If you like natives but are looking for something a little more exotic, look no further than North America’s gentians. These strange yet beautiful plants come in a variety of shapes and sizes and offer the casual plant observer something more to ponder over. Some gentians open their flowers and use deep blues that reflect well into the UV spectrum, luring in pollinators from far and wide. Others are a bit more subtle. Species like the bottle gentian (Gentiana andrewsii – http://bit.ly/1p8X0Ko) and the cream gentian (Gentiana flavida – http://bit.ly/1wEap7p) never seem to open their flowers. Looks may be deceiving, however, and what looks to us like a flower bud is actually an ingenious adaptation to ensure that only bees strong enough to pry apart the nearly fused petals obtain a reward. At the tip of each flower is an opening that only bumblebees can access. Blooming well into October, these gentians offer our dwindling bumblebee populations a well needed dose of nectar and protein rich pollen. This isn’t a sure fire way to guarantee a devoted group of pollinators. As is so common in nature, cheaters abound. Other insects bypass the gentians ruse and simply nibble a hole at the base of the flower, stealing nectar without pollinating the plant. Once pollinated though, these gentians produce copious amounts of small seeds. Though slow growing, once established, bottle and cream gentians are as hardy as they are beautiful. The cream gentian blooms from August until September whereas the bottle gentian hits its stride late in September and carries on into October. These are long lived plants that will bring joy to your landscape for many years. Given an ample amount of light and rich, moist soils (bottle gentians like it a bit wetter) there is no doubt that you will fall in love with this group of plants. If you are feeling brave then why not try some of the other gentians that we offer here at Prairie Moon. You will certainly be glad you did.