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JEARRARD'S HERBAL




28th June 2015

Arisaema candidissimum White Form
There is a pleasure in lying in bed when you should be getting up. I imagine it is the same pleasure small children get from obstinately refusing to eat their dinner.
No!
So this morning I lay in bed listening for signs of the promised rainfall (no point in rushing about if it's raining). Some drippy noises or the fluid squishing of car tyres on the road. Nothing. However I got up and it was raining, as light as thistledown. The garden has been moisturised.
The Arisaema will appreciate it. They have been hot and dry, which is not ideal for plants from monsoon climates. The white form of A. candidissimum has rushed into flower. The leaves will follow in a few days. This was introduced to cultivation as the yellow flowered form but I haven't seen any that were actually yellow. I see it is still listed in the Plant Finder, so perhaps someone has the real thing. For a number of years it sulked in a small pot but last year it went into a large tub and I am hoping that when it produces leaves they will be larger, healthier and more numerous than ever before. The appearance of a flower is a good first step.




28th June 2015

Dactylorhiza 'Blackthorn Hybrid'
Sheds have the same warm appeal as pain-killers. They serve to soften the touch of reality. Some time in December every year I mow the grass and realise that I won't have to do it again for a month or two. I put the mower in the shed and promise myself I will come out and start it every couple of weeks while it is dormant, just to keep it running smoothly. I never do.
The first cut of spring gets put off week after week because I know I will have to spend time coaxing the mower back into life. Imagine my surprise when I realised it was June and I still hadn't done it. Astonishingly the mower started first time and I was filled with the sort of ride-on happiness that I last - actually I am going to stop that sentence there.
Mowing the meadow is a satisfying escape from the world, filled with delights, like finding the number of Dactylorhiza that have naturalised in the grass. That is how 'Blackthorn Hybrid' originated, a series of hybrid seedings found in Robin and Sue White's garden among the species they grow. Mine is tall and vigorous with dark spotted leaves but I am told there is some variation. A moments daydeaming on the mower and I sliced the top off of one of my wildlings, swerving too late to miss it, but just in time to flatten another. Ten yards later the drive belt snapped and I had to stop for repairs. Things had been going so smoothly. I put it all away in the shed to deal with another day.




28th June 2015

Manfreda elongata
I was walking through the herbaceous border last week when I was assaulted by the scent of Rosa 'Celeste' reverberating through the air like an elephant sneezing in a public convenience. There are moments when the scent of the garden stops me in my tracks. There is a Stinkhorn fungus that grows under the bulb house and from time to time the fruiting bodies fill the space with their nauseating stench. I have come to expect it during the summer but I was surprised to find that the same smell had filled the Agave house. They are a long way apart and I know for certain there are no buried tree stumps (Stinkhorns favourite home) under the foundations - I dug them out myself ! It took a while to locate the source, the brown flowers of Manfreda elongata.
Most of the Agavaceae have sweetly scented flowers and are adapted to pollination by moths, Hummingbirds and bats but this one clearly attracts something darker. A carrion fly would seem most likely, though it must be a whopper.
Modern taxonomic investigation places Manfreda entirely within the genus Agave although they are a very distinctive group in their physical characteristics (but the two genera hybridise easily). If their absorbtion into Agave is accepted, them this becomes Agave gracillima and is the only Agave I grow that flowers easily and regularly. It comes from fairly high altitudes in Mexico (Durango and Nayarit) and seems to be cold hardy here, though I am not sure it would survive the winter wet without a roof for protection.





28th June 2015

Sprekelia formisissima
The bulb house is producing a more pleasant perfume. The Tulbaghia are in full flower and the air is filled with the smell of honey and onions. Spring growing bulbs are all dying down and the autumn growing ones have not really started yet so there are only a few plants in growth. The Tulbaghia behave more like herbaceous plants than bulbs and flower through the summer, and the Hippeastrum are growing. They are really spring plants, but they are so slow that it takes them until mid-summer to really get going.
Sprekelia is a Hippeastrum in all but name. I saw this bud forming last week and it has rushed into flower in the heat. Pretty delicate pastel flowers are all very well but there is something overwhelmingly satisfying about a big scarlet bloom. It comes from Mexico and Guatemala but my plant has survived in a cold greenhouse through some severe winters. It is self-incompatible so I would need another clone to get seed. I was going to start looking for another but I can't think why. I have no use for seed (for which you can read "I have no patience for seed").
At the end of a satisfying week a new drive belt for the mower has been delivered and it is time to open the shed door and face the mechanical armageddon within.