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JEARRARD'S HERBAL


31st July 2016

Aristolochia x kewensis
It is rare for me to say that the weather has been too hot, but this is the week. I try to hide from the garden in the heat of the day and go out there in the evening, but sometimes events make that inconvenient. Experience this week has shown me that I can't drink water fast enough to stave off dehydration and after an hour or two I have to go and lie down for a bit to recover. Even walking around looking at things is exhausting which is unfortunate - I have a week of garden visits booked for what I laughably describe as a holiday!
Aristolochia x kewensis is enjoying the heat. For a few years I kept it indoors over winter but it outgrew a manageable pot and the only option was to plant it in the Agave house. It turns out to be much hardier than expected, though it needs a good hot spell in spring to start it into growth. It also needs watering more often than I remember, so it isn't as vigorous as I would like, but it survives. Eventually it will root through into the soil and find enough water for itself.
Last year I had no flowers because I forgot to help it climb the first foot or so of its support. This year I wound it around a string until it started to go up. It is a straggler rather than a climber and needs some assistance. Like a Brugmansia, it tends to flower in flushes. This is the first, and I hope it will produce several more before the end of the year.


31st July 2016

Puya mirabilis
Every time I walk around the Agave house I wonder what inspired me to fill a small space with aggressively spiky plants. I try to keep them away from the path, but it is futile. The day will come when it is impossible to walk through it safely. I like to think I will remove them as they become dangerous but it is easier to plant things than to dispose of them.
There are a few lovely fluffy things up there to lull me into a false sense of security but their number seems to be reducing. A couple of years ago I started to add bromeliads to the mix but I'm not sure it has helped. The Dyckia aren't entirely harmless, but they are small. The same cannot be said for some of the Puya.
A month ago I removed P. berteroana. It was still a baby but clearly had armed invasion on its mind. It is now on a sunny bank outside, gathering itself for a new assault.
P. mirabilis is a little more moderate. The leaves are saw edged but not spined. I wouldn't cuddle it, but it allows me to pass by. It is growing in light shade, and under those conditions the flower spikes reach about a meter tall. Reports that is is a friendly plant no more than 30cm tall should be treated with derision.


31st July 2016

Iris x norrisii
Iris is a genus that inspires lunacy. When I think of Bearded Iris I imagine Gentleman Gardeners in tweed jackets digging their borders in winter, a roast beef sandwich in one pocket and a silver mustard pot in the other. It is a large and wobbly genus, unsteady at the fringes but held together by the threads of lunacy running through it.
Iris domestica and I. dichotoma are not commonly grown and are not always Iris. When they were Belamcanda chinensis and Pardanthopsis dichotoma they had a moment of passion that resulted in the outrageous x Pardacanda norrisii. Fortunately the heat of passion has cooled and everybody has moved back into the shade of the Iris umbrella for a while.
Not that it looks like an Iris. The hybrid comes in a wide range of colours but this uncompromising red is the one for me. The individual flowers only last for a day or two, but it is enough. I grow it very dry in the bulb house and it increases very slowly. Perhaps it would be faster if it were moister. One day it will divide it and I will find out.
I wobble on the finges of Iris lunacy. Perhaps I want a hundred different shades of Iris x norrisii, perhaps I am content with this one. If it had produced seed last year, I would have tested the waters already.
I wear a white hat in the garden to keep the sun off. When I keep a hummus and salad sandwich underneath it then the time has come.



31st July 2016

Habranthus robustus
Last year I finally got fed up with the Rain Lilies and threw about half of them out. They stood in a line of dejected pots waiting to be tipped out over the garden. I was fed up with Habranthus tubispathus coming up everywhere, and Habranthus robustus turning up every time I bought a bulb of a new species.
I am not very good at throwing things out. This spring I went through the pots and saved a few bulbs from each. "If you turn out to be H. tubispathus" I warned them "you're going straight onto the compost heap". The first one to flower was its pink form, far too lovely to throw out!
Habranthus robustus was similarly threatened. I have half a dozen different forms, all of which arrived under other names. This one was identified as a Hippeastrum from Brazil (where the Habranthus has naturalised with enthusiasm). If it weren't such a good thing it would be gone. I have never had this many flowers before.
Last year I made space in the bulb house, but I had the sense not to fill it with anything else. I may not be done with Rain Lilies after all.
However, Rhodophiala montana seedlings that I have been nurturing for three years turn out to be H. tubispathus and they are doomed. They have disappointed me, and I will have my revenge.