‘Stardust’ Asiatic gentian (Gentiana sino-ornata ‘Stardust’)
These unique blossoms will leave you starry-eyed

USDA hardiness zones:4b to 8
Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; moist, rich, acidic soil

These unique blossoms will leave you starry-eyed We each have had a long love affair with Asiatic gentians, and this shared passion for them reached a climax, so to speak, back in 1997. We first met on a plant-hunting expedition to China in late September of that year, and it was while standing at 10,000 feet looking out over damp, grassy meadows alight with the vibrant blue flowers of Gentiana sino-ornata that we became smitten—with not only the plant, but also with each other.

The straight species is typically a deep blue with pale striping. ‘Stardust’ is a fantastic selection, which features trumpets of alternating white and sky blue petals. This plant does exceptionally well in cooler climates (Zones 4–6) where it flowers from late summer through fall. ‘Stardust’ Asiatic gentian forms a small, deciduous mat. At first glance, you might confuse it with creeping phlox (Phlox subulata and cvs., Zones 3–9) because of its similar soft, needlelike green leaves and lax stems, which root along their length and create new crowns for next year. As summer wanes, any similarity to phlox is put to bed, though, when the multitude of 2-inch-long flowers put on their show. In winter, the foliage and stems die back to overwintering buds. If you love this plant as much as we do, you’ll likely want to make more, which is easily done by division in spring. ‘Stardust’ Asiatic gentian has been a good performer in our sunny, moist garden. Each fall when it flowers, stardust fills our eyes and we marvel at how our love for plants— and each other—remains undimmed over the decades. If a plant can do that for you, isn’t it worth a try?

Kelly Dodson and Sue Milliken grow some of the coolest plants on the planet at Far Reaches Farm in Port Townsend, Washington.

Fine Gardening magazine has graciously allowed us to post some past Plant Profiles we have authored. We have worked with the magazine for a number of years and more recently in the capacity of contributing editors. The folks at the magazine have been a joy to work with and have been very amenable to our occasional quirkiness and interest in unusual plants. One of the things we appreciate about the staff at FG is they are constantly in motion visiting top gardeners and gardens across the country and then enlisting them to write about the plants and design strategies that light them up. It is no small feat to make a publication contain relevance to any part of the country but they pull it off with each issue.