Monday, May 24, 2010


Look what popped up in my secret garden: a surprise foxglove! I have no idea how it ended up here, the last time I grew foxgloves was over 3 years ago at my old condo. And while I have a few plants that I transplanted from there, I am really miffed about the origins of this welcome garden guest.

Foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea) have beautifully colored tubular flowers born on tall spikes. The really beauty of this flower is in the intricate patterns revealed inside the flower ‘tubes’; it’s definitely a flower that merits a closer look. Flowers can be pink, purple, or yellow with detailed patterns of darker stippling in the flower’s throat.

A native of Europe, Asia, and Africa, this plant has medicinal as well as ornamental uses. Medicines derived from foxgloves are called ‘digitalins’ and have been used to treat heart conditions since the late eighteenth century.

Foxgloves have worked their way into modern pharmacology and now their derivatives treat patients in atrial fibrillation, especially if they have been diagnosed with heart failure. But some foxgloves can be toxic, so it’s best not self-medicate.

Even more surprising to me is how well it is blooming in deep shade. Previously, I would have recommended planting this biennial in sun to partial shade. Because it’s a biennial, I’m not counting on seeing this beauty next year. But here’s to an adaptable garden guest that I will enjoy in the meantime!

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