Perhaps as a result of the cool, cloudy spring we experienced, our foxgloves have reached for the sky this year – some are well over seven feet tall! Every time I look out the bathroom window, which overlooks their woodland corner, I feel transported to Tolkien’s Middle-earth: it’s as if Elrond and Legolas might emerge from the forest at any moment.
The foxgloves are the enduring result of a gift my father-in-law brought me many years ago: an envelope of seeds he had gathered from wild foxgloves near his home. I’ve been growing them ever since, gathering the germ of a new generation every second fall when seeds form on these bienniel plants (Digitalis purpurea), then starting a new round of seedlings when winter’s end is near.
Foxglove has had some interesting monikers over the centuries. Some reflect their poisonous nature: Witches’ Gloves, Dead Men’s Bells, Dead Men’s Thimbles, Bloody Fingers. Others are gentler: Lady’s Gloves, Fairy Caps, Fairy Thimbles and Folk’s Glove (which gave rise to its modern name).
Whatever you call them, I can’t help but love these magnificent plants and the Tolkienesque tableau they create in our forest garden.