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JEARRARD'S HERBAL




8th November 2015

Tradescantia sillamontana
I think we can safely assume that the mellow warmth of autumn has ended and the rain has arrived. I have been watching the young moles wreaking havoc on every tiny patch of grassland they can find but eveywhere now the grass is sodden. I hope they have wellingtons because I think their tunnels are probably flooding. Wellingtons with nice broad toes.
As the rain came down at the start of the week I was wondering when I would get a dry moment to wander around the garden with a camera. In the event I got an hour on wednesday afternoon with the light fading to watch the season slipping gently down into the mud.
That is where the surprise of the new season will appear, and the first leaves of Ficaria verna have appeared. There isn't much point in showing them, but they are heartening. The first flower buds will not be far behind.
The sky was bright with the absence of rain when I stepped into the Agave house and found a fleeting flower on Tradescantia sillamontana. Even as I stooped to take the picture I saw the gloom gathering and heard the sound of raindrops on the roof. It is an incredibly drought tolerant species, the grey woolly stems and leaves help to trap moisture around the plant and probably reflect intense sunlight. Sadly for the plant, neither drought nor burning sun are major problems here. It does well in a pot in the greenhouse, where I hardly ever water it. The shrill pink flowers shrivel within hours of opening.




8th November 2015

Gymnostemma pentaphyllum
I have little inclination to leave the Agave house. I have tried the rain soaked scurry down the hill to the house before. It generally ends with a skid on the mud, a short scream and a sudden landing. Age hasn't brought wisdom so much as the memory of bruising. I will linger and hope for a lull.
Years ago I planted Gymnostemma pentaphyllum in a corner. I had been growing it in a pot and I couldn't think what to do with it. A dozen times or more I have gone to it with gymnostemmicide on my mind. It is fascinating in its dullness. A hardy perennial climbing cucumber that doesn't have interesting fruits or any other attribute to recommend it, but still it is a hardy perennial cucumber.
I looked at it last week and started to imagine the things I could have in its place. This week it is in flower for the first time. The flowers have nothing to recommend them, but they grow on a hardy perennial climbing cucumber. It's a quandry.
I think it is safe, but then I thought that about Buddleja nivosa just seconds before I dug it up.
The rain paused, the return to the house was uneventful, the picture of the flowers is fascinatingly dull.




8th November 2015

Nerine bowdenii
I have what could laughingly be called an educated taste in plants. That is to say they appeal to me in their oddness and in the stories that are woven around them. I like the nonsense, and it is probably true that on occasion the nonsense is more important than the plants.
I have been looking to simplify the collection, reduce the number of odd things in pots, in corners and in the way and concentrate on a few collections of things. Big bright strident things. It is a strange contradiction that I like the colourful stories but grow the colourful plants. When it comes down to it, an educated taste is a thing to show off at dinner parties while the greenhouse fills with bright primary colours and Hedychium that smell of cloves and cough mixture.
So here is Nerine bowdenii at last, well known and pink enough to be common on both counts. The thrusting flower spikes have burst and the mixture of dark and pale flowers perfectly reflects the nomenclatural chaos that has started to fester within the wholesale market. Fortunately I find great delight in the relentless and uncompromising pink of the flowers. If I had a pair of wings I would pollinate it with delight buzzing through me. As it is I have a pair of tweezers which do the job just as well, though it feels more like educational activity than gleefulness.





8th November 2015

Narcissus romieuxii 'Joy Bishop'
As with all grand plans, the urge to simplify springs a leak as soon as it sets sail. Down in the greenhouse an odd pot that has been lying around growing weeds and thin grassy leaves has decided that this is the week for an eruption of buds. It wasn't unexpected, just overlooked.
Narcissus romieuxii is a tiny North African member of the genus that will flower through the most miserable months and deliver us cheerfully to spring. There are dozens of named selections, all good and for the most part all indistinguishable but none the worse for that.
Two years ago they were all repotted and moved. I have been watching with interest to see if they improve or fade away. I didn't like the peat based compost I was using and I was fed up with things in small pots that needed watering every day. Now they are all in 15 litre pots of loam and this is the first sign that they are improving. I have a dozen buds about to open and another couple of dozen emerging from the ground. If the other pots behave as well, then I think it has been a success.
A tiny moment of cheer in a dank week that has raised my spirits and then left me feeling sorry for the poor old moles.