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Foxglove Help

  • Subject: [cg] Foxglove Help
  • From: Adam36055@aol.com
  • Date: Fri, 4 Apr 2003 15:07:38 EST


It's springtime here in NY, and despite all of the frosts and freezing days, 
it actually looks like our Japanese Magnolia (Tulip Magnolia) may actually  
have a chance at blooming this year - most years we get these teasing buds, 
but then a week of frost and snow blackens them. But when they do, she's the 
Spring star of the garden.

If you go to the "Garden Pictures" section of the Clinton Community Garden 
website <A HREF="http://www.clintoncommunitygarden.org/";>Clinton Community 
Garden</A> you'll see our Japanese Magnolia and a small rock bordered bed   
in our center lawn area (to the left in the first picture and to the right in 
the second) that my wife and I work very hard to keep filled with color for 
at least 3 seasons so the folks who sit on the bench (usually seniors and 
Moms with babies) have something interesting to look at.)  If you go to the 
Volunteer page, you'll see the bed, with the Japanese magnolia shading the 
fence side of the the plot and the hollyhocks and dahlias in full bloom in 

Our challenge: I've dug  out the last of the decorative cabbages that line 
the border of the bed during the winter while the rest lies under leaf mulch. 
  Now it's filled with crocuses,hyacinths,  and early daffodils,to be 
followed by mid and late blooming and daffodils.  As the summer perennials 
come in, and the various small hosta and Japanese black grass start doing 
their thing under the shade of the magnolia, I usually plunk in some annuals 
and rely on vari-colored nasturtiums, poppies and anemonies on the sunny 
borders to maintain visual interest until the hollyhocks burst into color. 

With all the work that we get out of this plot, we're always weeding 
deadheading,  carefully  composting and amending the soil, using fish 
emulsion during the season to encourage  new blooms and color.  Because the 
bed is  small and only part of it gets full sun most of the day, I don't grow 
roses - others do: Annie Chadwick's York and Lancaster roses, which sit 
adjacent to our communal herb garden,  are a mid-June treat every year.  And 
this where a large rusted 1958 Buick sat until we dragged it out to the 
street - but that's another story. 

Throw in our native American plants, apple tree, beehive, natural lawn and 
our 108 raised beds for veggies in the back (two madmen even have even dug a 
small pond for Koi and goldfish) and you can understand why, in a city like 
this with museums, on top of concert halls, on top of libraries, on top of 
all that glittery stuff you see on television, I spend so much time in this 
third of an acre garden. 

I'm at my wit's end with foxgloves, though...
I've never had one come back, though I keep planting these suckers every year 
that I've started from seed at home,  direct seeding outdoors in midsummer, 
fall and spring. Yes, I make sure they get morning sun, part shade, trim 
spent stems of bloom and scatter the seeds.  Last year, before he moved away 
with his growing family, a shy Mexican guy,  to whom I gave cut dahlias for 
his wife a couple of times drives by the garden in a landscaper's truck (his 
second or third job?)  out of which fell two of the most glorious speckled 
Giant Shirleys I have ever seen. When I  reached in my pocket to pay his 
boss, an red haired, freckled guy from the Island, he said, "nah,  the rich 
television %%#)! didn't want them - can't use 'em for my other jobs.  No, 
they're covered.  Nice place," he said, looking at the garden, "you guys do 
this as a hobby?" When I said yes, he said," Got into this because of my 
father-in-law - I like to hunt."  Handshakes all around, regards to Luis's 
wife  and then they drove off. 

When I planted these two glories in the  the bed, against the green 
background of the not yet ready perennials and the nascent dahlias,  
beginning to make their way out of the ground, they were the most splendid 
things which kept blooming for close to a month, putting off new stalks - 
they were glorious and hung out until the dahlias started coming in.  The 
plants were still looking healthy until the last season asters and mumms 
pooped out.  My fingers are crossed for this year.  

As I type this I'd training a contender on my windowsill, but I wonder if 
anyone out there on this list who really knows foxgloves can give me a few 
pointers on how to best cultivate this plant, whose bells capture the 
reflections of dappled sun and shade and sways so magically in the  gentle 

Thanking you in advance,
Adam Honigman

Best wishes,
Adam Honigman

Last June, right before our annual summer solstice celebration, a little boy 
went up to my wife and asked, "Why does that man talk to the flowers like 
they're people?"  To which my wife asked, "Is he saying nice things and not 
bad words?" The little boy said, "Yes." To which my wife said, " He really 
wants to get another stalk of blooms out of that foxglove - the one over 
there with all the bells, and he's begging. " 

At this part of June,  

But...the real hero of this time of year are foxgloves and we never seem to 
have much luck in having them return

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