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JEARRARD'S HERBAL


3rd June 2018

Magnolia wilsonii .
I had just finished watering everything last week when the rain came down. My timing wasn't very good, but I had decided I would rather water things than keep them waiting on the promise of rain. The thunderstorms we were promised didn't materialise, nor the associated torrential downpour, but we did get a steady light rain for most of the next afternoon. It was enough to fill up water tanks and then overflow on the paths. A day later the ground was dry again at the surface so I don't think it penetrated very far. With the rain has come an oppressive humidity that makes walking uphill very tiring. On a couple of occasions I have been working in the greenhouse and needed a little sit down before I went back up to the house. It's decrepitude or humidity and in a moment of wild optimism I decided it was the latter.
There was enough water to drive the garden wild. Last weekend the Pink Campion was a low carpet of foliage, this week it is a tall meadow of flowers. It seems to be everywhere and I was walking around clucking with disapproval when I stopped to look up at the sky. Magnolia wilsonii lives for those moments, a gulp of air as the astonishment of the familiar sinks in.
I saw a group of similar trees in a local garden last week and asked the owner which species they were. No idea, came the cheery reply, I tried to sort them out once, but I failed! I know the feeling - that was why I asked the question. For now this is Magnolia wilsonii because that is what the label said when I bought it. Other similar Magnolia are available ...


3rd June 2018

Hemerocallis forrestii .
Among the Pink Campion in the herbaceous border there was a flash of yellow. I had to clear the Campion away to see it properly. It should have been a horrible combination but it wasn't. It was fresh and sharp and zingy like lemon sorbet in the shade on a hot day. It was the first of the daylilies in flower, though it was only first by an accident of the weather. In February I had flower stems and swelling buds on one of the large flowered yellow ones - it might have been 'Hyperion', I didn't stop to look. I giggled at the silly thing, anticipating flowers in the March. Cold weather from the east put paid to the silly thing. We both preferred the giggling.
Hemerocallis forrestii comes from the mountain slopes of NW Yunnan and SW Sichuan and can grow from 40cm to 70cm tall. Mine is at the lower end of the size range which makes it noteworthy, there are more than enough single yellow daylilies in the taller sizes. As regards the rest of the herbaceous border, I am enjoying the pink invasion. I don't have time to do anything about it so I am leaving it alone and hope I get to it before it seeds. A few wonderful plants are emerging above it and I am trying to take note. Those are the things that are most telling in the border. As for the things that are slowly being submerged, perhaps I should just let them go.


3rd June 2018

Paeonia 'Julia Rose'.
It has been a peony year. I have only been trying to grow them for a few years and they are a ridiculous thing for my comparatively moist shady garden. Peonies like it bright and dry. It seems they will also put up with moisture as long as I clear enough space for the sun to get to them.
There is a garden of tree peonies locally that I only get to see in late spring as the first shoots break on the winter stems. Perhaps that is why I don't really enjoy it. Tree peonies rarely have the dramatic bursting shoots of the herbaceous sorts. They are nice, but not quite nice enough to be satisfying. Like fried egg and chips without the chips. Perhaps if I visited now my opinion would change, certainly the flowers would be remarkable but the plants always look a bit thin. They need more chips.
The herbaceous peonies are magnificent as the snowdrops dangle. Shining scarlet torpedoes bursting from the earth. It isn't their finest moment but if they didn't flower it would still be worth it. In my case they don't flower very often but I am still happy to have them fill space for their sprintime drama. I think of them as flippant relief from the serious business of snowdrops.
The intersectional hybrids may be the answer, preserving the best aspects of both groups. 'Julia Rose' has the large, yellow tinted flowers of a tree peony and spring shoots as boisterous as a playful rhubarb. I really should grow more of them, they are wonderful.


3rd June 2018

Crinodendron hookerianum 'Ada Hoffman'.
Every now and then it is as well to challenge your preconceptions. I tried to grow 'Ada Hoffman' several times in the garden before I admitted defeat. Something about my garden it doesn't like, and I have seen it die abruptly in several other gardens. I had decided that it was one of those whimsical beauties that escape damnation thanks to a charming smile. A number of things make me wonder if I am being too hasty. It is still in commerce, it is even becoming more common I think, so someone is managing to grow it (if only to produce enough cuttings). I have this one growing in the ground in the greenhouse that has romped away despite significant cultural abuse. Then a group of Dutch gardeners on a visit said 'oh yes - 'Ada Hoffman' as though that was sufficient to dismiss her. They know it, they grow it, there is nothing more that needs to be said.
So the lovely Ada deserves another try in the garden. Perhaps a sunnier spot this time, a bit of wind protection. Perhaps I will put in a larger plant. It feels like time to stop making the same old assumptions. Perhaps Ada has just grown older and more forgiving. It can happen. Not to me (I'm getting older and pithier) but it can happen.
When I went out this morning the sky was grey and overcast. As I drove home this afternoon the sun was squashing down like a boot on a beetle. The greenhouse was dry. I dispensed some watery first-aid but it will have to wait until tomorrow to be properly refreshed. I checked the water tanks, and the level has started to fall. Summer has its down side.
Still, a couple of dry evenings, egg and chips and some lemon sorbet. I think I can probably deal with the Pink Campion after all.