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JEARRARD'S HERBAL




20th December 2015

Camellia 'Glenn's Orbit' .
We are rapidly approaching the winter solstice and the weather is being appropriately dark. The house is at its gloomiest, dark shadows in every corner and barely any light making it through the windows, even at mid-day. I made some lunch and as I opened the fridge door the whole ground floor seemed to light up like summertime. Heavy dark clouds have been dropping their load on the hill without seeming to lighten and it has been wet.
Not that I mind, it has also been warm and although I worry about the drought to come I am also looking forward to months of bright spring cheer. The year is ending and suddenly it feels like it. I got a spade out yesterday between showers and dug away at the side of the hill. Not because it needed doing, but because I felt it was time to move something forwards. It changed the tone of the week. With Christmas coming it would be easy to settle back and wash my hands of the year, and with all the mud there has been a lot of hand washing going on, but it is rather nice to dig away at the impossible sludge and dream about things to come.
Camellia 'Glenn's Orbit' is a splendid mix of sturdy practicality and heady dreams. Raised at Trewithen Gardens a few miles away it first flowered there on the 21st February 1962, the day John Glenn completed his first orbit of the planet.




20th December 2015

Narcissus 'Spring Dawn' .
The trumpet daffodils are flowers of the spring, and I have always liked to see clear signs of spring appearing to lighten the darkest days of the year. 'Rijnveld's Early Sensation' is a great favoutite and if my little meadow did nothing but produce a flush of daffodils in December I would still consider it space well used. In the 1960's and 70's breeders at Rosewarne Experimental Horticulture Station started to raise seedlings from it to produce early flowering cultivars for the cut flower industry. When I started to look for them, the first to catch my eye was 'Crewenna' ('Rijnveld's Early Sensation' x 'Foresight') with pale tepals and a yellow trumpet. Any year now I am going to be amazed I am sure but I am aware that I am still waiting.
In the meantime I planted a bag of bulbs of 'Spring Dawn' just because it said on the side of the pack that they were early. I grew it quite happily for several years without any expectation, simply enjoying the early flowers. It was only this year thet I discovered it was another seedling from the same breeding initiative ('Rijnveld's Early Sensation' x 'Finland'). The stems aren't as tall or strong as 'Crewenna' but it has been taken up by the bulb industry while 'Crewenna' is slowly being dropped.
Daffodils are like snowdrops, they are all very similar and I don't know why there is a difference is between a good daffodil and an 'also ran' but there is.




20th December 2015

Schlumbergera 'Nicole' .
In the last week before Christmas I think it is reasonable to say the word out loud. I don't want much to do with it, but I am enjoying the Christmas Cacti. There don't seem to be so many in the shops this year so if feels as though their little bubble of popularity has burst. Perhaps they will appear in the New Year.
All of them were banished to the Agave house where they shelter from the frost beneath a solid roof. There isn't enough light but it got them out of the way for a year or two while I sorted out what I was doing. Some of them are tough enough to take the cold, some of them look a bit miserable and will be allowed to fade away.
'Nicole' was raised in the Netherlands for the houseplant industry, which requires tough, predictable plants in a good range of colours. 'Nicole' fulfills the first two of those requirements but the bright pink colour is very ordinary (for a Schlumbergera) and it is being dropped from large scale production. It seems to withstand several degrees of frost without damage and is one of the first cultivars to flower. It puts up with a location so dark that it took me several attempts over two days to get a picture of it that was both colourful and in focus.





20th December 2015

Asarum 'Takasago-saishin' .
Despite the flashes of colour in the garden, signs of spring are still rather subtle. Walking towards Camellia 'Glenn's Orbit' to take the picture I had to tread carefully to avoid the noses of Galanthus 'Brenda Troye' pushing through the fallen Acer leaves. When I put my spade down the local robin comes and sits on it with steroetypical bravado. He is looking for something to eat but his demeanour has changed. Now he flies off to the Magnolia and tries out a burst of song. I've had a good dinner, anyone feel like a shag?
In the greenhouse there are a few Asarum and the fat new growing points have burst into subtle flowers. They belong to the very quiet spring that creeps in slowly at ground level, pushing the winter aside.
Asarum 'Takasago-saishin' seems to be a Japanese selection of the Taiwanese A. epigynum. Similar plants have been introduced by Crug Farm Plants as A.epigynum 'Silver Web' though to my eye, 'Silver Web' has broader leaves. I'm not going to worry too much about their names. The nomenclature of Asarum is like a fat man farting on a park bench; it isn't right and it isn't going anywhere at present. I am content to draw aside the veined leaves to see the mottled flowers beneath. I grow it among the Aspidistra where a mottled flower at ground level might almost seem flamboyant!
Naturally for every corner of spring there is a corner that is still autumn. I will be interested to see if Dahlia merckii makes it to the New Year and while I am wondering, the sun comes out and the mud sparkles under my feet.