When it comes to garden style, I'm an Anglophile, so foxgloves are at the top of my hot plant list. Foxgloves are the 3- to 4-foot-tall plants that bear large, showy tube-shaped flowers -- the colorful spires that along with delphiniums, dominate the typical English border in late spring and early summer.
Unfortunately, the old-fashioned species fail to thrive in my patch because they suffer in the heat of my full-sun garden. These foxgloves prefer sitting in cool, shaded surroundings and do best when grown in the organic, rich soil of a part-shade garden that is not allowed to dry out.
The most common foxglove found in American gardens, Digitalis purpurea,in shades of purple or white, is a biennial that blooms in its second season of life and then disappears. However, if it loves where it lives, it will reseed and you can get a large stand going. That doesn't happen in my garden.
My favorite foxglove, Digitalis mertonensis,also called the strawberry foxglove, bears delicious peachy-pink colored blooms. It's a perennial that rarely overwinters in my garden and if it does, it struggles in its second season. That's why I buy them when they're ready to bloom.
So, I was thrilled when the new Camelot series foxgloves Digitalis purpurea,Camelot Lavender, Camelot Rose and Camelot White arrived in garden centers a couple of years ago.
These seed-grown varieties flower in their first year, producing scads of flower-filled spires. Keep them well-watered and they flourish in a full-sun garden. Prompt deadheading when about two-thirds of the flowers on a stem have bloomed out, will keep them flowering throughout the summer, unless it's a real scorcher. And they make great cut flowers.
While Camelots may overwinter, it has been my experience that they struggle, so I treat them as annuals and feed them accordingly. When planting, I use a slow-release fertilizer, such as Dynamite, and give them a light foliar feed every couple of weeks.
It should be noted that all parts of the foxglove plants are poisonous, which is probably why deer and rabbits don't mess with them.
If you're looking to color up your shade garden, Larry Hodgson, author of on Perennials for Every Purpose (Rodale Press) suggests using the yellow specie foxglove Digitalis grandiflora, one of the toughest and best performing of the clan. Cut the plant back after its first bloom to encourage a showing in the fall.