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JEARRARD'S HERBAL


6th August 2017

Habranthus robustus
I have been taking great pleasure lately from sitting in an ecomonical, flexible and probably not very robust chair on the south of the house, looking at the distant valley side. We have had enough rain to make it wet every morning, and enough sun to keep it dry through the day. Perfect weather. From a seated position it is easy to see the places where the views must be cleared of clutter. After a while the enegy necessary also arrives. It is a good spot.
Unfortunately it is backed by a 10m south wall with nothing growing on it. Planting in the imagination is a great joy and I have started to assemble the plants. Before long there will be no space and the pleasure of planning will be lost. On the optimistic side, the plants I am imagining are so tender I'm sure I will have to do it all again next year.
Habranthus robustus is one candidate. It might grow against the wall and occupy no space at all among the roots of a shrub. I have several different strains of it all of which arrived under speculative names. This might be a good way of quietly getting rid of them again.
It is a native of Brazil and Argentina where it flowers after heavy rains. This one came from Brazil, the seed labelled "Hippeastrum sp.". It would appreciate the warmth of the wall, but probably not the dryness.


6th August 2017

Eryngium pandanifolium 'Physic Purple'
Eryngium suffer here from too much rain, not enough sun and an abundance of hungry rabbits. I have tried to solve those problems by growing them in tall tubs in full sun. Well drained and too high for the rabbits to reach. Last year E. 'Neptune's Gold' did quite well (a genus that specialises in blue and I pick the yellow one - I don't understand it either) but this year it has regrown poorly.
Fortunately the South American species are more tolerant of moisture and those that are hardy here grow vigorously. E. pandanifolium is another species from Brazil and Argentina. I had some initial doubts about its hardiness here because it doesn't appear in local gardens but I think it is just too big to be convenient. The selection 'Physic Purple' came from the Chelsea Physic Garden and has slightly more glaucous leaves and distinctly purple tinged flowers.
When I planted it I wanted a strong accent plant and it has done the job admirably. Before long I am going to want a much smaller not-blocking-the-path plant and it will be moved. The rosette clumps seem to withstand being chopped into sections in the winter so I plan to move it into the herbaceous border in early spring. The ordinary green one should probably go as well or I will be repeating the operation next year.


6th August 2017

Persicaria amplexicaulis 'Atrosanguinea'
There may well be a ghost in the machine, but I don't think it is me. I am more of a passenger. I find out the destination after we have taken the turning. As a passenger I can appreciate the countryside and watch the glorious summer colour of Persicaria amplexicaulis. I don't need to look, I can tell you that I bought 'Atrosanguinea' in 1982 and it has hung on in the garden ever since, waxing and waning. Typically for a Persicaria, a lot of that time has been waxing.
I have been collecting together variations in the species. The colour ranges from white and pink through salmon, almost orange, red, mulberry and almost purple. 'Atrosanguinea' is still a favourite. I like the rich colour and I value its determination to prosper. It fills the border with a sense of reliability.
As a passenger I have noted the countryside around me changing. Last year I pounced on a new cultivar like a hungry tiger onto Dionne Warwick. This year I have just seen 'Pendula' and 'Pink Elephant' but walked on by. Perhaps it is a real change, perhaps we are just going uphill. More likely I already have too many that need to be planted and it is easier to leave it for another day.
Just like the south wall, the herbaceous border is being restructured in my head. In that safe and work free environment I can be bold and ruthless. Whatever happens, 'Atrosanguinea' will remain, bright, quiet and very determined.



6th August 2017

Zephyranthes rosea
It has been the week for wrongly named pink trumpets. I am amused that this one came to me as Habranthus robustus and it isn't. The question of its true identity is less easily solved, though I have no doubt that it is a Zephyranthes and I favour Z. rosea over Z. minuta. Not because I can distinguish the two ideas, just because Z. rosea is more familiar.
I watered the greenhouse heavily a week ago, and now I have blooms on all the rain lilies. It isn't a surprise but I should take advantage of this floral clarity. Those with flowers stay, those without should go. There is no point in keeping pots of compost in the hope that one day something interesting will emerge, it isn't going to happen.
Z. rosea comes originally from Peru and Columbia though it has spread around the world and can be found wherever conditions suit it. Just like the Persicaria I have grown it for a very long time and I would miss the day or two each year when the flowers are open. To the outside observer it is just another pot full of mud (occasional grassy garnish).
Those that don't even manage a day or two each year in flower can go.
I may not be in the driving seat but occasionally I throw things out of the window. Let the ghost take the blame.