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JEARRARD'S HERBAL


23rd October 2016

Nerine bowdenii
A week of the most beautiful sunlight with autumn being very traditional. I swept the dew from the lawn on Friday morning so that I could mow it and inevitably I was delayed. By the time I got to it in late afternoon the dew was forming again as the temperatures dropped. The second job this morning was to light the fire. A dangerous process since the first job, to make a cup of coffee and wake up, was not yet complete.
This morning the wind has arrived and a cold chill lurks behind the doors in the house. It isn't really a draft it's more like a cold shadow on a sunny morning.
By contrast yesterday was glorious. I was in Devon in the early morning and I stopped on a little lane and walked into a field. The silence was astonishing. Nothing but the honk of a Raven flying overhead. The western end of Cornwall has become so noisy I had stopped noticing it. Even the Ravens that fly over the garden have to shout to be heard.
Nerine bowdenii has reached a peak, just before the first tepals fade and hang from the scapes like yesterdays spiders webs. The species was introduced to cultivation by Athelstan Cornish-Bowden, the first Surveyor-General of the Cape Colony in South Africa. He discovered the species in the Eastern Cape in 1898 and sent bulbs home to his mother. She gave some to the nurseryman Robert Veitch in Exeter and he distributed them widely. Reports from the time suggest the species was not common in the area and the bulbs were difficult to find. Last year a Nerine Society expedition to the area failed to find plants in the wild.
So yesterday I stood in a field, listened to a Raven, and then visited Athelstan Cornish-Bowdens great-neice, who still lives in one of the families homes and still grows her great-uncle's Nerine.
It was a very lovely day.


23rd October 2016

Colchicum autumnale 'Album'
I am lucky that I sleep well. It is one of lifes greatest joys yet seems to leave no trace and no memory. Particularly fortunate that I wasn't woken by the badger tearing holes in the ground beside the front door and knocking the pots over. I am fond of the badgers, I like to imagine they are eating slugs and vine weevil, so I ignore the damage they do. They have been digging up the Cyclamen I planted. Naughty little scamps.
Up at the top of the garden I planted Colchicum 'Waterlily', which has such heavy flowers it tends to flop over. I thought that the wind up there must have been particularly severe until I saw a badger actually sit on one. Walk right up to it and sit. Naughty naughty little scamp. A year ago I gathered up the Colchicum from a round the garden and planted them all under the trees. Something of a trial, I wanted to be sure it would work. Mostly 'Waterlily' with a few other things mixed in. This year I put in a mass of 'Waterlily' to carpet the ground in autumn. There will be occasional oddities come up among them, but I can live with that. Colchicum autumnale 'Album' comes into that group. Not intended but not unwelcome. Flowering a couple of weeks after the peak of 'Waterlily', I wouldn't object to a second wave of white flowers for the end of the month.


23rd October 2016

Fuchsia 'Chilli Red'
I am not difficult to persuade that a new Fuchsia species is worth a try. So much the better if it might be hardy. Modern Fuchsia cultivars are another matter. I have nothing against them. They are a great asset to the garden but I have grown so many I'm not sure I need any more. Most modern cultivars could have been bred as easily in 1916 as 2016 so to my mind they are a century behind the times when they are introduced , which is not a good start. Fortunately a few breeders have been using odd species to get odd effects. The aubergine gene is a good example, introduced from the New Zealand species in the search for yellow flowers, there are a mass of new cultivars with strange purple flowers. 'Roesse Blacky' was probably the first to get widespread acclaim, and last year I bought 'Dying Embers' from a Fuchsia nursery at a show. Probably the dreariest colour they had. Probably the only one they sold.
And then I had to have 'Chilli Red'. Sold on the ridiculous premise that the buds look like Chillies (just like the buds of every other red Fuchsia). Of course the clue is in the name - advertising copy writers take note. Red like a Chilli. However, the colour is not what matters. I haven't been able to find out who bred it, but perhaps it was derived from crosses with F. apetala.
Lawks, Ma. He's not wearing any knickers!



23rd October 2016

Stenoglottis longifolia
It is easy to think I have seen it all before when looking at Fuchsia cultivars. I might lift an occasional Scotsman's kilt but for the most part, no surprises. Returning to South African plants takes me to the other extreme. Seemingly an endless parade of the unfamiliar. Years ago I discovered the delights of Lachenalia aloides, so ridiculously easy to grow I couldn't understand why it wasn't on every windowsill. Then I met Stenoglottis, an orchid to fill the same niche. Neither is common even now and I don't understand it. Perhaps being dormant in summer confuses people , though in the case of Stenoglottis the dormancy barely lasts a fortnight.
The genus occurs throughout South Africa and north to Tanzania. There are many slight variations and a handful of species, the exact number is still a matter of opinion. This is S. longifolia as I knew it as a teenager. I have another, similar but with a darker flower that I once knew as S. fimbriata though it doesn't match pictures of the species. Under any guise, they are easy orchids for the autumn kept just frost free in a well drained mix.
It is an easy and tolerant orchid. I have a few that are less forgiving. The cold wind reminds me that it is time they came back indoors for the winter, which will occupy me this afternoon.