Tag Archives: foxglove

Foxglove – Plant It This Fall For A Beautiful Spring Display!



Foxglove, Digitalis purpurea, is the quintessential English garden flower. It’s beauty has graced landscapes of great gardeners for hundreds of years, as well as those of more modest means.

Considered a biennial, foxglove is purchased as small transplants in the fall, growing through the winter and reaching their peak flowering time as the roses begin to bloom here in Birmingham.

Plant them in a partially sunny spot, ideally one that will receive some shade in the afternoon. This is especially helpful as temperature begin to rise in the spring and will help them bloom longer. Be sure your soil is loose, and add soil conditioner, shredded leaves, or compost if necessary. Mulch them with shredded pine bark or pinestraw after planting and keep them watered during dry spells.

Foxglove and roses in my early spring garden

Foxglove and roses in my early spring garden

Foxglove look particularly lovely against an evergreen backdrop or a wall of some sort. Combined with other spring annuals and roses, they are reminiscent of a classic cottage garden.

Once they’re through blooming, plants can be left standing to drop seed, (You’ll see baby plants the following summer if this happens.) but they do get a bit bedraggled looking at this point, and I prefer to pull them out, replanting each fall.

Look for a video on our YouTube channel on foxglove in October, 2022. We’ll try to have other informative videos as well, so if you like them, subscribe! 


By Kris Blevons

It’s Spring In The ‘Better Late Than Never Garden’…

Better Late Than Never Garden -Winter 2014-2015Last fall the little plot that I’ve come to call the ‘Better Late Than Never’ garden was gradually planted with foxglove, snapdragons, poppies, delphinium, bachelor buttons, ornamental kale, pansies, and violas. Dashing across the street between customers and shop business to add plants and tending it very early in the morning, the garden slowly filled in.

There were a few poppies...

There were a few poppies…





As with any garden, there were successes and failures. I’ve come to accept that nature always has the upper hand and not to take it personally when something doesn’t go exactly as planned. Take the poppies, for example. This year, for some reason (I think it was all the rain late winter into early spring.), they just didn’t fill out like they usually do. Disappointing for sure, but the snapdragons more than made up for the poppies lackluster performance.

Yellow snapdragons and white foxglove...

Yellow snapdragons and white foxglove…

I usually have lots of larkspur that reseed in my garden at home. This year I don’t see much coming up at all. Again, it could be the rains or

even the frigid spell late winter this year. It didn’t come up in the shop garden either. Oh, well! The foxglove is beautiful and is putting on quite a show with the delphiniums!

Red Russian ornamental kale adding it's yellow blooms as it bolts...

Red Russian ornamental kale adding it’s yellow blooms as it bolts…

My strategy is to have a variety of plants, knowing that there will be some failures but many more successes. Also, between business at the garden shop (and a personal life), I’ve tried to keep the garden weeded and tended as much as possible.

Early morning light on the snapdragons and pansies...

Early morning light on the snapdragons and pansies…








In a perfect world, there would be endless help, every foxglove would be staked, the bachelor buttons would have been cut back at least once to keep them from flopping, the snapdragons would have supports around them, and the pansies and violas would have more constant deadheading…but whoever said life was perfect, and wouldn’t that actually be a little boring?

The nursery is full of plants for your summer garden.  Spring is all about renewal and hope for a new season, so plant your garden with things you love and try something new too. I’m not sure what this summer will hold for the ‘Better Late Than Never’ garden. I do know we’ll enjoy the beauty of all that’s growing now through our busy spring season and get it planted, finally…(Better late than never!).

Happy spring planting to all of you, remember to maintain the garden as best you can, and always enjoy observing life in your garden too…

Posted by Kris Blevons









Fall flowers…Pansies and More!

So many to choose from!

So many to choose from!

We’re so lucky in Birmingham to be able to plan and plant our winter and early spring gardens in the fall, using fresh annuals, like the colorful pansies and violas, as well as  various vegetables – ornamental and edible kale, cabbage, and pac choi are just a few. With summer’s heat behind us, time spent in the garden is a pleasure, not a chore.








Soon all the tables in the nursery will be laden with plants of all kinds – this is such a great opportunity for you to create the most beautiful early spring garden!

IMG_1572Start with pansies and violas for beds and planters, then add supporting players. Some of the prettiest additions to your winter/early spring garden are foxglove with their tall spires of white, pink and purple, snapdragons – they are worth waiting for – poppies, with their bright orange, yellow, red and white papery blooms, and the bluest blue bachelor buttons.



Curley parsley and lettuce...

Curley parsley and lettuce…


There are so many leafy greens to interplant in containers and beds too – colorful chard, kale and mustard are so beautiful and edible as well. Curly parsley is another staple of the winter garden, adding its rich green leaves and texture to any composition.

Finally, don’t overlook the unassuming fall bulbs. Planting a bulb is a leap of faith for some, while other folks plant a few every year to add to their spring display. It’s truly amazing that such  beauty lies in something so seemingly drab.

Smart gardeners know to look for all of these in the fall, planting them in anticipation of a gorgeous spring display!



