Thursday, August 30, 2007

Willow Gentian

Sometimes a plant is a standout of its type. Such is true of the willow gentian. Though almost all plants in the genus Gentiana share intense blue flowers, most are low growing, soon out of bloom and finicky to grow. Willow gentian grows a useful medium height, blooms August till frost, and given its preferred conditions is quite simple to grow.

The trumpet flowers of this leafy two footer (60 cm) are among the truest of blues -- dark and rich like the best of chocolates. They nestle in small clusters along the tops of the gracefully arching stems. They look up from their perches to show markings of white and yet darker blue.

Willow Gentian

They like cool shady nooks that you can keep watered in dry spells. Give them a good loose soil high in organics. They will award all your efforts with flowers from August on.

Give it plenty of room to allow the arching stems space to fully develop. A yard (meter) between plants is not too much. A shortcoming is its dislike of alkaline, free lime soils, much like an azalea. The dry regions most likely to have such soils naturally are also too hot for the willow gentian's liking.

You can make more by simple division in the fall or spring. Seed should be sown as soon as ripe, and cuttings can be sucessful. A white form exists, as does a dwarf blue one.

Gentiana asclepiadea
Willow Gentian

Grows wild from Central Europe to the Caucasus Mountains and Asia Minor.

USDA Cold Hardiness Zone 5a
Height to 2 ft (60cm), spreading 2-3 ft (60-100 cm), more with age.

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