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JEARRARD'S HERBAL


30th October 2016

Camellia sasanqua 'Rainbow'
October has held on to autumn weather without feeling the need to remind me that winter is on the way. A chill in the morning has prompted me to move the Cymbidium back inside. Inevitably things in pots get moved out of the greenhouse in summer. Hedychium 'Borneo Dwarf' is a typical example, stood just outside the door when I took down the bench it was standing on. The name suggests it will not be very hardy, but I have had it for a long time and it keeps getting bigger. Perhaps it comes from the (so far undiscovered) Arctic Zone in Borneo or alternatively it might be wrongly named. I have never yet flowered it, and that usually means H. flavescens. Perhaps this year it will finally have to take its chances outside - I can't think of anywhere elso to put it.
The first of the Camellia are flowering, though this is the second. A fortnight ago the first flower lasted barely a day in a spell of warm weather and I didn't get a picture. I found the fallen petals on the path one evening. The Autumn Camellias are like the Autumn Snowdrops, a delicate hint of things to come. They manage to link the last sunshine of autumn with the bright light of spring and tactfully overlook the potential for a bleak freeze in between. Just the sort of optimism that keeps the garden going.
Blind optimism however must be put aside. I need to identify all the pots that must be protected, and that is a sharp-eyed job for the next week.


30th October 2016

Fascicularia bicolor ssp. canaliculata
It has occasionally been suggested that I can get a little carried away. There is perhaps the kindest hint of criticism, a whiff of benign disapproval. I take note, even if I do nothing about it. I am aware that the road to lunacy is marked by milestones of social concern. My Fascicularia madness is a small thing, like forgetting a friends name or putting the cornflakes in the fridge. Fascicularia are compact and well behaved in the garden, the consequences are always going to be trivial. Among the various Persicarias I have done much worse things.
So it seems perfectly reasonable to me that I should obtain any new Fascicularia I run into. In the currently accepted taxonomy, that means just the one species with two subspecies. Not much variation to collect you might think, but the plant is variable in the wild and was previously split into six species. Even the division into two subspecies has been questioned but there are several different clones in cultivation. The plant that was known as F. pitcairnifolia has flowers in a ball shaped head on a long stalk rather than tucked into the rosette - at least it does in some manifestations.
This is the form with the darkest blue flowers I have found (and so I am looking for one even darker). I have another with flowers that are almost white and upright rosettes of flaming orange. There is one with leaves so soft you could sit on it and not swear. I haven't tried it, that would pass another milestone.


30th October 2016

Nerine gaberonensis
A small growing species from the Northern Cape and southeastern Botswana. It produces thread-like leaves in summer, abundant flower in autumn, and remains dormant through the winter. It has just the characteristics needed in a hardy Nerine though its northerly distribution suggests it might be tender and the Hardy Nerine study day came to the conclusion that it was "definitely not hardy in the UK".
I have been anxious about it for a couple of years (expecting it to die in winter but not actually doing anything about it) but it has come through and is flowering for a second year. I bought a potful of young seedlings a couple of years ago and suddenly they have decided to produce 27 flower spikes. For a small flowered species it is making a good display.
I have emasculated the flowers and if I were sensible (I think we have covered that ground already) I would cross it with N. bowdenii and look for tougher progeny. In fact I am going to cross it with N. sarniensis and hope for small, hardy orange offspring. It's a long shot but not entirely insane.



30th October 2016

Watsonia hysterantha
Watsonia hysterantha is a dwarf species with a limited distribution along the west coast of the Cape where it grows in deep cracks in granite outcrops. Plantzafrica.com uses the delightful phrase "that provide effective protection from ravenous moles and porcupines". I am keeping careful watch. I am not aware of problems with porcupines, but I have had trouble with moles - mostly of the lawn-digging-up variety. As an aside, I was told that moles could be deterred by pushing Marshmallows down their holes. It sounds like madness but they seem to have gone.
The Watsonia has a strange growth cycle. The flower spikes come up in autumn without foliage. In spring the new fans of leaves are produced which die down at the end of summer and then there is a gap before the new flowers appear. The plant has adapted to seasonally dry conditions and is said not to tolerate being moist when dormant.
In April 2005 I sowed a lot of seed of Watsonia from South Africa. In August they were pricked out and W. hysterantha was moved into the bulb house to keep it dry. Eleven years passed (and I remember very little about them) and suddenly I have flowers. The excitement has been like watching the launch of one of the Apollo moon missions. Events seem to unfold in slow motion, dressed in anxious anticipation. I have been watching the buds for days hoping the rocket (tepals) would separate successfully. Well, here it is. Very satisfying even if it isn't rocket science.
Watsonias one: Porcupines nil.