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JEARRARD'S HERBAL


5th August 2018

Philesia magellanica .
The week started cool but the heat has returned. Yesterday I was foolish enough to work in the garden for an hour in the morning and had to have a two hour lunch to get over it. By the middle of the afternoon I was able to get back to the garden but I didn't get as much done as I would have liked.
Not that the time really matters. Stephen Hawking pointed out that you can't consider two events in different parts of the universe to be simultaneous. Perhaps life would be more convenient if I were much larger because simultaneity is a problem for me. A tiny packet of bulbs arrived on Friday, as sweet and innocent as can be, a gorgeous little packet of delight. Some tiny Narcissus, too small to go out into the garden, they will be potted. However, there were ten in the bed and the little one said "roll over, roll over", so they all rolled over and one fell out ....As I say, I need to occupy more of the universe. There simply wasn't space.
So the bulbs have sat on my desk while I have started to clear a bench in the greenhouse, moving out the things that shouldn't really be in there and throwing out things that have died. At the same time I am making sure everything has a saucer underneath it so that no precious water is wasted. Eventually I will have space for the five (did I say they were tiny) Narcissus. Then I will have to find space for the snowdrop (autumn flowering, best it stays under cover). There's no room there either.
And in the process of moving things about I discovered that Philesia magellanica was flowering. I was quite convinced that the petals would fall off as I tried to take a picture but I was lucky this time. I have been less lucky in the past, or do I mean a long way away, I'm not sure. Whatever , here it is. Delightful to find when I'm hot and sweaty, but not refreshing.


5th August 2018

Iris sibirica .
I have finished clearing the herbaceous border of weeds and failures. It is one of those jobs best carried out without thought. It would be possible to spend weeks in stoic lament at the things that weren't strong enough to survive, but they weren't strong enough to survive. That was the whole point of the border.
One of the things I have discovered is that there weren't many Iris in the trial that made the grade. On reflection, there was only one. Iris foetidissima persisted, it was the only thing strong enough to grow under the trees behind the border. It has seeded into the woods without my help, so it will be allowed to get on with it.
I had hopes for Iris ensata but they were dashed. They had struggled for several years but the hot dry weather has exposed their deficiencies. A few that have survived will be stood in tubs of water because beneath the hard heart I am very fond of them.
I had also started to grow a few Iris sibirica forms, they are pretty for a short time, if they had made great clumps of foliage they might have survived, but they have been unexpectedly weak which gives me a problem. Four years ago I was sent some seed of the species collected from the wild in Estonia. It germinated easily and if I had treated them kindly I would now have hundreds. Perhaps it's a good thing that I had put them under a bench and forgotten them. They came out in the chaos of shuffling just in time to enjoy this late flower. They will go somewhere, it is a vague intention for now, daffodils and snowdrops are more pressing.


5th August 2018

Disa uniflora yellow.
I think the Disa have had a good year. It is difficult to know. The cold spell in March set them back and many plants have been flowerless, but those that bloomed all performed at the same time. It has made it very easy to pollinate them, and I have made far too many hybrids. If they all produce viable seed I will be in deep trouble. The Disa bench is not so easy to re-arrange and make more space. Fortunately many will fail, viable pollen has been in short supply. Perhaps it has been too hot for them but many of the anthers I have used were in poor condition and the pollen was probably dead.
There was certainly a problem with the yellow form of Disa uniflora. It is a troublesome plant and there are plenty of theories about why, but I think it is just a bit feeble. The plant lacks anthocyanin, which gives the red colour to the flower, so all that is left is the yellow. The leaves are also pale and fragile. As a result it needs conditions closer to the optimum to prosper. This year it has been too cold, and then too hot. It was also too bright in the spring but I realised and put up some shading before it was burnt.
I have been anticipation the opening of the flower, there are a lot of hybrids I would like to do. Perhaps a yellow flowered hybrid might be a little stronger. It was late to flower, most of the others have passed their peak so I wasn't really surprised to discover that the anthers were distorted as well. Not to be put off, I performed a surgical extraction and time will tell if there was any viable pollen.


5th August 2018

Watsonia wilmaniae C.
The Watsonia have been much easier. I grow most of them in large pots on a bench. They would be planted out if I had anywhere sunny and weed free but I haven't so for now they will stay in pots. I haven't paid them much attention in the last decade, I have been preoccupied with a small group of hybrid seedlings, but they are tough and a spell of rain a week ago was enough to stimulate a few flower spikes.
Watsonia are notorious little hybridisers, I get seedlings popping up in all sorts of unlikely places and their parentage is always open to question. Years ago I bought five seedlings of W. wilmaniae and they are all quite different. "C" has large, open faced orange flowers but most of them were pinker. They have all been good but I have a suspicion they might be hybrids. The species comes from the mountains of the southern Cape and is known to be variable so I could be wrong.
A decade after they were stood out on the bench they still seem to be true to name, the original plants have been strong enough to fight off the seedlings. When I am feeling strong (physically) I will sort them out. The corms pack very tightly in the pots, it won't be easy to get the pot off and it won't be easy to break up the clump. It would be nice to have a Watsonia garden somewhere that I could watch in summer as I reclined in the shade of surrounding trees.
All of that is for another day, or another part of the universe. Or something.