Digitalis purpurea 'Alba' Seeds
Price for Package of 25 Seeds.
Digitalis purpurea 'Alba' is a lovely cream foxglove, which makes a beautiful cut flower and garden plant.
You can't go wrong with white foxgloves. We line the drive with Digitalis purpurea 'Alba' at Perch Hill, planting them in the autumn to flower for May through much of the summer. Bees and butterflies love them.
Foxgloves make some of the very best cottage garden early summer garden plants and cut flowers. If you pick the king flower – the main spire, you create lots of prince flowers and the plants will then go on flowering for longer.
Please note: This is Toxic if eaten.
GENUS Digitalis purpurea
TYPE Hardy Biennial
COMMON NAME White Foxglove
BORDER POSITION Middle
SOIL TYPE Acid, Chalky, Neutral
SITE Part Shade
MOISTURE Moist But Well-Drained
HEIGHT 90-120cm (3-4ft)
SPACING 60cm (24in), thin to 45cm (18in)
SOWING, SEEDS, PLANTING Sow under cover May - July on compost surface, do not cover. Transplant to 7.5cm pots, grow on and harden off before late summer, early autumn planting in final flowering position or can sow direct.
CARE TIPS They self seed freely but some will revert to the wild colour form. Pull out any seedlings with red stems if you want them to remain pure. May need staking.
FLOWERING May - July, 1 year from sowing seed
VASE LIFE 7-10 days. As you cut put them in a deep bucket of warm water and leave for several hours before arranging. Remove any flowers hanging by the stigma.
HARVESTING Flower production: 2-3 months. Pick the top king flower out and you will promote production of more prince side flowers.
sowing and growing foxgloves
Sit by a foxglove for 10 minutes and just watch the goings-on. When the sun comes out, each spire looks like one of those glass lift shafts on a modern skyscraper, bees moving in and out of the flowers on each floor. And the great thing about this tower is that all the rooms are cafés: stored in a well at the base of each flower is the most nutritious, sugar-rich nectar, there for the taking.
As the ground floor runs out – the flower goes over – the bees can move up to the floor above, and on upwards, floor by floor, over the eight or 10 weeks of a foxglove's flowering season. In the case of 'Camelot Cream', a short-lived perennial, it can last as long as 20 weeks.
Even more nectar
To pool your nectar plants closely, plant foxgloves with borage, one of the quickest-ever annuals from seed to flower and a famously good plant for pollinators. This mix is not just good for nature, it looks magnificent, ideal for a prominent place which needs something spectacular from May to July, with the blue borage mixed with the soft pink 'Sutton's Apricot', for example. Plant the foxgloves in autumn or early spring (see below) and then add the borage between them. Borage will survive outside in a sunny, sheltered spot through the winter, or can be sown or dotted through as plants in March or April.
The borage relation Anchusa azurea is even showier, with large, flat, brilliant blue flowers; it mixes perfectly with the pure white foxglove,Digitalis purpurea 'Alba'. The anchusa, a short-lived perennial, can be sown at the same time as the foxglove and the blue and white flowers stand together at the same level. There's a new white-flowered foxglove, 'Silver Cub', launched at Chelsea last year by Thompson & Morgan, with furry, silver leaves.
Just add alliums
Foxgloves are also excellent mixed with any of the summer-flowering alliums. Plant the allium in the autumn and then move your foxgloves in over the top. I love them with the brilliant-value, huge-scale Allium cristophii, which lasts in the garden for decades – even on heavy clay – and yet costs no more than varieties such as 'Purple Sensation', which have a quarter of the scale. With foxgloves and alliums you've got a vertical rocket with a round sparkler, the perfect balance in any plant duo.
I also love the white foxglove standing like organ pipes in the cutting garden where you can under-sow it with quick- flowering annuals such as the Californian poppy Eschscholzia californica 'Orange King' orcerinthe. Direct sown in April around the line of foxgloves, these will flower to coincide perfectly.
Foxgloves are also one of the best flowers to cut for summer parties and weddings. Arrange them in huge buckets on their own, in two colours, some cut short to give the arrangement a heart, others left at full height to create the horizon. Foxgloves look good through a haze of something light and cloud-forming, such as the umbellifers Ammi majusor orlaya, or mix them in a hand-tied bunch with the scented, bosomy roundness of a peony. You can't do better than peony 'Duchesse de Nemours' with flowers that last two weeks (as do the foxgloves if kept cool).
There's no better vertical than a foxglove spire for creating a vasthanging globe – a sort of chandelier of flowers – at a party. Wrap an 8inOasis (floral foam) globe with chicken wire and then hang it at the centre of a room or marquee. Cover the ugly green Oasis with foliage – euphorbia, dill or amaranthus – and then poke in your flowers, the white Ammi majus to match the white foxglove and then the pink peony 'Monsieur Jules Elie' to add a soft contrast. Finish with a grass, such as Stipa gigantea, wheat or oats, to create the all-important strong silhouette. This combination works well on almost any scale, but a vast globe arrangement – all easily picked from a garden – is the best-ever centrepiece.
For a wreath, the pods of Allium 'Purple Sensation' and honesty are both at their best just when foxgloves come into flower. I hate to waste these seedpods when I clear them from the garden to make space for something else, so I arrange them into a drying wreath that can hang on a door until Hallowe'en or Christmas. If you use wet Oasis as your base, you can add fresh foxgloves and the airy, giant Stipa gigantea to form a Catherine wheel effect. Remove the foxgloves when they've gone over, but leave the seed pods and grass to dry.
Grow from seed
With the amazing prolonged heat we've had over the past few weeks, it's easy to forget that summer is still a time to sow seed. If you get only one packet done in the next week or so, a foxglove has to be a strong contender.
Sow foxgloves as soon as possible. They're biennial so it's already getting late in the year. They have minuscule seed, so are easiest scattered into a seed tray and pricked out from there. I've tried sowing them into a gutter pipe – to avoid the need for pricking out, planted straight from the gutter – but the seed is just too small to allow even, well-distributed seedlings down the guttering.
It's better to sow foxgloves quick and high above a seed tray. This will help get them as broadly scattered as possible. Keep the compost moist (sitting the tray on capillary matting makes this easier). They usually take about 10 days to germinate and then three weeks to grow on to a size suitable for pricking out.
In September, plant the seedlings out in a seedbed where they can stay until early next spring, when they can be moved into their final flowering position, each plant with a good spadeful of root ball and soil to go with it. I've just created an area of open ground for exactly this reason, with enough room to space them out 18in apart. This enables them to put on huge growth in the autumn when the soil is still warm and moist, so they're in a good strong state when we hit the winter and hence grow off again well next spring.
You could also plant them into their final position in late summer/autumn, but don't overcrowd them with their siblings, or other plants. They won't then make the gargantuan, arm-filling clumps they're capable of when widely spaced.