GARDENING: Foxglove love

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MY investment in a packet of rare and mixed foxglove seeds for less than £2 has paid dividends.

The garden’s now full of a variety of floral spires, reaching from 2ft to more than 6ft. The majority are shades of pink, but there’s also many whites and a beautiful delicate apricot.

Foxgloves really come into the own in late May/early June, at a point where there always seems to be a bit of a lull. The bulbs have finished and early spring bedding like wallflowers and pansies are ragged and past their best.

They’re also shade lovers, so I let them freely self-seed around the hedge boundaries. They’re mostly biennials (with some perennials), so those seedlings you see now won’t flower until this time next year.

They do well in pots – I have lots in old potato bags, which were planted up with tulips – the bulbs fade, then the foxgloves take over the flowering mantle.

I like mine best with a combination of cow parsley, sweet rocket (Hesperis, lilac and white), chives and alliums (ornamental onions), whose large globular white and purple heads contrast well with the tall foxgloves.

This is a very easy late-spring combination – plant the allium bulbs in autumn and the rest are prolific self-seeders – just pull out what you don’t want – and they’re excellent for pollinators.

There is one bizarre “foxglove” – it germinated at the same time as the others, formed a rosette of leaves and has put up a flower spike. However, the leaves are apple green and smooth and water collects in the leaf axils, in a sort of pouch.

Thanks to Twitter, three people identified it as a rogue teasel – I did sow them too, but none germinated (or so I thought). I must have reused the soil when potting up. Shame George smashed through it yesterday.

l Please be aware that foxgloves are extremely toxic if your garden’s used by children.