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JEARRARD'S HERBAL


11th June 2017

Beschorneria tubiflora
I am happy that it rained all week. Light drizzle that thickened the air every time I formulated a plan. I'll just go and weed the ... have another cup of coffee until it clears. I am happy. The water tanks are full, the ground is moist. All the things I have recklessly planted out in the last few weeks look as though they will survive. It is all very satisfactory and it has been very frustrating. Nothing much has been done and the weeds have taken over. The mower arrived back from being repaired and no sooner was it unloaded than I leapt abord and started a circumnavigation of the paths. I got about half way before the drizzle soaked the grass enough to block up the blade. The other half will have to wait for another day.
In the end I abandoned the garden for the week and retreated to the greenhouse. The Sarracenia have been spaced out and rearranged. The layout looks much better, the plants look slightly worse. The new growth is just maturing and it isn't their strongest moment.
I am putting off weeding in the Agave house. It is a painful, prickly job but it will have to be done this week. Beschorneria tubiflora surprised me by bursting into a shower of green flowers. The spike has been elongating for a month now, but I thought I would have to wait for another few weeks. With laudable precision it has stopped just short of the roof which is more than I can say for B. calcicola. I have two plants raised from seed that I have been growing for decades. The idea that they might flower never crossed my mind so they were tucked in under the sloping section of the roof. With only a few feet of headroom the first plant has hit the roof and travelled along the slope in a twisted and distorted surge of frustrated vigour.
I should have anticipated problems, but the future always seems so much further away than the past.


11th June 2017

Crinodendron hookerianum
Crinodendron hookerianum is a lovely thing. Endemic to Chile where it grows in humid and shady places (according to Wikipedia). It has adapted well to life in Cornwall. I often see it in gardens in humid and shady places where it can be a little sparse and twiggy. I grow it in the open and cut it back hard if it tries to straggle. The result is a dense evergreen shrub covered in red flowers. It is said to grow to 8m tall but I have never seen it much more than half that. Perhaps that is an accident of gardens. I have very little forethought when I am planting (as I think I have established) and it is rare for things to survive for much more than a decade without being in the wrong place. My first Crinodendron were planted beside a path that changed course as they reached 2m tall. They were dug up and planted in the front of the house where they were magnificent until they reached the first floor windows and cut out all the light. I seriously considered digging them up again but it looked like a lot of work so they came out. This is the new one just ten years old but already a large shrub. It grows by the side of the road, and I am wondering if it has brittle branches? I don't remember them breaking easily, but will it shed limbs onto passers-by?
I have decided not to care. Given another decade it will grow to full size and threaten the entire neighbouhood if it chooses. That is a long way away.


11th June

Disa sagittalis
I get very timid when it comes to changing things that are familiar. I need to be more in touch with my inner maniac. I have no trouble with established trees, I chop them down on a whim, but somehow the thought that I might harm one of the lovely little fluffy things paralyses me.
I have been growing Disa sagittalis in the same wet conditions as the red hybrids for years. It flowers regularly but it never looks quite right. A little part of me knows that it is far too wet but I am terrified of change. What happens if I am wrong? No Disa sagitalis - intolerable grief - it's a camp catastrophe played out in front of its baleful and accusatory scarlet companions.
Habitat messages from the Eastern Cape are confused. Found growing among rocks along streams. Does that mean wet or dry? This year my smaller plant died down early looking unhappy, so I repotted it into a gritty mix and moved it to the Alpine house. As expected it continued to die down. One of those situations where I was never going to learn anything useful until the new growing season. In the meantime my second plant is looking weaker than previous years rather than stronger. Time to bite the bullet. If it dies I can always ... sulk.
I have seen it grown in a gritty mix at an AGS show, and it was looking much happier than my plant so I expect it will work. There is always the possibility that at the end of the show the exhibitor eases it from the display pot and plunges it back into the welcoming arms of Sphagnum but I have moved it on. A few weeks later and I think the flower stem looks stronger, the flowers are perkier. Something indefinable is better. Rocks along streams, emphasis on rocks not streams.
If the new growth doesn't appear in September prepare for dramatic scenes.



11th June 2017

Rhodohypoxis 'Albrighton'
I have followed the reverse path with Rhodohypoxis. Tender South African bulbs from the dry lands, I started by keeping them in the greenhouse and worrying in the winter. They didn't do very well and I started wondering why I was growing these tiny, shy-flowering scraps of vegetable confetti. In one of the periodic rearrangements they were all put into a deep gravel tray and stood in the garden "while I sort out a suitable space". There they remained all winter, flooded up to their necks and frozen into a solid block of ice on more than one occasion.
I noted that it was happening, with a sense of mild relief. That solves the problem at least. In recent years I have toughened up and just get rid of things that have had their day, but back then I had more fragile self-delusions. Spring arrived and the Rhodohypoxis bloomed like never before. I learned the important lesson that in habitat soils may appear dry at the surface but have water reserves lower down, especially where sand and mineral soils overlie impermeable rock. Or, less verbosely, I learned to keep them wet. Now they stand in an inch or two of water all year round and seed so freely that some of the cultivars have been lost in a pink vortex of variability.
'Albrighton' seems to be safe. All the flowers are the same shade of confectioners pink, but there are others with names that have become meaningless. I have started to enjoy the patchwork of rosy incomprehension in the collection but I don't need any more. When offered come of the newest cultivars I was reminded of the National Collection holders complaint that the new cultivars looked just like the old ones.
The past and the future all muddled up, and the lawn still needs mowing.