Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Gentian Diana from Spalding Bulbs

Part of the agreement with Spalding Plant and Bulb Company for having their logo on here is that I will review some of their plants from time to time.   Someone from their blogger club sent me an electronic catalogue of plants and said I could choose one for free as long as I wrote about it.  I chose a Gentian Diana for its striking blue flowers and also because I killed one of my own last year and fancied having another go.  Gentians are perennials and of course are dormant at the moment.  It's quite hard to review a plant that arrives looking dead but of course it isn't and the roots are nice and healthy so I'll do what I can to share the experience so far.

The Gentian arrived securely packaged in a kind of green plastic bubble wrapped around with brown paper and then a box so large that my colleagues presumed I had arranged for a sofa to be delivered to the office.  This is the same as my other experiences with mail order plants and although the packaging can seem over-zealous at times, I presume these people know what they are doing.

Gentian in a green plastic bubble

The gentian was completely unscathed when unwrapped.

Gentian survivor of the Christmas mail

There was a label enclosed in fourteen different languages which implies this is a truly international plant; however all this does say is that the plant is dormant and therefore in the best state to go in the post.  This variety of nationalities suggests to me it could thrive in a whole host of different habitats but this information wasn't enclosed and I couldn't find it on line.

Unidentified languages included with this gentian

There were a whole load of vouchers and plant catalogues enclosed and an offer of a free hardy palm with any order.  Offers of free plants are like a red rag to a bull to a plantaholic like me although goodness where I would put a hardy palm which apparently can grow to twelve metres.  I was about to write that I already have eighteen sweet peas on the go for next year and nowhere to put them but then I told myself off for exaggerating as there was no way I had that many.  I then went out and counted them and there are twenty five.  (If anyone is passing in spring and would like a few sweet peas you are welcome.)   Anyway, this new relationship with Spalding Bulbs could lead to dangerous new levels of plant collection.

There was nothing in the way of care instructions which I would have appreciated.  I had to look this up online but that's not a huge problem and the care instructions are also available on the website.  I do like to keep plant labels though, for future reference.  The website says that Gentian Diana prefers acid soil but a novice like me could have done with the word ERICACEOUS compost spelled out in big red letters.  I made the mistake of ignoring that advice on the last gentian I bought.  I read today that 'normal' compost makes acid lovers go yellow and die which is exactly what the last one did.  As I am now responsible for reviewing this plant I felt I should give it every opportunity to stay alive and so I got a scoopful of the right compost from my neighbour (thanks Tracy), potted it on and wrapped it in a nice fleece as it was freezing outside.

Gentian Diana snug in its fleece

Spalding Plant and Bulbs say that their plants come with a one to five year guarantee but I couldn't find out what that means.  Can you take it back if you allow the dog to pee on it, never water it or plant it in the wrong compost like me?   I wasn't clear.

Gentian Diana retails at £9.95 on the website which is very expensive for a perennial plus delivery is £4.95.  They do offer a track and trace facility so you can work out what day your plant will arrive.  I have had little experience of ordering plants online before, partly because of the high cost of delivery charges and also because I can't guarantee on being in to receive them.   I get them delivered to work but I don't always work in the same place so I do need a rough idea when they are coming.  Anyway, it didn't matter with this one and delivery was free for the review anyway.

All in all, it seems like a good quality plant with healthy roots, safely packaged, quite pricey but once you start ordering there are more offers to be had.  I will be charting its progress on here over the course of the summer and looking forward to some of its late summer flowers.


  1. Let's hope Gentian will grow well!

    My blog Sadun blogi - Satu's blog has a new name My life and a new address as well.

    Have a Merry Christmas, Claire! We have a white Christmas here in Finland. A lot of snow.


  2. Thanks Satu, I'll have to change your address on my blog, not sure when I'll get round to it! Blogger gives me headaches, quite frankly. No idea why all my photos are different sizes. Just had a look at your lovely Christmas photos. I'd love to see some more pictures of the snow. Have a lovely Christmas.


  3. Good luck with your Gentian Diana and good luck as a reviewer! It's true all those free-bees from the online companies soon can mount up, I have loads of them, and even if I probably never would have bought them I would not throw them away. A hardy palm growing to 12m would be stretching it a bit too far in my garden though! Have a lovely Christmas :-)

    1. Hi Helene, thanks for reading and have a great Christmas yourself. I'm already tucked in front of the fire with my first gardening book present.

  4. Claire I love these as well and try to plant my native ones here in the US and now maybe I know why it doesn't grow...I don't always pay attention to the planting recommendations...I do love your honest evaluation of this company.

  5. Hi Donna, hopefully we can compare some lovely Gentians next year. Hope the review wasn't TOO honest! My husband felt it was a bit scathing but everything was ok really, I picked up on a lot of details as there is not much plant to review at the moment. Thanks to Spalding Bulb Company anyway. Have a great Christmas.

  6. I've never grown gentian but love how blue their flowers are. Good luck!

  7. As always, started reading serious faced (me) and spat coffee at the end of last graph. Treasure your acidically cherry posts. Acidically does not appear to be a word. Why I wonder.