a finger’. The flower resembles the finger of a glove. The English name comes not from foxes, but from the phrase ‘folks’ gloves’ because it was thought that the flowers were used as gloves by fairy folk. Another common name is “Fairy Thimbles”
If foxgloves are grown near most plants they will stimulate growth and help to resist disease and if grown near apples, potatoes and tomatoes their storage qualities will he greatly improved. Foxgloves in a flower arrangement make all the other flowers last longer – if you do not want the actual flowers in the vase make some foxglove tea from the stems or blossoms and add to the water.
Foxgloves originate from parts of Europe, Asia and north-west Africa. They come in a variety of shapes, colours and sizes and range in height from 30cm (12in) tall to whoppers soaring above 7ft
There are 25 species and distinct geographic or varietal forms found throughout Central and Southern Europe.Digitalis purpurea subsp. heywoodii is from southern Portugal, where it grows on granite outcroppings.
The genus Digitalis was traditionally placed in the figwort family, Scrophulariaceae, but phylogenetic research led taxonomists to move it to the Veronicaceae in 2001. More recent phylogenetic work has placed it in the much enlarged family Plantaginaceae.
This short-lived perennial plant will grow a leafy rosette the first year, bloom and set seed the second year. You can count on abundant seeds to carry on in the garden, but it won’t become a nuisance.
Foxglove ‘Silver Fox’ seems to go with everything in the garden. The silver leaves are attractive, even when the flowers aren’t blooming. An elegant and rare foxglove that is ideal for borders or containers.
Digitalis purpurea subsp. heywoodii ‘Silver Fox’ is one of the most beautiful dwarf Foxgloves for the cottage garden and border. Growing to just 60 to 70cm (24 to 28in) tall, it is named ‘Silver Fox’ for its attractive silver-grey foliage, which contrasts well with upright flower spikes.
Blooming from June until August, the creamy-white speckled bells are flushed with soft lavender-pink.
Shade/Woodland Garden. Cottage/Informal Garden, Cut Flower Arranging, Flowers Borders and Beds, Wildflower Gardens or Wildlife Gardens
Foxgloves are biennial which means that plants establish and grow leaves in the first year, it will send up large spikes, then flower and produce seeds in the second.
As a rule, they are hardy plants and can cope with any soil unless it is very wet or very dry. They are fairly disease resistant, although the leaves may suffer slightly from powdery mildew if the summer is hot and humid. If you cut the stalk down before it goes to seed, it will generally rebloom and, if you wish, you can reseed from the second showing.
Self-sown seedlings producing different shifting, untutored patterns of flowers each year, they can be easily transplanted to the location you want them to bloom. They are best transplanted when the leaves are about 10cm long. Make sure the newly moved plants are watered very well to help them establish.
Digitalis is a source of digitalin used in cardiac medicine, it slows the heart. The whole foxglove plant is toxic, no part is edible and if eaten it will cause severe discomfort, in a child or small animal it could cause death. Fortunately it tastes very bitter and causes irritation of the mucous membranes in the mouth, actually causing pain and swelling. It also causes diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting, so if it does get in, it soon comes out!
Because of these factors, it is not really a problem for wildlife, human or otherwise. However if you ever find a child who has been around this plant with symptoms of oral irritation, grab a stem or two and get to the emergency room! Wear gloves when handling plants or seeds, plant only where children or animals will not have access.
Sow in May to June or September to October directly in a well prepared seedbed. Sow seed very thinly in drills 30cm (12in) apart. Firm down gently. Keep the plants moist and free of weeds. Thin out the seedlings to 15cm (6in) apart when large enough to handle.
Foxglove 'Silver Fox' is a tall handsome addition to the landscape.
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