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JEARRARD'S HERBAL




3rd January 2016

Fuchsia excorticata
There isn't much point in saying that it has been raining - every news report this week has been populated with wet people and reporters who have run out of words. "Well, I think the pictures tell the story" has been the phrase of the week. During the week the New Year washed in and with it came a moment of calm in the garden when the whole thing looked ordered and deliberate. It isn't true, and the illusion wont last but it was worth looking up for a moment into the driving rain and enjoying the season.
The drizzle has helped Fuchsia excorticata. It is flowering early and profusely in the warm weather and it doesn't mind the moisture in the ground. I am leaving footprints behind as I walk across the grass and I have a feeling they aren't simply going to bounce back after I have passed.
It has been a good winter for Fuchsia, there are a handful of plants in the garden that still look good. For a while I thought it might be a jolly wheeze to greet the New Year with the wonders of the genus. It seemed like a good idea last night as I abandoned my usual calm sobriety in favour of a bottle of wine and a romantic film. I spent the night lying awake with rain dripping from the gutters and the wind howling around the chimney. I have had enough jolly wees.




3rd January 2016

Symphytum grandiflorum
Boundaries are important in gardens. Perhaps they're just important to me, but I have known a number of gardens that struggle at the margins. In an ideal world perhaps gardens melt slowly into the surrounding landscape but not many of us live in suitable surroundings and even fewer manage to achieve it without a scattering of compost heaps and tractor sheds to mark the transition.
My garden has a circular walk that follows the boundary more or less. It is a good thing, but it has some disadvantages. My neighbour has a horse, and from time to time it does a Fosbury Flop over the fence and trots along my circular path, eventually persued by its frustrated owner. Round and round they go in a cartoon dance making no progress and with no end in sight. I think the horse enjoys it. The owner, not so much.
All of which brings me round to Symphytum grandiflorum, as tough as can be. It tries to march across the garden in thick carpets but I contain it. My plant came from my mothers garden where it rampages at will among the apple trees. Her plant came from Ellen Willmotts garden, where a few flowers in January were enough to enchant and distract attention from the acres of dull leafage that had entirely swallowed the walled garden.
A few flowers in January are enough to justify its space and in July I tear out the surplus and throw it over the fence for the horse.




3rd January 2016

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Ruby Glow'
Hamamelis are a distraction. In the wetness of last autumn I watched the glistening buds on the stems, hoping they wouldn't break into flowers. I wanted to save them for the New Year, something precious to look forward to. I have run out of space to plant new ones but I haven't yet run out of new ones to plant, so I think I have some changes to make. Until recently I had planned to tuck them into the boundary planting as opportunities arose but now I am inclined to steal a few feet from the Hellebore border and have a new path running between a double row of them. We will see what happens.
As it stands, there is a narrow border of shrubs to the east of the Hellebore border made up of an equall mix of Hamamelis and Camellia. I had taken down some old pine trees and felt the need for a lower windbreak to shelter the top of the garden. 'Ruby Glow' went in quite by chance. Hamamelis have a number of wonderful attributes, but they do put a certain stress on the budget. In my experience the larger they are, the better they establish, so 'Ruby Glow' went in because it was large and cheap. If I had read the books first then I would have planted 'Diane' instead. They would have told me that it has larger flowers and they are a better shade of red. 'Ruby Glow' has grown to drift through the border like a thin red mist. 'Diane' on the other hand makes a colourful squawk like a chicken laying an egg. They are very similar but the effect is completely different.





3rd January 2016

Cyclamen coum
The most innocuous comments can trip the mind, like a stick through the spokes of a bicycle. Last year somebody said in passing "You can't grow alpines in Cornwall, it's too wet". I wanted to comment but refrained. I didn't think it would get us anywhere. It stuck in my mind because I have an Alpine House planned. A little corner for a few little things. It was just one of those comments that niggled.
I spent far too much time last summer filling pots with gravel and planting them with little things, safe in the belief that good drainage would overcome the excess rainfall. It is working (as long as I remember to weed them occasionally). This is a plastic dustbin that I half filled with loam and then topped up with gravel. It made a good home for some Cyclamen coum that had been lying around for too long. They seem to be enjoying the situation. They started flowering in November and look as though they might continue for another month or two. They are happier and better displayed than the ones I planted in the garden. One of those experiments that has produced a useful result. There are a mass of other bulbs that might get similar treatment next summer (as they get too big to keep in the greenhouse).
Strange to be thinking of summer but even in the rain the garden feels like it has left the dismal winter behind. It may get colder, but it's getting brighter as well. This time last year I took the first few plants from the windowsill and put them back in the greenhouse!