Dianthus glacialis

Still botanizing in the Bucegi Plateau

Geum reptans is an alpine gem of which I was able to collect a few seeds. Growing in crevices and spreading in mats over boulders, it was already past flowering during late July, and its ornamental fluffy seed heads were getting pink. Although also admired for its yellow flowers, I find the pinnate, fernlike foliage very beautiful in itself. Called ‘the best of its race of mountain avens’ by Jim Jermyn, it is most definitely calcifuge requiring a perfectly drained mixture and full sun exposure – perfect for a scree garden.

Near the Geum reptans, small tufts of Armeria alpina stood out on top of the rocks, and then, fiercely competing with them for our attention, Dianthus glacialis, with its brilliant pink flowers, was making it very hard to concentrate on taking pictures! Dianthus glacialis in flower is a must see, at least once in a lifetime. Small green cushions covered in almost stemless pink flowers, defy description. There are two subspecies, glacialis and gelidus, the later being a Romanian endemic. The differences between them are quite minute; without going into details, subsp. gelidus has bigger flowers with a more intense pink colour, and it seems that the clumps we found belonged to this subspecies. To change the colour spectrum, clumps of two wonderful Asteraceae with white flowers: Achillea schuri and Anthemis carpatica were sprinkled on the rocky slopes, blooming profusely. Anthemis carpatica is already taken into cultivation and apparently adapts well to full sun and calcareous substrates, while Achillea schuri, endemic to Romania, has still to make its way into the gardening world.

Whenever the trail goes close to stone walls and outcrops, the delightful Campanula cochlearifolia greets you from above with its thimble-like delicate, blue flowers. It is not a pretentious plant to cultivate either, and can even overcome its boundaries if not restricted between some rocks. Among the species with violet or mauve flowers I have to mention Calamintha alpina subsp. baumgarteni (syn. Acinos alpinus subsp. alpinus). Considered a chamaephyte, it has a woody stem with small leaves and mauve flowers typical of the Lamiaceae family. On the other hand, the genus Oxytropis is not a stranger to rock gardeners, and Oxytropis halleri is a wonderful example with its violet flowers and dense pinnate foliage. And of course, it cannot be a mountain ‘story’ without a Saxifrage. Quite a few species are abounding in the Bucegi. Saxifraga paniculata seemed very happy in the Plateau, flowering in big colonies at margins of the path, as well as Saxifraga moschata, which has small rosettes, with finely divided leaves and yellow, fragrant flowers.