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JEARRARD'S HERBAL




9th August 2015

Pelargonium fulgidum
It is probably best to avoid forming opinions, they return to haunt you. Years ago I left Cornwall in a t-shirt on a sunny January day, and drove to the midlands where I got out of the car and turned immediately into a block of ice. Cornwall is warmer Q.E.D.
On Friday I made an equally rash rush to London in long trousers. Let us all hope that they are used to men taking their socks and trousers off in car parks in Hampshire (I did replace them with shorts and sandals, I was hot but not in that sense).
Back home and the Eucomis are flowering. The whole collection seems to have opened on the same day and I was considering which one to show when recklessness struck again. They will still be here next week. Same with the first Hedychium, which will be better next week.
As part of the trip away I visited the Agapathus trial at Wisley which is magnificent. Mine have started to flower as well but I learned one thing at Wisley that seemed important. Agapanthus look better from a distance. In close-up the detail is messy. So this week Agapanthus will be left at a distance.
I am grasping every opportunity to show Pelargonium fulgidum for two reasons, one technical the other cultural. The technical reason is simple. I have bought a new camera since it last flowered. The old camera flatly refused to focus on the flowers. Somewhere in the workings it was blind to this shade of red so this is the first sharp picture of it I have taken since I was given the plant.
The cultural reason is less technical. The plant comes from western coastal districts of the Cape and there is no reason to expect it to be cold tolerant. It has survived a couple of mild winters in the Agave house and bounces back fast in the spring, but it is the sort of good luck that can't go on forever. It is also hot but enjoying it.




9th August 2015

Iris x norrisii
When I knocked down (and burnt) the old mower shed I had to deal with all the awkward things in the corners. Things that had been put there to be forgotten. Not difficult, just awkward. It is like Belamcanda chinensis, and orange flowered member of the Iris family from China and Japan. It's just a bit odd, the only member of the genus and sometimes available from bulb merchants which is strange because it doesn't produce a bulb, or even much of a rhizome. Perhaps that is why it isn't very successful.
Pardanthopsis dichotoma is another example from further north (China and Mongolia). It isn't really right for an Iris but it isn't obviously anything else. The hybrid between the two is called x Pardacanda and must surely have started as a joke. Let's look for the most obscure plants we can find and hybridise them.
Under the name Candy Lilies they have had a brief moment in the spotlight with flowers that can range from orange to blue, passing through some pastel shades that are not easily described. I have avoided them in general. They look short lived but the real problem is they are awkward. They need a suitable corner and I haven't managed to find one (real or conceptual).
Fortunately among taxonomists there are some dragon slayers. Pardanthopsis dichotoma becomes Iris dichotoma, Belamcanda chinensis becomes Iris domestica and the doubly obscure x Pardacanda norrisii becomes Iris x norrisii, under which name I bought this satisfyingly orange example. What a lovely Iris. I can't think why I have never grown it before!




9th August 2015

Roscoea purpurea 'Red Gurkha'
This seems to have been the year of the ant, they are everywhere. Last week the winged generation burst from their nests and took to the air, rising up like magical shards of glass. The dark ground dwellers become very pale, glistening in the sunlight. Yesterday I parked the car on a tightly mown lawn and by the front wheel a thin stream of angry wasps flew up from their underground nest. Pale and menacing enough to make me celebrate the summer in scarlet. Time for some good rich colour amongst the thin gold ant-wasp-harvest in August.
Roscoea 'Red Gurkha' is an amazing colour for a hardy ginger, named from plants grown at Kew. There are a number of slight variations grown under the same name so I took the opportunity to look at plants at Kew on Friday. All much like this, with red pseudostems and flowers that are scarlet in appearance (as long as they aren't growing near a Pelargonium). More compact than this one, though mine grows shade while Kew has them in sun, so the difference is probably cultural.
It doesn't seem to set seed so there hasn't been a flood of new red cultivars but pollen is viable and there are some interesting things being raised. Emasculating Roscoea flowers is not an easy job so progress will be slow.





9th August 2015

Acanthus sennii
There have been a number of new developments among hardy herbaceous Acanthus and the genus is on the edge of becoming fashionable again, despite a tendency to become weedy and difficult to remove. It has inspired a greater interest in the genus and resulted in the introduction/popularisation of some of the shrubby species.
Acanthus sennii comes from the highlands of Ethiopia and was introduced with a great fanfare. Where it is happy it is a magnificent thing but it is not as easily pleased as people would like to believe. It can survive a frost, and if cut to the ground it can regenerate from the roots in good contitions. Good conditions do not include excess moisture in winter or low light levels.
I grew it for a couple of years in a pot in the greenhouse, keeping it protected from the worst of the frost and hoping for a cutting or two, but it was struggling. During that time I noticed that those adventurous gardeners who had put it outside to grow like an Acanthus had lost it so a couple of years ago I planted it in the Agave House where it is dry and sunny. It took a long time to root into the dry ground (no watering available up there) but last year it finally set off, and this year I have a few flower heads to enjoy (it flowers on old stems).
The leaves are painfully prickly and like Holly leaves, they remain so even when fallen. If you ever have occasion to eat Ethiopian goat curry I feel fairly confident that you will not find the taste of the meat infused with Acanthus sennii. What you are smelling is just goat.