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JEARRARD'S HERBAL




14th February 2016

Narcissus obvallaris
There has been a feeling in the garden akin to deja vu. The rain has interrupted every day. I don't think I have been out in the garden all week without being driven back in again shortly. There was one magnificent spell of sunshine, and so I grasped the opportunity and rushed into the garden with a camera. I was about half way through taking pictures of the snowdrops when the hail started to fall and stupidly I assumed it was just a brief shower and tried to wait it out. After ten minutes I went back indoors and had a bath because that was the only way I was ever going to dry out. Oh look, some lovely rain again.
Temperatures have dropped, just to upset the bedding plant suppliers who have filled the garden centres with primulas. I'm going to clear out the grate and light a fire, the house is chilly and I'm getting impatient for the spring.
Narcissus obvallaris has reached its peak. Not the most floriferous or spectacular of daffodils, but full of charm. It is flowering three weeks ahead of expectation, and the first flower opened at the end of January so it is one of the plants having an early season. The Camellia by contrast are rather delayed. There is a sad scattering of pink flowers looking weather beaten among the green.
Last year I dug up most of the N. obvallaris, which were scattered among 'Rijnvelds Early Sensation' and made a small area for them at the bottom of the meadow. They look much better in a group. The odd bulb I missed is wasted among the Rijnveld's sagging leaves and will come out. In a perfect world I would mark it and lift it when it is dormant. Standing in the hail with a camera watching the snowdrops being smashed to bits I accepted that it is not a perfect world. It will come up in full flower and take its chances.




14th February 2016

Iris unguicularis 'Peloponnese Snow'
Last night the weather forecast suggested that there might be snow coming to the southwest. A crisp winter day with a couple of inches of snow can be a wonderful thing - I will take a winter trip to the Alps if I start to miss it. In the garden, I can do without the cold slushy mess biting at my fingers.
I dont do well with Iris unguicularis, the garden is too wet and shady. They grow for a few years and then give up. Recently I have started to build raised beds and containers so that I can grow a few more alpines, and I think that is the next thing I am going to try with the Iris.
I. u. 'Peloponnese Snow' has been living in a pot for a couple of years and produces an occasional flower, but I can't claim that it looks happy, even allowing for the generally dejected appearance of I. unguicularis when it is thriving. I will keep trying because these winter flowering Iris add greatly to the interest in the garden at the start of the year. 'Peloponnese Snow' was discovered in the Peloponnese by Fritz Kummert and introduced under his number J&FK 0124 (though usually recorded in error as J&FK 1024). There seem to be two plants in cultivation, a pure white one and this, with a blue mark on the falls. Both are said to be more vigorous that previous pale forms of the species. I am grateful for a single flower, but would quite like a little more 'Snow' one day.




14th February 2016

Galanthus 'Ecusson D'Or'
Back in the days when cuckoos sang in March and summers were filled with lazy golden days and fizzy pop in glass bottles with metal screw caps, I grew a lot of Ceanothus. It wasn't a plan - these things so rarely are - it just happened. I enjoyed them in their blue cloaks and as they died out I replaced them with other things in an equally accidental way. Jump forward ten years and somebody asked me about Ceanothus, I could hardly remember one of them. A list I had made of them at the time read like a random page from a telephone directory, full of people I had never met. The interval of time between intimate knowledge and blank incomprehension is reducing. At present the snowdrops fall into the perfect zone. Familiar to the point of boredom by the end of the flowering season, the first flowers of the following year are greeted like welcome strangers. Familiarity restores through the following weeks until only the most unusual flowers seem worth noticing and as they fade away the mist of ignorance descends again. It is a very satisfactory stage in the process of increasing forgetfulness and I am enjoying it.
It is a long preamble to 'Ecusson D'Or' which burst onto the scene a few years ago with a fanfare and a price tag. The first yellow snowdrop with a matching mark on the outer segments. I enjoyed the spectacle, waited a few years and then bought one within my budget. I was delighted to have it, a shining triumph for the depressing practicality that experience brings. It has prospered and increased far more than I would have expected for a yellow snowdrop.
I remember the little thrill of recognition I experienced when I saw it at a show, the latest pretty little blonde child or Mr & Mrs Snowdrop. The same little thrill on renewing the acquaintance in my own garden. In the year since it last flowered I hadn't forgotten it, just misplaced the idea for a while.





14th February 2016

Freesia caryophyllacea
I can't believe that I am going to say the weather has turned cold enough to Freesia. "Hollywood" has drifted into the habit of showing the most appalling catastrophes unfolding in slow motion to give us plenty of time to fully appreciate the delightful horror. The monsterous made inescapable. Such is the way with Freesia. Monsterous inescapable plants and a monsterous inescapable pun. I can only say that I am sorry. I saw where the road ahead was going, I just couldn't turn off.
Many of the Freesia species in cultivation are white or have white forms. There are a number of valid and accepted names. As far as I can see there is no linkage between the two things. Last year I was advised that the half dozen or so white Freesia that I grow were all just selections of the variable Freesia leichtlinii. To my eye this one is different. Seed came to me as F. xanthospila, a species named from cultivated plants that has not been located in the wild (the flora of South Africa is so complex and diverse that wild populations are frequently overlooked). Subsequently it has been suggested that it is a form of F. caryophyllacea .
Put your hand into the bag, pull out a name. Smile.
It flowers easily and reliably in the cold greenhouse but if I wanted stems for cutting I would have to support it. I can't support it unless I remember, and I won't remember unless I walk round the greenhouse regularly in winter.
Nice chair, warm fire, droopy Freesia.