Foxgloves: First year flowering varieties for the cutting patch
Missed the window for sowing biennial foxgloves last season? You can still have these stunners blooming in your cutting patch this year. Here's how....
By choosing one of the quick to flower 'annual' varieties and starting seeds off early, it's possible to have foxgloves blooming the same year as sowing.
Generally, foxgloves like the beauties above (Digitalis 'Sutton's Apricot') are biennials (although some are perennial), which means the plant has a life cycle of two years. Sown from seed, they put on foliage, stem and root growth in their first year and then bloom in their second before setting seed and dying off at the end of that season. It's easy to miss the window for sowing biennials as it's at a busy point in the growing season - mid to late summer. It's busy enough keeping on top of the watering, the weeding and the harvesting at that time of the year.
However, all is not lost if you didn't get around to sowing seed when you should have. Of course you could always buy the potted plants that appear in garden centres in spring, or order jumbo plugs online, but costs can add up if you're wanting to plant more than just a few. Another option is to sow one of the varieties known for being super-speedy to flower that will bloom in their first year. The 'Dalmation' and 'Camelot' series and 'Foxy' hybrids all fall into this category. These varieties come in various shades of pink, lilac, peach, cream and white. They are generally shorter and the flowers smaller than those sown as a biennial the previous year, but you might see this as a bonus as they are easier to use in smaller arrangements.
How to grow:
You'll need to start the seeds off early with a little bottom heat -at least by February to stand a chance of getting blooms this year. Don't cover the seed, it needs light to germinate.
Transfer the seedlings to the greenhouse once they have germinated, pricking out and potting on as needed. They'll be ready to plant out after all danger of frost has passed.
They should flower about five months after sowing - later than the earlier sown biennial foxgloves.
Cut any blooms you don't harvest down to the base of the plant to encourage the plant to re-bloom the following year - despite being 'annual' foxgloves, they will flower for a second year.
Getting hold of seed: