Blue False Indigo

18 05 2014

Although it wasn’t identified with a plant marker at Green Spring Gardens, I’m pretty sure this is a Blue False Indigo (Baptisia australis). This herbaceous perennial in the pea family grows 3-4 feet tall and features purple, lupine-like flowers blooming in spring. Its common name refers to the use of this plant by early Americans as a (lesser) substitute for true Indigo in making blue dyes.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Baptisia 1


Japanese Lantern

6 08 2013

Japanese Lantern (Physalis alkekengi), also called Chinese Lantern, Bladder cherry and Winter cherry; an herbaceous perennial

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Japanese Lantern 2Japanese Latern 1

After the rain…

24 06 2013

Raindrops on Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris) leaves, Green Spring Gardens

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Raindrops on Ladys Mantle


20 05 2013

Foxglove (Digitalis), photographed at Green Spring Gardens

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.


I was aware that Foxglove is highly poisonous, but wanted to do some further research. I found a fascinating reference to Van Gogh’s paintings and his possible use of digitalis therapy during his “yellow period.” Here’s what I found on wikipedia on the subject:

The entire plant is toxic (including the roots and seeds). Mortality is rare, but case reports do exist. Most plant exposures occur in children younger than six years and are usually unintentional and without associated significant toxicity. More serious toxicity occurs with intentional ingestions by adolescents and adults. Early symptoms of ingestion include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, wild hallucinations, delirium, and severe headache. Depending on the severity of the toxicosis, the victim may later suffer irregular and slow pulse, tremors, various cerebral disturbances, especially of a visual nature (unusual colour visions (see xanthopsia) with objects appearing yellowish to green, and blue halos around lights), convulsions, and deadly disturbances of the heart. Vincent van Gogh‘s “Yellow Period” may have been influenced by digitalis therapy which, at the time, was thought to control seizures. As noted above, other oculotoxic effects of digitalis include generalized blurry vision, as well as seeing a “halo” around each point of light. The latter effect can be seen in van Gogh’s Starry Night. Van Gogh’s digitalis use is strongly suggested by multiple self portraits that include the foxglove plant.


SIDEBAR: I initially majored in fine art (painting) in college before switching to graphic design. I don’t regret that decision as my education and experience has afforded me a fulfilling career in design. Through the years, when I have attempted to return to painting, I have found it difficult to get traction and to find my “style.” I prefer painting loose and sketchy, using lots of paint. I also don’t want to copy work as I did when I was learning to paint all those years ago. As a photographer who continually strives for sharp focus in my images, it can be hard to loosen up when I return to the canvas. Despite this struggle, I don’t think I’ll be partaking of foxglove as Van Gogh did!

Earlier this year, I wrote about what I call “the painting years.” You can read those postings below:



Monarch Butterfly on Egyptian Star Flowers

17 10 2011

Egyptian Star Flower (Pentas lanceolata) is a fall-blooming herbaceous perennial that is treated as an annual in my Zone 7 area. The cluster of buds open into small (1/2 inch at most) star-shaped flowers that are irresistible to butterflies and bees. Photographed at Green Spring Gardens

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Blooming in my garden: Italian Bugloss

24 05 2011

Herbaceous perennial Anchusa azurea ‘Loddon Royalist’, from the Boraginaceae family; common names: Italian bugloss and Italian Alkanet. It is called “agoglossos” in Crete, where the locals eat the tender stems boiled, steamed or fried. Blue flowers resembling forget-me-nots bloom from May through June on three foot stalks in zones 3-8. This plant prefers full sun, although it’s in partial shade in my front yard garden and is still blooming profusely!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Foxglove (Digitalis)

19 05 2011

As a biennial, Foxglove plants will only flower every other year. Biennials need more than one season to complete their growing and seed-producing cycle.

This plant is as poisonous as it is beautiful. The entire plant is toxic (roots, sap, flowers, seeds and leaves). The leaves of the upper stem are particularly potent—just a nibble is enough to cause death. I read that some people have been poisoned simply from inhaling the spores exuded by the seed pods that form in the fall. As much as I love the stately blooms, I wouldn’t plant it in my garden. It’s highly toxic to people and pets—and just brushing up against it can cause hives. Yes, many plants have some level of toxicity—but this is one that you really need to learn more about. I’m happy to just photograph it in public gardens (and keep my distance)!

Learn more about this plant, including details on its toxicity, here. Photographed at Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria, Virginia

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.