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JEARRARD'S HERBAL


18th December 2016

Galanthus elwesii 'November Flowering'
Time is my friend. Timing, on the other hand, seems to chase me through the day like a hungry wolf. This week the rain has arrived every time I start something and then stopped the moment I stopped. On the good side, the coffee breaks have been spectacular.
Galanthus elwesii 'November Flowering' is a selection from Bob Brown. It isn't really a cultivar name, just a description. I watched the nose pushing upwards through November when I was yearning for snowdrops. It didn't come. On the first of December it opened with impish precision, making merry of my foolishness. I have had to wait a fortnight for a day with enough sun to spread the tepals, and this picture was taken in a hurry, between "epiosodes" of winter. Low light levels are becoming a bit tiresome. I took three pictures and only one of them is in focus. Sometimes it is the camera struggling, sometimes it is the photographer. I can't wait for the solstice and the promise of longer days. If I walk into a shadow for a moment my body is convinced it is night and I start to feel drowsy. Close one eye to look through a viewfinder and the other snaps shut as well. The camera does its best to compensate for a snoring photographer but it is stretching "automatic" to the limit.


18th December 2016

Camellia 'Show Girl'
At this time of year the garden is slowing down, the pace of change becomes a stagger and then for a moment the garden sits on a park bench. That quiet moment between breathing out and breathing in. We aren't there yet, it will be one of the magical moments of January, but things are slowing.
Several groups of spring plants send advance guards into autumn to reconnoitre. Snowdrops and daffodils do the job with panache, but camellias seem to get the timing wrong. They start with C. sasanqua in October and it's just too soon. Summer is still shedding petals when they join it, like decorating a trifle that hasn't quite set. All mournful and droopy with the wrong timing.
I'm not very successful with C. sasanqua and I think it's because I am not very motivated. 'Show Girl' is another matter, getting the timing exactly right. The first flowers opened this week with the garden at its greyest and really needing a big pink blancmange to quiver seductively in the undergrowth. I was expecting it, the pointed buds had started to colour last week, but the large pink blobs still set my heart racing when I saw them. Do you know the way you avoid looking too closely in case it isn't true? Like catching a friends eye from 100 yards away and then having to look at the pavement for 85 of them to soften the awkwardness of not being able to speak. I sidled coyly up to 'Show Girl' and then beamed a greeting. Most wonderful old friend, so close I can express it.


18th December 2016

Hamamelis mollis
Sludge from the sky has darkened the season, but it is warm sludge. We had three frosty nights at the end of November, but none since. Perhaps we will get through into the New Year, perhaps not. The weather is unstable and that is a good thing. Three frosty nights didn't seem enough to trigger the winter flowers but a day or two later Viburnum x bodnantense was producing the best show I have seen for years. The Hamamelis branches were festooned with their brown flower buds, clustered around the leaf axils like sleeping dormice. I had been watching them ranked in their winter discipline. Not yet, not yet. There is always one that can't wait, flinging its arms wide from the bed and bursting into song. You can almost hear the buds around it tut-tutting. Not yet, not yet. A cold snap gives the signal and they burst in a single fanfare. I didn't think our cold snap was enough, but I was wrong. The branches of Hamamelis mollis are festooned with synchronised swimmers, two most unlikely sights. The hybrid cultivars are following along, odd flashes of colour on the branches hint at things to come, but they are still biding their time. Perhaps another cold night. Yesterday the garden was full of Redwings, pushed south by bad weather. It may be a portent of things to come.
These are the flowers of the quietest moments in the garden, caught between autumn and spring. Rigid crystalline stillness. They are preparing for January.



18th December 2016

Nerine (bowdenii x undulata)
Nerine flowers surge through October and November like an angry tide of colour snapping at the rocks. It is overwhelming and chaotic. I love it. I can understand why people stand by the shore as the storm rages, impotent, terrified and mesmerised. As November ends the storm abates and it is possible to see the patterns in events. The last flowers of the season are always supplied by N. undulata and its hybrids. As the colour was subsiding I was able to pick out the hybrids between N. undulata and N. sarniensis. Tall with compact flower heads, many florets and pink. They have lost the scarlet and orange shades. The individual florets are zygomorphic, not quite rounded, legs mildly akimbo.
I started to look for N. undulata x N. bowdenii hybrids among the collection. Tall, late, smaller flowers. I have a few plants that fit the description. I should make the hybrid this year and confirm its appearance. And while I was wondering, this pot flowered, tall, late and small. The label says N. (bowdenii x undulata) 2009.
The last time I was wondering what the hybrid looked like, I clearly did something about it. Time is my friend. Perhaps timing as well.