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JEARRARD'S HERBAL


3rd March 2019

Arisarum proboscideum .
With spring rushing forward change was inevitable. On Thursday the long dry spell ended, the skies clouded and the temperatures fell back. Those with a taste for catastrophe are still peering through sealed windows and muttering about arctic blasts but the garden is delightful, birds are fossicking among the flowers and the light rain has been sucked up in an instant by the thirsty ground.
For two or three weeks I have been watching the flowers of the Mouse Tail plant forming. They thrust up from the ground as tiny dark knobs on the stalks and then slowly expand into the familiar shape. It is a very common plant in gardens but it never fails to delight me. I have several clumps and that sometimes worries me. I have a large clump growing in a tub that I can account for. I planted it behind the greenhouse and then dug it up again when its spread started to alarm me. There are another two large clumps at the top of the garden. I'm not really sure how they got there, probably as stowaways in the roots of something I transplanted. Then I have a small plant growing in the middle of a mown path. I certainly didn't plant it and it has been a very long time since I planted anything new nearby. It could be a seedling but I can't explain how a seed was carried there. My usual assumption is fairies and I am delighted to see how active they can be in the garden. If there's any fairy dust going spare I would love a variegated one, or a white flowered albino (just in case they are reading this)!


3rd March 2019

Camellia 'Winton'.
Camellia japonica and its hybrids are the backbone of a great many Cornish gardens. Their rosy enthusiasm for the developing season pours a soothing balm on the scars of winter. Their robust shapes deflect the grievous gusts threatening the tranquility of the garden. Without them the jaundiced bells of the daffodils would clang their woeful seassonal solitude. They are wonderful plants, I won't hear a word of criticism against them - unless it is one of mine. Christopher Plummer famously said that working with Julie Andrews was like getting hit over the head with a valentine. I always get that feeling with Camellia japonica, though I might pop in an adverb. "Relentlessly" tops the list.
I have a certain admiration for those who cleave to Camellia but eschew C. japonica and that led me inevitably to C. 'Cornish Snow' a wayward hybrid between C. sasanqua and C. cuspidata raised by J. C. Williams at Caerhays. It is delightful but difficult to please, the white flowers last longer in the memory than anywhere else. It's sister seedling 'Winton' often gets overlooked as a consequence. I prefer it, the larger flowers are washed with pink and appear in perfection as the cold tones of winter start to warm.
I like it, and more importantly it likes me, surviving under less than perfect conditions when 'Cornish Snow' has died several times in my care.


3rd March 2019

Corydalis solida .
Corydalis are as fleeting as good ideas. There must be a reason they aren't better known, no sooner have they flowered than they are gone and I realise what it is. They have a transient impact in the garden but it is significant. Most of the genus belong to the alpine experts, slender stems from stout pots, flowering, flopping and finishing. C. solida seems to be tougher.
I saw C. cava naturalising under the trees at Warley Place and had a vision of reproducing the effect with a red form of C.solida. I did a trial, planting a few seedlings from a lilac and purple strain in the woodland. Some years I see them, I don't think they're dead but there not very noticeable. I repeated the trial with three red seedlings, I think from the Penza Strain but my records are missing the essential information. They survive, flower occasionally, it wasn't been a great success. However, they seem to be getting stronger year by year. It might just be an establishment problem. Last year I was determined to buy a decent number in the dormant season and see what happened. I lost my nerve at the last moment, however this year I am going to try again. If I am jubilant next spring in front of a scarlet carpet of blooms, you will understand.
To be honest, in front of this one I am quite jubilant.



3rd March 2019

Pleione Eiger .
Pleione have a way of being dormant that puts the matter beyond question. Late in the autumn the broad green leaves turn to autumn colours and fall and that is it. The rounded pseudobulbs sit at the surface of the compost and make it very clear through the winter that nothing is happening. The appearance of the first buds beside the bulbs is as characteristic of spring as the first singing blackbird.
Pleione Eiger has been the first to flower for me over several years. I had a white flowered example of the grex originally, but it suffered under my early care and finally died. When I tried to replace it I ended up with this pink plant which arrived after I had learnt a thing or two about the genus and it has prospered. There are still white flowered clones available and there is a certain obstinate nostalgia that will part me from some cash if I see one, but for now this is delightful, the first of the genus to flower here and very welcome.
There is something special about the first Pleione, just as there is about the first snowdrop. For many years Galanthus 'Moccas' was my introduction to the snowdrop year, it earnt a place in my heart. So I went out and bought every earlier cultivar that I could lay my hands on and now it comes quite late in the snowdrop year for me. It is a form of madness that brings great joy. I call it Galadness.
So it is entirely typical of me that last year I bought a couple of earlier Pleione in the hope of advancing the season by a few weeks. Eiger will always have a special place in my heart though it might lose its special place in the greenhouse.