'Dusky Maid' or 'Sunset'
Willow-leafed Digitalis; aka:
Dusky Foxglove or
"On gossamer nights when the moon is low,
And stars in the mist are hiding,
Over the hill where the foxgloves grow
You may see the fairies riding."
-Mary C. G. Byron
The evergreen foliage of Digitalis obscura more resembles penstemons than foxglove. Pendulous thimble-shaped flowers are dusky amber, burnt orange, red, & beige. These tall, upright, but sometimes curving stems of thimble-flowers could easily be confused for penstemons, for their flowers as well as leaves.
It is shorter-lived than penstemons, however, being either biennial or shortlived as a perennial. It tends to die out of the garden after a couple of years, unless it self-seeds, which it is capable of doing if not deadheaded.
If it is not permitted to self-seed, but is promptly deadheaded as flowers dry out, it will rebloom through a long season, & will perennialize for more years until it gets the chance to produce seeds. Ours lasted for three years, perhaps because we failed to deadhead in a timely enough way to extend its life.
One year the flower spikes swept forward in a bend, but the next year they were strongly upright, possibly only an effect of how much sun they were getting & timing of pruning of nearby shrubs.
'Dusky Maid' foxglove ages to a woody subshrub sixteen inches to two feet tall. This native of Spain can sometimes grow taller, but is smaller overall than purple foxglove, hence occasionally called Dwarf Foxglove.
It appears that 'Dusky Maid' & 'Sunset' are not registered cultivar names but common names which different growers have used in parallel distribution of garden plants.
It is possible that slight variations can be detected that might qualify them as distinct strains, though the variation of appearance of blooms even on a single flower-stalk makes comparisons iffy. But it is possible 'Sunset' is more inclined to red veining on the outside of each brown to amber thimble, whereas 'Dusky Maid' is more clouded than veined.
The tag for D. obscura 'Dusky Maid' noted that it was "award-winning," but doesn't state which awards. It is however a Plants Select winner, this award being overseen by the Denver Botanic Gardens & Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, with special focus on plants suitable for high plains regions & mountain regions.
It wants full sun & moist well-draining soil, drought-tolerant when well-rooted. It begins blooming in late spring (May & June) & with deadheading can be kept going until early autumn.
According to Ovid, digitalis was of special significance to the goddess Flora (Greek Chloris), Goddess of fields, crops, & flowers; & to Juno (Hera). When Jupiter gave birth to Minerva from out of his thigh, without benefit of his wife's fertility, Juno was distraught & visited Flora to commiserate.
"If my husband can bring forth a child without need of me," Juno complained, "why can I not bring forth a child without need of him?" Flora glanced away swiftly, lending Juno to suspect: "Do I detect that you may know of a method by which balance can be restored?"
"I will reveal it to you," said Flora, "but you must never tell your husband. In my garden is a flower from the fields of Olenus, which has spikes of flowers, each one a thimble that can slip upon a finger. I one day placed one of these flowers on my thumb, & touched a barren cow, who instantly gave birth. Come, let us see if it will work upon a Goddess."
So saying, Flora placed a foxglove blossom on her thumb & touched Juno's stomach, then her breasts, & instantly she conceived. She went from Flora's garden into Thrace, & upon the shores of Propontis gave birth to Mars. As Minerva was motherless, so too was Mars fatherless.
This is a fascinating lesbian myth, that Flora secretly impregnated Juno, & worried that Jupiter might find out. The myth type is not uncommon in the ancient world: The Goddess Agdistis (a form of Cybele) impregnated the river nymph Nana by means of a vulva-shaped almond, so that the savior Attis was born. In a gnostic myth, the female aeons Thelesis & Ennoia rejected their husband the Abyss, & brought about creation by sleeping with & impregnating each other.
Even the Virgin Mary was impregnated by the Holy Spirit, the name of whom is distinctly feminine whether expressed in Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic, thus was regarded by early Christians as the mother-figure of the Trinity, or one & the same with the Divine Sophia.
Such myths very likely originated at a very primitive level of prehistoric religion. This would explain why so many Neolithic & Bronze Age goddess figurines are exactly the size & shape to be used as an olisbos or dildo. The Goddess rather than a god was the ultimate source of women's fertility.
Every part of the foxglove plant is toxic, its cardiac glycosides being a source of the heart medication digitalis. Dusky Foxglove & other foxgloves have saved many a life that would otherwise be lost to heart disease, but the same plants have taken more lives than they have saved. The toxin has been used for poisoning arrows, & for assassinations.
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