Gentianopsis Self-promotion

In between seed collecting/cleaning and the digging up of our garden there is little time left for anything else other than self-promoting; I don’t know if any Gentianopsis would ever need it but for sure my Seed Shop does. Gentianopsis virgata, the small fringed gentian will proudly represent the Gentianaceae family in the Seed Catalogue!

Gentianopsis virgata

Gentianopsis virgata – a slender plant, 15-40 cm tall with linear leaves and gentian-like solitary, mauve flowers.

Biennial, it will form a rosette of leaves in the first season, and then flower in the second year from August to October, with a magnificent flower display. If happy with the place it will delicately self-seed – this is one of those plants that you would wish it will do that a lot!

For moist locations of the woodland garden or edges of the ponds, streams, in full to part sun; requires calcareous soils.



Cool nights

For those like me, cool nights toward the fall have one meaning: start digging! If you want to divide, move or establish new plants, this is the best time to do it. Spring pictures help when digging out; here are some from my Primula collection, all done from seed:

Primula frondosa – a dwarf European primrose with deliciously pink flowers in early spring; flower stems, buds and reverse of the leaves covered by white farina. I already wrote about this Primula-rina in the spring.

Primula pulverulenta – a candelabra type primrose very much like P. japonica but the flowering stems and buds are coated with white farina; brilliant red-magenta flowers enhanced by the contrast with the silver ‘dust’ (Sichuan, China).

Primula pulverulenta

Primula florindae, shown in the featured image and called the Tibetan cowslip, will become a giant primrose with clusters of pendent, bell-like clusters of scented flowers. They are usually yellow but some forms have brick or red coloured flowers; late June flowering (the flowers hang on Disporum leaves).

Candelabra Primulas look fantastic grown in groups; however, if you only have a small space (or you garden in containers :), plant a couple with alike plants and they’ll happily ‘pierce’ through the mix: Aconitum, Primula florindae, Primula pulverulenta and Saruma henry (below).

In containers - Primulas

Planting idea: Primula florindae, Aconitum (variegatum), Primula pulverulenta and Saruma henryi – container grown; a golden variegated Hosta in the background (just by chance)…



A tasty lunch

The rainy weather of this year has surely pleased all the baneberries (Actaea species). Their fruits are not indicated to be consumed for lunch!!! being poisonous, but they are so attractive. Let’s call them local gourmet foods for the soul and eyes!

All Actaea species make for superb specimens in part-shade to shaded locations of the garden. White, fragrant flowers that attract pollinators in late spring, beautiful foliage, colourful and long-lasting fruits… isn’t this enough to consider adding these native beauties to your garden?

Actaea pachypoda – Doll’s eyes, White baneberries

Actaea pachypoda

Good fortune made it that I also found a few plants of A. pachypoda with magenta coloured fruits – which is a rare form given as Actaea pachypoda f. rubrocarpa (not everyone agrees on this, but after I found them, I surely do).

Actaea pachypoda f. rubrocarpa

Actaea pachypoda f. rubrocarpa

Actaea rubra – Red baneberry

Actaea rubra

I am very pleased that I can offer them all in my Seed Catalogue – BotanyCa. They are a bit difficult to germinate sometimes (just require more time) but since when are beautiful things easy to obtain?

A chic hat

Update: ID as Aconitum variegatum subsp. paniculatum

All Aconitum species are wearing cool hats but this one in particular with the hood on one side looks very chic. Growing Aconitum from seeds that are not properly identified is quite a pain, but worth the trouble.

All monkshoods are equally beautiful and deadly, with spikes of violet, dark blue, yellow or white hood-shaped, complicated flowers that one needs to know the terminology in order to ‘read’ their characters. Species are usually described on the basis of root and flower morphology.

Aconitum variegatum

Update: Aconitum variegatum subsp. paniculatum

After lots of searches, pictures, dissections… this one was narrowed down to Aconitum variegatum subsp. paniculatum (syn. Aconitum degenii) or A. variegatum subsp. variegatum. We’ll know for sure in late fall after I’ll dig it up and see the tuber shape; and maybe I’ll have a seed or two but glad to hear other opinions…

Aconitum variegatum

Aconitum variegatum: sepals (hood with pronounced rostrum) and petals with coiled nectary spurs


Before being praised as a garden plant, Aconitum was considered (and still is) “the king of the poisons” (Europe) or “the king of medicines” (Tibet and China), depending on where it grew, but this is a good subject for wintertime storytelling…
It is a good idea to wear gloves when doing anything that involves touching an Aconitum. It contains highly active and toxic alkaloids.

Aconitum variegatum

Aconitum variegatum (?)


Out in the woods – The Great Blue Lobelia

Something supposed to be just a walk in the woods, it has turn out of the blue in yet another collection. Lobelia siphilitica, the Great Blue Lobelia was flowering at the edge of the forest and a few plants growing in full sun had already mature capsules. This is a great North American Lobelia for the garden that usually grows in part shade; it will tolerate full sun if it has enough moisture. It will self-seed when moist and happy, which I really like in this case.

Lobelia siphilitica

Lobelia siphilitica – Great Blue Lobelia

It grows tall to 1 m in the shade but remains shorter when growing in full sun. In late summer the large bright, blue flowers (rarely white) disposed in dense inflorescences along the stems are attracting lots of pollinators. Bumblebees are really in love with it!

Lobelia siphilitica

Lobelia siphilitica – breakfast, lunch and dinner provider

So, here it is, a hardy, beautiful blue-flower plant for the woodland, with a desirable late summer bloom but still not very often seen in the gardens. Would it be more successful if called – Chinese Blue Lobelia? (just a thought)…


Plants available sometimes at Lost Horizons Nursery (ON) and Fraser’s Thimble Farm (BC).

The Native Americans use it as a cure for syphilis, hence the not so great name ‘siphilitica’; it didn’t prove to have the implied properties but it did end up to be indeed a Great Blue Lobelia for the garden!