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JEARRARD'S HERBAL


27th November 2016

Lysionotus sp. Vietnam
The garden has been lovely this week, but the greenhouse has been lovelier. The garden has been fresh, bracing, soft and misty. Delightful attributes, but the greenhouse has been warm and snug. Insulated from the hubbub of the outside world, it has been like a dreamy trek through an exotic forest. Dreamy, because it isn't a real landscape. If the plants don't alert you to the artificiality of the scene, the pots are a strong hint. Forest, because things are a little larger than is ideal. I really must plant more stuff out. The pressure is building.
I was given cuttings of this Lysionotus in spring. The original plant was collected in north Vietnam but I haven't managed to track down a species name. Things in cultivation never seem to match descriptions very well which I find pleasantly anarchic as I squeeze along the concrete path of my dreams. It comes easily from cuttings so the only reason for keeping it indoors is the pleasure it brings in November, unrocked by gales. Screw your courage to the sticking place, I guess.
I went to a meeting of Devon Plant Heritage yesterday. Devon's real plant heritage is the collection of (often) elderly people assembled. A wonderful group who picked their way carefully through the dangerous delights of a buffet lunch. They were having exactly the same thought, though they might have phrased it differently. Shit or bust.


27th November 2016

Nerine undulata
If you scattered a packet of licorice allsorts over a map of the Eastern Cape you would have a reasonable representation of the distribution of Nerine undulata and its remarkable variability. It have no special reason for being fond of the plant, I just am. Late in the autumn it gives a bright display but you could say the same about Guy Fawkes Night and I'm not really fond of that. Early in my horticultural career I had a big pot of it, and I have it still. I have started to become obsessed by its many variations. Forms occur with narrow or wide tepals, tall or short scapes and pink or white flowers. There is significant confusion of wild forms and selected horticultural clones. I had a lovely one appear this year in a bag of Dutch bulbs of N. bowdenii. So pale it is almost white with just a blush of pink where the innocence had gone.
If I want pure white (and I do) I have to grow 'Flexuosa Alba'. I was sure that plants in cultivation were a single clone and I was fairly sure that it produced parthenogenic seeds (without pollination) so I carefully self-pollinated a plant to see what happened. I was expecting pure white flowers, possibly showing some variation in shape or size. I was not expecting this pale pink form. Perhaps a bee with a sense of humour brought in some stray pollen to confuse me. Everything except the colour is right, and I like it.


27th November 2016

Nerine x versicolor Manselli Group
As the main wave of N. sarniensis cultivars fades away there are a few late cultivars that start to produce spikes. Most of them carry genes from the later flowering N. undulata and most of them are pink. The many and varied hybrid Nerine are only just being understood. For many decades thay have been hidden among the N. sarniensis forms. At present it looks as though N. x versicolor is the correct name for the hybrids between N. sarniensis and N. undulata. They tend to have smaller flowers but usually more than twelve of them in the head. They come in shades of pink and the flowers are slightly zygomorphic - the lower two tepals splay out slightly more widely than the rest.
The first of these forms was 'Manselli', a plant registered in 1875 by J. L. Mansell. He crossed what we now call N. sarniensis (he called it N. curvifolia) with the form of N. undulata we now know as 'Flexuosa' (he treated it as a species). The result was a bright rose, late flowering hybrid. I would love to think that my plant was the original clone, but it seems unlikely. I am sure that the cross has been repeated many times since , and it is best to call them the Manselli Group. Excellent plants. I think they are tougher than the sarniensis cultivars, and they stay in leaf for longer in summer.



27th November 2016

Petrocosmea flaccida
I can't explain my relationship with gesneriads. It is like finding a gingerbread house in the dark woods. There is a fascination, an attraction and a warning all rolled together. Those who immerse themselves in gesneriads are never seen again. They form little covens and mutter to each other about the spectrum of LED lights and the dire consequences of coir. Don't get me wrong, I have heard the siren song and it isn't impossible that I will eventually spend my dotage surrounded by endless racks of African Violets and incomprehensible light fittings, muttering dark incantations against salt accumulation. Petrocosmea are a warning to me. I know they would be happier with some heat and supplimentary light, but it isn't going to happen. They will grow with the alpines, or they won't.
P. flaccida was described in 1919. It had been found in southwestern Sichuan and adjacent Yunnan, growing among rocks between 2000 - 3000m above sea level. It has been one of the easier species to grow here, producing offsets freely after flowering. It looks enough like an African Violet to keep the lunacy at bay for now.
The nights have closed in. I was pollinating Nerine until it was too dark to see the anthers and I can't even guess what I've done. Fumbling in the dark still has its attractions, so perhaps I'm safe from gesneriads for a while yet.