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JEARRARD'S HERBAL




28th February 2016

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Arnold Promise'
I refuse to accept the idea that cold is a good thing in the garden, and we have had a cold week. I have been stamping my feet all through it, though whether in petulance or to keep them warm remains a matter of debate. However, I am prepared to accept the idea that cold weather is causally related to other features that are a good thing. Sunshine, for example. Bright days have been wonderful in the garden, after a winter so dull that it has been depressing. Unfortunately clear skies mean cold nights, so there is a price to pay but the Agapanthus are still looking perky and the Fuchsia are still flowering so it has been a good year. In the sunshine the garden is warming up in the morning before I get out there and I don't have to linger over-long in the bed to achieve that happy situation.
Hamamelis have had a strange year. Usually a snap of cold in December will be enough to synchronise them into a burst of flower in January. This year each plant has held on to buds for as long as it can and then, when the cold spell hasn't arrived and it can hold on no longer, exploded like a suppressed fart at a dinner party. They have all been good, but unpredictable. The only pattern has been that 'Arnold Promise' has always been the last to let rip, and perhaps that is its greatest attribute. Hamamelis x intermedia 'Arnold Promise' - politest and least flatulent of its genus. Unscented.




28th February 2016

Galanthus plicatus
The snowdrops have also had a strange year. The early ones were very early, but the late ones are more or less on schedule, so the season has been stretched. The warm weather has meant that they have not lasted long in flower, so there hasn't been a grand display when all the cultivars overlap. Instead, they have burst into flower in little flashes and then gone. The smaller growing ones have also lost their flowers, and I am at a loss to explain it. Large clumps of G. nivalis have a forest of flower stems, but the buds have been snapped off the tops. Either something has been eating them, or the wind at ground level has been extreme.
Galanthus plicatus doesn't seem to have suffered in the same way. I have a small patch of woodland at the top of the hill that I use as a snowdrop garden. Originally I kept all of the cultivars up there, but as it became more confused I moved them out and allowed a few vigorous forms to spread out. 'Jacquenetta' is still up there, and 'Clun' but the best effect has come from the G. plicatus forms, flowering late in the season but covering the ground in large pools and carpets. G. nivalis and its hybrids tend to stay in little clumps where they are planted, and as the patches grow they stick through the bare ground in little tufts like a vegetable hair-transplant.
G. plicatus 'Warham' has been spreading for decades and a few years ago I started collecting the seed and sowing it under controlled conditions. This is the result, at last they have started to flower and they will be planted out later without a thought to order.




28th February 2016

Ipheion uniflorum 'Rolf Fiedler'
I have been thinking about Nerine as the dark days have wrapped around the garden. They give dose of vibrant colour through the last days of autumn, and then suddenly the garden is left with the washed out colours. A little dab of white, some darker tones from the Hellebores perhaps, and a frisson of yellow but the first flower on Ipheion 'Rolf Fiedler' felt like the first deep colour I had seen for months. There are enough flowers now to make a show but it is time to consolidate. Over the last few years the pots of Ipheion have been invaded by second rate seedlings. Most of them are better than the tragically dull 'Wisley Blue' but they have to go. I couldn't resist a quick dig, and a quick dig will be the solution. While I can see which are the true varieties, clumps will be split off and repotted. The remainder will be relocated, if I can find a place that will be improved by a selection of weedy, off white onions.
It looks as though taxonomists are going to settle the other issues surrounding them. I hadn't quite got around to relabelling them all Tristagma when I read that I. uniflorum and I. sessile at least, have been saved (at least for now). As for the others, Beauverdia and Nectaroscordum are calling. Fortunately I only grow three or four other names and as far as I can see they are all the same thing, whatever it may eventually be called.





28th February 2016

Narcissus asturiensis 'Van Tubergen Clone'
Taxonomy is a sound and honorable science/art, let me be clear about that, however it does create clashes and it took me many years to understand. Take Narcissus for example (if we overlook the difficult species on the margins). It is a genus full of lovely yellow daffodils. It seems reasonable to assume that if I like one of them, I will like the rest. The little puff of pleasure they bring can be spread over a long season by growing a range. It is a strong, cohesive taxonomic group. They should all be lovely. Sadly, it isn't so.
Take N. asturiensis 'Van Tubergen Clone'. It is two or three inches tall, the flowers are tiny, it is the most wonderful thing imaginable. I continue to plant a whole range of tiny daffodils in the hope of repeating the delight I get from it every year. Nothing comes close. 'Small talk' is almost identical, and leaves me cold. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. All humans belong to a tight and distinct taxonomic group. Not all humans are lovable. It seems that daffodils are the same.
So I will continue to spend February watching the miniature stems of the 'Van Tubergen Clone' pushing up through the soil, like watching a lover walk up the garden path to the door. I don't know what the difference is between daffodils. Perhaps if I did the magic would be gone.
I am unspeakably fond of 'February Gold' as well. I am such a slut.