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JEARRARD'S HERBAL




8th February 2015

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Diane'
I was sitting in my office one evening during the week when I was seized with a desire to write with a 2H pencil. These things happen. The only one I own is used for writing plant labels and is (even as I write this) in the potting shed. I wandered down there in the dark thinking about this and that but evidently not thinking about the rose bush I walked into. Even the most tangible things are sometimes invisible.
The arrival of snow drew attention to another invisible boundary. Young people greeted it's arrival with skipping and dancing (or whatever is currently deemed cool) while the elderly check the settings on the heating. I did both with a feeling that this wasn't really a suitable moment for sitting on a fence. I remember the time I used to spend waiting for a school bus. Standing at the side of the road watching the world going about its business while nothing happened. A ten minute gap in meaning. Eventually the bus arrived, standing around in the cold ended and we were off.
Hamamelis x intermedia 'Diane' was made for snow. The red flowers are lost in the grey light and twiggery of winter but they come to life with a white cap. Most of the garden was flattened down and looking miserable but these flowers seemed to be blood red in the cold while the yellow cultivars looked pale and uninteresting. I often tell people it is worth growing a plant for the sake of one good moment in the year. I had five minutes on a cold morning with a camera and it is true. Five minutes glowing with joy is worth a lifetime waiting for a bus. Spring is coming.




8th February 2015

Galanthus 'X-Ray'
The snow disappeared almost as fast as it had arrived. By lunchtime all that was left was a white stain in the shadows, a ghostly high-tide mark for winter. The sun comes out and it is spring sunshine, bright and warming. The snowdrops open and the temperature in the greenhouse rises. The year hasn't quite decided to cross the invisible boundary into spring but we are right on it, hovering in the gap between one thing and another.
Galanthus 'X-Ray' is one of those large and entirely interchangeable snowdrops that populate collectors lists. I was trying to remember why I bought it and couldn't think of a good reason. Snowdrops creep up on you unseen during the dark winter of irrationality and before you know it they are everywhere. I checked the internet to see if anyone else could offer a good excuse for growing it but all I can find are people who have taken x-ray pictures of snowdrops. It is surprising how many people have far too much time on their hands. Finally I checked my own records and discovered that I bought it at the Alpine Garden Society show in Harlow in 2012. Having travelled all that way to a flower show I probably just wanted a souvenir.
Until friday I couldn't have offered much in the way of enthusiasm regarding 'X-Ray'. Perhaps I might have managed "Ooh look, there among the lovely snowdrops, it's a lovely snowdrop". It isn't much but I would have tried. On friday I went out with a camera and spent five minutes kneeling beside it with the sun streaming through the thin petals. Cold knees, a cricked neck and a cold patch at the base of my spine where my jumper has left a gap. Five minutes was as long as I could manage but as we know, five minutes is enough. Now I can tell you that whatever attributes and characteristics it may have 'X-Ray' has its moment in the sun.




8th February 2015

Helleborus x hybridus red
Half of the hellebore border was weeded in the autumn, the other half wasn't. It is unfortunate but too late to waste time worrying about. The flowers are coming up and the section that was not weeded seems to be producing more interest than the section that was so I can convince myself it is a good thing. Under the staging in the greenhouse last years hellebore seed has germinated. It is always an exciting time when the first seedlings start to appear. The seed is collected at the end of May and I always find myself rummaging around the parent plants collecting up the shiny black seeds and wondering why I am bothering. They are sown immediately and then nothing happens for six months. Sometime in January, up they come and the excitement is over for a few years.
They don't attract attention again until they start to reach flowering size and that is the part of the hellebore border I haven't weeded.
This red seedling cheered me. I have been hoping to raise some decent red hybrids for several years but it is a difficult colour. I have a couple of parent plants that produce plenty of seed but so far the seedings have been pink and at the ugly end of the spectrum. This is the first I have raised that is a good red, at least at this stage. As the flowers mature they all seem to lose the rich colour and become brownish but this will do for now. In another month the garden will be filled with different things and it is easy to overlook the drabness of some fading hellebores. There are a number of other seedlings in the batch also looking good so I am hopeful. If they had taken the opportunity to stand up and shine above the snow, that would have been wonderful but they declined.





8th February 2015

Freesia viridis
Snow accumulates on the roof of the greenhouse making it dark and keeping it from warming up. On Tuesday afternoon it was dripping dismally inside and I had no urge to visit. Once the snow had melted the temperature in there shot up and Freesia viridis opened. It is a strange little green flower and it isn't scented but hunting for it through the first weeks of the New Year and watching the tiny buds develop is a small but gleeful part of the season. I grow it close to the incorrigible Freesia laxa which seeds everywhere and which I have allowed to wander because I adore the scarlet flowers in early summer but enough is enough. In truth enough is probably far too much. I was concerned that the sturdy sheaves of pleated leaves that had emerged in autumn from the pots of Freesia viridis would have red flowers instead of green. The time has come to take a firm stand and weed out F. laxa whenever it appears. Years ago it had swamped the temperate house at Kew and they managed to get rid of it, so it is possible.
Recent taxonimic work by Goldblatt and Manning has divided the species into two subspecies. My plants are F. viridis ssp. viridis which occurs along the western coast of Namibia and extends as far south as Cape Town in South Africa.
It is said that some plants are fragrant at night so later this evening I will wander that way in the dark and try to remember where the rose bush is.