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Close up photograph of Digitalis 'Excelsior Group' in planting designed by Tythorne Garden Design

Digitalis 'Excelsior Group': tall, elegant and a wonderful haven for bees

Digitalis are more commonly known as Foxgloves, and they are an understandably popular plant with anybody who loves the look and feel of a ‘cottage’ garden. As a family of plants, Digitalis tend to be either biennials (growing foliage one year and then flowering, setting seed and then dying the next) or short-lived perennials. There are many different varieties, but all have simple mid-green foliage and tall spikes of attractive bell-shaped summer flowers with mottled throats. Flower colour varies enormously from plant to plant, but are most frequently white, pink, purple and yellow. All are brilliant for attractive bees and other pollinators.


When we are designing garden planting we tend to specify Digitalis 'Excelsior Group' because we find it to be a super reliable variety. They seed themselves prolifically, and whilst this makes them ideal for adding height, colour and interest throughout a mixed-planting scheme, it can prove tiresome for ‘neater’ gardeners. We have to say we love it, however, and we are more than happy for them to spread as they choose. It is no great hardship, after all, to pull them out if they find themselves somewhere unwanted.


Given their propensity for seeding themselves it is perhaps unsurprising to note that Digitalis will grow happily in almost any location. They can cope with most soils types providing they aren’t water-logged, and will happily grow in full sun or partial shade.


Despite being popular and abundant, Digitalis are important plants medicinally, with extracts from the plant being used to treat heart conditions. The qualities that make them useful to medicine, however, also make them toxic. Whilst this doesn’t, in my view at least, mean that Digitalis shouldn’t be used in gardens shared by children and pets, care should be taken to avoid accidental digestion. (Lots of popular garden plants are toxic, incidentally, and for anybody concerned the RHS have produced a list of plants of interest in this regard.


From a garden design point of view, we find Digitalis really useful for adding height and colour as part of a mixed-planting scheme, and they are particularly good for ‘traditional’ English ‘cottage’ gardens, instantly adding a sense of heritage and informality. We tend to start by using them towards the middle and back of a border, and enjoy the way that they add movement and interest as they work their way through a garden over the following years.


Digitalis is a wonderful family of plants, and we would encourage you all to consider adding them to your gardens.


Tythorne Garden Design provides professional fixed-fee garden design solutions for customers in Grantham, Stamford, Newark and surrounding areas. Let's see how we can help you to enjoy your garden more. Call us on 07900 224 239 or 01529 455 355.

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