Here we are at the solstice, climbing the big hill of the calendar like kids in the first car of a roller coaster.
We could try to savor the moment but summer is off on a roaring start. Hang on tight!
Shooting up like rocket and lasting only as long as a ride on the Coney Island Cyclone, is Foxglove, Digitalis purpea, a giant poisonous beauty used to make digitalin, a common heart-disease medication. Could it be a coincidence that it’s so stunning it makes your heart skip a beat just to look at it? I doubt it.
Foxglove grows like weeds in England which is why it has become visual short hand for the quintessential cottage garden. In typical Brit fashion it is also the stuff of elfin legends; covered in freckles, aka “elf fingerprints,” they are also known by the names “Dead Man’s Thimbles” and “Witches Fingers,” no doubt because its poisonous sap keeps insects away. But not Fairies. The plant is, so they say, lousy with fairies; sleeping in the blooms, making a living by selling the gloves to foxes so they’ll be even more stealthy when they raid the hen house, that sort of thing.
Rumor has it the fairies will have it in for you if you mess with their favorite sleeping bags, causing you no end of grief. But just as the plant is both poison and antidote, so can it be used against Fairy magic. From the The Fairy Lore of Foxglove:
a child is Taken and a squalling changeling left in its place,
place foxglove leaves beneath its crib.
The faeries will bring back the stolen child.
You know, that would have saved me no end of trouble, had I only known. Kidding, Dear Children, kidding! (not kidding…)
And yet, back here in real life, Foxglove is here only for a heartbeat so enjoy it while you can. It is hard to find (not at any grocery store, but you knew it wouldn’t be, right?), but my friends Leon and Carol Carrier of Plant Masters set me up with some beauties. I also grew a petite native variety, Digitalis parviflora.
Compared to its behemoth cousins, it is almost diminutive with a timid butter yellow hue. I’m finding it not only lasts longer in the garden but also works will in for design work, adding some elegant curve without overwhelming the whole arrangement.
Come see what my other floral design friends, have done with Foxies: a drop-dead gorgeous bridal bouquet of cafe au lait dahlias and peach foxglove from Two Little Buds of Hamilton, Ohio, a mothers day bunch being hand-delivered by Katie Koch of Califlowermama, a Riz Reyes arrangement that takes advantage of Foxgloves height and volume, and a sweet petite posy by Hannah Keen. Clever little fairies, all of them!