Cull of the wild: What to do when that stunning foxglove display doesn't turn out as planned

 

Something weird has happened to my foxgloves. I had this notion around about May last year that the next big thing would be foxgloves, tall stems of pale bells shimmering out of a summer's dusk. I thought it would be romantic. I bought three pots. I planted three pots. (Almost all garden design books will tell you that "three is the magic number" when it comes to planting. So I obeyed.) And then I waited.

Waited until right now, in fact. But about an hour or so ago I got around to actually staring at them and they look terrible. Instead of smart green rosettes of leaves which promise to break forth with spires of flowers, there are stunted-looking misshapen bundles of tiny leaves all growing from single points. I fear an eruption of genetic madness, to which the digitalis and all their relatives are especially prone.

It's when things just go a bit off track in a garden that it's hardest to know what to do. Death is simple. Pull the dead thing out and compost it. Or actually, perhaps more hygienically, burn it. Burning, or council waste disposal, are particularly good options for windowboxes and containers that have failed to make it through the winter, as pests may be to blame. The special bugbear of the windowbox is an ugly grub called vine weevil which, whether vine or not, will eat your plants' roots. Burning is the only way to make sure the weevils don't become epidemic.

Yep, death, easy-peasy.

The problems arise, though, when it comes to dealing with plants that have just gone a bit weird. I begin to debate the philosophical questions. Is it OK to chuck out a plant for having become a bit ugly? For being old? For having a genetic disease? Shouldn't my ideal plant society be conducted according to the principles I'd want to see life lived by – helping the sick and aged, instead of throwing them on a bonfire?

On the other hand, garden with kindness, and things quickly begin to look like the horticultural equivalent of a Victorian hospital ward. Misshapen misfits with a touch of the Elephant Man. And at heart, a garden is an aesthetic object. It's supposed to make your heart lift as you gaze on beauty. It epitomises what is inherently a slightly superficial, fashionista sort of ambition. Fashionista verging on fascist, actually, now I come to think of it.

And so back to the foxgloves. What the what is going on there? It looks as though some cell line has gone terminally bonkers in a way that doesn't make me confident of my May flowering. In the end, it's too pesky a question. I feel it's time to channel my inner eugenicist and be a bit more of a bitch. The old, tattered, genetically-overdoing-it foxgloves are going on the compost heap, and I'm just going to order new ones off the internet.

Yep, I'm tired of being kind to plants, and I'm OK with that. Just don't put me in charge of any government departments taking care of actual human beings and we'll all be fine.

Foxgloves to give a go

Digitalis parviflora 'Milk Chocolate'

A Spanish foxglove with a mass of tightly whorled deep chocolate trumpets. £8.50 a plant, burncoose.co.uk, or try seeds from the Kew Collection, £2.29 for 100 seeds (thompson-morgan.com)

Digitalis purpurea 'Dalmatian Purple'

Old-fashioned foxglove hues with modern first-year flowering and tidy leaves. £4.99 per plug, crocus.co.uk

Digitalis albiflora

The best and tallest white foxglove, which can look you straight in the eye if necessary. £7.99 for a plant or £2.49 for 1,000 seeds, crocus.co.uk

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
New Articles
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering