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JEARRARD'S HERBAL


22nd July 2018

Crocosmia 'Cascade'.
Gardening is such a relaxing pastime don't you find?
I want to kill those people. I'm not given to acts of extreme violance but a patient gardener can only take so much. Actually, I'm not particularly patient either. True, I can plant out a sapling and wait twenty years for it to mature but that isn't patience it's a shortage of other options. I'm no fun in a car now although I accept that cutting sarcasm isn't the ideal tool for dealing with congested roads. Not that the roads have been congested. We were warned in the week that this weekend was going to be impossible but I went to Penzance yesterday without exploding in fury. It was a good day.
The weather was softer during the week. We had no appreciable rain but a few cloudy days kept the temperatures down a little. Lawns are mostly dead but I know one with a large green circle in the middle where it is shaded by a horse chestnut showing that it isn't drought that has killed the grass but sunburn.
I have been weeding the herbaceous border, determined to get all the overgrowth out while it is under stress. Brambles have been pulling out easily though I am still finding thorns in my hands days later. I'll be glad when it is done and I was pleased to uncover Crocosmia 'Cascade'. It is a pretty thing with nothing much to commend it. I'm sure the first time it flowered the raiser shrugged their shoulders. However in addition to orangeness it has poise. The clump is satisfying and satisfyingly uncovered.


22nd July 2018

Dendrobium x speciokingianum .
I have been seeking relief from the heat by hiding in the greenhouse. It might seem strange, and I don't go in there during the day, but in the evening there is a relaxing warmth. An enveloping bath-warmth quite different to the battering blast furnace of the day. I grow a few of the Australian Dendrobium in there to remind me of the state of politics in Westminster. Madness on benches. It started with D. kingianum which is moderately hardy. Cold tolerant might be a better term. It grows well and flowers well in the greenhouse so last autumn I started to add a few of the more complex Australian hybrids that are becoming available. One of those cases of poor timing, a cold winter knocked them back badly and killed a number. This unseasonal flower of D. x speciokingianum shows that I have at least one survivor. It demonstrated that the newer Australian hybrids are not as hardy as I might have hoped, it would be madness to continue down that path. But they're not on the path, they're on the benches so it doesn't count as madness. I spent every penny I had on me at Malvern Orchid Show in spring and drove home feeling certifiable.
Orchids will do that to you. I went down to the greenhouse last night to pollinate a few Disa, get a little seed for next year, keep the pot boiling gently. An hour later I had made two dozen hybrids and have a list of more to try as the next crop of buds open. After a cold winter there is a little bit of space available. Nature abhors a vacuum.


22nd July 2018

Hemerocallis fulva var. rosea .
The herbaceous border was originally conceived as a home for the Hemerocallis collection. The plan was to punctuate the clumps of Hemerocallis with vigorous, large leaved herbaceous plants that could look after themselves. Naturally once I had a new border to plant I started filling it with all sorts of lovely things. Not all of them were well judged but it seemed like the time to give a chance to the unlikely. Time has demonstrated that I might have tempered my enthusiasm to advantage. I would have lost a lot of the fun in the process.
The time has come to be ruthless. Along with the brambles ("how did that get to be 6 feet tall without me noticing") I am throwing out anything that hasn't been vigorous enough to dominate its space. I apply the Stinging Nettle Test. Are Stinging Nettles dominating the clump or has it fought them off? Hemerocallis have done well, Aruncus, Hosta and Astilbe have been worth their space. Iris have all been rather feeble except for I. foetidissima which has been too short and discreet to have much impact. It will stay, the seed heads are interesting and slowly populating the woodland behind the border. I tried growing the variegated Stinging Nettle in there - if you can't beat them, join them - but it is very unstable and it abandoned variegation as soon as it realised it was among friends.
As the overgrowth was removed I discovered Hemerocallis fulva var. rosea in flower, one of the most significant steps in the madness that is modern day lily breeding. Hemerocallis have both pink and yellow pigments in the flower but this was the first wild introduction (from Kuling, China) to show reduced yellow pigment, emphasising the pink. It isn't a clean pink, nobody has yet bred a plant without yellow, but this is the founder of the modern almost-pinks and almost-whites.


22nd July 2018

Crocosmia 'Hellfire'.
The pursuit of clean colours runs through most plant breeding. Once the colours have been cleaned up, the next generation of breeders work to combine them again, witness the modern craze for black and brown Petunia as an example. Brown gladioli are another. In Crocosmia there are plenty of yellow cultivars, it turns out that it is rather easy to breed out the red pigment. The reverse is not true. The yellow pigment hangs on, just as it does in Hemerocallis and as a result all of the red Crocosmia have strong tendencies towards orange.
For a long time 'Lucifer' was the best available red. It is vigorous, striking, almost red. It makes bold clumps. Unfortunately it also flops in the middle of summer with the elegance of an exhausted opera diva on a small chaise longue.
'Hellfire' is a modern improvement, the flowers are redder, the habit is more upright. I don't know if anybody has grown it for long enough to know if the clumps grow old disgracefully, it's a thing to look forward to. As with all new introductions, the improvement has been overwhelmed by the hyperbole. It isn't pure red, it does have an orange throat, it is better than 'Lucifer' and it isn't the last word in Crocosmia breeding.
It the clumps can look after themselves it has a place in the herbaceous border. I have a feeling that it might not be strong enough but it will get a chance.
The heat has made me grumpy, intolerant and a sloppy driver but it isn't the source of the madness. I went to Camborne Show yesterday and saw the ugliest chicken in the county and a girl riding a unicorn. The madness is universal.