Digitalis (Digitalis) is not a very large genus of the Scrophulariaceae family, which has 26 biennial and perennial species that grow in Europe, North Africa, Central Asia, and the Canary Islands. Despite significant species differences, all digitalis are easily recognizable. Their strong unbranched stems, the height of which varies from 30 to 150 cm, carry large drooping bell-shaped flowers in the upper part, collected in a one-sided spike-shaped inflorescence. The flowers have such a characteristic shape that when you look at them it immediately becomes clear why the plant got its name: they really look like thimbles.
By the way, the botanical name of the genus comes from the Latin word digitus - finger. In English-speaking peoples, the plant is called foxglove (from the words fox - fox and glove - glove) due to the once existing belief that foxes, raiding chicken coops, put digitalis flowers on their paws - this helps them not leave marks on the ground.
Digitalis began to grow in gardens since the end of the XVIII century., But exclusively as a medicinal plant. The glycosides contained in it are used in small doses for the treatment of heart disease. Interest in digitalis as a decorative culture arose relatively recently, and it quickly became popular. This is confirmed by the abundance of varieties that appear annually in the flower market. Most digitalis varieties came from the cross of several species.
Digitalis purpurea (Digitalis purpurea) - a classic biennial plant with a height of 120-150 cm. In the first year, it develops a rosette of leaves, in the second year it throws a peduncle with fairly large flowers, then sets many seeds and dies. This is an extremely variable species: digitalis, growing, say, in Spain, can differ significantly from the "Portuguese", and that, in turn, from the "Corsican". The differences relate not only to the color of the flowers, which can be white, cream, all shades of pink, purple, carmine with characteristic spots inside the bell.
The shape and size of the flowers can vary: for example, there are large-flowered, gloxiniferous and other varieties of digitalis purpurea. Flowering in this species is long, in June-August. On its basis, a huge number of varieties have been created: Apricot beauty with apricot flowers, Dwarf Sensation, characterized by an elongated flower shape and a very dense inflorescence, Foxy - winner of exhibitions, blooms with bells of very juicy, bright colors, Giant shirty - has a huge dense inflorescence, consisting of large bells of white, cream or various shades of pink.
Of the perennial species in decorative floriculture, the most widely used are:
- Digitalis grandiflora with yellow bells and brown veins inside, it blooms in June-July;
- Digitalis yellow (Digitalis lutea) is a lower, squat plant with pure yellow flowers.
On the basis of these species, a large number of varieties have also been bred that differ in the size of the plants and bluebells themselves, their shape and color, and flowering dates.
Unfortunately, most varietal plants, which are complex hybrids, are much inferior to their species ancestors in frost resistance. Being biologically perennial plants, they, nevertheless, weakening after the first wintering, become actually biennials. Perhaps this is one of the main reasons that digitalis is not very popular with our gardeners. It's a pity!
The plant has many advantages: it is extremely plastic, can grow in sunny, open places (provided sufficient moisture in the soil); It will feel great on slightly shaded and even shady areas, while flowering will not suffer at all. In some varieties in shady places inflorescences can be slightly extended, but this does not reduce the decorativeness of the plant. It is no exaggeration to say that digitalis is a classic plant for a shady flower garden. All that she needs for full-fledged long-term flowering is loose, humus-rich soil, since the removal of nutrients by the plant is very high. Digitalis is quite drought tolerant, although it prefers moderately moist areas.
Many flower growers consider the digitalis fragility in the conditions of the Moscow Region as its biggest drawback. But unlike most biennials, digitalis very easily becomes a perennial. In this property, perhaps, only forget-me-not can argue with her. Almost all varieties of digitalis perfectly tie full-fledged seeds, and if they are not specially harvested, they crumble, sometimes in huge quantities. Germinating in spring, seeds give rise to new hybrid plants. Thus, digitalis is easily “dispersed” throughout the garden. In those places where these "travelers" are undesirable, it is enough to weed out the seedlings that have appeared.
Digitalis easily forms interspecific and intraspecific hybrids, so new plants can be extremely diverse. Having planted once, say, varieties with white and dark pink flowers, soon you will have plants in the garden of different shades of pink, cream. By the way, digitalis is one of the main "suppliers" of pastel colors in the garden. Calm tones are simply necessary in places of rest. A soft, blurry color has a calming effect on the eye, so without a digitalis a "romantic garden" is unthinkable.
In the semi-shady corners, the contours of white, cream, pale pink flowers seem more traced, crisp, for such places digitalis compositions in combination with hydrangeas, bells, astilbe are suitable. Rest zones are often arranged under the crowns of trees, and the question arises of what can be planted under them, especially if the trees have a superficial root system, such as, say, birch. The answer is simple: under a tree, digitalis will perfectly live in company with a bought, bedstraw.
Digitalis is a typical peasant garden plant. A free composition with rural charm can be composed of digitalis, stem rose, bluebells, cloves, purses, as well as garden geraniums, oriental poppy, aquilegia, acanthus.
Digitalis can also complement more sophisticated plants. This is no less interesting companion for roses. You can create a tone-to-tone composition by adding one of the many varieties of deltoid cloves. On a retro-style flowerbed, digitalis and roses of old varieties will be complemented by catnip, lavender or sage. A digitalis looks good among flowering peonies, creating interesting verticals. And the combination of white digitalis and white bells suitable for growth will make the shady corner simply fabulous. Due to the similarity of the forms of flower stalks, it harmonizes well with aconites, and plants of close or contrasting tones can be combined.
No less interesting is the combination of bright pink or carmine roses with digitalis of delicate tones, for example, cream or pale pink. To enhance the contrast to them, it is good to plant a bright blue bell milky or broadleaf. An interesting combination of white or pale pink digitalis with dark blue or purple clematis.
Dense spiky digitalis inflorescences break flower beds into separate "islands". Try to mentally remove the digitalis from the composition, and you will feel that something is missing, the composition looks boring, monotonous, as if unfinished.
But you can put digitalis in the foreground, for example, on both sides of the track. What is not a flower corridor? Strong, strong peduncles hold their shape well.
It is no exaggeration to say that digitalis is a universal plant; it is an excellent companion for coniferous, flowering, and decorative-deciduous shrubs, many herbaceous perennials. Wherever this plant is planted, it always rises elegantly above its surroundings, opening up a wide field for the flower grower's imagination. Digitalis is appropriate in any garden.