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JEARRARD'S HERBAL


18th September 2016

Pelargonium fulgidum
Autumn is a time of froth, part steaming cappuccino part ocean spume. The sunshine has been warm enough to bask in but the greenhouse hasn't been stifling, and the thunderstorm has been monumental. I was woken up as the storm passed directly over the house. I went downstairs to open the front door and look at it. A solid block of water was falling to the ground, so I closed the front door and went back to bed. A situation in which any action, inaction, admiration or objection was equally irrelevant. I fell asleep immediately, comforted in the arms of my insignificance. By the time I got up the sun was shining and the only indication a storm had passed was the strand line of debris running along the garden path.
The Agave House was still there when I went to check. Pelargonium fulgidum lurks in deferred splendour through the summer. It trembles on the brink of anihilation by a sharp frost but it persists. Slower to get going than usual this year, it has suddenly burst into scarlet fireworks. It comes from the winter rainfall areas on the west coast of South Africa, and perhaps that is why it tolerates the Agave House, where it is never watered but occasionally floods in winter.


18th September 2016

Bouvardia ternifolia
Next to the Pelargonium I grow Bouvardia ternifolia with similar winter worries and proving to be similarly hardy. They both get damaged in winter, are slow to recover but finally manage a decent show of flowers as the year winds towards a close. It is widespread in Mexico and ranges up as far as New Mexico and Texas so it will cope with cold winters, but it needs hot summers to compensate. In the propagation house it would prosper I am sure. The temperature soars when the sun comes out. In the Agave House it is getting larger very slowly. In the dull summer weather outside it would be dead at the end of the first year. There have been introductions of the species from high altitudes in Mexico, in the search for greater hardiness but I don't think it has made any difference. It isn't the winter that is the problem, it's the summer. I would like to think that it might succeed in the eastern counties, but I have never seen it in a garden there either. No amount of Taco takeaways will make it Mexico.


18th September 2016

Fuchsia 'Bronze Banks Peninsula'
If you talk to friends, filled as they may be by the wonders of plant life, you will recognise the moment when their eyes glaze over and their voices become lifeless. That moment when people lose interest in something you cherish. I reqularly get it with the Sarracenia. People find it hard to see beyond the stupid sensationalism. With Fuchsia it is harder to understand but just as deeply engrained. Mention a Fuchsia, however wonderful, and people imagine double pink baubles tended by sunburnt middle aged men with Black Forest Gateau personalities. The lights go off with a snore.
It's a pity. Fuchsia are wonderful. 'Bronze Banks Peninsula' has bronze foliage and came from Banks Peninsula, a tiny volcanic spot on the east face of South Island, New Zealand. It was introduced by Graham Hutchins and when I asked him what species he thought it was, he said he wasn't sure, it didn't quite fit. Now, when Graham said that, you knew you were looking at something rather unusual. I assumed it would flower in spring like the other New Zealand species, I have no idea why it has chosen September but it is fittingly autumnal.



18th September 2016

Cyclamen hederifolium Red
Cyclamen tubers are fascinating. I am aware of it without really understanding. They aren't like Crocus, swollen little receptacles of spring glee. They are darker, more sombre like haute couture beetroots. Last weekend I planted a lot of them, straight from the bulb merchant. The rabbits scratched them up again, I planted them again, and the process is continuing. It's like painting the Forth Bridge but without the paint, or the Forth Bridge. Plenty of time to wonder why they are so fascinating. I remember them as a schoolboy in wooden crates in the nurseries. Too brown to be alive, too round to be mud and just occasionally with wandering buds from improbable places. Tiny alien space ships beyond my understanding. I'm not so fond of the slick modern ones, seed grown in their potted perfection. The are just plants.
But suddenly there were red ones. They appeared in a single leap of colour, there was no slow darkening of the pink. They say the Florists Cyclamen developed in the same way, each new colour break appearing unexpectedly and then being fixed. Perhaps this is the first step in the development of bright multicoloured Cyclamen hederifolium.
I like it. I bought a handful of them last year they were so good. I am still impressed, but they will be forgotten.
Because last week I planted a fleet of tiny space ships, and when the aliens flower it will feel like skipping through the Universe.