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JEARRARD'S HERBAL



17th April 2016

Primula 'Aire Mist'
It is a season of abundance. The rain has fallen plentifully, the sun has shone enough to coax my shorts out of the cupboard and the wind has blown hard enough to make the house a welcome refuge. It is easy to spend time in the garden. It is warm but not too hot to work, the soil is moist but not clingy and there is no shortage of fun things to do. Not the sort of toil one does in the winter, settle down to a day uprooting a tree stump or distributing mulch. It has been a week of little tasks. Weeding the Erythronium, moving some Colchicum. Looking at the Hellebores (to identify the weeding needed, with no intention of doing it). A very pleasant week. I came in at 9-o-clock last night and I had to take my glasses off to find my way back to the house through the gathering blur.
A few years ago I set out on the adventure of the giant pots. I was fed up with being surrounded by a tide of tiny pots and I decided that everything had to be planted out in the garden or grown in a decent sized tub. It has been a wonderful experience but I have been left with a springtime yearning for lovely little alpines sparkling in their pots.
I have succumbed, and allowed a short length of bench to remain. It gives me space for Primula 'Aire Mist' and some of the other primroses that have distracted me in recent years. A little treasure house that allows me to enjoy the garden through the wind and rain.



17th April 2016

Cyclamen rhodium ssp. peloponnesiacum
I don't grow very many Cyclamen. They are lovely but I prefer them massed under trees like a pink quilt. They require too much faith. The corms sit just below the surface and the leaves and flowers all grow from the centre, but as they emerge from the corm they shoot off sideways under the soil, and pop up some distance away. As a result you get single leaves and single flowers growing out of the soil, seemingly disconnected from the corm and if you dig down to investigate, that is what they become. It just takes too much faith that the corm is in there. Serious growers get round the unease by growing them in tiny pots that force all the leaves together but tiny pots are out of fashion here, so I thought my few Cyclamen would be as well, but a couple have prospered.
Cyclamen rhodium ssp. peloponnesiacum discovered itself growing in a 15 litre pot one morning and took to it. Every year I get flowers and leaves produced at random somewhere around the pot and I have started to believe there is a corm in the middle somewhere but I don't go looking. I would like to think that there are some seedlings in there as well by now but best not investigate.



17th April 2016

Lachenalia pallida blue form
The Lachenalia were another worry. I had grown a small collection for years in pots, hiding them on a windowsill for winter, and then discovering with astonishment that most of were tough enough to manage in the greenhouse, covered over in frosty weather. I worried as I planted them into tubs that they would never be seen again. Not enough worry to stop me, but I was feeling ruthless and more importantly, I was suffocating in a tide of tiny things.
They have all been wonderful. Every year seems to get better and this is certainly a peak performance for the blue form of Lachenalia pallida.
It is a very variable species, the latest monograph by Graham Duncan unites a number of older species under this name. All of the varieties are pretty, but for me it is the blue ones that have most charm. It comes from the Western Cape but the blue and purple forms occur in the north of the range with white, cream and yellow being found further south.
It is one of the later species to grow, the new shoots not appearing until the new year, when L. pendula is already flowering and the L. aloides forms are in bud. The late emergence may help to protect it from the worst of the cold, the flower stems don't elongate until the greenhouse warms up in spring.




17th April 2016

Asarum caudatum
Asarum caudatum comes from the western forests of the USA. I grew it for years in a small pot and it is one of the species I have planted in the garden, where it rapidly makes a large mat of rhizomes with a thick cover of hairy leaves and equally rapidly declines and disappears. As with many woodland plants it is has evolved to exploit a gap in the tree canopy, colonise entire areas while there is light and nutrition, and then die out as the canopy closes over. Perhaps rhizomes remain, struggling to survive for decades until another opportunity arises, perhaps it relies on the abundant seed to recolonise. It certainly does seed abundantly. A decade ago I pollinated a plant of A. c. var. album with the typical red form, expecting all the seedlings to be red. I was surprised to get a few white ones among them but astonished to find some intermediates as well. Pink is the wrong word, they were magnolia, they were taupe. Most importantly, they were dull.
Now I have it in a big pot and am enjoying it enough to want the white one again. It is sitting on a bench I had reserved for the smaller Asarum and this afternoon the bench is going. They will all be in big pots on the ground and that will finally be it!
I wonder how the Pleione would do in tubs?