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Thats enough introduction - on with the plants!
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... out in the garden.

14th April 2013

Narcissus 'Eystettensis'
The jet stream continues its winter holiday in the south and as a consequence cold weather falls from the north like a British stag party in Ibiza, wobbling towards frigidity.
I spent some time in the gardens of the frozen north this week (London and the south east) and was quite shocked by the chill and the absence of springfulness. The first daffodils were starting to appear like an inflated life-jacket of hope for a Titanic season.
Back at home I am moving on to the last flush of daffodils and while I was a way N. 'Eystettensis' opened, reminding me simulaneously of its beauty and its location (I misplace things from time to time). The name 'Eystettensis' is also slightly misplaced, originally used as a synonym for N. pseudonarcissus ssp pseudonarcissus but now recycled as a cultivar name for Queen Anne's curious double daffodil. In this case the name refers to Queen Anne of Austria, though Queens are as enthusiastic as Pope's when it comes to recycling names.
N. 'Eystettensis' gains the name as the result of an illustration in Hortus Eystettensis published in 1613. Johann Conrad von Gemmingen became Prince Bishop of Eichstatt at the end of the 16th Century and built the first major botanic garden outside Italy, in Bavaria. In 1598 Basil Besler took on the management and development of the garden and was comissioned to produce a florilegium to record the wonder of the place. A number of artists and illustrators were employed and the finished work was published in 1613, barely two years after the Prince Bishop had died. Timing can be such a bitch.
About 300 copies of Hortus Eystettensis were produced in the first edition and a number have survived the centuries, as has the daffodil which is now available rather cheaply in comparison with its illustration.

14th April 2013

Scopolia carniolica var brevifolia
Names are to garden plants as fleas are to dogs. New ones are constantly arriving to cause irritation.
Scopolia carniolica or Henbane is a sinister looking herbaceous plant from the beech woodlands of southern Europe with brownish flowers. It contains the usual range of alkaloids for a member of the solanaceae and has the expected connections to witchcraft. Prepared as a drug it is said to produce light headed hallucinations akin to flying and to kill you if used in excess. Witches get such a bad press.
In Slovenia there is a yellow flowered variation. The blooms burst from the new growth while it is still thrusting up through the soil and will continue to be produced for a couple of months. During that time the plant will grow to the height of a flea infested labrador, cover itself in dull potato-like leaves and poison anything that eats it. It's the sort of thing I like to have in the background of the garden. When I first grew it the name was S.c. ssp. hladnikiana which took a while to get a tongue around but added an exotic sounding touch. Now it has been absorbed into S.c. ssp. brevifolia which is probably easier to chant during incantations ... and I can't help wondering what a plant has to do to be named the bane of chickens?

14th April 2013

Tulipa sylvestris
Photography is a wonderful hobby, it offers men a much needed opportunity to show off about their equipment. At an exhibition of alpine plants yesterday I was introduced to the concept of photo-stacking. The camera takes a handful of pictures of the same subject while modifying the focus slightly for each one. At a later date the "in focus" sections of each picture can be stitched together to create a single image with an enormous depth of field. It's cleverer than Stephen Fry sitting on a comfy cushion.
It becomes clear that I am no photographer, I am a picture-pusher. I point the camera in approximately the right direction and push the button. Cameras are becoming more complicated and I have fat fingers, so my skill is restricted to pushing the right button. Plant photographers are known to use a light spray of water on the subject to impart a dew-like freshness. If I had mastered that art I would probably clean my car more often. In my case, if a plant is shown glistening with drops of water it means I was standing in the rain at the time.
Cold. Wet. Surprised to find a tulip in flower. Not very sophisticated.
The first records of Tulipa sylvestris in Europe come from northern Italy in the sixteenth century. It may be native or it may just naturalise easily where it is appropriately warm and dry. It produces bulbs very deeply in the ground and so avoids damage by ploughing and cultivation. It is naturalised in places in the UK but it isn't really happy. I planted a few in a raised bed in the hope that they would at least persist. Those in full sun are flowering. A similar group that were planted in the lightest of shade have made the sort of dog eared leaves that you might expect to find in a prep school copy of Chaucer.

14th April 2013

Pleione Masaya
Over the last two seasons I have been modifying my Pleione culture to provide a lot more moisture and feed during the growing season. I have been pleased with the results and determined to add to the range I grow. At the RHS Orchid show I was offered a plant of P. x confusa that was very beautiful, very yellow and very much more than I was prepared to pay. I expect I will live to regret it, but I came away empty handed.
I arrived home to discover P. Piton in full bloom. It is a wonderful pink hybrid. The delicate flowers open fully and stand on tall stems, unlike many of the hybrids that barely seem to struggle over the pot rim and have flowers that droop in the middle like a tent with a broken ridge pole.
Somebody should hybridise the two things to get an upstanding yellow with a good shape. It turns out that Ian Butterfield did it in 1997 and the Masaya grex was the consequence.
Most of the plants in the grex have pink flowers but mine is pale primrose. I don't think it was chance, someone along the way clearly selected it, but it arrived with me by accident - I was expecting a pink one.
I am a simpleton in the world of Pleione and I wanted to obtain a few of the newer hybrids this year to bring the collection up to date. I particularly wanted to increase the number of yellow flowered cultivars but have realised that the one I have is a pretty good thing.
P. x confusa can wait for another year.

Acorus Alocasia Anemone Arisaema Arum Asarum Aspidistra Begonia Bromeliads Camellia
Carnivorous Cautleya Chirita Chlorophytum Clivia Colocasia Crocosmia Dionaea Drosera Epimedium
Eucomis Fuchsia Galanthus Hedychium Helleborus Hemerocallis Hepatica Hosta Impatiens Iris
Liriope Ophiopogon Pinguicula Polygonatum Ranunculus ficaria Rhodohypoxis Rohdea Roscoea Sansevieria Sarracenia
Scilla Sempervivum Tricyrtis Tulbaghia Utricularia Viola odorata Watsonia

To find particular groups of plants I grow, click on the genus name in the table above. Click on the "Index" box at the top of the page for the full list.
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