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JEARRARD'S HERBAL


24th September 2017

Mahonia nitens 'Cabaret'
The week has flown by and the weather has been full of character. The rain has been rainy, the mist, misty. The wind has blown with a huff and a puff and the sun has shone like summer. Not like this summer when the sun has shone like rain, but like a summery summer. I think that means it is changeable and autumn.
M. 'Cabaret' has been the first of the Mahonia to flower. In one guise or another they will continue now until spring warms into summer. I took this picture on Thursday when the sun had warmed the plant through the afternoon and the wind had dropped. I couldn't smell any scent, so I suppose there isn't any. The rest of the garden smelt autumnal so I don't think the deficiency was mine.
The species M. nitens was first introduced to cultivation by Jelena de Belder from Mount Omei in the 1980's and it was slowly being distributed when Mikinori Ogisu introduced another stock in 1994. Since then it has become much more widespread in cultivation. 'Cabaret' is a selection that has been very popular with growers, the red buds and orange flowers are very striking in detail though we are still in the dahlia season so it is easy to overlook. If it flowered a month later it would have caused a sensation but in September the garden is still quite lush and this is a little quiet.


24th September 2017

Bomarea distichifolia
Up in the top of the garden the Agave house has been making the most of some late sunshine. The atmosphere inside is calm and warm, even on a breezy day. Stinging nettles have crept in along the back wall where I find it difficult to weed. Some fool planted a lot of Puya back there and they are beautiful but impractical. Last Autumn I spent a day up there removing them. It was slow and painful. Every time I got careless I got spined by a Puya and if I jumped as a result I got stung by a nettle. I was glad when it was done.
The Bomarea was taken up there because I thought it would prefer to be warm and dry than cold and watered reliably. Now I'm not so sure, and it may come back down where I can water it more regularly. I am trying to move the oddments out again and let the Agave have the space back, they are all growing and they are going to need it. The Bomarea seems to grow new stems from the crown when it feels like it, and when they mature they flower if they feel like it, so it seems to have a stem in flower through most of the year. The flowers have a little drop of nectar at the base and this week it has been important.
I went into the house on Thursday and the air was filled with Red Admiral butterflies. They must have been laid on the nettles last year and pupated in the greenhouse. It was astonishing, and these three flowers seem to be the only source of nectar to keep them going.
Right or wrong I decided that they would be better outside to take their chances with the weather and spent half an hour shooing them out of the door. Can you shoo butterflies? The answers is mostly no. Some flapping around near the open door (on both our parts) resulted in twenty flying to freedom and about twenty staying inside. I will have another try in the week if I can find a butterfly net though it is one of those activities that will be less fun once it is more efficient.


24th September 2017

Echeveria runyonii 'Topsy Turvy'
All of the Echeveria that survived the mini ice age (2009/10/11) were planted in the Agave house. Warm and dry, I had imagined that they would run out of control but it wasn't moist enough for them. They have all come back down again and they have grown lusher and bluer with more water.
E. runyonii was introduced from cultivation in Mexico and wild populations were unknown until it was discovered in 1990. The most distinctive cultivar is 'Topsy Turvy' with long downward folded leaves. It makes a large rosette and divides freely in good conditions, up in the Agave house it was just sulking and falling apart.
As a result I now have a number of Echeveria filling odd spaces in the greenhouse. I'm not sure why they are there, I really only intended them to be a soft decoration around the Agave. Now they have decent conditions they are increasing and I seem to be acquiring new ones. Somewhere I will have to draw the line or perhaps I can find some vine-weevil to draw it for me!
The long spikes of orange flowers seem to be produced sequentially. As one spike fades and dries out, a new one starts to grow from the rosette so it is another plant that is usually in flower but never excessive.



24th September 2017

Nerine 'Daphne'
Spring and summer seem to be filled with colours that blend together and make cultivated pictures. Autumn has more outrage. I hardly grow any dahlias but I enjoy them wherever I see them, and the thing I enjoy most is the range of pure, artificial looking colours. The Nerine do the same job but they don't suffer as badly from slug damage though I am still fighting the mealy bug.
This orange-scarlet colour is typical of N. sarniensis as it grows in the wild. Other colours are found, but this is the default. The rounded flower head of 'Daphne' and the increased number of florets are a result of careful breeding and selection. I generally prefer the lilac colours and the softer pinks but suddenly I have been forced to appreciate these uncompromising hues. Perhaps my perspective has been skewed by the fake-tan generation. The oranger people become the more reasonable these flowers seem to be.
I have been rushing through the garden as the afternoons progress and I couldn't understand why. I came indoors to put some supper in the oven and in the moments it took the garden darkened through the window. The evenings are drawing in, the afternoons are rushed as a result. Big orange flowers are a sort of compensation. I have just remembered, I meant to pollinate this one while the sun was on it. Fingers crossed for Monday then.