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JEARRARD'S HERBAL


10th December 2017

Hedychium spicatum .
I awoke this morning with the winter sun streaming through the back door. I left it open to disperse the noxious gasses of night and the breeze blowing in was warm. A storm in the night has brought all the dead timber rattling out of the trees. The garden is littered with old branches covered in moss and lichen, it looks like the morning after an Ent-party. I checked the news and discovered that overnight a "snow-bomb" had hit the British Isles. I must have slept very well indeed.
Autumn is lingering in the garden, although winter has arrived if the news is to be believed. Cold weather hysteria grips all of my friends and we have started to exchange rumours about the worst winter (not yet) on record. I don't think the weather patterns look particularly ominous. A cold puff from the north has met a warm puff from the south and deposited some snow. Something very similar happened when I opened the door and released the noxious gasses. A moments mistiness and it was gone.
Hedychium spicatum has burst into fruit, probably the best autumn colour I get. It was planted out just before the last really cold spell and was nearly killed before it established. Slowly it is fighting back from the brink. I have just started planting the collection of Hedychium out. 'C.P. Raffill' went out yesterday as the light faded and now time will tell if it really is more tender than 'Tara' (the only significant distinction between them). Not the perfect season for planting Hedychium but it has all taken a lot longer than I had hoped, and I am determined to get a few of them in this year.


10th December 2017

Narcissus romieuxii 'Joy Bishop'.
There are a few strange fruits around the garden but the wind has taken the colour from the trees like paint stripper and left it splashed on the floor. The mauve berries of Callicarpa 'Profusion' look more artificial every year while Christmas decorations seem to be going in the other direction. I saw some brown paper tinsel in a shop in the week. The garden has tipped from decline to rise. On balance there is more coming up than there is dying back. It's a purely subjective view, but I choose to have spring at the first opportunity. All the precious things may yet be entombed in ice for a month, but they are there basking in the anticipation of warmth.
Narcissus romieuxii 'Joy Bishop' is the first of the hoop petticoat daffodils to flower and this is about typical for the timing, the first flowers opening with the dawn of December. Back in the 1970's Jim Archibald was tramping through the Atlas Mountains in Morocco and collected seed of Narcissus romieuxii under the number "JCA 805". In cultivation the plants grew and flowered well and it seems that most of the named forms now circulating are selections from that seed. 'Joy Bishop' is the earliest of them, 'Julia Jane' and 'Atlas Gold' are eagerly anticipated for the new year. 'Treble Chance' is on the "wants list".
Tiny daffodils are as addictive as snowdrops and I have a few now. There are plenty of yellow ones but more than anything I am keen to obtain those with white flowers. I laugh at the lunacy of it. Like the storm in the night, everything is pulling in different directions.


10th December 2017

Camellia cuspidata .
During summer the Camellia determine which buds are going to become flowers and which are not. They spent August and September pumping them up into plump promises and it is no surprise when one or two jump the gun. They don't burst onto the scene like a daffodil, they wake up like a sleeping tortoise. Out of the scaled shell come the head and legs and off they trundle. Most tortoises tuck themselves in for a winter sleep and wait for the spring, but one or two leg it south at the first chill and so it is with Camellia.
C. cuspidata is a bit different. The tiny buds form like rice-krispies in the leaf axils, just add the cold milk of winter and they are off with a snap, crackle and pop. I have been watching this one for weeks, waiting for the first flower. Finally it has arrived, small and lopsided as they will all be. It will eventually make a delightful small shrub, all I need to do is find somewhere to plant it out.
Currently in a tub in the greenhouse, it has started to obstruct the path and it will have to go. I have been clearing saplings under the trees to make space for a host of things in need of planting. Every time I get close to burning it, the rain comes in. I can't plant until I have finished felling, can't finish felling until I have burnt, can't burn until it stops raining. Can't plant once the rain stops because I have no water supply to settle thing in. All of which goes some way to explaining why it is still in a tub in the greenhouse a decade after I bought it.
There will be a pefect planting moment, it's just a matter of being patient until it arrives.


10th December 2017

Cyclamen coum .
Cyclamen coum has been the excitement of the season. One of the pleasures of the post-Christmas period is searching under the trees for the first magenta flowers. This year they are early, though nothing under the trees, so I might have a moment to come. These pale seedlings were ridiculously cheap from a DIY warehouse a few years ago. They sat around for a year because I couldn't think what to do with them, and then they were put into a tub with a Bearded Iris. A tub of things that should all do well together. The Iris hasn't really prospered, it is asking a bit much of it even in a tub in full sun. Sometimes I get the urge to build a garden-greenhouse just for Bearded Iris but the urge passes. The Cyclamen have made the whole tub worthwile, and I don't have to crawl around on my hands and knees to enjoy them.
It was a small aside in an article I read during the week that pointed out the leaves of C. hederifolium expand in July and August, but the leaves of C. coum don't appear until December and January. I knew that, I just hadn't realised it. A piece of information that suddenly changes in significance. Cyclamen coum would grow inder the trees with the snowdrops, where C. hederifolium gets killed when I clear the ground in August. Fortunately I have hundreds of seedlings in the tub now, so I will try it. I am always looking for species that I can add to the woodland space and suddenly there is a familiar candidate right under my nose. It is exciting, enlightenment clearing the way to a new opportunity.
It's like opening the door and dispersing the noxious gasses of night.