Foxgloves were one of the first plants I grew from seed. They were not fancy ones but ‘Excelsior Hybrids’. They were fantastic. Unlike wild foxgloves that have blooms on one side of the stem these beauties produce their big flowers right round the stem and the colours, though not as exciting as more modern sorts, are a wonderful range of pinks, mauves, lilacs, white, salmon and primrose. I am sowing some now for colour next year after a rather more tasteful display this year of pure white foxgloves and ‘Pam’s Choice’.
I sowed them last February, which is a bit early to be honest but it meant I had nice plants to put out last May and they made stonking plants by autumn and I am reaping the rewards now as each is sending up several stems of flowers, and they are just beginning to open. ‘Pam’s Choice’ is basically a white foxglove that is heavily spotted and blotched with dark red. In poor light the flowers have an almost black and white effect. Because my plants are so strong and had a whole year to get up a head of steam the stems are almost 2m high though many descriptions say that this is a relatively small foxglove. I do not want to give misinformation so I will ignore most of what I have discovered about its origin on a trawl of the net but I am reasonably sure it was a Thompson & Morgan introduction and they may have bred it since they are one of the few UK retail seed companies to breed seeds. A nice feature of the plant is that the blooms are not massive but are freely produced. I often like giant flowers but it is also nice when a plant is perfectly proportioned!
Anyway it is a lovely plant and I will post a photo of them en masse when more are open. It seems that Thompson & Morgan are also responsible for introducing ‘Pam’s Split’ a variant of this elegant plant. In this abomination the tubular flowers are reduced to four separate petals. Do not believe the descriptions of how lovely this is; it looks as though it has been pulled through a hedge backwards, then run over with a mower – it is simply awful! The whole point of foxgloves is their beautiful, tubular flowers and the joy of watching the bees work their flowers (more on this in a few days if the bees bother to pollinate them and I can get a photo) and looking at a spire of shredded flowers is not good. (Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed that one of the flowers in the top photo is splitting – I just hope I do not have a seed stock that is contaminated with the ‘splitting gene’)
Foxgloves are easy to grow from seed but the seeds need light to germinate so you must not cover them with compost. Fill your pot or tray and then water it. Sow the dust-like seeds on the surface and cover with a light layer or perlite – to help keep moisture around the seeds. Then put them in a shady place to let them germinate. The seedlings are tiny at first so you need to leave them to produce a true leaf so they are big enough to handle. Then transplant them into small-cell trays. You can sow between January (when you will need artificial heat) and July. From April onwards they will germinate in ordinary outside conditions (in the UK and Ireland). Foxgloves are biennials, meaning they are sown one year and bloom (and then die) the next but sometimes they can live a bit longer. However they usually selfseed and once grown you will probably have them forever. ‘Pam’s Choice’ comes true from seed though the spotting and blotching will vary. I would be quite happy for it to marry the pure white foxglove and I would welcome their children.