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JEARRARD'S HERBAL




2nd August 2015

Parodia scopa
Last weeks rain took me by surprise, not least because I was visiting Tatton show and missed it. When I got back the garden had changed. The soil is moist, the air is heavy and humid and Cornus 'Norman Haddon', that was looking perfect when I left, has dropped all of its bracts and is covered with tiny knobbly fruits. I have spent this week not getting things done. The car has been unloaded and I have looked for places to put new plants.
I have not found any.
I cleared a space among the cacti for some South American Eryngium I bought while I was away (in case they aren't too hardy) and the moment I turned my back it filled with Ochagavia plants. Just rooted, I need their space for some new Nerine bulbs. And so it goes on.
Parodia scopa had a big smile as things were being moved around.
It comes from the southern end of South America, Brazil (Rio Grande do Sul) and Paraguay and has a 'fatter' look than the Andean or Mexican cacti. It grows on rocky outcrops in grassland and is part of a mish-mash of forms with hazy taxonomic boundaries. Mine has whiter spines and darker bodies than some and is more striking for that. If I had the patience it would eventually form a large cluster but I haven't. I planted six sister seedlings together in the pot and you would never know the difference - except that the flowers have subtly different shades of yellow. It's not cheating, its ... exhibitionism!




2nd August 2015

Nerine 'Catherine'
I say I escaped the rain at Tatton show, but that isn't strictly true. The rain moved 'further north than expected' to borrow a phrase from the local weather forecast. I arrived to an overcast show that soon slipped into the sort of drizzle that people raise umbrellas to and pretend to ignore. Umbrellas are fascinating things. There were so many that they seemed to lock together to make a complete ground cover. I was amazed that anybody could move. I don't understand why it was dry underneath them. Surely the rain goes somewhere? Doesn't it fall in octagonal rivers from their perimeters? It doesn't seem to.
I hid in the flower tent among the sharp elbows and people towing wheeled baskets. The nurseries that sell Agapanthus were finally able to show flowers alongside their green leaves and trade appeared to be brisk. Among the Agapanthus on the Broadleigh Gardens stand was a great bowl of Nerine bowdenii flowers and everywhere there were bulbs for sale. Autumn has arrived.
Back home I have one Nerine, and I am still hoping it is a freak pushed into early flower by some over-zealous watering at the end of June. I would love to add something about its history, but an internet search revealed nothing but the phrase "salmon pink". Searching my own records located a comment from the Pacific bulb society that it flowered reliably, increased well, had very little curling on the edge of the petals and set seed freely.
I find it amazing how little information survives the hardware. The balance in information technology definitely favours the latter.




2nd August 2015

Haemanthus humilis
Haemanthus humilis behaves unexpectedly. When I first got it the bulb remained evergreen and I assumed that was its nature, like H. albiflos. The following year all the leaves died in June and I looked at the empty pot with the folorn gaze of an accidental murderer. A bit of research revealed that it had a short dormancy in summer. The arrival of the first flower was a joyful moment (goodness me, Grandad isn't dead after all, he was just sleeping) and the new leaves that emerged shortly after were larger than before.
This year the little disappearing trick wasn't such a surprise, though it is sudden. Healthy leaves one week, gone the next. The flower spike was emerging as I left for Tatton, and in full bloom when I returned.
My plant seems to be fit into the range of H. humilis ssp. humilis though populations in the wild are said to be scattered and variable. Hairy, smooth, pink, white, dwarf and giant also occur. The big question I am asking myself now is would it be happier with a grit mulch or not? If I can't see the soil surface, will I overwater it, and perhaps more importantly, have I got any grit left?
Occasionally I wonder if I would make a good politician (no, but I would be colourful) and then I see the state I am thrown into by some hypothetical grit.
Answers itself really.





2nd August 2015

Disa Veitchii
Last week was make-your-mind-up week for the Disa seedlings. I have a couple of large groups that have flowered for the first time this year. They are all beautiful but they are not all going to be kept. In the end I held on to about a dozen that I judged the best, with the intention of reducing them further at some later date.
At Tatton I saw Dave Parkinson's magnificent display, a solid block of scarlet as far as the eye could see (umbrella's permitting). It has been a week for considering Disa. I have been wondering if there is a need for any more big red ones. I looked at my rejected plants and they were lovely, uniform, dwarf and scarlet. I looked at the parentage and discovered that they were pure D.uniflora for the last six generations so it is not surprising they were uniform. The little bit of D. racemosa that was in there had long since been eliminated.
All of which led me to the door of D. Veitchii, the first generation cross between D. racemosa and D. uniflora raised by Veitch and registered in 1891. It was one of the very first Disa hybrids raised, when hybrid still meant something more than D.uniflora with a distant family secret.
I responded by selfing the plant. Lets see what that naughty little D. racemosa can do given a chance (I don't grow the pure species - on the lookout). Perhaps all anybody wants is a big red one and I am wasting my time looking for variety but there must be more to life than unsubtle phallic symbols?
I also crossed it with D. aurata but that was just bloody-mindedness.