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JEARRARD'S HERBAL




4th January 2015

Camellia saluenensis Dark Form
The year ended with a puff of cold weather that has put an end to any hopes of a Hedychium bonanza in January. H. stenopetalum and H. thyrsiforme were both producing flower heads that will not develop any further. Sad as it is to see them go it did bring an end to the autumn panic of what to bring in and where to put it . Too late to worry now.
Just in time because the new season is well underway. New flowers are appearing every day and they seem to have survived the cold snap. Once we got into the New Year temperatures rose again and when I walked round the garden this morning things seemed to be tripping over themselves in their haste to be seen.
At the start of the week I had the first suggestion of colour on the buds of Camellia saluenensis. Today there are a dozen flowers open. This is the dark form, its history in cultivation is unclear to me though it was certainly raised from seed sent from China by George Forrest in 1917. Forrest describes the wild plant as occurring in both white and crimson forms and both were raised from his seed by J. C. Williams at Caerhays. A very similar plant is grown at Trewithen under the name 'Trewithen Red', also attributed to the Forrest collection.
To my eye the terms "red" and "crimson" are a little optimistic but if you can't lie flagrantly when describing flowers what is the point of poetic license?




4th January 2015

Galanthus 'Reverend Hailstone'
Snowdrops have responded to the New Year with a burst of growth. During the autumn I went through the snowdrop bed removing the annual weeds and detritus that accumulate during the summer. I looked at the end result and it was difficult to imagine the ranks of white flowers that had filled the space a few months earlier. Now the grey shoots are crowding through the soil and it is difficult to imagine the weed strewn border of summer. At least it was until I tripped over the pile of decaying vegetation I had been too lazy to dispose of. There has been enough warm rain to soften the ground but not so much that I landed with a splash of mud. Perfect snowdrop conditions and a good viewpoint.
Speaking as a snowdrop appreciator I can assure you that there is no dignified way of approaching the task. Some do it by folding in the middle exposing the magnitude of their bottom (but we always hope, not its substance). Others approach on hands and knees and then ask for help getting up. Tripping on a compost heap and falling into a floral cushion is no worse and with luck the expletives won't arrive until you're comfortably settled.
'Reverend Hailstone' has been a patch of promise for weeks but it has waited until the New Year to open. I bought a single bulb in 2010 and it has grown into a large clump that will need marking so that it can be lifted and split in the summer. I think there is now a general consensus that lifting snowdrops in the green is less successful than moving the dormant bulbs.




4th January 2015

Hamamelis mollis
Hamamelis have been waiting for some cold weather for the buds to open. I don't know if there is a low temperature trigger but H. mollis was covered in flower a couple of days after the first freeze. This is a young plant only three of four feet tall at the moment, but large enough to demonstrate that I have planted them too close together. I left plenty of space when I first put them in but over the last couple of years the large open spaces became irresistible and I have tucked some smaller shrubs between them. Fortunately it is mostly camellias and I can lift them again if I have to.
I want the light scent of the Hamamelis to drift charmingly around the top of the garden in winter but I had overlooked the breeze that always seems to blow up there. Anything but a light scent would be a hazzard in a strong wind. As it is I couldn't smell anything at all this morning except the damp earth.
I expect the spring to be yellow and soft pastel colours but so far the garden had been dominated by the synthetic pink camellias. The arrival of the Hamamelis has started to set the record straight. There is more than one good reason for moving the glowing pink Camellia 'Inspiration' growing beside it.





4th January 2015

Helleborus x hybridus
The Hellebores have taken full advantage of the mild weather over the last few days. I am looking at the border with a mixture of nervousness and bravado. Last September I went over one side of it with a lawnmower and then sprayed it with herbicide to destroy the grass and nettles that had invaded. I hope that I cut the hellebores down low enough to escape the herbicide and every one that reappears in the bed it greeted with a little cheer. I am worried that the seedlings coming through will have been killed but so far things are looking good. I need a way to manage it that doesn't involve crawling along on my hands and knees for weeks in the summer pulling out weeds. A hellebore border should be a luxury, not a great labour.
The other half of the border was left for hand weeding and is now covered in the dead stems of a forest of goose grass that invaded last year (it was red campion the year before). Hand weeding only works if you actually get around to doing it, so I am trying out some other options. One of the thoughts has been to make more use of H. torquatus in breeding seedlings for planting out. The leafy growth dies back to ground level during August and I would have a couple of months to clear the ground before the new flowering shoots appeared. Any seedlings that didn't die back ... well lets just say there would be a strong selection pressure.
Which brings me to early flowering pale seedlings like this one. Just the thing to add some lively colours to the rather drab appearance of H. torquatus.