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JEARRARD'S HERBAL




5th October 2014

Lapageria rosea var. albiflora
Summer and autumn continue to vie for supremacy in the garden. The sunshine falls straight down, casting dark shadows underneath the trees. The moss that grows there is dry and brown. Rain during friday night was not sufficient to restore the lurid green that will shine out in a month or so when the low sun creeps in under the branches. Summer is hanging on but the ground has turned into a leaf-magnet, dragging the tired sycamore leaves towards it.
In the greenhouse the Lapageria are looking folorn, as is their habit. They would probably be happier outside but I am not sure they would prosper among the garden-hooligans that colonise all the shady damp corners here. It comes down to lack of courage and it might be time to accept that I don't have it, and they will have to stay in pots in the greenhouse where snails chew the leaves and nip out the tips of the new growth.
The white flowered variety was described by W. J. Hooker in Curtis's Botanical Magazine for 1856, differing from the red for in having white unspotted flowers tinged with rose at the base. It was named on the basis of a plant grown in the Jardin des Plantes in Paris sent to them by M. Abadi in Chile.
Bean reports that the white form occurs occasionally in wild populations and that it was introduced to the British Isles by Richard Pearce in 1860. Hooker comments that it grows abundantly in a cool moist greenhouse but 150 years later I find myself struggling.




5th October 2014

Hedychium gardnerianum 'Kenneggy Small Form'
A while ago I was lying in the bath pondering the nature of good and evil as generations have before me (not in the same bath you understand) when I came to the startling conclusion that good could be equated with diversity and that anything that tended to increase diversity could be defined as good. I can't remember the chain of reasoning that inspired the thought. I think it would be unreasonable to expect a bathtub to function efficiently as a philosophical archive in addition to its primary role. If there is a point to be gleaned here it is my apology for the smug and saintly way I leap from a large but weak Chilean climber to a small but vigorous Himalayan ginger. Diversity, like coffee and cake, is a good thing.
This little form of Hedychium gardnerianum came from Stephen Mules at Lower Kenneggy nursery. It is exactly like Hedychium gardnerianum but smaller. The first year I grew it in a pot in the sun and it flowered at about 30cm tall (like all old people, I wrote 12 inches first and then corrected it). I was astonished to find such a tiny form that is so perfect for growing in a pot. The biggest drawback of the genus has always been size. 'Tai Pink Profusion' has just started to flower in the greenhouse and I had to fetch a stepladder to get a photograph. This year it is growing in the shade of its taller relatives and has flowered at 40cm.
A little chap that adds wonderful diversity to the ginger lilies, something I plan to celebrate with a second slice of carrot and banana cake!




5th October 2014

Nerine 'Zeal Giant'
The Nerine have started to build to a crescendo. A few weeks ago I was worried that there wasn't going to be much flower this year. Is there such a thing a bulb-pessimism? Of course there is. I spend most of the year peering down at patches of bare earth thinking 'that'll never come up'. There is nothing quite like a sea of pink and scarlet flowers to dispel it and the best way of finding them is to turn a corner and be confronted with unexpected pinkness. 'Zeal Giant' grows in a little greenhouse by itself away from the main collection (because stocks seem to carry virus - I don't want it to spread and I don't want to do without 'Zeal Giant'). I popped in to water on thursday and then decided to have a little sit down in the sun beside it.
'Zeal Giant' is the best known of Terry Jones hybrids, resulting from his work to hybridise N. bowdenii and N.sarniensis to increase the colour range of hardy Nerine. So far the hardy ones are all still pink though there are hints of other colours in the tepals of some - 'Zeal Purple Stripe' overstates the significance of a dark 'bruise' along the midrib but an extension to the colour range is undeniable. Differences in chromosome numbers have created difficulties for hybridists but a few second generation seedlings are being raised. Terry Jones reported the parentage of 'Zeal Giant' as N. bowdenii (good form) x N. 'Hera'.



5th October 2014

Galanthus peshmenii
During the week I went to a garden society meeting where people were giving the mournful impression that gardening was over until next April. They obviously don't grow Nerine or Hedychium which are going to keep producing surprises until the New Year (still trying not to mention the 'C' word). I did gently mention that the snowdrop season was coming but I accept that it isn't really gardening it's more like visiting an art gallery with some extra stooping (I am planning to use knee pads next year - I will be frowned upon). I didn't realise when I invoked Galantho-proximity that the snowdrop season had arrived.
Last weekend I was kneeling beside the autum snowdrops, peering pessimistically at the ground while pulling out a few unwanted weeds and there was nothing showing. No little green noses, not the slightest hint that anything was moving. This week I bubbled towards the Nerine flushed scarlet with optimism and was struck still by Galanthus peshmenii, all white and dangling and snowdroppy.
The species was described in 1994 though it was grown in cultivation previously as the "Turkish form" of G. reginae-olgae. It seems to be the easiest of the autumn snowdrops and the first to flower for me. I grow them in the greenhouse with the Nerine, it survives outside but doesn't really prosper here. Now I have found a place in the greenhouse that suits them I have started to look for other autumn snowdrops to join them. My (very) small collection will continue to produce surprises until the start of December when I will be peering pessimistically at patches of bare ground outside waiting for the spring snowdrops and the first daffodils.