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JEARRARD'S HERBAL




27th September 2015

Colchicum 'Waterlily'
A couple of days without rain seems like something to celebrate. It has felt strange to walk around the garden in the sunshine until the cold of the evening starts to bite. Autumn is a season but it becomes a feeling, something slow and reflective. Less tangible than the wing mirrors on a receding caravan and less alien. Autumn has a sense of familiarity about it.
Old friends have returned. The Liquidambar has started to colour, crisping at the edges like an exquisite pastry. I was drawn up into the garden during the week looking for Colchicum. Nothing to see, even the space where they grow was indistinct, something that can't be touched. A promise.
I was watching the Swallows swooping over the hilltops on Thursday, hunting for insects or playing with the air, preparing for their flight south. Without warning they will be gone and almost as I thought it, the first Colchicum arrived.
For decades I have fought the temptation to fill the garden with a variety of Autumn Crocus and I can't really say why. So often I have seen them looking spotty, one of this and one of that. There are some magnificent pools of flowers under the trees at Wisley, but every tree has a different variety. Each new one suggests the way the next one could be better and the next one always disappoints. So I have been determined to confine myself to 'Waterlily'. One day it will grow in a great mass under the trees, sufficient in its simplicity. In the meantime I seem to have acquired half a dozen cultivars and I really must hide them away out of sight before they spoil my grand plan.




27th September 2015

Lapageria rosea
Three weeks ago I lit a big bonfire to burn up a fallen Leyland Cypress. It flared like tinder in the hot weather and half the tree was consumed in an afternoon. The other half has been stacked waiting for a spare moment, which arrived during the week. Between the two fires, the weather had turned damp and misty. The second bonfire steamed away all day and all night scenting the air in veils passing between the trees. I found my wellingtons. I haven't worn them for a decade or more but suddenly the time was right.
I'm not very good at growing Lapageria. I have an idea, you see, and they are dangerous things. I have visions of the soft shade of the South American woodlands, Lapageria trailing between ancient trunks. I have never been to see it, but I have the idea and so I grow Lapageria rather badly. Fortunately it is a lot tougher than my idea might suggest and the leathery twining stems produce a few seasonal flowers. They arrive very suddenly, appearing as soon as summer is clearly done. This is a seedling (raised by someone with a lot more patience than me) but it is beautiful and vigorous. Sometimes I would like a collection of the named varieties and sometimes I think this is enough. These perfect rose-red trumpets are sufficient, a lily that is not for gilding.
Fortunately they are so terrifyingly expensive that I can side-step temptation when it comes calling, though it was close on one occasion. A cup of coffee and a piece of cake (and a moments contemplation) saved me a tidy packet and meant that this seedling remains beyond compare.




27th September 2015

Nerine 'Fucine'
The Nerine season has arrived. I think the Nerine Society has done a magnificent job in getting us all to talk to eachother more. As a result I have never heard so much gossip about the season. It's so late you know, or early. Aren't the flower spikes short. I can add my bit. Aren't the mealy-bug awful! Last year it was virus. Nerine suffer a bit for their beauty.
I am convinced that this is 'Fucine', and that should make it clear that the situation is obscure. It is often listed as a cultivar of N. sarniensis but this plant seems to be a hybrid with N. bowdenii. It is a vigorous plant, well named with bright pink flowers. There are others that are similar. Curiously they all seem to carry virus. If I had a cynical disposition I might suggest that there is just one plant, obfuscated by hogwash. You can almost see it staining the pedicels brown. It's autumn, the bright sun has been warming me all day and I'm feeling too cheerful for gloomy ideas like that. This is 'Fucine', marvel of the season.
Virus infection is a problem. Last year the foliage looked so sad that I took the plant out of the collection and hid it away in an isolated greenhouse so that the virus would not spread. This year it has doubled in size and the leaves have emerged without any sign of mottling or pale streaks.
I put it aside meaning to raise seedlings from it but it seems to be sterile, lending credence to the hybrid theory. Now I don't know what to do. Keep it in isolation or burn it to get rid of the virus?
In the end I will probably dither for a few more years, and hope for a miracle.





27th September 2015

Scilla lingulata
Autumn has been gathering itself in the garden for a month at least. I took the hint and weeded the pots of autumn bulbs, followed by a light soaking of water to wake them up. It worked. Last week the pot of Scilla lingulata produced a mass of noses at the soil surface. This week they are flowers. They come from the same parts of North Africa as the hoop-petticoat Narcissus, which are also starting to grow.
I have only had it for a few years but already it has become a favourite. It marks the start of winter and all the small bulbs that flower from seemingly empty pots. It will be followed by the autumn snowdrops, spring snowdrops and the celandines. By that time the first of the Geranium will be open and the relaxing days of winter will give way to the relaxing days of summer. I'm looking forward to it already.
In the meantime I have closed the vents in the greenhouse and moved the first orchids back indoors. I have walked around noting the things that need some protection for the winter and I have gained a strange pleasure walking into the greenhouse after lunch, when my glasses steamed up. It isn't North Africa but it's still warm enough to stop for a moment and just enjoy it.