Foxgloves That Planted Their Own Selves

Wild foxgloves on the edge of moorland in Darwen, Lancashire
Foxgloves on the edge of moorland

If you were to take a decently long countryside walk in summer near where I live, you’d almost certainly pass a hundred or more wild foxgloves. To (nearly) quote blogging buddy, Maureen, they’re the ones ‘that planted their own selves’. And to my eye they’re the better for it.

Foxglove growing on a wall

Their habit of tumbling down banks and walls, swinging out on the wind towards passers-by who come too close, gave rise to folklore’s claim that foxgloves nod in deference when a member of the gentry passes by.

Most likely they do, but I can vouch that they also nod to commoners (unless foxgloves know more about my ancestry than do I).

Foxgloves in managed woodland at RHS Garden Bridgewater
Foxgloves in managed woodland

Foxgloves mingle beautifully in flower borders, but it always surprises me to see them used as bedding plants, especially when they are evenly spaced in straight rows.

Not that they’re likely to remain regular – even the sturdiest, most upright ones have a habit of straying.

Foxgloves growing wild along a dry stone wall

Deep pink Digitalis purpurea, plus a smattering of white ones and a rarer pale pink form, are the ones we have in Lancashire.

Wild foxglove hybrid with elderberry flowers beside a wooden post

Wild white and pink foxgloves

White foxgloves have an other quality, especially when they gleam in half-light. It’s easy to see how the folk name, Fairy’s petticoats, came about.

Foxgloves in a meadow
Foxgloves in a meadow

As not everyone has the chance to see foxgloves growing in their own style, I thought I’d share a few pictures that celebrate their wildness.

Naturalistic planting of foxgloves at the Dorothy Clive Garden
Naturalistic planting of foxgloves, Dorothy Clive Garden

I’ll leave you with two images that show how the wild style can work in gardens, including a foxglove that had beautifully self-seeded with ferns and campanulas in the walled garden of a terraced house that opened for the National Garden Scheme in Liverpool earlier this year.

Foxglove growing in the brick wall of a terraced house

By this point in the year, their flower spikes are studded with seedpods that have turned brown and papery: effectively sprinklers that loose their tiny seeds wherever they sway.

Shared for Cee’s Flower of the Day.

50 Replies to “Foxgloves That Planted Their Own Selves”

  1. My favourite wild plant!! I was overjoyed a few years ago when a large cluster of them suddenly started growing on our bank or earth that separates us from the field next door. This year they had spread much further!! 🙂

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