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JEARRARD'S HERBAL


7th August 2016

Platycodon grandiflorus Pink
One of those weeks that has struggled to get going. Rain on Monday and Tuesday seemed like good news but I planted a few things out on Tuesday and the ground is still dry two inches down. I thought I would get away with it, now I'm not so sure.
A couple of weeks of light drizzle and already people have started to say we haven't had any summer at all. It mystifies me, these are the first days since April when it has rained significantly - I know that because I wait for a rainy day in summer to do my tax return, which I posted off on Monday.
The Agave house was built to keep the inevitable summer rain off the Agave and to keep the inevitable winter rain off as well. It works well, it is very dry up there. I wanted something that would grow with the Agave and introduce some cheery flowers. The first thing I tried was Platycodon. It might not seem like an obvious combination but they have thick fleshy roots and they are completely dormant through the winter and put up with significant dessication.
It was a partial success. One of the original five has prospered and it is getting better every year. They were originally growing in coir compost and if I planted more they would be adapted to an inorganic compost first.
While they were making up their mind about living or dying, I planted some Lewisia as well, and they have also been a partial success. If I had any, I would have planted L. rediviva but instead I had to use some big fat L. cotyledon seedlings. They have occasionally been good.


7th August 2016

Persicaria amplexicaulis 'Orangefield'
It has been a week when I would have liked to get going faster. I started weeding the herbaceous border last week and it was going well. Things were pulling out easily and the piles of weeds were wilting rapidly. Then the rain came and I am far to feeble to scrabble around in dank foliage. So it remains unfinished for now, top of the list to return to on a dry evening.
People take many and varied pleasures from weeding but for me it is the joy of watching a vague mess of colour resolve into a decent blob of planting. Persicaria 'Orangefield' has benefitted and I managed to get the Red Campion out without disturbing the vertical perfection of the spikes. It is one of many new cultivars that have been introduced and although there are a lot of them, most of them seem to be improvements on what has gone before (which isn't always the way when species suddenly become popular).
It isn't really orange, and that seems like a good thing at the moment. It blends well with reds and purple without having to invoke the theoretical benefits of contrast


7th August 2016

Cautleya spicata 'Crug Canary'
Last time I was paying serious attention to Cautleya there was a deluge of unidentified plants appearing in the lists of the wholesale importers. That particular deluge seems to have dried up but a decade later there is a new flood of cultivars being named from wild collections. It is unfortunate that many of the first wave have disappeared. I lost a number of mine in the recent hard winters - I should have been more careful, but it easy to be wise after the event. There were some very distinctive things among them although they were difficult to identify at species level. That is not quite right. They were easy to identify at species level, all you have to do is count the flowers on the spike. The difficulty is that having done so the groups of plants you are left with seem to have very little in common. There is more work to be done on the identity of Cautleya species.
The modern wave of names has a different problem. They are all pretty much indistiguishable. This is 'Crug Canary' but you would have to read the label to know it. I have a number of different names growing in pots in the greenhouse at the moment and it suddenly struck me that I should move them all well apart. If labels were accidentally transposed they would all have to be called C. spicata, which is probably fair. That is all they are.
(I accept that the names refers to distinct collections, and that collection numbers are rapidly becoming inconvenient).



7th August 2016

Disporum Black-red flower
The reverse seems to have happened with Disporum. There is a big group of plants with greenish-brownish flowers and branched stems growing to about a metre tall. They might be a single variable species, or there might be dozens of clearly defined taxa. I don't think enough fieldwork has been done to even guess. A decade ago I was inclined to think of them as a single group, but suddenly there is more variety.
I was given this one as a seedling five or six years ago, and I am very grateful, but I read the description "black-red flower" and thought "Yeah yeah". In a state of smug disbelief I stumbled past the newly named 'Blackberry Bere' this spring and was stopped in my tracks. Beautiful lilac bells dangling from the tall stems.
Now I have blooms on 'Black-red' and although the description is a bit optimistic, the plant is clearly quite distinct. There is more going on among the big Disporum than I thought.