GENTIAN Gentiana verna var. angulosa

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Gentiana verna, the spring gentian, is one of its smallest members, normally only growing to a height of a few centimetres.

The conspicuous vivid blue flowers are 1–2 cm in diameter, with a deeply five-lobed corolla; they are produced in late spring to early summer. The flowers attract butterflies and bees (particularly bumblebees) for pollination. Ants are responsible for the spreading of its seeds.

G. verna is one of the most widespread gentians, found on sunny alpine meadows throughout Eurasia, from Ireland to Russia. It is common in central and southeastern Europe, such as in low mountain ranges like the Jura and Balkans, and up to an altitude of 2,600 m (8,500 ft). It is also to be found in mountainous regions ranging from the High Atlas of Morocco to the mountains of Turkey, Iraq and Iran. In northern Europe, it is very rare, confined to Teesdale in northern England and a handful of locations in western Ireland. It tends to thrive on dry meadows with chalky soil; it is also known to grow in silicaceous soils. Its scarcity has led to protection in a number of European countries as an endangered species.

The flower is associated with the Alps, and gave its name to the trans-Alpine Blauer Enzian ("Blue Gentian") express train between Germany and Austria.

Type: Hardy perennial

Hardiness zones: 4-8

Height: 10 cm or 4"

Location: Full sun

Seeds per pack: 10

Germination: As with many perennial seeds, these seeds benefit from a period of moist cold to help them begin to grow. This is done by giving them a cold 'winter' period (artificial or natural), and then a warming to simulate 'spring', and time to grow! This is especially important with Gentian. Here's how this can be done:

Obtain a planting container that has holes in the bottom for excess water to drain. Place the seeds just under the surface of your growing medium, and water. Place your container at room temperature for 1 week (they will not grow yet), and then place them in a refrigerator for 5-6 weeks. Once the cold period is completed, place the container back at room temperature for them to germinate. Be sure to keep the soil moist during this entire germination period. Seedlings will sprout a few weeks, or occasionally several months, after the warming period. They require some patience, but are well worth the effort!

These seeds can also be planted in a cold frame outdoors in very early spring (or in winter if you live in a warm climate), while the temperatures are still cold and fluctuating, as long as you are able to keep the soil consistently moist. They will still need several weeks to germinate.

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