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JEARRARD'S HERBAL




20th March 2016

Galanthus 'Doncasters's Double Charmer'
I went out yesterday looking at flower shows and gardens. I took plenty of layers of clothing because the day was cold and cloudy with a sharp easterly wind. Best be prepared, I could always leave the surplus in the van. In the event I wish I had taken a couple of duvets as well, the cold was bitter. The more shelter I found, the more it looked like spring. The converse is also true.
It struck me that my view of cloud cover had changed. Through the cold months it is the thing that keeps temperatures up. I am convinced that it was the constant rain cloud cover that kept winter temperatures up. Now we have arrived in spring it is the cloud that is keeping out the sunshine.
The snowdrops have been good when it mattered. The early season ones kept the garden moving through the darkest days and the very last ones are making a show through the cold spell. Mid season snowdrops were a bit disappointing. I didn't get many flowers and they didn't last for long. They have done better than the Lesser Celandines - once again the leaves have been stripped from the plants by pigeons. This is the year to lift pieces from the collection and put them back into pots so that I can protect them.
Galanthus 'Doncaster's Double Charmer' is a pretty green tipped double snowdrop distributed by Amy Doncaster however it does not seem to be the same as 'Double Charmer' raised by James Allen at the end of the 19th century. From the available descriptions, it is a good deal better, not least because it is still with us. There have been two or three waves of galanthomania since the original 'Double Charmer' was raised, but it doesn't seem to have survived them, which suggests it was a little miffy, at best.




20th March 2016

Tulipa sylvestris
There is something vaguely religious about sheds. A promise of half-remembered treasure for the future. People visit their sheds with a sense of wonder and cavernous discovery like a bus-load of tourists visiting a cathedral. Sheds are places of solace and shelter from the inconveniences of life where you are assured a crumb of austere comfort, some old baler twine and communion with something greater, be it a divine presence or a perilous stack of tatt.
Over many years my sheds have housed an assortment of bits of old wood. Too good to burn but not imediately useful. Many of them are familiar, having served with honour in a number of roles. Often they have inconvenient nails sticking out of them, to be removed when there is time, or when they need to be pressed once more into service. They are like tulips.
Tulipa is a familiar genus with a smooth uniformity. For all its variety they all do the same job, grow in the same way, respond to the same rituals. Like the timber in the shed there is an occasional nail sticking out. In this case it is Tulipa sylvestris, the only species native to the UK, the only one that increases for me in the garden, the only one that tolerates wet and shade and general dankness. The flowers are always a delight, defeating the hopeless void of winter with heraldic grace. The position of theses bulbs has been diligently marked. They will have to be moved in summer. For all their heraldic bravado they are being defeated by a knavish Libertia.




20th March 2016

Corydalis solida
Corydalis solida spreads across northern Europe and Asia like a frying pancake, bubbling into patches of crispy colour as it goes. I knew the dull lilac forms as plants from choice cultivated woodland gardens where they were indistinguishable from the forest litter and where distraught owners would stare at you balefully if you trod on one inadvertantly. Then suddenly the scarlet and white forms were introduced, and then the rich purple. They provide the most unexpected flashes of colour in the spring. I had an idea that the woodland garden would be interesting if the snowdrops faded as the ground turned scarlet with the blooms of C. s. 'George Baker'. I tried a few up there and they were vary attractive. The rabbits loved them. I don't think they ate them, Corydalis stems are mostly water with just enough fibre to keep them from draining back into the ground, I think they made pretty little bunny-bonnets for Easter. Whatever the reason, it didn't work. If I ever get the windbreak rejuvenated, I might include a hidden bunny-fence within it and try again.
In the meantime I have developed a new affection for this one, as dull as a Lilac can be but increasing slowly in a tiny raised bed. The fragile stems burst through a dense covering of moss, flower their hearts out and are gone faster than a shooting star or loose change in a car park.





20th March 2016

Paeonia corsica
Perhaps those of us with sheds are connected by a thread of consciousness. Do we all travel in the same direction at the same time, or do I just noticed things more through its safe and murky window? I'm talking about peonies of course. Half a dozen years ago I started to plant them. A ridiculous venture, they hate the cool wet weather of Cornwall. I knew it was ridiculous and I did not take it seriously because I knew I was planting the source material for a later compost heap. Still, I planted a few. I friend down the road has a few, just tucked away quietly. I saw a peony garden yesterday, mulched against the easterly winds and tucked into a formal garden within a low stone wall. Another friend has just planted a magnificent collection as a showpiece garden. On reflection, it can't be shed-consciousness, I don't think she has a shed.
Paeonia corsica went in as a seedling. It had nice shiny leaves and I like shiny.
It may or may not be distinct from the P. mascula complex. There are a number of populations of peony around the Mediterranean that are similar but not the same. P. corsica is currently the favoured name for plants from the mountains of Corsica and Sardinia. It has been confused in the past with P. cambessedesii, with pink flowers at a similar time of year, but the two plants are quite different in appearance.
The climate in my garden does not resemble that of the mountains of Corsica, but I do have an Agave house, and that it where it grows. Magical places, sheds.