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JEARRARD'S HERBAL


8th January 2017

Camellia 'Preston Rose'
I had a list of things to do over the Christmas break. Even as I drew it up I knew there wasn't going to be enough time, but I had a cunning plan. If I spent a single day on each of the tasks, then at least everything would have moved forward a bit. The weather has been kind, dry and occasionally sunny, so I set to work with enthusiasm clearing a space in the garden for the Aspidistra. It's a job I have been meaning to get to for two years now, so it didn't seem unreasonable to make a start. Having started the problem was stopping. I ended up spending a week on it and nothing else got done. The cunning plan didn't last long.
That is often the fate of memory as well. When I planted Camellia 'Preston Rose' I remember thinking that I should get a big name tag and hang it on the branches. It didn't happen so the name was lost until I moved the plant about ten years ago, when I discovered the label buried under the root ball. Suddenly I had its name again, and it immediately became more precious to me. Now I have started to look for it in flower as spring arrives, but still this early bloom caught me by surprise.
As I become forgetful hopefully someone will buy me a spade. Most of my memory is engraved on plastic and buried beneath my feet. I have to dig deep for it.


8th January 2017

Galanthus 'Reverend Hailstone'
Thursday was cold and misty. 'Reverend Hailstone' hung from the stalks like icy droplets. Friday was warm and misty and it opened. When I bought it I had hardly any early snowdrops and this was a sensation, opening at the start of January when there was nothing else to do but chop firewood and eat stale Christmas cake. Since then it has grown into a decent clump and now makes a good show. Unfortunately in the intervening years I have concentrated on early snowdrops and now there are a dozen or more cultivars around it that open earlier. It has lost its seasonal advantage but retained all of the charm that it had.
At one time I relied on 'Moccas' for the first flowers of the spring. From mid-December I would scan the ground inch by inch looking for the first shoots to appear. This year I passed by the clump without pause until the first bud started to show. It will be open soon but there won't be a fanfare as it arrives. I will pause as I pass, think fondly of it and then move on. In my enthusiasm for early snowdrops my attention has already shifted to the autumn forms, constantly pushing the season backwards. In another decade I will have pushed through the summer barrier and started to champion the last flowers of May as the start of a new Spring season. Perhaps if I describe the snowdrop season as circular then the geometric perfection of that idea will conceal the truth. The snowdrop season is insane.


8th January 2017

Narcissus papyraceus 'Paperwhite Grandiflora'
Just as I look for earlier snowdrops, so I have been collecting early daffodils. I delight in flowers during the darkest days of winter. I love to see a chink of spring shining through the gloom. There are plenty of Narcissus prepared to give it a go during winter, but they come from the Mediterraneam coast, south if we are talking about Europe, and north in Africa. They are not reliably hardy in the garden but I am convinced they will grow in a cold greenhouse along with the Nerine.
N. papyraceus is easly available for forcing in the autumn so I planted a tub in the Agave house and waited for the magnificent spectacle to begin. I have waited for a few years now but finally I have a reasonable show of flowers (they were planted during the recent 'bad' winters, and took a lot of damage).
There are a number of cultivar names wandering around. I should really grow them side by side one year to see if there is any difference. My impression is that the species is variable and the named cultivars offer little distinction but perhaps I have just grown cynical. For the moment I am going to refer to mine as 'Paperwhite Grandiflora'. As a cultivar name it is probably indefensible but that's what they were labelled when I got them!



8th January 2017

Dermatobotrys saundersii
The earliest of the spring flowers come at that time of the autumn when I most need encouraging. Cold weather looms in the forecasts and it is time to bring things in and protect them for the year. A few floral flashes of optimism leaven the physical exertion of carrying pots about. It is the time when memory is most valuable and most fleeting. It is amazing how rapidly I forget the effect of a really cold year. An icy morning is a timely reminder.
Dermatobotrys saundersii is a case in point. I have killed it before by leaving it in the greenhouse through a bad winter. It is one of the (mercifully few) things that come indoors "just in case". I haven't done it yet. I looked at the pot, and the long walk uphill to the house and motivation deserted me. I don't have a spare, so I should make more effort. Perhaps as I am carrying the Aspidistras up to their new garden I will tuck the Dermatobotrys into the barrow as well. That would be a good plan, though no guarantee of success given my history with good plans.
Dermatobotrys is a small shrublet from South Africa and although it comes from the warmer northern regions, it might also do well growing with the Nerine. Next year I will root a cutting and give it a try. Memory permitting.