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JEARRARD'S HERBAL




8th March 2015

Camellia 'Cornish Spring'
A week of spring sunshine and fluffy clouds that skip across the sky like playful lambs. Unlikely as it seems, gigantic flying lambs. It is appropriate because I have been bleating about spring since the first Celandine flowers opened in November. This week it is beyond question in the garden though I imagine those reckless souls that play team sports will still be sinking in the winter mud.
Camellia 'Cornish Spring' started to celebrate the season at about the same time I did and has continued without a break. It is only a tiny thing at present so it is a wonder it found the energy for the dozen or so buds needed. As with many of the single flowered Camellia it has the good grace to shed the blooms as they age and not cling on to them as they mummify like the disturbing mementos of a serial killer.
It has been a lovely week, I'm not sure why it seems to have taken such a sinister turn. Perhaps it is the arrival of some showers this morning. I took some pictures of blue flowers yesterday and the colour was washed out by the bright light. I tried again this morning and got soaked taking pictures I didn't like any better. Not for the first time I am grateful for the restorative effects of hot coffee and chocolate cake.




8th March 2015

Crocus 'Jeanne d'Arc'
Spring is a surprise, and perhaps that is the appeal. Last summer I ran out of space in the bulb house (as a consequence of some reckless Nerine cultivation) and a number of things were moved out to make space. Among them were all the pots of hardy bulbs that I kept indoors to give them a good bake in summer. At the time it was easy to imagine I would get around to planting them out in the autumn so they were put to one side and promptly forgotten. There they have remained and I will manage to convince myself that it was a good thing. Crocus 'Jeanne d'Arc' has never been this cheerful and I had assumed it was dead. Clearly the less I meddle with things the better they prosper.
In the process of welcoming spring with optimism I will overlook the assortment of pots standing with it whose contents are actually dead. By way of compensation the Nerine have prospered in the mild winter and are looking delightfully lush.
Crocus 'Jeanne d'Arc' is one of a series of vigorous large Dutch Crocus often attributed to C. vernus though they are probably all hybrids. It was registered in the Netherlands in 1943 by W. J. Eldering and is now old enough to be treated as a 'Heritage' cultivar much to the amusement of the larger Dutch bulb growers who continue to pump them out like the vanilla beat of a youth club dance, all glitter and soft drinks.




8th March 2015

Illicium mexicanum
Illicium is one of those genera that passsed me by for many years. The twiggy stems have a brittle waxy look with translucent white flowers. There is something rather funereal about them. Flowers that are tender without being showy. I was going to do a line about the "illicium" fields but it has stuck in my classical throat and I just can't choke it out.
Fortunately time cures most preconceptions. I bought some young plants three years ago and the deep red flowers of I. mexicanum have been one of the reliable joys of spring. Currently sheltering in the greenhouse, it will be going out under the protection of a light tree canopy "before long". I don't have a date yet, but it is occupying space in a greenhouse that has no space left, so a move is inevitable.
I expected the flowers to smell of aniseed but this one was sweet, heavy and stifling which left me feeling quite dizzy (though I was also bending down which didn't help).





8th March 2015

Galanthus 'Hugh Mackenzie'
Snowdrops have carried me through the winter and now the season has collapsed. There are a few that still manage a display but the freshness has gone. The last to flower are those with green markings of one sort or another on the outer segments. 'Hugh Mackenzie' has been very slow to establish here and late to emerge. Planted in 2010, it has done little more than hang on for several years. Every February I looked at the space it should occupy, found nothing and assumed it has finally expired. Every year I got a stunted leaf at the end of the season and smiled with the ridiculous delusion that it was getting larger. Last year I lost patience and dug it up as it became dormant. The tiny bulb was moved to a sunnier location free from competition. I was convinced it would die, the bulb didn't look large enough to survive and fate has a way of stamping especially hard on the small and precious.
It seems that 'Hugh Mackenzie' is made of sterner stuff. Some sunlight and some chicken pellet fertiliser have perked him up enough to produce a first flower. More importantly it is a reasonably good green flower (his distinctive characteristic).
Sadly there is a price to pay for the cultivation of obscure modern snowdrops. I was hunched up on hands and knees taking this picture in the spring sun, worring about the dangers the bulb faced and taking myself very seriously. I looked to the side and saw the shadow of a gigantic bunny bending towards the succulent flower. It doesn't do to take yourself too seriously.