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JEARRARD'S HERBAL


4th September 2016

Nerine masoniorum
September has arrived and the calendar has clicked over into Autumn. Right on cue the weather has followed. Friday morning was lost in a heavy mist that drenched the garden, and the rain fell all day Saturday. It is warm when the sun comes out but I still have cut grass to remove from the meadow. I think the hay-making season has ended.
The greenhouse is heaving with new growth. Many of the Nerine have started to sprout. I thought I had the mealy bug well under control when they died down in summer, but some of the new shoots are plastered so I'm not as clever as I thought I was. The neo-nicotinoids controlled them once, but now we are back to the old solutions of tearing out the hair and swearing at them. It has been a noisy time down there.
Among the first to flower is N. masoniorum, named in 1930 following its discovery by Marianne Mason in the late 1920's near Umtata in the Eastern Cape. It is known from a single location where it is under pressure from ad hoc development and it may now be extinct in the wild. Fortunately it is easily grown in cultivation, and since I released it into a big tub it has increased greatly.


4th September 2016

Hedychium coccineum var. angustifolium
The Hedychium are slowly taking back their space in the greenhouse. Some time in the spring I cut out the old stems and suddenly the greenhouse looks empty. I am temporarily deluded into thinking there is space in there for other things as well. Like most delusions it is very comforting for a while but it takes more than a spring bonfire to keep reality at bay. The greenhouse is feeling the squeeze.
There is enormous confusion surrounding H. coccineum var angustifolium in cultivation. The epithet suggests narrow leaves but there are some rather broad leaved examples about. Now that 'Tara' has been recognised as a hybrid there doesn't seem to be a reliable distinction between the leaves of the remainder. There may be some difference in distribution that I have so far been unable to fathom (but I don't think so). My clone has good red flowers, and that is the reason it is worth growing. Perhaps if the crush in the greenhouse increases, the leaves will become thinner but more likely the structure will burst. It was built to withstand the external pressure of wind and gravity not internal expansion.


4th September 2016

Ochagavia carnea
Bromeliads are a constant worry to the gardener without heated space. There are so many of them that are more or less growable and so many more that are not. I have been looking at the number of Puya species that are being planted out around the county with a mixture of worry and wonder but why worry? They are easy enough from seed (after they get through the early slug-prone weeks). Some of them won't make it, but the process will be fun. In the spirit of adventure (and self-preservation) my P. berteroana went out in summer to all round benefit.
Ochagavia carnea is a bit hardier. It has grown well locally over decades so it was about time I put one out again. I lost the first in the winter of 1987 under a carpet of brambles. It sulked and died. This one will be weeded until that becomes unnecessary or too painful.
As with most of the hardy bromeliads, it prefers dry conditions and will then survive significant winter weather. Sharp radiation frost will burn the leaves but established plants recover rapidly.



4th September 2016

Solanum dulcamara 'Variegatum'
The Woody Nightshade has the sinister appeal of all poisonous plants and lurks in shady corners, spilling into the sunshine with toxic glee. I wouldn't normally let it get a foothold in the garden, but then it has this variegated form, and I am a sucker for variegates. It struggles a bit here, partly because it likes a warmer summer than I can easily arrange, but mostly because I forget to water it and it dries out. This spring I noticed that several years of neglect had failed to kill it, and moved it closer to the water supply. It has responded with a few flowers which will be followed by the poisonous red berries. I will remove them, because I don't want it seeding about.
If the top growth dies out it will regenerate from the roots, but they don't come variegated.
It is one more plant on the list of things I mean to propagate. At present there is so little growth that I would feel bad about cutting any off but perhaps next spring I will give it a try. I'm not sure why, I don't think I would ever feel happy giving one to anybody else although it sometimes appears in nursery lists.
I have a spare one of these, and I just thought of you? Strange you should mention it, but yes, really rather poisonous!