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JEARRARD'S HERBAL




21st February 2016

Asarum splendens
I have been assured that the Earth has not stopped orbiting the sun, nor has it stopped spinning on its axis. I have been assured, and I feel that it might have featured in the news. Therefore, spring is just around the corner, even though it hasn't felt like it. Fortunately the garden is beginning to move. Wherever there is some shelter plants have started to grow. Snowdrops are losing their heads and badgers are digging up the grass. I would throw open the windows of the house and let the warmth in but I am struggling to find any. I enjoy lighting a fire in the evening and sitting in its soothing glow, but every bag of coal I buy now I am hoping, let this be the last.
Asarum splendens has been doing its best to mark a change in the season. The tips of the shoots have been fattening for months, the flower buds slowly inflating and this week they have burst in a riot of good taste. I gave away a lot of the Asarum when I needed space for Clivia and Aspidistra but I have missed them. At least, I have missed the vigorous and floriferous species. Those that sat and sulked I am well rid of, though I wouldn't dare say that to a fanatic. Extra space for the Clivia has been wonderful, extra space for the Aspidistra is a great joy, and slowly an occasional Asarum is creeping back in. It is a happy thing. I wonder if I could grow them as ground cover to the Clivia?




21st February 2016

Camellia grijsii
Camellia grijsii was another victim of the great re-organisation. Along with C. rosiflora it was occupying space in the greenhouse that I wanted for other things (those demon Clivia again, I'm afraid). Why am I growing Camellia under cover, even those odd species that are precious and may not be hardy? Surely if they aren't hardy I should just face the truth and move on? On a day when I had nowhere to put a tray of Clivia seedlings, out they both went.
Sometimes it is only when you put a plant in the garden that you realise how straggly it had become in a pot. C. grijsii went out two years ago and has just started to look happy again, new growth looks healthy, the leaves are shining green and it is beginning to fill out. It hasn't had to deal with a harsh winter yet but it is looking good. This is the first flower to open since I planted it. Much smaller than the flowers it produced in the greenhouse, perhaps if the planet keeps spinning and we get a sunny day, it will open more widely. I don't much mind, I like it as it is. Clearly it has found some moisture beneath the ground. Might be a good place for an Asarum.
The space I cleared should have filled with Clivia but it didn't. I found half a dozen new Camellia to try, and there is a lesson in that if I had a mind to listen (I haven't).




21st February 2016

Clivia (caulescens x miniata)
All this wonderful space and all these poor pot bound Clivia. From time to time I look at a corner where a collection has become insane and say to myself "do it properly or don't do it at all". The Clivia needed more space and I wasn't ready to say goodbye to any of them, so space was found. The entire collection was repotted into large tubs and three years later they are recovering from the indignity. Some of the stunted seedlings have been slowest to respond. After several years in 7cm pots I think they had resigned themselves to the bonsai life. At last they are showing signs of enthusiasm. I grow a number of Clivia because of their beautiful leaves but even I have to admit, they are better when they flower.
I was given this plant as a germinated seedling in 2010 by the hybridist and watched it as it grew. I had great confidence that it would be the hybrid as intended, but there was still a sense of relief when it flowered. Clivia caulescens has finished, C. miniata is coming into bud, and the hybrid is neatly filling the gap between them. If we get a warm sunny day, it will be self pollinated and we will start another great adventure.





21st February 2016

Galanthus x allenii
I have a little corner of the greenhouse where I grow a few autumn flowering snowdrops that I think are too fragile for the open garden. Galanthus peshmenii (which avoids dying outside on a technicality) and G. reginae-olgae which basks in the illusion of a mediterranean climate produced by a south facing greenhouse. Every spring I look at the space covetously. I could fill it with Nerine. it would all be so neat and tidy. Every year I say no, I want the snowdrops too much. I have considered planting snowdrops in the pots with the Nerine, but I'm not sure that mixed pots of bulbs will work. Perhaps the only solution is to try it.
G. allenii is a spring snowdrop, one of the very few that get protected (a plant that could be G. fosteri is another exception). I enjoy a lot of things about it. It is famed for smelling of almonds, which I like and I can never detect the scent, which amuses me. It has broad spreading outer tepals creating a distinctive appearance, which I like and that may just be because it is in the greenhouse, which amuses me. In short, for no reason that amounts to anything, I am very fond of it.
It could be a natural hybrid between G. alpinus and G. woronowii, and it could come from the Caucasus. Nobody really knows. Plants in cultivation were distributed by James Allen, and as I recall, he wasn't entirely sure how he came to have it. I can't find the reference at present, though if you are trawling through 'Gardeners Chronicle' for the 1890's you may run into it.
At the bottom of the greenhouse the plant has come to mark the northern outpost of spring. I have a garden chair beside it where I can sit in the dry and enjoy the season creeping towards me slowly. More often than not I wake up before it gets dark.