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JEARRARD'S HERBAL




16th August 2015

Platycodon grandiflorus 'Astra Pink'
August in Cornwall. The weather can be magnificent, wonderful enough to make me hide indoors from the heat. I bore that in mind as I watched the torrential rain pour through a broken seal in the conservatory roof. I really should have fixed that by now, perhaps the thought of approaching winter will motivate me. I watched the puddle on the conservatory floor creep towards the kitchen and though "enough", but it didn't stop. Why is it that enough is never sufficient?
As a generalisation, I have had enough of the Campanulaceae. There are a few exceptions but the little purple creepy things are a useful reminder that even slugs have a valuable role in the garden. One of the exceptions is Platycodon. Perhaps it is just because it is called the Balloon Flower - I do like balloons. Often things are simpler than they seem and that applies to people as well.
It comes from China, Korea and Japan and makes a small clump of upright stems growing from a fleshy tap-root and produces a scattering of purple flowers in autumn. It is a very obliging plant, flowering rapidly from seed. The fleshy root and waxy foliage mean that it is very tolerant of dry conditions and in recent years pot plant producers have gone wild over it. The Astra strains were developed as compact flowering plants and appear in supermarkets at the end of summer. A couple of years ago I picked up half a dozen to decorate the Agave house. Naturally I picked pink ones to harmonise with the steely grey leaves of the Agave (but purple or white would have done it just as well). I think the plan was to make the Agave house look more like an indoor garden and less like the abode of an obsessed maniac. At least, I think there was a plan. One of the Platycodon has survived, and looks very elegant.
This spring I planted the house with magenta Lewisia cotyledon. It was very striking.




16th August 2015

Watsonia seedling
Plants have cycles of interest, like fashions. Eventually they come around again. I am still waiting for a generation of young people to re-invent flared trousers. It's inevitable.
I don't think Watsonia have ever been fashionable, but they have attracted my interest from time to time. A decade ago I assembled a large collection, raised a lot of hybrid seedlings and then stood back to see what happened. The answer was, nothing much. One of the salmon coloured seedlings has performed well, but basically I put them all aside and moved on. Last year I self pollinated the salmon baby in the hope of producing the variability I was looking for in the original hybrid. It didn't seem like a resurgence of interest, just a casual act while pottering about. I sowed ten pots of seed and last night nine of them had germinated. That was mildly pleasing until I realised that for several weeks now I have been counting (only two at the start of July). I hadn't noticed that I was paying attention. I have tidied up the original collection as well, and bought a few new ones.
It is surely just coincidence that this one flowered in the beds for the first time. I have lost the parentage of the hybrid but I haven't had any picotee seedlings before, nice dwarf plant, strong stems, good compact spike of large flowers. Hmmm. Perhaps I did raise a seedling worth keeping after all.
I looks like Watsonia have come around again.




16th August 2015

Zephyranthes 'Confection'
When I started growing Romulea I was warned that there were some weedy ones that would seed everywhere and slowly take over. I didn't heed the warnings, the weedy ones took over and in the end I got exasperated and thew them all out. I have suffered with the same problem with Habranthus and Zephyanthes. The flower shoots appear in the bare pots and I hope they will fulfill the promise on the label, but H. tubispathus has seeded everywhere and swamped the collection. Last week I saved a few pots of special things and I will watch the remainder until they finish flowering. If nothing else special appears, the rest will go onto the compost.
'Confection' was one of the specials. The giant, droopy flowers are quite unique. It is a selection from the 'Labuffarosea' seed strain made at Yucca Do nursery. I bought it several years ago in the hope that adding a number of named cultivars to the collection would somehow impose some order on the chaotic seedlings. I think events have made it clear that didn't happen.
Time to bite the bullet and ditch the weeds. I will try to take some especially lovely pictures of the doomed as a keepsake and a warning. Zephyranthes may currently be waning, but they will come around again.





16th August 2015

Lycoris shaanxiensis
Lycoris is a genus of Asian bulbs that seem to be a parallel to Nerine, at least until you try to grow them. I have spent decades wondering why Nerine prosper in the collection, and Lycoris fade away. I haven't come to any firm conclusions yet, but an article by James Waddick on the Pacific Bulb Society website pointed me in a new direction. I had previously noted that my plants had only grown well in the year that a drip in the greenhouse roof flooded their tray and kept them standing in water during summer. I read that they needed moist conditions in spring, and high summer temperatures.
I have responded by closing the vents in the greenhouse to keep it warmer, and watering them heavily throughout the summer. Last year this plant flowered and it was the first Lycoris I had seen for years, and the first I had ever flowered myself (I don't count those that flower straight from the packet after purchase, and never again).
Last year I was slightly optimistic that heat and water might have cracked the problem. This year I have three flower spikes from the bulb and I am slightly more optimistic. My wild enthusiasm is tempered by the fact that I have half a dozen other pots of bulbs that are still struggling, but perhaps they are just improving more slowly. If any of the other pots flower this year, I will be as happy as a teenager at a music festival and just as likely to tell the world all about it.
One of the wonders of Lycoris is the ability to produce yellow flowers (L. shaanxiensis should be white - this is a hybrid of some sort) so I am amused to discover that it is the scarlet L. radiata I am really hoping for.
Enough scarlet Nerine is not sufficient.