foxgloves

This has been an exceptional week for foxgloves.  Although there are many drawbacks to growing flowers for cutting on a garden scale, rather than farming them (no mass-spraying; no ploughing in of the old crops; no moving things about by tractor - a tractor couldn't fit in through the gate in our wall), there are many benefits too.  A mini-environment, or tiny microclimate with attendant flora and consequent fauna, in every part of the garden, so that there is always a place that is just the right spot for each treasured new plant.  Lots and lots of bees and butterflies, which benefit from our gentle approach.  The pleasure and connectedness of doing the work ourselves, rather than charging about in machines (we make an exception for cutting the grass!).  One of the very special things about gently gardening rather than farming the flowers is that we are able to leave promising-looking natural seedlings in the ground, overlooked until they develop and flower, often with beautiful and surprising results.  A favourite flower for making lovely natural hybrids is the foxglove.  We purposefully sow white and peach foxgloves in long beds, and tuck into odd corners any of the more unusual varieties ('sugar plum'; 'pink gin') which we can get to germinate (the seed packets of these rarer varieties seem to contain only eight or ten seeds!), with a few pockets of the delicious rich pink, perennial foxglove Digitalis mertonensis.  Over the course of a season, the bees go from flower to flower, cross-pollinating these for us, and the resultant tiny seedlings which spring up all over the garden can be extremely lovely.  I am utterly in love at the moment with a pale lemon yellow seedling which is growing strongly on the corner of the annual flower garden, frilly-lipped and most attractive to bees.  I can't bring myself to pick it and keep barking at everyone else not to pick it either.  Hopefully if we leave it alone it will make more beautiful babies.  The garden was thick with foxgloves of every kind until Wednesday morning, when we picked four hundred of the most massive stems to send to a foxglove-loving customer in London.  Somehow the garden could take the theft.  When Jak arrived at work a few days later, she said, "So you didn't pick the foxgloves, then?"