Thursday, April 10, 2014

My favorite plant this week: Digiplexis 'Illumination Flame'

Okay, I know she's over-exposed.  My favorite plant this week is Digiplexis 'Illumination Flame,' a hybrid mix of Digitalis purpurea and Isoplexis caneriensis, bred in 2006.  In making this week's choice, I struggled between her and a good old garden work-horse.  In the end, she won out because she took better pictures.  (Keep in mind that I live in the shadow of Hollywood, where style often trumps substance.)  

This Digiplexis is planted in a semi-shady area along the pathway in my south-side garden

The same plant photographed from another angle, backed by Mexican feather grass



She's more impressive in a close-up.




The foliage is attractive too.




She's blooming earlier than my Digitalis purpurea and appears to me to be hardier than her parent, Isoplexis caneriensis, which I previously managed to kill in record time.

Isoplexis caneriensis, photographed at Seaside Gardens Nursery in Carpinteria last month



I have 4 of these plants.  The one shown in flower above was planted in early November, after I picked the plant up at Roger's Gardens in Orange County on a tip from Denise at A Growing Obsession.  I subsequently acquired 3 more by mail order in February through Annie's Annuals & Perennials.

My 3 newest additions, planted in my new backyard bed in February, have produced flower spikes but aren't yet blooming



The 3 planted more recently are shorter, about 12 inches tall, and their flowers haven't opened yet.  The one planted in November is about 3 feet tall and perhaps half that wide at the base.

Digiplexis 'Illumination Flame' was named Plant of the Year at the 2012 Chelsea Flower Show and received the Greenhouse Grower's Award of Excellence in 2013.  It was difficult to find last year but this year just about every nursery seems to have a supply.

Digiplexis photographed at Roger's Gardens a couple of weeks ago



It's reputed to have a long bloom period, due in part to the fact that the flowers are sterile.  According to San Marcos Growers it's been called a "Digitalis with lipstick" and, although commonly referred to as "Digiplexis," it's properly classified in the Digitalis genus.  The flowers are smaller than those I commonly find on Digitalis purpurea.  The outer petal color is fuchsia and the inner throat color is variously described as reddish orange, nectarine, or an evolving hue which starts red, changes to orange and finally mellows to yellow.

It needs well-drained soil and regular water.  It's said to grow in full sun to part shade.  Mine all receive morning sun but varying degrees of afternoon shade.  They're reportedly hardy to 10-15F and they're described as suited to USDA zones 8-10 or 11.

Over-exposed or not, I'm pleased that they've been so easy to grow.  They've presented no problems thus far.  According to on-line sources, other varieties in the 'Illumination' series are currently in development, including 'Raspberry,' 'Chelsea Gold,' 'Pink,' and 'Berry Canary.'

Digiplexis (Digitalis) 'Illumination Flame' is my contribution to Loree's favorite choice meme at danger garden.  You can see Loree's current favorite and find links to other gardeners' choice plants here.

14 comments:

  1. These look really grand in your garden! We got to visit Annie's as part of the Garden Bloggers' Fling last year and saw them in bloom. It's no wonder that they're the it plant this year, they're beautiful!

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    1. It's my goal to get to Annie's in person one day myself, Peter - although I'll have to bring a truck with me.

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  2. Digitalis with lipstick! I like that. I was going to ask you why it was a she but as she is wearing lipstick I think you must be right. It is a she. I love it, I am going to have to find this plant; it's a must -have. I tried Isoplexis caneriensis and failed. If even you can't grow it there then I won't bother again.

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    1. I was amused by the "Digitalis with lipstick" reference but it seems appropriate in this case.

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  3. Glad to see it doing well for you Kris! I can still remember the excitement that surrounded it when it won plant of the year at Chelsea a couple of years ago.

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    1. I didn't hear of the plant until last year but it probably takes awhile for word to migrate across the pond...

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  4. It looks great in your beautiful garden. Mine seemed stressed by our three days of 90F, but what didn't?

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    1. Yes, that heat took a bit of the wind out of the sails of our spring season.

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  5. Yes indeed I can see why she's your favorite, they look great even not yet in bloom. Of course I was also drawn to the Acacia 'Cousin Itt"...

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    1. 'Cousin Itt' likes to photobomb my garden pics - he always appreciates notice.

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  6. Beautiful flowers, and love that Mexican feather grass!

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    1. If there's any plant that's 100% happy here, Amy, it's Mexican feather grass. It can be invasive so I'm keeping it under close watch.

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  7. It's not over-exposed to me! I'm ashamed to say I've never heard of it. (I'm clearly too cut off from the outside world now!) I have added it to my list of plants to look out for, thanks to you, Kris.

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    1. With your colder winter temperatures, Cathy, you'll need to provide it protections - or grow it as an annual.

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