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JEARRARD'S HERBAL


18th November 2018

Narcissus pachybolbus .
It has veen a very strange week in the garden as it often is at this time of the year. The weather turns on a sixpence (what is a sixpence, grandma?). I watched the sun beaming through the front windows, perfect weather for lighting the bonfire. By the time I had got to the back door the rain was sheeting down, clouds from the west had been creeping up on the house un-noticed. Seasons in the garden have fragmented into splinters and they are spinning around like the coloured beads in a kaleidoscope. Most of the Hedychium outside were blackened in the frost a month ago but by the house H. 'Kenneggy' has produced a last head of flowers. The bananas lost all their leaves, but in the mild month that has followed they are all starting to regrow. It is very strange, the first primroses are open, the last Fuchsia are still looking good and they have the flaming fallen leaves of the Liquidambar trapped in their crowns.
I went to look for the first Narcissus buds in the meadow. I thought that the early cold snap might have been enough to set 'Rijnveld's Early Sensation' in motion, but nothing to see yet. By the side of the house, N. pachybolbus has opened a first flower. I was delighted with it, although a small black slug had detected it first. If I had a stronger arm it would have been the first slug in space. As it is someone closer will have had a surprise. It's Raining Slugs, to misquote the Weather Girls.


18th November 2018

Galanthus 'Peter Gatehouse' .
In the greenhouse the display from the Nerine had passed into wilted inevitability. I took an hour in the week to remove all of the old flower stems. At this stage they come off cleanly with a sharp snap. I don't use a blade because of the risk of spreading virus through the collection. If they are left until the scapes yellow they become leathery and an hours work becomes a full morning. Beside them the autumn snowdrops have finished. One or two flowers still brushing the ground, but they aren't attractive. The leaves are starting to emerge and they need watering again. I have been watching the snowdrop beds outside, waiting for the first noses to appear. Last week there was nothing , even with my glasses on.
This week I was heartened to se a single nose on 'Three Ships' break through the surface. I had been worrying because it should be in flower soon, and I know I have a large clump, I split them a year ago. I am always frightened that I have taken a prospering clump and destroyed it. One nose at the start of the week, now there are dozens.
Further along the bed some others have rushed into flower. A single flower on G. corcyrensis (G.reginae-olgae if you prefer) is disproportionately cheering. It survives outside, to say it prospers would be misleading. A true autumn snowdrop, beside it G. elwesii 'Barnes' is a spring snowdrop that flowers very early.
G. elwesii 'Peter Gatehouse' is another of the premature predictors of spring, larger and more reliable than some of the Hiemalis group but most significantly for the week, the one that responded to ten minutes of sunshine this morning by opening a little wider.


18th November 2018

Camellia sinensis .
The wind has been howling overnight. I was looking for fallen branches but there hasn't been much on the ground. I think the bulk of the dead timber rattled to the ground last month. Famous last words perhaps. I noticed that the large Leyland Cypress that overshadows the house (and interferes with tv reception as it blows in the wind) has shed a branch on the far side. It gives me easier access to remove a bit more but also transfers the weight of the canopy towards the house. It is on the list as 'needing attention'.
With the overhead branches applauding loudly in the wind I had a look for a Camellia bud fooled by the mild weather into bursting prematurely. Still nothing. The first ones always appear at the bottom of the bushes, tucked in among the dense foliage on the sunniest side. It takes a second look, is that pink or just a sparkling leaf in the shadows?
Fixated on pink, I almost overlooked the small white flower of C. sinensis. It grows in the woodland strip that shelters the Agave house, part of the low evergreen filler I planted to stop the wind slicing between the trunks and ripping the roof off. I mistook the white splash for an avian big-job at first. The plant has flowered before but not significantly. It was tiny when I put it in and to keep the rabbits off I surrounded it with a welded mesh fortification. It wasn't pretty, but it was convenient. For several years it has filled the containing metal cylinder with a dense and dark bush, and I have ignored it. Now the fortification has to go, the Camellia is so large that it is more likely to eat the rabbits than the other way round. Some of the branches have grown through the mesh and it will take careful untangling or it would be free already. A small job for a calm, relaxing day once the flowers have finished.



18th November 2018

Narcissus 'Verdant Sparks' .
The excitement of the week came from the second Narcissus in bloom. It actually opened yesterday, the same as N.pachybolbus but it is down in the greenhouse, so it was the second one I found.
Raised by Harold Koopowitz in California and registered in 2010, it is a hybrid between N. viridiflorus and N. jonquilla. I have it growing in the Nerine house because it is said to require a warm, dry summer dormancy. Perhaps this year I could have managed that outside but this year was unusual. I have an idea that it might do well in a big tub beside the Nerine and autumn snowdrops but that is a consideration for next year when I may have got a bit more of a feel for its growth. I am hoping that the N. jonquilla parentage may make it easier to grow and more tolerant. That is not to suggest that I have ever killed N. viridiflorus, but only because I have never grown it. I have a feeling that the outcome would have been inevitable.
Breeders are hybridising N. viridiflorus with great enthusiasm and for a number of reasons. Some like the scent, the autumn flowering and the strange colour. Others like the extended vase life it seems to impart to its children. I have a few of them now, though they are all very new. This one came from Esker Farm Daffodils this year, so this flower is not a reflection of any talent of mine. Nonetheless it does represent my ability to not kill it over the last few weeks - that must count for something.
It is also in the vanguard of the daffodils, whatever the winter brings there are already splinters of spring in the kaleidoscope.