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JEARRARD'S HERBAL


25th March 2018

Primula vulgaris lilac double.
There was a moment during the week when it almost felt like spring. It hadn't rained for a day or two and the sun came out. The temperature in the greenhouse shot to the other end of the danger scale. I thought about leaving the door open to let the heat out, then I thought about curling up on the bench and falling asleep. It looks like such a good idea when a cat does it. Then I decided I was hallucinating as a result of hot chocolate deficiency and went indoors to rectify it.
It is difficult to forget that last week the snow lay thick on the ground. Several days later (Thursday actually) it could still be seen under the hedges on higher ground. I have a few plants hiding from winter in the conservatory. I wish I had a lot more now, but too late to worry about it. Next week they are going out to the greenhouse again. Otherwise I will spend the summer in fear of a sudden snowfall. Notwithstanding the weather, the clocks have gone forward and summertime has arrived.
The garden is full of flowers and most of them are Primula. Despite my best intentions, they have arrived. It started with double primroses, back in the days when you had to grow them from seed and trust to luck. The relentless reliability of micropropagated primroses send me back in the seed direction a few years ago. This lilac flower is very tasteful result. They won't all be tasteful. Primula breeding has moved on.


25th March 2018

Epimedium leptorhizum 'Mariko'.
There are about three months of the year when I wish I still had a bench in the greenhouse devoted to Epimedium, and then there is the rest of the year. I have no doubt at all that many of the species and many of the hybrids, perform best when growing in pots in a cold greenhouse. They will all grow outside but they seem to like warm summers and reliable moisture. In perfect conditions they are wonderful but gardens rarely provide those. In the garden here they have to make do as best they can and sometimes that isn't very impressive.
A few years ago all of the Epimedium and all of the Roscoea went outside. They were growing in a section of the greenhouse that I had cleared specifically for the Nerine. Somehow it filled with shade plants and I let it happen. At the time I decided they would be better outside, or they would be dead and it wouldn't matter much. Unfortunately I can't quite let go and both genera are creeping back under cover. I would like to raise more seedlings of both and it is impossible in the garden. Roscoea are frustratingly difficult to cross pollinate without having to scrabble around in the mud as well. Epimedium shed their seed while it still looks green. At least in the greenhouse I have a chance of finding it again.
'Mariko' has appeared in flower to remind me that I haven't sorted out either problem through the winter. The real issue is shortage of space and perhaps the harsh spring will help with that (if I get time to throw out the dead stuff).


25th March 2018

Erythronium dens-canis 'Snowflake'.
Meanwhile the Erythronium have started to flower. When the leaves appeared it felt like the first relaxing day of spring. The first day that you wander out into the garden without bracing yourself. A fortnight later there are buds coming up all around. 'Spindlestone' has opened a few yellow flowers prematurely and they are distorted as though they are the victims of violence. Unspeakable weather. It has been the sort of spring that would punch an Erythronium in the face.
Erythronium dens-canis is the only European species in the genus, the bulk of them are much larger and come from North America or Asia. Its natural range reaches from Portugal through Southern Europe as far as the Ukraine. It should be adaptable, it is certainly variable, but I have never been particularly successful with it.
A single plant growing in a large tub prompted me to try again, and 'Snowflake' was the first to settle in. I added several others last year and while I am not yet convinced they are true to their cultivar names, they are at least growing. I'm not sure what I was doing wrong before and I am not sure what I have changed but they seem to be prospering.
I have had to fight off the urge to pollinate the flowers and raise a new generation of seedlings. It would be nice to have a wide range of colours naturalised under the trees but the space is already full of E. 'Pagoda' and I don't want to mess up the effect. I have been throwing the seed produced onto the ground in one of the borders and nothing has ever germinated. I do the same with the snowdrop seed with the same result. Unfortunately I have also tried throwing it into a planter filled with compost, and now I have a host of little Erythronium, coming up. Part of me wishes I hadn't done it, I don't know where it might lead.


25th March 2018

Galanthus 'Doncaster's Double Charmer' .
With the arrival of summer it is time to say goodbye to the last of the snowdrops. Looking back it wasn't a spectacular year, a number of cultivars produced great clumps of foliage but little flower. I am told that high temperatures last May probably stressesd them during flower initiation.
'Doncaster's Double Charmer' is among the last in flower. 'Midge' is still going strong, and my late form of 'Warham' is at its best, and would be a delight if it ever got warm enough for the buds to open.
'Doncaster's Double Charmer' is a distinctive double flowered form of G. nivalis with narrow, green tipped outer segments. The whole thing looks rather droopy though the short scapes are strong and hold the flowers up well. It has been vigorous for me. The name hints at a long history. 'Charmer' was a plant raised by James Allen in Shepton Mallet at the end of the nineteenth century. Writing in the Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society in 1891 he says "One of my first seedlings, which I named Charmer, is quite in the front rank, being very large, of great breadth and substance of petal, and perfect form and quality. It is of a dwarf habit, and the foliage is of great substance and very broad. The whole plant is most distinct." He doesn't say explicitly that it is single, but the description appears in an ennumeration of his single seedings, he goes on to deal with the doubles later. However by 1899 Samuel Arnott writing in the Gardeners Chronicle states "a large flower, very double, and with fine outer segments..."
Confused identities are nothing new among snowdrops and by the time Amy Doncaster was growing a plant that she thought was 'Charmer' most growers thought the cultivar was extinct. So this has become 'Doncaster's Double Charmer' and I enjoy it as much for the connection to James Allen as for anything else. Even if it is fictional.