Plant of the Week: Gen­tians

Bring bold and bright blues to your plot with th­ese late flow­er­ers

Garden News (UK) - - News -

One of the glo­ries of Septem­ber are the blooms of late-flow­er­ing gen­tians. Their colours are as­ton­ish­ing, wow­ing in vary­ing tones of iri­des­cent king­fisher blue to deep, brood­ing cobalt, which in some va­ri­eties is ad­di­tion­ally lined or splashed in white. There are a few pure white forms that have ei­ther been ob­tained from the wild, or specif­i­cally se­lected or de­vel­oped by en­thu­si­asts, along with a few pink forms, but th­ese miss the true bril­liance of what au­tumn gen­tians are all about.

The most well-known species is Gen­tiana sino-or­nata, which was found by plant hunter Ge­orge For­rest in Yun­nan, China in 1904, and again in 1910. The plant pro­duces a mat of creep­ing stems which be­come cov­ered in bright blue 7.5cm (3in) long trum­pets in sun or very light shade. Th­ese au­tumn-flow­er­ing gen­tians need acid soil, pre­fer­ring some mois­ture, but not con­stantly wet con­di­tions. If your soil’s chalky, but you want to try th­ese plants, don’t de­spair as they can also be grown in pans or troughs of er­i­ca­ceous com­post, but don’t for­get to keep them wa­tered, ideally with rain, rather than tap wa­ter, es­pe­cially in hot or dry weather. Their breath­tak­ing flow­ers are worth all the ef­fort.

There’s one odd­ity, the wil­low-leaf gen­tian, Gen­tiana

as­cle­pi­adea from the high pas­tures of Europe, pro­duc­ing clumps of arch­ing stems, stud­ded with tubu­lar flow­ers. It’s not fussy about soil, pre­fer­ring it to be rich, moist and semi-shaded. It’s a great ad­di­tion to the bor­der, mak­ing a fea­ture when many other peren­ni­als are past their best.


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