Some lovely new foxglove hybrids have been introduced in recent years. Many of these newcomers have the exotic Canary Island species Digitalis canariensis (formerly known as Isoplexis canariensis) in their background, while others are derived from hardier species. Some are propagated by cuttings or tissue culture, others are raised from seed.
Two hardy newcomers from The Netherlands, raised from seed but not producing seed themselves, are ‘Lucas’ and ‘Martina’ (right). Both are sterile, which means that not only do they flower for far longer than the more familiar foxgloves but you don’t get a mass of unpredictable offspring all over the garden the year after flowering.
Both these varieties were developed by Maarten van der Sar, who told me: “My aim was to make short and branching hybrids for container use. Landscaping was also in my mind. The nice thing about these two varieties is that they are completely sterile, so longer flowering.”
Pink-flowered ‘Martina’ is the taller of the two, reaching about 1m (3ft) in height, and is ideal in borders. It received high praise from the judges at the recent RHS trial of foxgloves. They reported it as “Very elegant, airy, gracious. Lovely dark stem. Good stem, leaf and flower colour. Good branching, the heights of the main stem and side branches works very well together.” It has slightly silvery leaves and longer and thinner flower spikes than ‘Lucas’.
‘Lucas’, with purple flowers, is shorter and more compact at about 70cm (28in) and is exceptionally well branched, creating a mass of colour and has neater green foliage so is ideal in containers.
Both ‘Martina’ and ‘Lucas’ are sterile, so have an exceptionally long flowering season, from May to September or October.
You can order seed of Digitalis ‘Lucas’ and Digitalis ‘Martina’ from Owl’s Acre Seeds.
Plants of Digitalis ‘Lucas’ are available from Hayloft Plants.
* The awards that will be given following the trial have not yet been announced.
** Please note the contents of this blog reflect the views of its author and are not necessarily those of the RHS