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JEARRARD'S HERBAL




13th September 2015

Gladiolus carmineus
We have reached the time of year whern I start to look at the weather forecasts with interest rather than bemusement. All through the week we have been told that there is a low pressure system coming in for Sunday and I'm still waiting. Not that I care, the weather has been lovely. I have been away visiting gardens for the weekend and I haven't needed any of the wet weather gear I packed. My forecast for the coming year is that it will be sunny, and then rainy. Eventully. Perhaps not in that order.
As I left home Gladiolus carmineus was flowering. Every garden I visited seemed to be growing it, the flowers are quite distinctive at this time of the year and the flower spikes come up from the bare pots before the leaves appear. If I had a suitable sunny but sheltered site I would plant it outside. It doesn't seem to mind low temperatures and it might be a candidate for planting among the Agave. It won't be quite the same habitat as the sea cliffs of the Western Cape but the plant seems to be adaptable.
I see people plant out the most remarkable things, it makes me feel rather timid to keep this in the greenhouse. Some of the Tulbaghia went out in spring when the greenhouse reached bursting point, and they have never looked better.




13th September 2015

Nerine sarniensis
At the same time I put out the spare pots of Nerine bowdenii. They are all perfectly hardy and it is only my obsessive streak that was keeping them all together in the greenhouse. However I did notice that the plants outside defoliated by the end of July, while the plants in the greenhouse are still in leaf. I usually assume that the longer they are in leaf the better so I will be watching their flowering over the next few weeks with interest.
While I was away I spoke to a number of people who mentioned how late the Nerine are this year. I'm not sure I agree, I think they are just behaving oddly which is what I think they always do. The cues for flowering are probably complicated. This years flowers have been forming in the bulbs since 2013 and something in the autumn convinces them to start to grow. It is unliklely to be daylength because the bulbs have no leaves but it might be low night temperatures. I had one freakishly early flower on 'Catherine' and I am convinced that is because I watered it heavily the week before. Whatever the causes, flower buds have started to emerge, many pots are looking vigorous and I am facing the flowering season with a lot more confidence than I had a week ago.
This N. sarniensis is a seedling that flowered for the first time last year. It is attractive but not special, and having started the season off with a burst of colour it will eventually become a space on the bench for something more interesting.




13th September 2015

Neomarica candida
It has been a good year for Neomarica, which probably means it has been warm and sunny. They have broad glaucous foliage that makes spectacular shapes among other plants. I have seen more and more of them planted outside this year now that the memory of the run of bad winters has started to fade. In my experience people forget weather conditions about four weeks after they happened. Spring started early and warm and turned into a very nice summer but August was the coldest since the extinction of the Woolly Mammoth if the populist meteorologists are to be believed (they aren't). Everywhere I go people tell me what an awful summer we have had but I have had Neomarica all over and I don't think it's true.
They were all repotted this year and there is little chance that they will fit back under cover for winter and I am a little worried. Fortunately they have all flowered well and there are plantlets forming on every old stalk. The parent plants will have to take their chances, but I will protect a few pots of babies.
N. candida comes from the south of Brazil and is one of a number of species with large white falls and blue veined white standards. I have two different clones (this is clone II) which I keep distinct in case it turns out that I have two different species. I have no idea what the differences are, but just in case...





13th September 2015

Amaryllis belladonna 'Johannesburg'
Amaryllis belladonna is a frustrating plant. It should be a wonder, a simple and reliable pleasure. It is the type species for the Amaryllidaceae, an entire family of spectacular and charming plants, many of which perform well in cultivation. Amaryllis however is having none of it. I often see them growing in local gardens looking for all the world like happy and casual occupants of ordinary places, but the truth is they are very particular. Full sun, rich soil and control any competition.
It isn't as easy as it sounds. For every good clump you see in a garden you will find a dozen people complaining that they can't grow them.
I grow some Hippeastrum so I am prepared to ignore Amaryllis but every now and then they throw me a shred of hope. Last year I sowed some seed that came up with cheerful vigour even though my bulbs in pots languish and sulk.
However, no use whinging about it. Two years ago I moved them into gigantic pots and left them to get on with it. The fat bulbs have started to look less ill, which is a start.
Many years ago Van Tubergen distributed bulbs of a number of named selections from South Africa. I have done as badly with them as I have done with any of the rest but I was delighted to find two flower spikes coming up on 'Johannesburg'. This is the first time it has shown any sort of enthusiasm for flowering and I am going to bask in its pink glow for a week or two. It is a magnificent flower with deep pink tepals and a white throat and it isn't going to bother me one jot that it doesn't quite agree with some descriptions.