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JEARRARD'S HERBAL


3rd July 2016

Lychnis chalcedonica 'Rosea'
The wet weather has made the garden a different place. Growth was slow and thin during spring. A cold spell in March and April gave way to a dry spell in May and June so plants have lacked enthusiasm. Suddenly it is hot and wet and they have filled out. The garden paths are overflowing with foliage, and most of that foliage is dripping.
It has been a good week for doing things. I have a lot of Agapanthus in pots behaving like students at a party. They don't really have a permanent home so they crash where they can. This week I have been building them a home. The homeless were put to bed yesterday, those in temporary accomodation will be moved in today if the thought of carrying large pots of Agapanthus is still appealing when the time comes.
During the to-ing and fro-ing I noticed Lychnis chalcedonica 'Rosea'. The typical form is vermillion and I don't usually like pale imitators, but this is an exception. There is something very determined about the colour, a cast iron subtlety that appeals. I brought it with me when I moved to Cornwall so I was surprised to find that this was the first time I have photographed it.


3rd July 2016

Pinguicula lusitanica
The Pinguicula is another matter. I have hundreds of pictures of it, each one as bad as the next. It is a tiny little thing, so small that I have never found it growing in the wild, though it is native and grows in dozens of the bogs I have tramped through in decades of knee-deep sloshing.
It grows in open locations with a little shade from occasional grass blades towering overhead. It is easy from seed, and short lived enough to call an annual, although it occasionally manages a second year. At this time of year I try to remember to put an empty pot of compost next to it in the greenhouse, and as the seed ripens, sow a few in the new pot. If I forget, then it seems to disappear from the collection. The first time it happened I was distraught. It is tiny and insignificant, but too lovely to lose. Fortunatley it is more tenacious than it looks. Close study of the surrounding pots will usually reveal an errant seedling or two. It is pointless to transplant them, but in the 'lost' years I make a special effort to collect the seed.
Over the years my photographs betray the quality of the camera I was using at the time. This picture was taken with my latest macro lense and it is still struggling to get the flower and the leaves in focus at the same time.


3rd July 2016

Lomatia ferruginea
The Proteaceae exert a strange attraction. The whole family looks so growable and yet so strangely out of reach. There is a big collection in the National Botanic Garden of Wales and walking into the big greenhouse is like waking up in a strange sci-fi world. All of the familiar things have been replaced by almost-familiar things. Everything looks right, but nothing is. As though all of the doors had been hung from the wrong side.
Despite their strangeness, some of them are easy in the right location. Lomatia ferruginea does very well here. The first time I planted it I was amazed at its growth rate. Fifteen years later and it was almost as tall as the largest on record in the UK. And then it fell over.
I was sorry to lose it because I was enjoying the strange flowers, all curved tails and legs like the prawns spilling out of a sandwich. I planted a replacement by the boundary hedge expecting a decade's wait before I saw the flowers again, but it has grown fast and five years later this is the result.
I have tried a few other species since, but this is the one that does best for me. I am worried that someone will now start rumours of an impossibly rare yellow flowered form growing in the valleys of Chile, and like the yellow Embothrium it will forever taunt us in Proteacious unnatainability.



3rd July 2016

Disa uniflora Red
Rumours are like madness, it is difficult to find where they actually start. If, years hence, people are whispering vague suggestions of yellow Lomatia then I apologise. Sometimes, however, madness has an origin, or if not an origin then at least a first manifestation. Here it is.
It is true that Disa uniflora is the foundation of all modern Disa hybrids. Even the word hybrid is misleading, the influence of other species is almost homeopathically dilute, but that isn't the madness I meant. Some genera are wildly appealing with terrifyingly ungrowable reputations. They exert the same attraction and dread as the large pythons that regularly consume pet keepers in so-called "freak accidents".
Disa was one such genus for me. Impossible and tempestuous dwellers on Table Mountain, it might as well have been Mount Olympus. Time has demonstrated that Zeus was prepared to visit mere mortals (generally if he fancied them) and Disa uniflora will flourish in a greenhouse with the right inducements. Disa uniflora Red was my introduction to them, now they have grown into a river of colour flowing down both sides of the greenhouse, and shortly to get a third bench to expand onto. It is a multicoloured madness nowadays, the red has been stretched through pink and white with an occasional detour into orange. Naturally there are rumours of an impossibly rare yellow flowered form of Disa uniflora...
Perhaps not impossibly rare. The first bud is forming now. Madness.
I know the Greeks had Gods of all the scarlet things, Fire, War and Rage. Did they have a God of Custard or is it just on Dinner Table Mountain?