Truth be told, the foxglove population here has been demoralized for years. It started when the Echium “Mr. Happy” was brought home in his little four-inch pot and settled in the ground. Not much to look at, at first, but his tag was all braggadocio. He was going to be something, boy howdy. Ten-foot spike with impressive girth, like you’ve never seen.
Some of the foxgloves warned, darkly, that this was going to be trouble, and kept going on and on about this being one more northern foothold in the Californification of the garden, blah blah blah. But no one cared. Mr. Happy wasn’t bothering anyone else. The annuals gabbled away as the one-season wonders they were. It’s just a big ol’ rosette, they said. The more the merrier, and all that.
But the foxgloves had been the dominant biennial flower spike of the region for a couple hundred years, and they had a more mature perspective. Nothing good could come of this. Have you no sense of heritage, they said? This is not normal, they said.
Pssh. The zinnias didn’t care for all this gloom and doom, and, if they were to be honest, they thought the foxgloves could stand to be knocked down a peg. Don’t worry about it, they nattered, unbearably cheerful as always. No way he’s going to make it through the winter. He’s a flash in the pan.
The foxgloves began to relax. Mr. Happy was a buffoon, a joke. He’s just an entertainer–he’s not going to ascend to his bloom year. The foxgloves settled into proper dormancy for the winter confident that the upstart would be revealed to be the clown he was, come spring. But they had not counted on all the behind-the-scenes support from unknown benefactors. The plastic wrap. The light bulb.
And to their shock, the next spring, there he was, still among the living, and he quickly shot up into the sky, surpassing the foxgloves in height, girth, and glory, and proceeded to go on and on about himself all summer long. The annuals were impressed. Annuals are easily impressed.
The foxgloves conferred and came up with some proposals but nothing made it out of committee. It was infuriating, they thought. How could it not be obvious that Mr. Happy was an impostor, a bluffer, a fraud, nothing but a big-ass tower of bloom and bluster with no qualifications whatsoever? How could he be Number One? Why are the zinnias falling for this fool?
Mr. Happy is the greatest. Mr. Happy is the biggest. Mr. Happy is the best. How could anybody believe this crap? The foxgloves laid out the situation, hoping the truth would win the day. But nobody cared. Look at how all the bees made the shift, they said. Everybody’s so busy. Mr. Happy is totally a job producer.
The foxgloves grumbled helplessly. Job producer, my plump pink petals, they said. Bees will work for nothing. Employment numbers don’t mean anything if everyone has to work five thousand blossoms a day just to make it.
And so on. Until this year.
It started with murmurings in the understory. Sharing of scuttlebutt. Botanical buzz. The first stirring of hope among the beleaguered foxglove community, and whispers that their long, yardular nightmare may be coming to an end. Mr. Happy’s grandkids have arrived.
And what a motley crew they are. Pinko. Stubby. Knobbles. Slim Jim. Fuzzball. Who’s your daddy, Mr. Happy? Hmm? Because there’s a lot going on in this woodpile. Different sizes. Shapes. Colors.
The foxgloves want it to be known they have no trouble with a little color variation. But they have a feeling Mr. Happy’s base doesn’t see it the same way. Heh heh.
What an interesting plant. Foxgloves don't grow here very well. Too hot and dry in the summer and too cold and wet during the winter.
We don't lack for winter wet! And they grow all over the mountain. Hmm. I guess they're an import from Europe a couple hundred years ago.
I expect to see the Cat in the Hat peeking around that (those?) Echium (echia?)
Now I can't unsee it.
I'm sensing a metaphor, but surely you wouldn't . . . remove . . . Mr. Happy? That would be the happy ending in real life, but this is your garden we're talking about!
Perhaps we can…usher Mr. Happy to a small caged area.
We have some bully boy plants with world domination theories in our garden too. The foxgloves (being pacifists at heart) have lost every battle.
Do you have foxgloves???
At the moment I have one fox glove. I don't know how many I have planted over the years.
In the past I've planted several dozen over the years, but none survive the wooly bear caterpillar season, followed by neighbourhood cats fighting season.
I love the change of seasons. For instance, in Maine, there's Mud Season. (a.k.a. black fly season)
Metaphorically…Mr.Happy should get his come-uppance.
But I think he may spread himself about for a few years, say four,before withering.
He'd be voted out if it were up to the foxgloves, but there are a lot of dumb zinnias out there.
What a stunner! I saw some red ones online but alas our cold snaps might be its undoing. Nice job of Californication there. May Mr. Happy and his kin reign forever and ever Amen.
He's put out a ton of seedlings. I get rid of about 98% of them. Now I'm not going to the trouble of making sure they survive winter but they sort of do anyway. Last year we got down to about 22 a couple times–just withered his short curlies.
Say what you will, Mr Happy's half-caste love children (results of miscegenation with your standard issue foxgloves no doubt) bear the marks of his derangement in their distinctly un-foxglove shapes. Who ever saw a foxglove shaped like a purple phallus with a green tutu? Or one shaped like a lavender toilet brush decorated with green fringe? Whatever the 1st creature in the lineup is I do not want to find it in my cellar some dark night. Thankfully in our neck of the woods foxgloves are grown strictly as annuals.
Toilet brush! That's it. Mr. Happy and his fancy kin are all Echiums. Foxgloves something else entirely.
You must have a different variety of Echium. There are some in the front yard here, but I think it is just one plant, easily a couple of metres across in either direction and about waist high to me. It has many flower spikes each year but smaller ones than your Mr Happy.
I guess there are lots of kinds. Mr. Happy was a hybrid passing himself off as royalty.
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