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JEARRARD'S HERBAL


1st January 2017

Camellia Nobilissima'
The end of the year arrived in a rush. Suddenly there were bells bonging and fireworks popping. It had been a quiet week, nothing much seemed to change, but the mild weather continued and winter flowers have inevitably followed.
Last week I walked along a line of Camellia hoping to see a flash of colour, perhaps an early flower among the buds but there was nothing. This week flowers have opened all along the row. The first of them was 'Nobilissima' and now there is a good sprinkling of flowers over the bush. This is the best time, before frost or old age browns the flowers. Now they are pristine, if only for a moment. I have them underplanted with snowdrops so I was treading cautiously when I took the picture. The green tipped buds are just showing above the ground. I think they are still a couple of weeks from opening.
There are plenty of earlier snowdrops in a garden on the west side of the Camellia but they need a sunny day to open properly. We haven't had the fog that much of the country has experienced in the week, but there have been some mists, and every morning there is a heavy dew on the ground. I tried to do some weeding, but it was impossible so I cut down an Elaeagnus instead. It was in full flower and I had hoped to be wrapped in its perfume as I dragged the branches away to be burnt. Not a bit of it, all I can smell is the local fox who has used it to mark his territory. He won't feel quite so secure tonight.


1st January 2017

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Jelena'
A couple of cold nights at the start of December were enough to start the buds of the Hamamelis moving. 'Jelena' has been growing strongly and produced plenty of flower buds but once again it has held on to a lot of the autumn leaves. They are wet and they cling to the stems. I had hoped that a good shake would dislodge them but all I got for my efforts was a shower of water droplets.
'Jelena' is the closest to orange of any of the hybrids that I have seen, but it isn't a bright colour. The more red in these hybrids the less impressive they become in the garden. I have a plant of 'Ruby Glow' that looks wonderful if I am standing in the border behind it looking out to the horizon on a misty day. Under any other conditions it is pointless, the unscented flowers are invisible against a green or brown background. 'Jelena' manages to supply her own dull brown background. I keep planting new cultivars, because I like variety (and I don't like spending cash on things I already have) but the border would have looked better if I had used H. mollis throughout. It would have smelt better as well, because the hybrids promise a lot more than they deliver.
It's a New Year and I like to think it is time to learn from old mistakes, but there are some dull unscented cultivars available with lilac flowers and I know that if I see them, I will plant them (and moan about it).


1st January 2017

Helleborus x hybridus 'Early Purple'
When I was young, and being full of beans meant that I was enthusiastic not that I was about to fart like a bloated sheep, I collected together a number of Hellebores. One that impressed me at the time was H. atrorubens (Hort). Everybody accepted that it wasn't quite the same as the plant in the wild, but nobody wanted to rock the boat (if you are full of beans, a rocking boat is a mistake). It had purple flowers on short stems in January, preceeding the typical H. x hybridus by a couple of weeks. This was in the days before breeders set to work on the hybrids, and changed them out of all recognition. By the time I moved gardens, better hybrids were becoming available so I left H. atrorubens behind, which was sensible.
It is particularly clear today that time passes and nostalgia takes hold. Should old acquaintance be forgot? Abandoned perhaps, but not forgotten. When H. atrorubens (Hort) re-appeared on the market under its new and more believable name, H. x hybridus 'Early Purple' I was happy to replace it. It's early and purple and not particularly good but it is nice to have it again. Nice, but rather embarrasing. I'm still full of beans, but also slightly sheepish.



1st January 2017

Prinsepia utilis
Happy New Year, by the way. New things in the winter garden are few and far between. A couple of years ago I was walking through the woodland garden at Wisley and saw a small, white flowered shrub that I didn't recognise. Wisley is a good place to find new things, so I wasn't surprised, just intrigued. Up close it was a sparse prickly shrub with the look of a Poncirus about it. Fortunately Wisley has labels for all the new things, so I learned it was Prinsepia utilis.
A Himalayan shrub said to be rather vigorous, last year I was given a rooted cutting, and it has certainly grown away well. I was surprised to find it in flower this morning and glad that I label everything so obsessively. Lets just say that the name didn't return to the memory by itself.
I spent yesterday afternoon clearing Ivy from a Hawthorn. The tree has become heavy and evergreen and obscures a vista. I have taken a lot of the ivy away, but I have started to wonder if I need the Hawthorn? If it came out, I would have just the place for a Prinsepia, right on the corner as I walk up to see the snowdrops. It can certainly wait until tomorrow, and probably a lot longer than that.
Before I start on a new tree, it might be an idea to remove the Leyland that almost fell over in the wind. I don't understand how a tree can half fall over, but it has managed it. I have a feeling that the last bit of falling will happen at the most inconvenient time unless I step in and force the issue. Already a program of works for the year has started to assemble itself.