Thursday, June 19, 2014
Common foxglove, Digitalis purpurea, is presently one of our garden stars. Abundant pink flowers hanging from tall spikes catch and hold the eye. This biennial has been with us so long that we cannot remember with certainty its original source. We garden in the middle of old pasture land so shade here is only a dream. Foxglove planted at the base of field stone walls finds daily periods of shade near the ground and ample moisture from nightly condensation on the walls. Sited favorably, it increases its presence here approaching weed status.
Our nightly walk about identified an area that needs weeding. Plant identifier Becky pointed out young basal rosettes of foxglove that need to be moved next to the base of the stone wall rather than added to the compost bucket. At their present size, they will transplant with ease and guarantee the continued presence of this attractive flower in our garden.
Another advantage of placing these plants at the base of the stone wall is that foreground plants will hide the coming empty space when the spent flower spikes are pruned off. The contrast between their present visual statement and the coming unsightly collection of tan seed pods and spent blossoms is stark.
Both the seeds and leaves of this plant contain a compound that affects the rate of heart beat. Herbalists generally no longer use this plant medicinally since the dosage is hard to determine. When our children were young we would not allow this plant in our gardens because of its poisoning potential. Now my day always starts with tea made from garden grown leaves. Mints are the most common ingredient but other plants are frequently added to the brew. Many a mystery novelist uses this plant to off their victim. Plants like this one are best kept separate from the tea herbs. Mistakes can be made and it's best for everyone to remember that!