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JEARRARD'S HERBAL




5th April 2015

Leucojum aestivum ' Gravetye Giant'
A week of warm days and cold nights. Falling mist on a couple of days has kept the garden moist without damaging the Magnolia flowers. The garden has been beautiful but somehow the grass is always greener ... and in this case the grass belongs to Leucojum aestivum. A few years ago I got bored with lifting and splitting double snowdrops to make a large patch and bought a boxful from a grower in Lincolnshire. In the box was a small packet of Leucojum aestivum 'Gravetye Giant', sent as a thank-you gift. Naturally I was delighted because I didn't have it in the garden. After a couple of seasons they have settled down to flower. It is without doubt the largest flowered form of the species with tall stems and great poise and opening in April. Therein lies the problem.
As I drive around the lanes I see little clumps of Leucojum aestivum from February onwards. They aren't native. As far as I can tell they are L. aestivum ssp. pulchellum that have escaped (or been evicted) from cultivation. Small, delicate and early, it is the one I want in the garden. This one is a monster in comparison. So I found myself kneeling to take this picture, delighted by the flowers and wishing they were different. Always happy but somehow never satisfied. Fortunately it is Easter and there is plenty of chocolate, which puts most things right.




5th April 2015

Pleione formosana 'Clare'
The Pleione season has crept forward during the week. A few new flowers have opened but buds are swelling all around. One morning the sun will come out and suddenly the bench will turn lilac. Most of my cultivars of P. formosana open in the middle of the season, but 'Clare' seems to be early and vigorous. The species is well known from Taiwan, which is probably the source of most of the named clones that have been introduced, but it also occurs in south-east China.
P. formosana var. alba occurs naturally and a number of clones have been introduced. They are characterised by the pure white petals and the lemon mottled lip without any darker markings (those with orange or purple mottled lips are included in var. semi-alba). 'Clare' is thought to be an imported clone from Taiwan selected by Simmons Orchid Nursery in London, probably during the 1970's. I visited them once in the early 1980's but I didn't take any photographs and I didn't get a catalogue so I am left to search my memory which, when consulted, had nothing relevant to offer on this matter.




5th April 2015

Epimedium x versicolor 'Cherry Tart'
I have spent much of the week looking at Epimediums. There has been a spate of recent hybridising and new cultivars seem to appear every spring. For some time I have been predicting the onset of Epimedium chaos as original introductions get confused with later seedlings but it was disappointing to see that even the more modern hybrids have become confused.This picture shows two plants. The upper one came to me from Plant Delights Nursery in 2007, who got it direct from Judy Springer in Virginia, who selected it in 1999. It has flat flowers with short petals that are deep red against the pink sepals. It is an unusual plant, the flower shape seems wrong for E. x versicolor but 'Cherry Tart' describes the colour and the shape well. I am quite convinced that it is the real thing.
The lower plant came from a nursery in the UK who will remain nameless and is very much more typical of E. x versicolor in shape. So typical that I think it is E. x versicolor 'Versicolor'. Lovely robust looking plant, salt of the earth, nothing tarty about it at all. It is just unfortunate that it is wrong.





5th April 2015

Pinguicula grandiflora
A fortnight ago I went poking about among the Pinguicula looking for signs of spring. I was mildly upset to find them all under water. During winter the outflow from their water tank had become blocked and the water level had risen. I took steps to rectify the situation - I scraped away the sludge. At the time I thought I had lost many of the more fragile species but it seems they are tougher than I imagined. This week the rosettes have burst from the resting buds and the first flowers have opened.
Pinguicula grandiflora is always rumoured to occur in western Britain but I have never seen it (and I have been looking). The latest flora of the British Isles (Stace, 1997) suggests that all of the English locations are of introduced plants that have persisted. In the greenhouse it grows easily enough and spreads around by seed without much help, but plants grown outside seem to sulk and not increase year by year.
The purple flowered form is certainly the most vigorous. The pale lilac form seems to have died out and the pink P.g. ssp. rosesa only just hangs on. The flowers will last for two or three weeks and by then I will know if a spell as submerged aquatics has harmed any of the others.
By then Easter will be over and I will be feeling guilty about all the chocolate.
Probably best to eat the evidence.