The Long and the Short of It
July’s companions bring a cheery sight and smell to any winter garden. Both thriving in cooler climates, pansies and foxgloves are a statement couple. The long of it, foxgloves, grow anywhere from 60 cm to 1.8 m depending on your variety, bringing some vertical interest (as well as bees, birds and butterflies) to your garden. The short of it, pansies, grow to about 23 cm tall, better suited to the front row. Picture pansies encircling the taller foxgloves in a pot, or an island bed in your garden. The pansy’s name is easily deciphered from its origination the French pensée, meaning ‘thought’, no doubt derived from the pansy’s ‘face’ when it nods in thought towards the end of its bloom. Now, ‘fox’ and ‘gloves’ seem obvious, but there is much debate about how these lend themselves to the Digitalis family. Digitalis, understandably, means ‘finger-like’, referring to the thimble like blooms that fit perfectly onto your fingertip.
For such delicate looking faces, pansies are pretty hardy plants, easy to grow and survive the bitter bite of winter. Their sweet fragrance perfumes the morning and evening air, particularly the yellow and blue varieties. Other colours include purple, red, white, violet, gold and even black (very dark purple).
Pansies love full winter sun or partial shade; they can survive light freezes and bloom throughout winter and spring. Perfect for front of borders and beds, or planted en masse among other flowers; they also work well in containers. Just don’t plant too close together as they need air flow.
Water thoroughly about once a week, depending on rainfall, and try to water the soil around them and not their leaves or petals.
If we happen to experience a late summer you will need to mulch around newly planted seedlings to keep their toes cool. Use a plant food every few weeks and dead head to extend blooming. Keep an eye out for stem rot, mildew and cucumber mosaic virus.
Foxgloves produce impressive clusters of bell-shaped blooms in varieties of lavender, pink, red, purple and white. Like a little girl’s freckled nose, their throats are spotted on the areas where the sun reaches. They prefer full sun or partial shade, but if your climate is very hot, opt for the shadier spot. Avoid windy areas as these tall beauties don’t appreciate getting too ruffled. A rich, well drained, acidic and moist soil is ideal. Add a 2-inch layer of mulch to help retain moisture as well as control weeds and apply a thin layer of compost in spring.
Calibrachoa’s brightly coloured dainty blooms form an exploding mound of colour that trail over your container, providing bursts of blooms that flower all year round. They grow to about 25 cm high and 30 cm wide. These sun lovers are extremely heat tolerant, just be sure to keep them adequately watered.