Friday, November 27, 2009

Foxglove

Foxglove is the common name for about 20 to 30 species of summer flowering for short lived perennial herbs in the genus Digitalis, family Scrophular iaceae. They are native to Europe and northwest Africa to Central Asia. The common foxglove, D. purpurea, grows to a height of 150 cm (5 ft). Its leaves are alternate, lance shaped, up to cm (1 ft) long, and hairy above with soft white hairs below. Leaves are tapered at the base to form winged stalks. The flowers droop on erect racemes, and the fruit capsule with numerous seeds.

Common foxglove is found in cleanings, in burned areas, and in fully dry pastures, and it is often grown as an ornamental. Many varieties have been originated through breeding, with flowers varying from white to deep rose in color. The dried leaves, the source of the drug digitalis used for heart trouble, have been used medicinally since the 13th century.

Growing tips
Site and soil preferences: Virtually any soil is fine. It should ideally being quite rich, but avoid wet and dry extremes, and grow in light shade.

Sowing: The optimum time to sow seed is as it matures on the plant in mid to late summer, before the end of August. A single seed capsule will provide hundreds of seeds, a few of which can be sown in ordinary seed compost, in containers, and placed somewhere cool and moist. The seedlings will produce large, early flowering plants for next summer. If you're relying on nature to do the work for you in borders, thin out the seedlings on the ground to enable them to reach a decent size. In a wild garden, don't intervene; higgledy-piggledy is fine.

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