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JEARRARD'S HERBAL




31st January 2016

Helleborus torquatus 'Stripey Form'
The weather continues to provide interest through the week, though the rain has eased off a little. We have had mist and cold stormy winds, but the most noticeable feature has been the light in the evenings, a few more precious moments before temperatures drop and night falls. The garden has changed this week. Not in a way that a sensible person would observe, I doubt the change is even measureable, but this week the garden has started to move forward. Buds have started to break, the grass has a sunny (for which read chlorotic) glow as the spring growth starts and the birds are singing again.
Perhaps it is my imagination, the wishful thinking of a deluded mud-trudging gardener, but this week has been different in a thousand little ways and the difference is welcome.
Helleborus torquatus is a little "B-word", and this week the word is beauty. It lies at the heart of my intentions for the Hellebore border because of its useful habit of dying back completely at the end of summer. The leaves disappear and for a few short weeks it is possible to spray the weeds around it without risk of damage. If all my Hellebores had such a useful habit, maintenance in the border would be simple.
Helleborus torquatus should be at the parent of all my new seedlings, if only the little "B-word" would co-operate.




31st January 2016

Galanthus lagodechianus
Seasons are like people, every one is strange and this snowdrop season is no exception. Temperatures have been high throughout January and the flowers have been going over in a matter of days. 'Moccas' at the top of the garden had barely opened fully when a storm stripped the flowers and left only the stems sticking up like a group of green hedgehogs.
Galanthus lagodechianus is growing in a tub, and the rim provides a little shelter from the hungry breeze. It nods and trembles but it has not been decapitated. The species comes from the mountains of Eastern Georgia (1800 - 2400m) and was described in 1947. Elliott Hodgkin introduced it on 1959/60 and grew is in his garden in Twyford (JRHS vol 87, 1962). I bought a bulb from Paul Christian in 1982 for 2.50 (both a fortune and a rarity) and it has persisted in the garden ever since. It prospered for a couple of decades in a pot, then declined for a decade in the woods (I think it wanted more light) and is now back in a tub and things are looking up again.
In 2010, during its darkest hour when I thought it might fade away completely, I bought another from a snowdrop nursery for 2.99. Still a rarity, but no longer a fortune. Little surprise that specialist nurseries are struggling to survive.
It is closely allied to G. rizehensis which has a similar poise and both have single green marks, but the flower of G. rizehensis has much shorter outer segments and looks like it is expecting hard times.




31st January 2016

Leucojum aestivum 'Gravetye Giant'
Generally I wander around the garden with an empty mind and let the breeze fill it with impressions, or I wander around the garden full of thought and the breeze empties it. Opinions are divided about the outcome. From time to time I wonder how something is doing, and generally by the time I start to think about it, I have missed it.
I have been watching for the Leucojum for several reasons. I was send some bulbs of 'Gravetye Giant' and I didn't know what to do with them, so they were tucked in between some Mahonia where they have been in the way ever since. Last year I was ripping out red campion, which is a plague in the garden, when I grabbed a big handful of Leucojum and tore the leaves off before the empty mind had engaged. I have been watching to see if they recover.
I have also been watching because there is another much smaller flowered form in gardens locally that blooms a month earlier. I have been observing it covetously. By the time I start to think about it, it has all happened. In a warm year, both are in flower together and this is clearly the better form, but not all years will be warm and I continue to covet the early one.





31st January 2016

Narcissus bulbocodium var. pallidus
One of the obvious changes this week has been the arrival of the daffodils. I have had some early cultivars for weeks, and Narcissus romieuxii flowers reliably at the end of autumn, but this week there are daffodils in variety, glowing in the occasional moments of sunshine. The autumn flowers of N. romieuxii have been joined by the spring blooms of N. bulbocodium, less elegant with their stumpy flowers and heavy coronas but much tougher in the garden.
N. b. var. pallidus is probably the most southern population of N. bulbocodium, from the Atlas Mountains, closer to the territory of N. romieuxii than the typical home ground of its species on the Iberian Peninsula. Still, it is short and fat and inelegant so there can be little doubt about the identity (technically N. romieuxii has little or no pedicel, the flowers appearing to burst from the spathe and face upwards, while N. bulbocodium has a significant pedicel and the flowers droop from it).
It may be the troll equivalent of the elfish N. romieuxii but it welcomes the spring, increases freely and will one day be tried in the meadow. It will have to be quite tough to cope with the meadows occasionally wayward moments, but isn't that what trolls do best?