Helen Dillon, the Irish garden writer, claims you must always have an uneven number of cuttings in a pot, or the fairies will get them and the cuttings won’t root. I am reminded of this when I see the self-planted foxglove around the garden. Mostly I pull the plants as the seeds begin to form, but some seeds escape to choose their place in the garden – usually in appealing clusters of uneven numbers.
A young friend (who has visited during many summers of her 11 years) decorates fairy houses with fallen foxglove blossoms. In “A Contemplation Upon Flowers: Garden Plants in Myth and Literature” by Bobby J. Ward, I read that fairies and foxglove have long ties: “The English name foxglove appears to be a corruption of folk’s-glove, the glove of the fairies or wee people.”
Another story suggests “the flowers are the gloves worn by foxes to keep dew off their paws.” Still other folklore holds that the shape resembles a bell, and when worn by a fox, a “fox-bell,” the eerie sound of the bell will scare away hunters who chased the fox.
Spires of foxglove surely add magic to the garden as blossoms color and open from bottom to top. Each is pigmented in delicate ever-different shades of white, apricot, pale pink, or burgundy. Their speckles – freckles, the dots leading into the blossom (often darker, thickly or thinly sprinkled) – create a landing zone pattern for insects – and delight for us.