The foxglove is the wildflower of my childhood, colonizing any exposed bank, rain-laden hillsides cut by two-lane country roads, tall spires waving speckled purple and white bells. I loved seeing the foxgloves bloom; I imagined foxes wearing the bell-shaped blossoms on their paws. No one cultivated them in their coastal flower gardens. Those were reserved for more sophisticated plants, gladioluses, snapdragon, iris, dahlias (lots of dahlias) and of course, roses. Foxgloves were picked by little children, scrambling among blackberry brambles and horsetails, and given to their mothers and teachers, childish offerings, cherished for the humble sincerity of the giver. In my parents’ time foxgloves were picked for the heart-healing medicine of their leaves, sold for precious pennies.
My child mind rebels in confusion when I see foxgloves offered for sale in horticulture catalogs and grown in proper flower gardens. Those are wildflowers, weeds, I object. They shouldn’t cost money, they have no value, they don’t belong there next to “proper” flowers. And yet I am happy when I see them, for they transport me back to days when the sun shone bright on mornings after the rain, crystallizing each liquid drop clinging purple speckled bells, bursting forth from the drenched earth.