This plant looks like a foxglove and is indeed a cross between a foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) and Canary Island foxglove (Isoplexis canariensis), ergo Digiplexis. It will satisfy all those who long for but can't grow foxgloves and I like it even better than those marvellous plants. Digiplexis went into my garden last year and I hope demand will make it much more widely available this year. It's a keeper. It bloomed all summer right into autumn in a highly competitive garden.
Alas, in spite of some conjecture, it's not perennial, but who cares? It's fantastic. Another selling point for me was that it might attract the hummingbirds that have been AWOL in my garden for many years. The tubular spikes that run up the stalk have a slightly hooded look, reach 90 centimetres and look positively alluring in a container. The name "Illumination Flame" does a good job of describing the fuchsia-pink with overtones of apricot. It looked great as a vertical accent, and was quite fetching with some favourite golden grasses and a dripping black vine. And – unlike our native foxglove, which gives only a few weeks of pleasure – it just bloomed and bloomed.
The best place to plant it is in either a patio container or at the edge of a woodland garden but, in both situations, make sure to keep it out of the wind. It will tolerate full sun right up to a light shade, making it a very useful plant. Use lots of organic matter in the soil and make sure it's well drained. Don't let it dry out, which means regular watering.
Throughout the summer, I will be checking in with botanical experts across the country to get their take on the best plants of the season and what they see going on in the most successful gardens. I saw Digiplexis at the Toronto Botanical Garden's recent plant sale. Paul Zammit, the Nancy Eaton director of horticulture at the TBG says, "Plants are not just a matter of aesthetics. We're getting more interested in the potential of each plant we choose to add to our landscape." He adds that people now are seeking out "how responsible plants are [i.e., drought tolerant], and, like the Digiplexis, how each plant can invite and support wildlife [and biodiversity] as a whole. Gardens of all sizes can play a role."
Use these wise words as a guide when shopping. If you can't find it in your local nursery, ask if they can get it for you. Digiplexis is tagged as a tender perennial which means it's an annual everywhere except Victoria.
Visit the Toronto Botanical Garden (777 Lawrence Ave. E., Toronto), 416-397-1358, www.torontobotanicalgarden.ca.