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JEARRARD'S HERBAL




28th September 2014

Strobilanthes rankanensis
Autumn has started to produce a golden glow in the garden. The long dry spell continues, though a light shower at the start of the week reminded me that it couldn't last. All the gardeners I know are complaining about the drought while beaming with glee at the beautiful weather. I saw a Cercidiphyllum in a garden this afternoon, leaves dripping from it like honey from a fat beehive. The hedges along the bypass are scarlet with the autumn leaves of Euonymus europaeus.
Strobilanthes rankanensis has grown well in the greenhouse, almost a metre tall and rather more across, nicely sub-shrubby. I was asked to identify one in a garden in the summer and I was confident. It is distinctive.
I'm not sure what it was sent me to the Flora of China to check. Perhaps I recognised that confidence on that scale is only ever found among the deluded. Stems "procumbent, usually rooting at basal nodes" gave me pause for thought. Not on my plant they aren't (though it is in a greenhouse, perhaps outside...). Clinging on to the untenable like a senior politician in that awkward period between committing the indiscretion and it appearing in the newspapers.
"Calyx two lipped ", an upper lip and a lower lip split into three unequal and two equal lobes respectively. No. I have spent an hour peering through a magnifier at it and it simply isn't so. Calyx split approximately half way to the base into five lobes, the upper one 25% longer that the others. So we are left with the unfortunate conclusion that things are not as they should be. I didn't manage to check for the "globose echinulate pollen" (think tiny rolled hedgehogs so if anybody is throwing out a decent dissecting microscope throw it my way), but I am cautiously confident that this is not Strobilanthes rankanensis. This paragraph could justifiably be titled Something else.




28th September 2014

Begonia taliensis
It has been a bumper Begonia year. Most of them are in the greenhouse this year within reach of the hose and they are loving the warmth (those few in the garden are suffering a bit from the drought). Begonia taliensis is very distinctive and already I can feel the over-confidence building. I am so confident of the name I'm not even going to check it (until I have got over the last investigation). This is from a collection by Eric Hammond under the number EDHCH 042 and for a long time was the only clone in cultivation. Recently plants have been arriving directly from China and there is some variation in the leaf pattern. Eventually the best will be named and distributed.
I find it cold hardy but the tuber needs to be dry in the winter so I keep it in a pot which was almost my undoing. After several years in the same small pot it was fading away and getting later and later to emerge. It isn't exactly an early riser under the best conditions, waiting until late June or early July before producing leaves so I hardly noticed when it delayed until the end of August. Fortunately I did notice how tiny it had become and repotted it. A couple of years recovering and it is getting back to a decent size. I have never collected seed, but it would be a sensible move.
It is late to flower so we would probably need a long hot autumn with golden weather that trailed away into the distance ...Ah!
(Note to self).




28th September 2014

Hedychium urophyllum
With the Flora of China glowing entrancingly at me to the right (I have a second screen) I find it easy to imagine that I understand stuff. The Hedychium house will disabuse me of any such notions. I have spent several years growing some seedlings from 'Raffillii' that I hand pollinated with enormous care. Forget the careless tickling with a camel hair brush, this required a tottering step ladder. I will edit out several uneventful years to arrive at today when I noticed an interesting new flower among the leafy stems, clearly H.yunnanense and not the 'Raffillii' seedling that the label promised. I'm not sure what I have done or when I did it, but I must have done something and it is evident that it was stupid.
Which brings me to the useful things that can be learned while shopping. More specifically it brings me to the Lemon Meringue Pie Cheesecake I saw last week. Something quite ridiculous and yet understated. How can a thing shout so loud in such a gentle way? I understand Hedychium a little better as a result.
The Hedychium house never blazes with the spicy scent of a thousand flower heads. It produces one or two, here and there from July until winter takes a vindictive turn. One or two ridiculous flower heads nestled gently in a sea of exotic leaves (that look just like maize at a distance).
Hedychium urophyllum is the flower of the moment, striking but strangely dishevelled like an exotic bird that has crashed into a patio window. The red stems are compact and flower reliably. It would be sensible to ask why I haven't tried to grow seed from it yet.
Just stupid I guess.



28th September 2014

Nerine sarniensis mauve seedling
The garden is a whirl of delight at the moment filled with the fruits of a thousand good ideas along with one or two that to be quite honest haven't fruited yet. The Nerine are filling their greenhouse with flower spikes making great promises. New things, wonderful things and old friends grown fat with the passage of years.
Among them are the remnants of good ideas that didn't quite make it. It started with the overwhelming orange of Nerine sarniensis streaking along the autumn benches like an imagined sunset. An imagined sunset heavy with purple clouds. I wish I had more purple Nerine. Ideas are the foundation of actions and I went out looking for some.
It would be nice to have a selection of heavy purple Nerine making a perfect picture on the bench. So far I have managed to get three (over three years) and two of them are really lilac, like this seedling, more seaside hotel than ominous thunder cloud but probably worth growing seedlings. Repeated pollination has failed to produce any viable seed so far but this will be the year. I'm sure this will be the year.
And if not, who knows what will turn up in the nurseries. Something heavy, thunderous, purple perhaps even shocking. I am confident. The sort of confidence that ends in a car full of white Nerine. White Nerine and maybe a big grin. It's a good time of year.