Fall Planting Tips To Create A Great Spring Garden:

  • Amend your soil. You might think since you followed our advice and added soil conditioner, PlantTone, cow manure or compost  to your beds last spring you’re done. Not so fast! High temperatures break down soil amendments quickly, and plants take up nutrients. Continue adding to your soil every season. Healthy, loose soils create healthy plants.  (Instead of putting fallen leaves to the curb, start a compost pile with them, or run over them with your lawn mower and throw them in your beds. They’ll decompose and add to your soil’s structure and health.)
  • After you get your plants home, be sure to keep them watered, especially if you can’t plant them right away. We water small transplants in 4″ pots and cell packs at least once a day, especially if it’s hot and sunny. Of course, less water is required in cloudy, cool conditions. Right before you plant them, be sure they’re moist.
  • Early in the season while the soil is still warm, you can still plant with Osmocote. However, later in the winter months, use Calcium Nitrate to feed your plants, especially if the foliage of your pansies turns a reddish color. Remember, you’re planting for spring color, though on warm days through the winter you should also have some blooms.
  • Water your bed thoroughly after planting, and keep it watered while your transplants are getting their feet settled in their new home. Take care not to overwater, though, especially as the temperatures cool down going into the winter months.
  • Mulch your beds with shredded mulch or pine straw  to keep soil temperature around the roots as warm as possible.
  • Deadhead your pansies and violas! I can’t stress enough how important this is. A pansy that you leave a dead bloom on will form a seed there, instead of putting that energy into more flowers. Make a practice to walk through your garden at least once a week, taking a good look at your plants and deadheading  faded blooms. If you’ve missed some, you’ll see the seed pod beginning to form. Pinch any and all off! This will go a long way toward keeping your pansies happy!








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Bachelor Buttons…Plant Some This Fall for a Blue, Blue Spring!

Newly planted...

Newly planted…

I planted some bachelor buttons, Centaurea cyanus ‘Blue Boy’, in my garden the other day. Usually transplants of these beautiful spring to early summer bloomers are hard to come by until very late fall almost into winter, and I’ve planted them that late with success.

So blue...

So blue…

This year, though, one of our local growers already has some available! So, if you’re in the Birmingham area, make some room in your garden so you can enjoy the bluest of blues next spring like I do every year along with my roses, foxglove, and snapdragons.

To help you understand where they will work best for you, keep in mind that they’ll grow to 3′ and become very full, especially if you cut them back a bit early in the spring. This isn’t absolutely necessary, but I’ve found it keeps mine from sprawling and they still get quite tall. One of my best combinations (Quite by accident!), and one I’ve repeated, is bachelor button and Baptisia shown here.

With Baptisia in the spring...

With Baptisia in the spring…

You may happen upon your own beautiful combinations though. Just remember to give them some sun and don’t baby them too much. Average soil is fine since they are really amazingly tough plants, and only the heat of summer will end the blue wave of carnation like flowers.

The blue of a bachelor button is simply incomparable – cornflower blue. It was once called “boutonnière flower” because the small, bright blue flowers were once commonly used by bachelors tucked into buttonholes on their suits. It’s also been called “Ragged Robin” and “Cornflower”.

Many of you have noticed the bachelor buttons in our sign planter in front of Oak Street Garden Shop each spring. By the time you notice them blooming, it’s too late to plant them. Don’t miss out this year!

Digiplexis – A New Plant To Try!

Photo courtesy Thompson & Morgan

Photo courtesy Thompson & Morgan

This year there are a couple of new plants I’m excited about. This is the first one…and one that we’ll have available for you to try this spring. Digiplexis is a cross between digitalis (foxglove) and Isoplexis canariensis (Canary Island foxglove). The picture is courtesy of breeder Thompson & Morgan, since I haven’t grown it yet. If it looks anything like this, though, I’ll be taking plenty of pictures in my own garden!

The result of this cross has taken the horticultural world by storm – a breathtaking (by all accounts) combination of the orangeish-apricot flowers of isoplexis with the pinks of foxglove. The variety is called ‘Illumination Flame” and  won the Greenhouse Growers’ Award of Excellence in 2013.  In fact, this cross was thought to be impossible but was accomplished by Charles Valin after 6 years of work.

The flower spikes are similar in shape to foxglove, and the 3′ tall plant is reported to have multiple bloom spikes.  This is our first growing season with this plant, and it will be a learning experience for us all. I am hoping that, because of the heat loving isoplexis genes, it will last longer into the summer for us. It would be best to site it in a spot that receives some afternoon shade to ensure it lasts as long as possible. The plant is sterile, so it won’t seed; but reportedly the bees and butterflies are still atracted to it. And, even though the tag claims it is a perennial, I will be labeling it an annual until it proves itself as carrying through an entire summer and winter here.

A word to the wise : Any of you reading this who are regular customers are aware of how quickly we sell through things during the height of spring. If you are interested in trying some of these, please let us know so we can special order them as they become available.

In addition to Illumination ‘Flame’, we’ll also be carrying one called ‘Raspberry’ later in the season. This was an addition to a local grower’s order that was unexpected, so, of course, we’ll have to try it as well!

Photo Courtesy Thompson & Morgan