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JEARRARD'S HERBAL


4th August 2019

Callicarpa bodinieri var. giraldii 'Profusion'.
The warm weather has unsettled the stomach of the Atlantic. For a while I thought that it would throw up a deluge but in the event we have had odd queasy showers through the week. They have helped the garden, and kept temperatures lower in the greenhouse for the most part. Last week it was clear that the Nerine house needed attention. I ignore them for months through the summer and the pots get weedy. A couple of hours scrabbling among them before the new growth starts is weeding time well spent and the place looks ready to go. Most of the rest of the week was spent straightening out the Nerine seedlings. There isn't enough room, there is never enough room, but a periodic sort out gets rid of the waste and dead pots and creates the illusion of order, which is unaccountably satisfying.
The rain also arrived in time to save Callicarpa 'Profusion' from wilting. The leaves had stopped trembling in the breeze, all tension lost in exhaustion. Now they are perky again, and the flowers have opened.
I remember the days when there was only one Callicarpa available (this one). Now there are half a dozen in circulation, with exotic names and diverse characteristics, all demonstrating that we really only needed the one. Diversity increases with time (it's somebody's law, but I can't remember who) so the available shades of Callicarpa have increased. The strange lilac of the flowers and berries of 'Profusion' are still the best. Perhaps they are what made the Atlantic feel queasy in such a timely fashion.


4th August 2019

Clethra alnifolia
Yesterday I needed to take a break from potting the legions of Nerine seedlings. It is a fun job, but as the available space reduces a sense of futility can creep in. They are all going to be pink, after all. On Friday night I needed a break. I had had my fill of baby bulbs and gritty mixes. I got some wood and went to bang about among the Clivia. It wasn't just conceptual chromatic relief, I needed to do some small repairs to the wall of the greenhouse. A tree I felled in April missed the greenhouse almost completely, as it came down. The repair only took a few moments, and since I had all the tools to hand, it seemed like a good moment to put up some staging.
Several years ago I got fed up with all of the tiny pots all facing upwards like the beaks of baby birds constantly screaming for attention. I moved everything into large pots, stood them on the floor and removed the staging. It was a good move, it became much easier to manage, the greenhouse felt brighter and almost everything prospered. The only serious exception was the Clivia seedlings. They have been building up in every little nook and cranny, there is nowhere to put them if I pot them individually. If I don't pot them individually I might just as well throw them all out, and that would never do.
So now I have a lovely new bench for them - actually its the same old bench that was stacked in the garden for a few years - but it is lovely.
What has this got to do with the Clethra? Well, it grows by the door and refreshes me when the greenhouse gets too hot for carpentry. Delight of the week.


4th August 2019

Eucryphia x intermedia .
I have been reading a history of the horticultural links and exchanges between the UK and the USA (Richard Bisgrove, 'Gardening across the pond', Pimpernell Press, 2018). It is a fascinating study of the way in which two (horti)cultures have influenced each other. Like all histories, it emphasises the threads and connections between events and left me feeling that garden design, in particular, knew what it was doing. It was an interesting contrast to my own (admittedly whimsical) experience where features in the garden emerge out of the pressures of the moment. I'm sure there were days when Launcelot ("Capability") Brown wandered around a landscape aimlessly looking for a spare space to bung the left-over oak saplings from a job. I wonder how many of those are now seen as the key feature in some majestic scheme. I'm just saying that the role of chance is underestimated.
That's why I have this Eucryphia in the garden. A vague idea that Eucryphia are good things, a bargain at a nursery, half an hour wandering around with a spade looking for a suitable space. A series of chances leading to the August flowering of a tree that may one day dominate the centre of the garden in evergreen magnificence. It arrived without a name. I decided to call it E. x intermedia because it was a painless resolution to the problem of identifying Eucryphia hybrids and selections. It will get bigger and eventually someone will name it for me with authority.



4th August 2019

Strobilanthes wallichii .
The sense of impending autumn is growing in the garden. Dahlia merckii is flowering, the Hemerocallis have gone over. Hibiscus syriacus has finally produced enough leaves to look like a shrub rather than a pea stick. The Strobilanthes are flowering.
It is a large, tropical genus from Asia, but there are a few members that stray like summer yaks up the Himalayas and into the mountains of China. I have a particular soft-spot for the occasional hardy members of tropical genera and although it took me a while to catch on to Strobilanthes, I am enjoying them now.
I have seen S. wallichii growing freely in a number of gardens. It seems to prefer some moisture in the soil when in growth and it clearly spreads easily by seed. I keep it contained in the herbaceous border and remove plants that pop up in other places. I like it, but I have seen it swallow up large areas when it get the chance. I find that a plant or two is sufficient.
This is another one with a question mark over the name, it could be S. atropurpurea instead, the descriptions available online are not easy to distinguish. Whatever the truth, the purple flowers are fleeting in the warmth of day. A shower overnight helped preserve these until I was able to photograph them at midday.
All of which has given me enough of a break to return to the Nerine seedlings with renewed enthusiasm in anticipation of the flowering season to come.