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JEARRARD'S HERBAL




29th November 2015

Camellia 'November Pink'
A few weeks ago I bought a new watch. I have managed without one for the last 30 years because I have not seen anything I liked. Suddenly there it was, in front of me. Now I have a brand new watch that fills me with delight but which I will never wear. It just came along too late to be useful.
I tried to spend the morning in the greenhouse but it is cold and clammy out there. Once the rain started drumming on the roof I gave up and allowed the thought of hot toast and blackcurrant jam to take over the days schedule. I was delighted by the rain in summer, it keeps things growing and saves me watering but the delight is fading, condensing on the plastic sides of the greenhouse and dripping to the ground. The garden has shattered like a broken windscreen, shiny fragments in all directions and I trudge through the mud looking for the moments of glittering solace among the devastation.
Camellia 'November Pink' has no problem with brightness. It isn't the strongest of hybrids but it is satisfyingly early. Years ago I planted it on the south wall of my workshop where it was rapidly overwhelmed by some daisies and a dandelion with attitude. The replacement is growing in a pot in the greenhouse, where it will remain until it is at least three feet tall. It is one of the original selections of C. x williamsii and it should have led to a race of autumn flowered wonders but breeders have concentrated on the spring and I think this is the only one of its kind. A glimpse of spring like a view of a bright garden through a keyhole. A promise perhaps that the rain will stop and the sun return. A very pink promise, but that's Camellia for you.




29th November 2015

Colchicum autumnale
I went up to the top of the garden with a camera because I could. That is to say, the rain had stopped and I took the opportunity to take some pictures. One of those things you can't plan, you just have to sieze the moment. I get a lot of pleasure from my little piece of woodland. It looks after itself and calmly frustrates all of my clever plans for its development. I am slowly learning to be simple and quiet with sporadic blips of mania. Colchicum autumnale is a blip. I planted a small group in September and I was expecting them to flower immediately. When they didn't, I assumed they had decided to skip this year which seemed perfectly reasonable. Suddenly four of the five have flowered. I would show them all, but they are well spaced. It would be a big picture of leaf litter.
I grow 'Waterlily' among the hellebores and it is completely wrong. The flowers appear just as I am trying to cut down the hellebore leaves. It was a clever but catastrophic idea. The plan is to move them into the woods where they can grow among the snowdrops and flower from the bare ground in autumn. It seemed like a good plan but worth a year or two trial before I planted in bulk. If I could have found the 'Waterlily' I would have moved them. Instead I bought these C. autumnale at the Wisley Plant Fair and popped them in. So far so good. It is a blip of mania, but it might turn out to be the right thing at the right time.




29th November 2015

Galanthus 'Three Ships'
Lower down in the garden there is another of those glimpses of spring. There has already been a good show of autumn snowdrops but these are the first flowers from spring . Don't ask me to explain the difference, I expect it is irrational, but G. peshmenii and G. reginae-olgae are autumn bulbs, the forms that flower in spring are just late. G. elwesii is a spring snowdrop, even those selections that flower reliably in autumn.
'Three Ships' always appears in time for Christmas but this year it is a month early. The rain and the warm weather have pushed it along. Interestingly 'Hiemalis' usually flowers alongside it, but is still barely showing. These early snowdrops are very cheering and they fill the tired weeks running up to the Solstice. I have been seeking them out in recent years, keen to trumpet their virtues. I planted 'Remember Remember' so that I would have something to enjoy at the start of November. I went looking for it at the end of October and had to clear some light scrub to get to it. Dilligent searching three weeks ago revealed that I had decapitated it in the process. Draw a veil over that and conceal my foolishness by declaring 'Three Ships' the first of the spring snowdrops.
Note to myself for next year. Remember remember!





29th November 2015

Nerine (ex humilis)
Time has been lurking around every corner (in case you hadn't spotted the theme). These Nerine flowers made the point in a particularly pointy way. I like the species of Nerine and Nerine suffer from virus infection in cultivation. Sometimes the two ideas come together. My first stock of Nerine humilis was infected with virus when I got it and I viewed it wistfully. The same sense of leather skinned sorrow that I felt when I realised I had no idea what had happened to my childhood teddy bear. I collected seed and moved the plant into isolation to raise a hopeful new generation.
This is what came up. Time has been playing tricks with my memory. The label says "Nerine, ex humilis" but these are not N. humilis. These are hybrids. I though they might be hybrids with N. undulata. One of those random acts of pollination that I am always certain I will remember , but never do. When they first opened I looked at them with blank incomprehension.
I went to look at the parent plant, still in isolation, still marked "N. humilis - Virus" and as far as I can tell it is a pretty little pot of virus ridden N. undulata bulbs. I wonder how I ever confused the species. I am left with a pot of pretty (but not exceptional) hybrid Nerine that may be hybrids of N. humilis but more probably of N. undulata.
If they are from N. undulata then the only other parent I would have used is N. bowdenii. Once I had worked that out, I vaguely remember doing it. I need a long warm bath to consider events, but I think these are N. (undulata x bowdenii) seedlings. I bought a new N. humilis .
Teddy was fine as well. Mother had stored him safely in a drawer, anticipating the day.