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31/07/2012 at 16:19
Hi - I have a wildlife garden and I don't use any plants that aren't beneficial to bees and beneficial insects. I recently bought 6 plugs of Foxglove Pink Illumination which is the brand new perrennial foxglove which won at Chelsea. They are coming on well but I happened to read that they are sterile recently. I know that this will mean that they don't produce pollen, but does it also mean that they won't have nectar? If there is no pollen, does the plant not bothering producung nectar either as there is no point attracting insects? It will be such a shame to take them out, but they only went in as Foxgloves are o good for wildlide. Thanks for any replies
31/07/2012 at 16:22
PS. Sorry for all the spelling mistakes - damn tiny screen on my blackberry...!
31/07/2012 at 16:28

I certainly wouldn't pull them out, its a lovely plant and I bet they weren't cheap either. If everything other thin in the garden is benificial to wildlife then a couple of plants wont matter. 

Find a friend that has some foxgloves in their garden and pinch a couple of the old flower spikes and take them back to yours and wang the flower heads around scattering the seeds.  (Now is the perfect tiem to do this) I find this is always much more effective in sowing foxgloves them trying to grow in pots you can always move the baby plants around, or even lift them and pot them til you have worked out where they want to go.

31/07/2012 at 17:57

I noticed that T&M foxglove which won the best new plant award at Chelsea. I posted some messages on here at the time saying (if you don't mind) how hideous I thought the plant was.

The native foxglove is possibly the most classy and graceful of all the wildflowers. It's the way that the spike gently curves towards the top, and how the flowers hang down in a graceful pendulous way. I don't want to see foxgoves that point upwards, or that have rigid upright stems, or are in bizarre unnatural colours.

There's also the important wildlife issue. Bees do love to climb up into the bells. I just don't know how they manage with foxglove blooms that are upside down, if they even bother.

I have tried growing foxgloves in pots. For me, they have not been as successful as foxgloves grown in the soil, which always seem to grow more vigourously. I don't know if it's because I water them too frequently, or not enough, or for some other reason. I had several soil-grown foxgloves that topped 8 feet this year, but none of those grown in pots managed anything like that.

31/07/2012 at 18:11

Lunarz,

According to the information I can find, the plants should still produce nectar.

The nectar producing parts of the flower, (called "Nectaries") are seperate from the sexual parts of the plant and situated deeper in the flower.

Therefore, despite the plant's sterility, it should still produce nectar and be just as beneficial for wildlife as many of your plants.

Although, I do agree with Gary. They are not likely to be as pollinator-friendly as the native foxglove.

Hope this helps

31/07/2012 at 18:23

Gary, I agree  with you so much about the beauty of our native foxgloves, from the deep mauve to the white and we've had some absolutely beautiful self-sown examples here in our new garden this year - I've never felt drawn to growing the 'improved' varieties with flowers all around the stem, or pointing upwards etc.  

This year I have sown some Pam's Choice which will soon be ready for planting out http://www.thompson-morgan.com/flowers/flower-seeds/perennial-and-biennial-seeds/digitalis-purpurea-pams-choice/4225TM , which I hope will bring some light to a dark corner under some trees - they're the first 'different' ones I've ever grown. I hope I'm going to like them.

31/07/2012 at 18:56
Thanks very much Phytographer - that's great news. Gary, I hadn't realised that it was upside down - the colour is slightly garish, I agree, but what appealed to me was the perennial aspect - I am not completely confident yet in the garden and feel safer with perennials, and also I have such a small patch, biennials seem a waste of space. I can see where you are coming from though - it's not great if the plant has been chsnged so much from its native form...
31/07/2012 at 19:09

There are other perennial foxgloves tho' not as showy as the new one.  Ferruginea is one with light rusty coloured flowers and I've seen bees on mine.  Grandiflora is another but it doesn't seem to like my winters so I always try and have some of the biennial forms as the white one in particular looks very good in my shady area.   Pam's choice is another favourite and I have seeds to sow for next year.  I do mine in pots as I know where they are and OH can't accidentally weed them..

31/07/2012 at 20:23

Speaking of pollinator-friendly plants, the fashion for doubles doesn't really help pollinating insects. Apart from which I find singles - Peonies, Dahlias etc. so much more striking in their simplicity than the big blousy doubles. 

01/08/2012 at 06:54

The T&M Chelsea winning foxglove isn't actually one of the upward pointing ones, but it's in that artificial veign.

A few of the novelties are quite nice. I grow Pam's choice, and like those very much. This is Pam's Choice:

http://i849.photobucket.com/albums/ab51/falcosubbuteo/pams-choice1.jpg

http://i849.photobucket.com/albums/ab51/falcosubbuteo/pams-choice2.jpg

 And this is Summer King (also from T&M). It's quite short, but still attractive:

http://i849.photobucket.com/albums/ab51/falcosubbuteo/summer-king.jpg

These are self-seeders, this shows the environment they naturally prefer (it's shady):

http://i849.photobucket.com/albums/ab51/falcosubbuteo/native-foxgloves.jpg

01/08/2012 at 11:14

Lunarz, don't be afraid of annuals or biennials. For a wild life garden they are perfect. Insects love them and normally once you have a selection of annual wild flowers, you wont get rid of them. They will self seed and reappear year in year out with little effort. 

