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JEARRARD'S HERBAL




1st November 2015

Liquidambar styraciflua 'Worplesdon'
I could not have imagined when I went to bed last night that I would wake up and have hot chocolate fudge cake for breakfast. Autumn is a very strange season (and it is the season I am going to blame if it becomes neccessary). The morning is enveloped in mist which will evaporate in the sun or dissolve in the rain, meterological opinion is divided. I am tempted to light a bonfire in the garden but there isn't one ready. Plenty of branches and debris, but still scattered. It would be hard work to bring it all together. Hot chocolate fudge cake and hard work, I don't think so.
I will have to make do with a Liquidambar. I have put off showing it here, always thinking that next week will be better. As I walked up the hill yesterday there were flashes of it visible through the trees. It had a transparent luminosity that was very beautiful, and also indicated that half of the leaves had already fallen in the wind. They might not last another week.
It was a dry day so I took a chance and ran the mower around beneath it, clearing the way for the daffodfils that are to come. I don't think they have poked their heads up yet and it's too late to worry now. Job done. The fallen Liquidambar leaves covered the ground like the shed skin of a dragon, angular and crispy in glowing colours. The mower chops them and fires them in a plume into the air as if trying to give them wings again. They fall in dull piles on the damp grass, extinguished.




1st November 2015

Pereskia grandifolia
I don't remember tormenting insects as a child. I was rather sad if a leg came off a Daddy-Long-Legs. I remember watching some scarlet mites run on the top of a brick wall and wishing they would organise themselves into a race instead of wandering aimlessly, but I don't think I tormented them.
Cactus, however, are another matter. We are all led to believe that they grow best in tiny pots that are never watered. For years I had a childhood collection on a south windowsill, so dry they were always dangling over the edge of oblivion. Cactus are fair game, even those that don't look like it.
Last year I bought a stunted cutting of Pereskia grandifolia from a charity plant sale. So starved it was yellow, I didn't take pity on it, I just couldn't work out what it was. Warmed and repotted it started to grow and demonstrated its approval of the new regime by filling with flower buds in August. That was when the bright idea hit me. I wonder how well it would grow hydroponically? It is an old fixation of mine and it turns out that, like tormenting cacti, it is a habit you never really break free from.
I washed of all the compost, potted it into clay granules and stood it in water. I imagine most of the roots died immediately, they usually do. Certainly many of the leaves fell. The flowers however have opened. It should come indoors really (where the low light can kill it) before the frost gets it. I should have stuck to cheering on the racing mites.




1st November 2015

Galanthus 'Autumn Beauty'
Yesterday I had to decide if I was going to clear the ground for the daffodils or clear the ground in the snowdrop garden. The daffodils won because when I checked there was enough petrol in the mower. If I had needed more, I would have done the snowdrops by hand. This morning I am allowing the mist to decide. If it dissolves in the sun then I will clear the snowdrops, if it dissolves in the rain I will stay in and investigate a cold storage heater. I think an element has failed.
Galanthus 'Autumn Beauty' slipped into cultivation like an olive into a martini. The right thing at the right moment. Autumn snowdrops were just starting to attract serious attention but there weren't enough of them to reach critical mass. People were trying their hardest to rectify the situation, by naming every tiny variant on G. reginae-olgae that could be seen (or imagined) but there are limits to triviality that even snowdrop lovers will not exceed.
'Autumn Beauty' is the name given to a group of seedlings from a cross between G. elwesii and G. reginae-olgae. They are all very similar and the use of a cultivar name to cover the whole lot probably works (I doubt there is more than a handful of them at most). There is a movement afoot to call them the Autumn Beauty Group but it would be a difficult group to define in a way that would be valid. I'm happy to accept that a cultivar can be variable and is not the same thing as a clone. Others will differ and insist on naming them all. They will test the limits of triviality again. Good luck with that!





1st November 2015

Oxalis massoniana
It is strange that certain plants come to mark the significant changes in the season. Last week the clocks went back and the dark nights returned. I would have expected that to be the obvious marker for late autumn (I don't do winter) but it wasn't. A week before that Oxalis massoniana flowered and I knew things had changed. Dark nights were just a matter of the clocks catching up with reality.
I watered in the greenhouse, knowing that I wouldn't have to do it again for a month or so. Suddenly there is a chance to get on with other jobs in the garden. I want somewhere to grow some alpines. It hit me in the summer with a thud. I want to burn up the last of the fallen trees before the next round come down; clear the branches that are shading the Agave and Clivia. I want a space for Nerine seedlings. All jobs that seem to require dark nights.
So this little splash of moonlight-orange is a spur to action. Frost permitting it will flower until late autumn turns into early spring and by then I will know which of the jobs I have started, and which I have ignored for another year.
Autumn is an unexpected season with occasional appearances of hot chocolate fudge cake. In the event it has stayed misty. Things may not go entirely to plan.