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Along the mountain road

Along the mountain road
Somehow it tugs at my heart –
A wild violet.
                                           Basho

A few highlights are warranted from our holiday. Were we could have been if not up the mountains, again? At high altitude, early July equals with a late May-June elsewhere and this made it for lots of flowers to be found. It was a good scouting expedition and lots to talk about during wintertime.

 Various violets were sprinkled everywhere from meadows to high altitude rock ledges.

Viola alpina

Viola alpina between Silene acaulis flowers

Alpine meadows were brimming with flowers; rainbows of colours marked by the towering yellow giant gentian: Gentiana lutea.

Gentiana lutea

Gentiana lutea

Groups of deep blue Gentiana verna acting like an eye-magnet from far away.

Gentiana verna

Gentiana verna

Geum reptans huge flowers scattered over the boulders.

Geum reptans

Geum reptans

A joyous riot of grasses that were intermingling with colourful perennials.

grasses

Veronica spicata between various grasses

Fiery red, fragrant mountain slopes covered with Rhododendron kotschyi (commonly called mountain peony) were a delight to all senses.

Rhododendron kotchyi

Rhododendron kotschyi

And last but not least, tiny, delicate, fringed bells of Soldanella pusilla. This says it all.

Soldanella pusilla

Soldanella pusilla

Now back to work, fruits are ripening and seeds are bursting out!

 

Sunday Phlog: Never enough Gentians

Flowering faithfully from spring through summer and late fall, the Gentians are my most beloved flowers. Although I am usually associating them with a mountainous environment, there are plenty of species/varieties growing happily in ordinary garden conditions. This gallery contains Gentiana species and varieties from our travels and from Lost Horizons Nursery (where a few are available to purchase) and it will be updated gradually.

 

And if you are crazy like me about Gentianaceae please visit The Gentian Research Network.

A Yellow Giant: Gentiana lutea

Some of you may be surprised to find out that the following image belongs to a gentian, but it’s true. This is Gentiana lutea (Yellow gentian, Bitter Root), native to the mountainous regions of central and southern Europe (Carpathians, Alps, Pyrenees…), where usually grows in alpine and sub-alpine meadows on calcareous soils. It is a tall perennial, reaching 1-2 m, with large leaves arranged in a basal rosette until flowering. The yellow flowers are atypical for a gentian, with corolla deeply divided in 5-7 narrow petals, and disposed in terminal and axillary clusters.

Gentiana lutea

Gentiana lutea flowers

Gentiana lutea has been used for centuries as a medicinal plant, and to flavour alcoholic drinks commonly known as bitters, which are very common and widely used in Germany, France, Switzerland and Italy. For this purpose, the roots and rhizomes are collected in late fall and dried, practice that has lead to over-collecting and brought the species to endangered lists in many countries. The principal medicinal use of the yellow gentian is for digestive disorders due to its bitter compounds, among which the gentiopicrin, is one of the most bitter natural compounds known.

Apart for its medicinal virtues, it is an impressive perennial, a focal point for a sunny perennial garden. It is a rare find, so hurry up and spread the word! Flowers in June-July or in July-August at high elevations. Needless to say that it is very hardy. Propagation has to be done by seed.

Gentiana lutea

Gentiana lutea in the Display Garden at Lost Horizons

Of botanical interest: Despite its atypical flowers Gentiana lutea it is the type species of the genus Gentiana! [The generic type is a representative species that is selected when a genus is described].

I’ll have more on Gentiana lutea, as the few seeds I collected from the Carpathians Mts. will germinate (fingers crossed) and also I hope I’ll manage to collect more seeds in the future.

Meanwhile,  you can see the yellow giant in flower by visiting the Lost Horizons Display Garden in July (and sometimes a few plants are available for sale).