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JEARRARD'S HERBAL




27th March 2016

Romulea bulbocodium
I live in a climatic bubble of self-delusion. I make no excuse for it, I see little point in living in Cornwall and not having an early garden. I don't live on the Tropic of Penzance, for example where it is only the constant burning sun that keeps the mermen in the sea from ravaging the locals 24/7, but my garden is mild. I can't actually see the sea, but on a cloudy day I would be within ravaging distance.
All of which leaves me perplexed by a recent enquiry: have I noticed any signs of spring yet? Perhaps the bubble of self-delusion has expanded further than I had realised but yes, it has been spring since the first snowdrops, since the first daffodils, since the first spring badger tore the first hole in the grass looking for earthworms.
Perhaps the point is that spring is the unexpected discovery of the returning sesason, the first swallow. I drove north through the county on friday and found the first major traffic snarl-up as two lanes of holidaymakers tried to get through one lane of road. The deep background hum of idling engines and inching cars ringing over the hills like the first cuckoo.
Romulea bulbocodium is a beautiful and welcome messenger of spring. The exasperating Romulea (and that means all of them) were thrown onto the compost last year, never to be re-admitted. This one has come up in a pot of weedy Habranthus which had also been rejected, but not yet composted. The unexpected discovery of spring.




27th March 2016

Protea burchellii
Up in the Agave house, spring is hastening and it reminds me that if I have a good idea, I should just get on and do it. There isn't enough space up there for the Agave, but it is really useful to have somewhere dry in the winter. Somewhere for some peonies perhaps, and to try the occasional Protea. If only there were a bit more space. So I had a plan to add a little porch. A rain shelter for my unlikely peony and Protea garden. If I had done it straight away I wouldn't now be looking at the space and thinking "rock-garden". A few dry days and one or the other will win out.
So it is possible that in later years my Protea burchellii will have space to expand and I will get more than one flower. I have been putting off showing it here for three weeks now, thinking that in time the pink flower bracts with straighten out but I don't think it is going to happen. I don't much care, I am excited enough to have it in flower again. Last autumn I was given seedlings of a couple of other species - some sort of decision will have to be made.
I wasn't expecting this to survive. I am outside the traditional Cornish Protea zone but this returning spring flower suggests that I should be bolder and grow some more.




27th March 2016

Ficaria verna 'Double Bronze'
The spring weather has been fickle. A day of perfect sunshine and then a day of rain. I was pleased to get out in the sun and photograph a few of the Lesser Celandines, delighful scourge of the garden. The collection has been rapidly and gleefully mixing its genes among the borders of spring bulbs and it was time to sort them out. I needed to rescue crowns of the named ones while they could still be distinguished. Last week I spent several hours digging, labelling and potting. In the warmth of the greenhouse some of them have already produced buds and it is pleasing to see that 'Double Bronze' is true to name. Among the stunted stubble of pigeon chewed stems I have picked out a crown of the real thing, so there is hope for the rest of them.
It is the doubles that I care about most. There are plenty of yellow flowered singles with interesting leaves. It is difficult to justify naming them when you could find a thousand others equally good under almost any hedge, but the doubles are special. I think they deserve space in the garden and since many of them are sterile, they aren't an uncontrollable menace.
Last time I had the collection in pots I was trying to breed a double orange. The first step was to cross 'Double Bronze' with 'Coppernob' and I raised a potful of seedlings that were all planted out when I got bored. I thought they had gone but I have found them again, so the next generation remains a possibility.





27th March 2016

Prunus spinosa 'Purpurea'
Friday was lovely and on Saturday it rained and through the wild weather I saw that Prunus spinosa 'Purpurea' was flowering. If I look back through the years (and I am old enough to do that at the drop of a pair of spectacles) I have blown hither and thither with horticultural fashion. Things come in and out of fashion, but I always seem to have held on to variants of native plants. I don't think they will ever be fashionable, not interesting enough for the Style-victims and not authentic enough for the Native-pollinator-purists. Still, I enjoy them.
They tend to be vigorous, which is a good thing because sooner or later everything in the garden is left to its own devices for a few years. I bought this purple leaved Blackthorn from Macpennys in the New Forest, snatching it with enthusiasm from the sales bed. When I went to pay at the shed I was greeted like a long lost friend, wide eyes glistening with tears of joy. They adored the plant and had propagated it a few years before to astound and entrance their customers. It is such a sad story. I was the only person who ever bought one.
But I have it and I love it, with its wicked black thorny suckers and dull leaves. I has nearly died on many occasions, but it seems to hang on, an odd sucker appearing just when I thought all was lost. This is the best it has been for years and I see it is a triumphant return from the brink of oblivion.
There is a pink flowered form as well that bubbles and suckers out of the ground like a gigantic ball of candy floss at an invisible giant's fairground. I am on the lookout for a piece.