The pre-2012 world was a simpler place. You had Digitalis, known to all as foxglove or fairy thimbles (now that’s a delightfully twee name) and a familiar sight both as a wild and a cultivated plant throughout the UK, and you had Isoplexis, its glamorous cousin from the Canary Islands, an evergreen woody shrub sporting rather haughty looking spires of golden apricot flowers.
And then Thompson and Morgan launched Digitalis Illumination Pink, a new hybrid between these two plants and the result of some years of cross breeding experiments by Charles Valin. A remarkable and beautiful thing, it won the award for Best New Plant at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show that year and took the gardening world, as they say, by storm. A couple of other colour variants followed and the name Digiplexis gained currency in identifying these new hybrids.
But in 2015 the RHS reclassified Isoplexis Canariensis as a Digitalis, rendering the portmanteau name obsolete, and Digiplexis became Digitalis Valinii, honouring the pioneering work of Charles Valin. Which is a nice touch and makes some kind of sense. Isoplexis, as we shall continue to call it for sake of convenience, is on the tender side, but on its introduction T&M billed Illumination PInk as fully hardy. However, that description was fairly quickly modified in the light of winter losses experienced by many new owners, and the series is now generally seen billed as half hardy. Which seems about right to us.
The Illumination series has grown in number to at least five varieties as known to us: Pink, Raspberry, Apricot, Flame and Ruby Slippers. In addition, there is Berry Canary, a hybrid created and patented by the American nursery Walters Gardens, which we are currently growing (and wondering if it might be a tad hardier?).
It’s not often that a really revolutionary and exciting plant comes along that genuinely changes things, but Digitalis Valinii (aka Digiplexis) is, in our book at least, one of those rare plants. And we like it very much.
Digitalis Valinii Berry Canary is available to buy from the Paddock Plants website using this link.
You can buy Digitalis (formerly Isoplexis) Canariensis from the Paddock Plants website using this link.
Rob & Joanna – December 2017