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JEARRARD'S HERBAL



15th May 2016

Rhododendron 'Melle'
Spring mornings have a dreamy, sleepy image that is at odds with the garden reality. I woke up this morning, sunlight flaring around the edges of the curtains, the air so still that even the birds were whispering. Bugger, I thought, I should be spraying. That is the reality. Opportunities to spray weeds on my windy hillside are rare and have to be grasped.
So if I am a little perplexed today, it has been caused by a disruption of the normal calming routine. Out of bed, into an overall and a couple of hours killing stinging nettles (no sign of caterpillars yet, so I don't think I am upsetting butterflies). Fortunately the wind has picked up so back indoors for a bath and then finally some breakfast. Spring mornings are dreamy and sleepy, but mostly they are ridiculous.
Is there an attribute of Rhododendron I have missed? They are everywhere at the moment, very jolly if you like that sort of thing. Rather lavender-scented drawer liner for my taste but clearly somebody loves them. I wonder why. There are some real monsters. Rhododendron ponticum hunts through the local woods like Godzilla spreading terror and devastation (and Phytophthora in recent years). Local land owners are grubbing them out triumphally with glee (and grants) but I suspect they have left behind a cache of hidden eggs. We will be seeing them return.
In the garden my eye settled on an evergreen azalea. 'Melle' is also a monster, but in a different way. It is perhaps the Mothra to Godzilla ponticum. Multipetalled, splashed with pink and white, it is springtime on a stick. Ridiculous.



15th May 2016

Hyacinthoides non-scripta White Bracteate Form
It is a bluebell week. Years ago I recklessly distributed a bucket of seed under the trees, knowing as I did it that there was no way back. This year the display has been magnificent in patches and a bit more feeble in places where my war against them is succeeding. I don't want to eliminate them, but the field next door is a sea of blue at present, I don't need any more in the garden.
I say that now but I won't stick to it. I have a clump of 'Bracteata' growing near the house, a gift from a friend. The elongated flower bracts make green tassels of the spikes. It is fascinating but pale blue. It seems to be sterile so it will never invade the natural stands. Two years ago I was offered a bulb of the White Bracteate Form in return for some folding currency and it seemed like a good idea. I am pleased that it is actually white, now I will wait and see if it sets seed. I'm not sure I want White Bracteate bluebells wandering about through the native clumps in the garden but I am confident that I won't be able to resist if the opportunity arises.
Recklessness and bluebells seem to go hand-in-hand.



15th May 2016

Paeonia 'Smouthii'
I have a fascination with Paeonia tenuifolia that derives from childhood, as do all the most colourful insanities. I was familiar enough with the fat buds and leaves of P. officinalis 'Rubra Plena' to be immediately taken with the finely cut foliage and large red flowers of P. tenuifolia when I first saw them. Years later it all came flooding back when I was offered a plant at a plant fair, and I leapt at it. The leaves were a little broad, and the plant a little too big, but I was blinded by passion and nostalgia. Good thing too because I don't think I would have bought P. 'Smouthii' and that would have been a pity.
A hybrid between P. tenuifolia and P. lactiflora, it was introduced in 1845 by Van Houtte and is sterile. It is growing in the Agave house where I can be sure it will be sunny and dry, though it is clearly vigorous and tolerant. If I ever feel the need to dig it up, then I will try a piece outside but it's happy where it is and I'm happy with it so it isn't very high on the list of things to do.




15th May 2016

Watsonia borbonica 'Arderne's White'
Watsonia on the other hand, have to go somewhere. They were being overgrown in a corner of the garden where I have other plans. They have to be moved. I made as start last year, got them all out and repotted. Now they are standing on a bench outside the greenhouse, enjoying the sun and air. 'Arderne's White' has responded by flowering for the first time in years. Many that I thought were dead have produced new shoots. It is very pleasing.
Unfortunately it is also very temporary. They can't stay where they are and I can't think where to put them. I walk round the garden hoping for inspiration but it doesn't come.
This afternoon I am planning to move a Puya. Not a job I am relishing but it needs to be done. It is growing in the Agave house and has become too big and too dangerous, the time has come to see just how hardy it really is. When it is done I might be in a suitable mood to solve the Watsonia problem.