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JEARRARD'S HERBAL


3rd December 2017

Acanthus mollis 'Rue Ledan'.
A cold week with sporadic rain, and then Friday delivered the most perfect sunny day for the start of the month. Perhaps all seasons are strange and this will seem perfectly normal in retrospect. Things have come to an end in the herbaceous border but Acanthus mollis Hollards Gold' has responded to the warmth and moisture by producing a lush new set of leaves. The effect is almost as good as watching the first Narcissus shoots push through the ground.
Further along 'Rue Ledan' has gone one step further and produced a new flower spike. I have tried to grow other white flowered Acanthus but this is the only one that has really prospered.
The border has collapsed now, the wind has wrecked any form it had (little enough unfortunately, I am a random planter at best) so it is odd to come across this elegant, architectural spike in December. The long term plan is to move the border further in the exotic direction, use fewer plants in large groups and put more effort into striking leaves. The Acanthus fit in well with the plan which is lucky - they are the sort of thing that doesn't move easily. That's not exactly true, they move very easily but they tend to remain where they were as well. Cut roots regenerate very rapidly so now it has established in the border, I think it is there to stay.


3rd December 2017

Camellia 'Drama Girl'.
Last week Camellia 'Show Girl' caught me out by flowering early. I was joking that 'Drama Girl' would be next. At least I thought I was joking. I spent yesterday clearing undergrowth in the garden and as I pulled away some lower branches from an Acer there was the first 'Drama Girl'. Large, pink, perfectly presented, and laughing at me.
I expect to see her at about the same time that 'Glen's Orbit' flowers so I went to check and yes, I have two of those as well. It feels just like early spring except that in spring I can't walk on the border becdause it is filled with snowdrops.
I have said before that when the spring comes there won't be any spring left to show. I'm hoping for a mild winter, things would take a very hard hit if it turned cold now. I took a break in clearing the undergrowth to photograph some of the more tender things that have gone out this year. There is always a chance that this is the last I will see of them and it is good to have a record, if only to remind me of what I have already tried. The next Camellia in the series would normally be 'Nobilissima', the double white flowers frosting the plant as soon as the real risk of frost fades.
One of those has opened as well, the petal margins browned by the night-time chill. It is a little disturbing


3rd December 2017

Nerine 'Christmas Dreams' .
Like a real fire, the greenhouse is a comforting refuge from winter. There is a timelessness about it. Visiting the greenhouse is a retreat from the garden when it all gets a bit too much. The last bastion of common sense. On a sunny day the greenhouse is a bubble of timelessness that holds on to the moment between waking up and realising that you have to get up. It is a warm, innocent place. A big plastic yawn.
Unsurprisingly that is where I ended up as the afternoon started to fade. I had had enough of unruly undergrowth and unexpected Camellia.
One single Nerine sarniensis cultivar remains in flower. There are a few N. undulata forms to come and the hybrids between the species are looking at their best but 'Christmas Dreams' is the last thoroughbred. Although it has reached a peak there is still a spike to open, so it might last until Christmas. A lot will depend on the temperatures. If it gets too cold the stems will collapse, if it is too warm the flowers will age and die before then. So I am hoping for a moderate December, and I am looking around to see if there is any old pollen still hanging on somewhere. I would like to raise a few more late flowering seedlings if I can.


3rd December 2017

Acanthus sennii .
Acanthus 'Rue Ledan' was responding to the moderate warmth and the moisture at the end of the season. In its own way Acanthus sennii has done the same. I cut it to the ground in early spring. It had reached the roof of the Agave house and it had run out of room. The new growth was frighteningly vigorous, but it slowed down once the summer rain started. In August I could see no signs of flower buds forming and I thought I had cut it too hard. Fortunately it was just held up by the moderate wet weather. By September the buds were clearly visible and now I have scarlet spikes among the prickly leaves.
It is a strange plant from the highlands of Ethiopia, and it probably tolerates low temperatures well. I had it in a small pot in the greenhouse through the last run of cold winters so I know it will survive minus 5deg C. For a while it looked as though it was going to be a popular garden plant in the more favoured counties, but I have yet to see one well established outside. I think that it can survive low temperatures in the Ethiopian highlands but it also needs the associated high summer temperatures if it is to flower. I was surprised at how much growth slowed through a rainy July and August. Perhaps it would do well against a wall.
It is exotic enough for the changing border, but I think I had better stick to 'Rue Ledan'.