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JEARRARD'S HERBAL


7th January 2018

Narcissus 'Spring Dawn'.
The weather forecast for the week described the prospects as "changeable" which seemed like a masterstroke of broadcasting time-filler. It was a bit like saying that for the most part the weather will be happening outdoors. In the event it was right, but unhelpful. I have been tidying all the Sarracenia this week, which can be a cold and wet job, but it has been wetter outside which was some consolation. Not very much because I wouldn't have worked in it outside, I would have sat by the fire drinking self-righteousness from a mug of hot chocolate, but some consolation. I went for a short walk through the mining heritage of the Luxulyan Valley yesterday and marvelled at the river thundering down the valley over waterfalls and the remains of old water wheels. The sparkling white water was as good as any white Christmas and I got home to find that much the same was hapening down the path to the greenhouse, on a smaller scale.
With the passing of Christmas the season has tipped forward distinctly. Narcissus 'Spring Dawn' was a surprise this morning but it made the point. The worst of winter may be to come, but the first of spring is in sight.


7th January 2018

Helleborus x hybridus .
The Hellebores have started. Until a fortnight ago the Hellebore bed looked empty and I was suffering from seasonal worrying syndrome. It happens to me every year and I always manage to convince myself that it doesn't matter, but it does. If I am wearing my pragmatic head I calm myself with the thought that it is out of my control, time to make a hot beverage and sit in the delightful January sunshine (it's just like quince jelly at the moment). My pragmatic head would also say that I am anxious because of all the time, effort and money I have put into the bed over the years. Unfortunately that head has even worse eyesight than this one, and has put the cart before the horse. I have put a lot of time, effort and money into the Hellebore bed because I really care about them, and so I worry.
I have considered grubbing through them two or three times a year taking out the weeds. It would be a job like painting the Forth Bridge. Instead, I let it grow through the summer and then in autumn I mow the whole thing and kill off any immediate regrowth of weeds with a herbicide. Then begin the long weeks of emptiness when I think I have killed everything.
The emergence of the first flower spikes releases the stress like the bursting of a dam of misery. It happened a fortnight ago, and here are the earliest rewards.


7th January 2018

Galanthus 'Fly Fishing'.
I probably shouldn't think about dam's bursting. Too much coffee while I write this piece and I will have to take a short break.
At the top of the hill, among the snowdrops, there was a light frost this morning. It had only just touched the ground but the fallen leaves were crunchy again for the first time in weeks. There is ice where water had accumulated. I woke up in the middle of the night with cold feet and got another duvet out.
I cope with the chill through the day by wearing more layers. As I add more garments I get bigger and each additional layer has to be a size larger. If you took a cross section through them and recorded the year of purchase you would get an accurate measure of my fluctuating fatness over the last 15 years. In the end there are so many layers that they all get pushed down my trousers willy-nilly to keep them under control. They tangle together and if one gets removed it is difficult to know how much more will come off at the same time.
I was caught by the very worst part of the arrangement during the week. I really needed the lavatory, but when I got there I found layer after layer of trousers and shirts all tangled together. Every time I found a hem and moved it aside there was another beneath. It isn't very dignified. The lavatories at Tesco are the wrong place for a Gordian disentanglement.


7th January 2018

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Diane' .
Early morning sunshine and a crisp frost on the ground made a perfect setting for the Hamamelis. They grow in a border of shrubs that have started to reach maturity. One or two things will have to go and that will cause some heartache when it happens but I don't want the border to become too dense. I like walking through it during the winter and enjoying the witch hazels up close. Much of the pleasure for me lies in the strange crinkled petals and the way they unfold over a week or so from the clustered buds.
H. x intermedia 'Diane' is the best coloured of the red flowered forms I still grow. I have tried 'Foxy Lady' a couple of times but neither plant established. The flowers have a stronger crimson hue than 'Diane'.
The flowers of 'Ruby Glow' are much paler though they open a fortnight earlier. Now the plant has reached a decent size it does have a ruby glow about it in full flower but it is a cold, watercolour red. A scarlet garment that has been through the washing machine too many times.
'Diane' shows why the machine was needed. The flowers have a strange tint. They are the places hit by tomato ketchup in a food fight. A red stain that is left over when the excitement has passed. I like them, but 'Foxy Lady' will get another chance.