I haven't bought or purposely sown foxgloves, forget me nots or poppies for years. Might wang the flower heads round the garden a bit, but thats it. Sunflowers always pop up all over the place.

02/08/2012 at 13:44
Just about to cut down a Pam's choice which appeared from nowhere. I think wanging's in order!
02/08/2012 at 15:05

I've just been wanging aquilegias, giant scabious and creamy aconitums.   Foxgloves have to wait till I get to their bed but there's enough wind to do it for me I suspect.  Have noticed loads of bees on white lavender, astilbes and hosta flowers.

11/08/2012 at 13:52

When you wang, how long till you can expect the seeds to germinate, if they're going to? I've been doing a bit of wanging of foxgloves and aquilegias too

09/08/2013 at 11:07

I've come online to find out about the new foxglove, Illumination, and noticed this thread. I bought a couple the other day to try and support pollinators - as these plants were covered in all kinds of pollinators at the nursery, I thought they'd be a good choice. However since planting I have found half a dozen dead buff-tailed bumble bees (over 24hours) - two died inside the flowers. I know there could be any number of reasons for this but I wondered if anyone else has had a similar experience. Are these plants likely to have been developed or grown with the use of the neonicotinoids? I have been listening to the debate about this pesticide and its effect on honey bees and am very worried that I've introduced somthing deadly into my garden.

09/08/2013 at 11:08

I've come online to find out about the new foxglove, Illumination, I bought a couple the other day to try and support pollinators - as these plants were covered in all kinds of pollinators at the nursery, I thought they'd be a good choice. However since planting I have found half a dozen dead buff-tailed bumble bees (over 24hours) - two died inside the flowers. I know there could be any number of reasons for this but I wondered if anyone else has had a similar experience. Are these plants likely to have been developed or grown with the use of the neonicotinoids? I have been listening to the debate about this pesticide and its effect on honey bees and am very worried that I've introduced somthing deadly into my garden.

09/08/2013 at 11:19

I have been growIng illumination pink all season. They flower continuously. ,they aren't the traditional foxgloves but mine are still flowering, look amazing and MAY be hardy....we will see. 

No.....I have no doubt.....illumination pink is not the cause of your bumble bees dying Christine.  If you are in any doubt then remove them now.

I grow myriads of plants.....I dont intentionally do it for wildlife but for me.  For plants I want in my garden.  However, I grow organically.  It's a healthy garden teeming with bees, butterflies, birds, hedgehogs, and numerous other critters. My garden is a haven for wildlife so I'm doing something right.  I have a feeling I do a lot more for wildlife than some of my neighbours do  who openly have untended, wild and unkempt plots and claim they are saving the planet

During my time on the forum it is clear most of us grow new. "sterile" plants as well as the old traditional favourites.   Our gardens don't have to be totally natives or bee friendly ones.  if you want to grow plants simply because they are beautiful that's absolutely fine.  I'm currently growing lots of agastaches....a more bee friendly, butterfly friendly group of plantstYou will struggle to find. 

There is an awful lot of frenzy and hype now and even panic about what we should be growing in our gardens.  Worry when there aren't worms in your soil or birds and bees are absent.  

There..Got that off my chest.  

09/08/2013 at 21:56

Verdun - If your neighbours have some ragwort then they are doing the cinnabar moth a favour. Its larvae eat nothing else. Ragwort can be so sparse, and the larvae turn cannibal if they strip the plants bare. The stuff is also the favoured nectar source of quite a few moths. When there are no worms in the soil and birds and bees are absent then it has gone beyoind the worrying stage

22/08/2013 at 15:56

Thanks. I understand what you're saying, the garden means different things to different people. Re the bee issue, I've been watching closely over the last couple of weeks and haven't had any more problems. I do tend to think more about the pollinators than what's pleasing to my eye - I suppose that's because I find the bees, butterflies, moths, hoverflies etc the most pleasing of all. I am relieved that things seem to have settled. Whatever had happened it's clearly at an end. Thanks for responding.

22/08/2013 at 18:45

Ragwort has taken over ..the cinnabar moth must be very happy. 

Although the old fashioned foxgloves are very beautiful they have long gone over.  My illumination pink is still flowering.  It flowered before the others too.  My neighbour grows some wonderful white varieties from seed and I will be receiving some soon.  I grow loads of plants ...many are "sterile" .....but bees, butterflies are abundant in my garden.  The soil is full of worms, etc. (no awful landscape fabric to prevent the birds feeding in the soil) and all in all I see a healthy environment here

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