Gentiana (Spring flowering)
Spring Gentians provide a mass of blue colour for the early part of the year in the alpine garden. A personal favourite of mine, both in the garden and in the mountains is Gentiana acaulis. Its deep blue trumpets herald the alpine spring and give great pleasure to visiting friends, whose excitement can be clearly heard as they find a clump in the garden. They like a sunny but moist situation, preferring heavy soils with some acidity.
The joy of this particular plant is that over the years a number of variations have occurred and to see a pan of Gentiana acaulis in full flower on the show bench in spring not only gives enormous pleasure, but challenges the visitor to do likewise.
A second favourite is Gentiana verna, a smaller flower, but with sufficient to produce a generous clump of colour in the spring. It likes the same conditions as G.acaulis, but prefers a good loam or leafmould and moisture. It has a reputation for being short-lived, but is definitely worth trying.
If you are unsure when starting, try the later flowering Gentiana septemfida, known as the beginners’ Gentian. It is happy in good garden soil in a sunny position. Clusters of flowers appear in mid- to late summer.