Around the corner in my air-conditioner garden, the willow gentian (Gentiana asclepiadea, Zone 5) is in full bloom. I wrote about this plant in a blog post last summer, noting that it was in bud, but hadn’t yet opened any flowers. But the heat of this season has rushed everything along, including the willow gentian. It has six long wands of flowers this year, rewarding me for keeping it watered in this droughty summer. The colour is softer and more nuanced than some of the other gentian species, which can have almost a cobalt blue intensity.
There’s also a white willow gentian, but I’ve not seen it. What I’d really like is the pink cultivar, ‘Pink Swallow’ (G. asclepiadea ‘Pink Swallow’, Zone 5); it’s really charming. The tubular flowers are light pink inside and have broad, dark pink stripes on the outside.
Gentians like evenly moist soil; dry conditions make them give up and leap toward dormancy. That’s what happened to the Japanese gentian (G. scabra, Zone 5) in the front garden, where there is more sunlight and I’ve been less vigilant about watering. It might be a good idea to move this gentian into the air-conditioner garden, where light is adequate and moisture more reliable. And while I’m at it, why not enlarge the collection? Gentians will be first on my shopping list for spring 2013.