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JEARRARD'S HERBAL


14th August 2016

Zephyranthes 'Itsy Bitsy'
Light rain this week, or at least light and rain. The rain was light but the light was heavy and oppressive. I went down to the beach yesterday to relax, and it was hard work struggling through the brightness. I must find a more comfortable seat for the garden and leave the sea to splash around aimlessly without me.
There is a problem in the bulb house, a surfeit of riches. The more Nerine I get, the less room there is for other things and I do like getting more Nerine. I keep thinking it is going to be like Sudoku. One day I had just had enough and I haven't been bothered since. So far the Nerine have been more tenacious.
The Zephyranthes and Habranthus on the other hand, had outstayed their welcome. There is an impossible mess of misidentification and confusion threaded through the genus like a smug satnav, endlessly trying to lure drivers into a river. In the end, everything that could possibly be Habranthus tubispathus or H. robustus was thrown out and I have spent the last six months enjoying the vacant space. Slowly those few that I kept are proving themselves.
I enjoy 'Itsy Bitsy' . It demonstrates that a good name will save a mediocre plant. In the early days of Zephyranthes hybridising every slight variation was selected and I like to think that in modern company, 'Itsy Bitsy' would have been rejected. There is something rather saddening about the drooping petals, like a twisted propellor found near a rural airfield, hinting at some long forgotten tragedy.
It's pretty, but it's no Nerine.


14th August 2016

Zingiber mioga 'Tregye'
I have an image in my mind of a cartoon. A donkey sitting down because it doesn't want to be led. There is a sense of obstinate individuality about the scene and I get the same from Zingiber mioga. I never expect to find flowers, they are never there if I go looking. Not looking is as effective as carrying a carrot (not a sentence I thought I would write when I got up this morning).
Zingiber are mostly rather tropical with showy (or at the very least unusual) spikes of flowers. Z. mioga from Japan has a bit more of the donkey about it. The flowers more or less break free of the soil without any great enthusiasm and very rarely set seed. A study in Japan showed that the chromosome number of different plants was variable in a rather mad way. The major role of the flower bud is to be eaten which perhaps explains its surly lethargy. Chinese plants set seed more freely suggesting that the Japanese plants have been highly selected for food production.
Most cultivated plants are probably a single clone, selected by the Japanese for its delicious contribution to the autumn menu. 'Tregye' came from the garden of Edward Needham and may have better foliage and larger flowers. Beyond that it's origin is unkown.


14th August 2016

Lycoris x houdyshelii
It is difficult to imagine that the flaring flowers of my Lycoris should be such a trumpet of ignorance. I have eight pots, assorted labels and I assume assorted contents but beyond that I hesitate to venture. This one came originally from Chen Yi labelled L. shaanxiense T 211 though it sems to be a hybrid of some sort. Growers in the USA have identified plants from the same source and number as L. x houdyshelii, a naturally ocurring hybrid between L. straminea and L. radiata var. pumila from China. I am happy to take their word for it. I know nothing.
For many years the only Lycoris I had ever flowered did so straight out of the packet. The flower spike was ready to go in the imported bulb, and after that, nothing. This one has behaved differently. It was a small bulb when it arrived and grew slowly to maturity. Suddenly three years ago it flowered, and has done so every year since. I had decided that the genus needed more summer heat than I was giving them, so I closed up the greenhouse. L. radiata grows in very wet places in habitat, so I decided they needed to be wetter in summer. They may resemble Nerine but they aren't closely related. I thought they might like conditions more like Crinum.
So now they are hotter and wetter in the summer, and L. x houdyshelii flowers every year. I am still clueless. I have seven other pots doing nothing, and the argument that they are still 'adapting' to the new regime is wearing a little thin. I know nothing.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I bought a handful of Lycoris radiata bulbs last week. I have plenty of nothing to spare.



14th August 2016

Disa uniflora Yellow flower
In 2011 I bought a small flask of seedlings of the yellow Disa uniflora. It is not a vigorous or easy plant. One of them survived. For the last five years it has persisted, growing slightly larger but never threatening to fill the pot. I should probably repot it, the compost must be worn out by now.
Unexpectedly this year it produced a short flower spike and now a single flower. There is a great flood of relief when something cherished turns out to be true to name. It isn't crowing about having something rare and lovely, it is just the relief of putting aside uncertainty at last. I am going to remove the flower shortly. The poor plant looks as though it can hardly support it and I don't want it to flower and die. If it did, would I have another go? I don't know.
It is said to be less tolerant of salts in solution than other Disa. Perhaps that is true, perhaps it is just a troublesome little bugger whatever the circumstances and you might just as well blame the pixies as salt concentration.
In orchid circles this would be called a xanthic yellow form but among Sarracenia growers it would be called anthocyanin free, the formation of red pigment has been blocked, allowing the underlying yellow flavonoid pigments to show. It is controlled by a single recessive gene. I'm cutting the flower off, but not until I have used the pollen.
The problem now is what to use it on? So many good ideas, so little pollen.