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JEARRARD'S HERBAL


23rd December 2018

Primula 'Belarina Pink Ice' .
Spring is in the air. Cloudy weather has persisted with occasional deluges. Last week they hit me, this week they missed, it makes an enormous difference to the character of the week. I have been in the mood for clearing things out. The house has felt dark and sealed up, away from the unspoken dangers of winter lurking outside. On wednesday I opened the front and back doors and let the breeze wander through the hallway for an hour, it felt revolutionary. It also warmed the house up which is strange weather for a December morning.
I have a few double primroses scattered in pots around the place. They aren't good in the ground, or perhaps I mean that I'm not good once I have planted them out. I forget to weed them. The mind is willing, but the hands find more amusing things to do. So they become overgrown, the vine weevils have a party and eventually I get fed up with the whole thing and walk away in a huff. Now I grow them in pots and imagine they will be safe. It isn't true, but it is easier to throw the pot away and start again than maintain them in the ground.
'Belarine Pink Ice' started to flower weeks ago as primroses often do. I know a garden in Somerset where there is a good display of common primroses that starts in October and goes through the winter. The owners deny any deliberate selection but somewhere down the ages - it's a sixteenth century cottage - there has been a gardener at work. I could do the same here, but I don't have the discipline. I'm happy to have a few precocious flowers resonating through the garden like the approaching footsteps of the wicked witch of winter.


23rd December 2018

Cyclamen coum .
I was struck by a sudden urge to clear out the dark spaces where the dangerous shadows lurk. Most particularly, the shed behind the house. From time to time I get home to discover a card from a delivery agent in the letter box. Scrawled on it will be a message "parcel in shed by back door". The last words will trail away in screaming unintelligibility, that shed would frighten a stern soul and strike mortal fear into the heart of a fluffy truck triver. I abandoned it a decade ago with the idea of 'sorting it out later' and its time has finally come. As is so often the case with jobs that have been put off, it wasn't as frightening as it seemed. An afternoon with a wheelbarrow and it was done. The distant pile reached up into the low clouds and, ever the optimist, I ignited the base and retreated to my bath. On orange glow through the bathroom window suggested that my optimism had been rewarded. The next norning all that was left was a scorched circle on the ground and three tins of paint that I had put aside and don't know what to do with. I might use them to paint a giant picture on the grass and perplex passing helicopters.
Sitting down for a moment during these travails I nearly squashed Cyclamen coum. I was expecting it, but I wasn't expecting it yet. Cyclamen often seem to do that to me, creeping up out of the ground when I am thinking about something else. I have a bed of gravel prepared especially for them, and it has worked well. There seems to be more Cyclamen tubers than gravel. They are all this pale colour with a darker nose. I should repeat the bed up among the snowdrops and use one of the bright magenta Cyclamen to spice things up a bit. Perhaps in the weeks after Christmas when the garden centres have nothing to sell but Cyclamen coum and cut price glow-in-the-dark reindeer.


23rd December 2018

Narcissus romieuxii 'Julia Jane' .
The winter solstice came and went. It would have been nice if a black thundery morning had given way to a sparkling sunny afternoon, a meterological aknowledgement of the magnitude of the event. The declining dark days of winter are over, spring has got a grip with its fingernails and has started to haul itself back from the precipice. It didn't happen like that, it was very ordinary.
I made an effort and went to see the hazels in the hedge. I was hoping to see the first catkins as they begin to elongate, or perhaps a few of the tiny red female flowers. Nothing much to report, and that isn't really a surprise. Even with the recent winter warmth it is too early for catkins. I have a few that have become fat waxy sausages on the bare twigs but they haven't started to dangle. A mile down the road there is a large bush that always flowers earlier than mine, I might check it out next time I am passing to see if spring has started to shine through the chinks.
Narcissus romieuxii has certainly marked the change. The first flowers opened on the solstice, both 'Julia Jane' and 'Joy Bishop' flowering on the same morning. 'Atlas Gold' is a day or two behind them. There are plenty of named forms being grown, most of them derived as selections from Jim Archibalds introduction from the Atlas Mountains in the 1960's. Having diverged over the decades they seem to be converging again, at least here. I would be hard pressed to tell them apart. Skilled growers produce particularly spctacular pots which attract new names, however in my hands they all seem to blend back together.



23rd December 2018

Galanthus 'Three Ships' .
I am in the mood for brushing away last year and leaping recklessly into the new season. I have no doubt that there will be cold times ahead but it is always nicest to think of them as the leftovers of a previous season shouting with frigid futility against the coming warmth. However, there is the matter of Christmas to deal with. Fortunately I have Galanthus 'Three Ships' to sum up the situation. It isn't the first snowdrop to flower here, it isn't even the first snowdrop to put on a good display. A big tub of G. reginae-olgae in the greenhouse had at least as many flowers, though they weren't as round and jolly and santaclausian as this, but it is the first to welcome the lightening days of spring!
By chance it opened on the solstice. The buds have been waiting for a fortnight but the solstice was warm and they opened wide ready for Christmas. I enjoy the leisurely development of the buds, there is something relaxing and purposeful about their progress from silvery shoots to full bloom. It mirrors the development of the season, the anticipation and preparation of the days running up to the solstice and the grand opening of Christmas morning. The snowdrops will go on from strength to strength, they won't collapse with exhaustion.
By next week things will have changed. It is my week for cleaning up the Sarracenia. No bonfires, no cheery flowers, just a week of splashing around in the water trays throwing out the trash.
Like the shed and like the winter, once I get stuck in it won't be as bad as it seems.