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JEARRARD'S HERBAL


30th June 2019

Disa Veitchii .
It has been a sweltering week in the garden which is a surprise because it hasn't been particularly hot. In the days when the temperature was set to rise to newsworthy levels the cloud blew over in a strong breeze and the temperature remained low. Perhaps it has been sympathetic sweltering, staunchly sharing the pain of the rest of the country. It's not impossible, I also have sympathetic insect bites. I haven't actually been bitten but I keep finding myself scratching nostalgically at the irritating places where I was bitten last year. The outer side of one forearm has been particularly gripped by retrospective irritation. Most people would say it is probably just madness, but my friends wouldn't bother with the probably.
In the greenhouse the Disa have launched into their seasonal spectacle. I have had to keep a close eye on the water level in their trays, I think there is a leak in the guttering that keeps them topped up, they seem to be running low very quickly. Perhaps it is just the heat.
Disa Veitchii was raised at the Veitch nurseries in 1891, part of the first wave of Disa hybridising at the end of the Victorian period. It is a first generation cross between D. uniflora and D. racemosa. I haven't been able to obtain D. racemosa so this is as close as I come to the species. It would be nice to think that this was on original clone of the hybrid but it seems unlikely. Chances are it is a re-synthesis of the hybrid from modern times but I still get an ancient thrill when it flowers, a pink Victorian shadow.


30th June 2019

Gladiolus flanaganii
When I left on holiday the meadow was burgeoning. I swished through the growing grass looking for Narcissus leaves. A few green shoots still fading to brown, too early to cut it yet. This week the time has clearly come, the grass has reached waist height, the mower will struggle and I will have to cut it several times to get an even finish. It has evidently rained while I was away.
The evidence is less obvious in the alpine house where Gladiolus flanaganii had started to bloom. It wasn't watered for ten days, if it had been sunny I think the flower spike would have dried out. Gladiolus are tolerant but they do need some water.
I have abused and neglected it for many years but it has clung to life, much as it must do to the cliffs in the Drakensberg. When I grew it with the Nerine it suffered from the long summer dormancy they experience and although it continued to produce small corms, flowering was very occasional. I imagine the same is true in habitat but the idea that I was replicating the natural conditions didn't really appeal. "As it grows in habitat" just means that a plant is teetering on the brink of oblivion. In the alpine house it is wetter and better fed. Atypically reliable flowering should be the consequence.


30th June 2019

Iris ensata 'Rose Queen'.
The whispered suggestion of water Iris is enough to strike terror into the heart of the water gardener. There are so many of them in such a range of colours that it is easy to overlook the day when you will have to wade half-naked into the pond with a spade and remove them by the skip load. In general, water Iris are vigorous. As a child, my family had a small fibre-glass pond tucked into the corner of the garden. The variegated form of Iris pseudacorus was thrown in, regretted and thrown out, all in the course of a single season. Fibre-glass has the advantage that the root ball lifts out like an exotic variegated jelly from a mould and the entire plant de-lacustrated in one exhausting lift. Heaven help those with muddy bottomed ponds.
The Japanese have, almost inevitably, a more elegant solution. Iris ensata is much better behaved, forming neat, compact clumps and flowering with synchronised abundance. The large, flat flowers make a magnificent display and there are abundant Japanese and American cultivars available. They are all good, which is fortunate, confused naming is rife.
'Rose Queen' is an oddity, the flower shape closer to the wild I. e. var. spontanea than to the modern cultivated varieties. It is also (generally) correctly named which lends it a quiet dignity in the face of chaos.



30th June 2019

Utricularia reniformis .
Quite inadvertantly I seem to have spent the week splashing around in the water trays. I am yearning for the sea. I tried to get down to the beach in the week for a relaxing half hour break catching up on my reading. After half an hour queueing in traffic I gave it up as a bad job and came home, sitting defiantly among the weeds with an instant cappuccino and a scowl. Would the greenhouse have cheered me up? Probably.
Utricularia reniformis doesn't flower very frequently for me but it seems to grow reliably. It is one of those species from Brazil that defies expectation. When I first grew it I had it in a tropical environment where it looked suitably weak, heat loving and fickle. Then I saw Chris Crowe growing it in a cold greenhouse in London, marvelled in a perplexed and befuddled way, and tried to learn the lesson. It now does very well in the same conditions as the Sarracenia, cool, wet and growing in a large pot. I have three clones of the species, an old one, a small one and this one, my favourite. Some years after I saw it growing in London I was able to obtain a piece of his clone from Chris. It isn't anything special to anybody else, but for me it represents enlightenment, that moment when reality breaks through preconception. It is one of a small collection of Brazillian species that are unexpectedly tolerant of the cold.
The week ends with me slowly picking up the threads that I dropped to go on holiday. All the tasks I put on hold are waiting for me and my urge to sit on the beach will have to ...
...be satisfied. I'm off!