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JEARRARD'S HERBAL


27th October 2019

Acer palmatum 'Azuma Murasaki' .
The rain has been very slow this week. Mostly it has fallen on tiptoe, careful not to make a sound. Slowly and gently the garden has been saturated. Once fallen, it has remained on the ground, silvery dewdrops have hung on every flat surface like a low mist waiting for a passing footfall to dissolve into drenching water. I had to work on a border while kneeling on the grass during the week, so I brushed over it with a rake to shift the droplets. It helps to keep me dry. As I knelt I watched the droplets reform as water condensed from the still air. I gave up after a bit.
I don't expect much autumn colour from deciduous shrubs. The Acer palmatum forms usually give it a go but they need the sun to sparkle. I have them for the spring growth, fragile and translucent. The autumn colour is an occasional bonus. A. palmatum 'Azuma Murasaki' colours fairly well. There is sufficient red in the shade to lift it glowingly above brown. Even in the light rain the colour has impact, though unfortunately the plant is without any sort of poise. On a dry, sunlit day in October it can shimmer like a thousand resting butterflies. In the rain, well, it's still a good colour.


27th October 2019

Camellia sasanqua 'Hugh Evans' .
The garden is full of Camellia. It is an accidental and whimsical assortment, and when I get whimsical I can do it with a determination that makes tunnel-vision look relaxing. The problem is that Camellia are easy in this garden. Easy and convenient, providing evergreen shelter and requiring very little in the way of maintenance. In the early years I protect them from rabbit damage, but beyond that they look after themselves. So if I see a Camellia that I like, more often than not I will give it a try. I have some real monsters as a result. I have a long-standing history of abuse and invective aimed at 'Debbie'. Too pink, too fluffy and probably an unfair victim of my snobbishness. I have just planted 'Marshmallow' which looked so sweet flowering in a pot. It stands on the cusp between delight and disgust, the candyfloss of the Camellia world.
My engagement with the autumn flowering species is more deliberate. I wanted flowers for the grey winter months as the garden falls apart. C. sasanqua 'Hugh Evans' meets all the requirements. It is vigorous, free flowering and it has a seasonal presence. It also looks as though it had been bitten by a radioactive starfish but it's a small drawback, easily overlooked. The pink flowers have novelty as the garden slumps.


27th October 2019

Colchicum autumnale 'Alboplenum' .
Not that slumping is entirely unsatisfactory. The double flowered Colchicum seem to slump as part of their nature. As with the Acer, they occasionally snatch a perfect moment of ethereal beauty from the seasonal norm. Occasionally. It hasn't been a good year for them, rain followed by high winds knocked them flat. The large flowers are heavy, balanced on an impossibly fragile tube. Once they go over, that it is for the year.
Walking through the woods yesterday there was a single flower of C. 'Waterlily' at its perfect moment, poised like a ripe pear, teetering on the brink. The tepals were spread wide, the floral tube leaning slightly over from the strain, facing directly at me. One flower among the hundreds. It will have collapsed by now.
C. autumnale 'Alboplenum' has an even harder time. The tepals develop brown marks if the raindrops stand on them for too long, the whole thing becoming a jumbled mush. I have a single corm in the garden, it makes a sagging pile of white flowers for weeks in the autumn. It isn't fresh and it isn't delightful, but from time to time a perfect flower will hoist itself from the slime and stand triumphantly above the rest, like a lotus from the mud. I would like to cheer but I'm frightened I would knock it over.



27th October 2019

Hedychium 'Tai Sunlight' .
Growing up, growing old or just crumbling, I'm not sure which. There is a change and I have seen it first among the Hedychium. I have always said that gardens are quite ruthless in the way they reflect the gardener. It must be admitted that I have the urge to collect things. In some cases it is a slow and dignified accumulation of plants in a charming and interactive way. It isn't always like that. I remember the week when I was overcome with a Watsonia obsession. I spent every spare moment e-mailing people and then chasing around the country with a pocket full of cash. That was intense. The period of madness subsides eventually. I have arrived at that point with Hedychium.
I was delighted when I first obtained plants of the "Tai" series, raised by Doyle Smittle at the University of Georgia. I coiled myself around them like a dragon with a pile of gold. The yellow ones have performed reasonably well in the greenhouse but they are large. The time has come to try them outside and they are going out without a sense of loss or risk.
Hedychium 'Tai Sunlight' has been the first to flower. It isn't six feet tall any more, closer to two, but it has flowered when so many of the hybrids don't. It's a good thing. We eye each other in passing, conscious (at least on my part) of the flow of the years and a change in the intensity of the experience.
Growing up, growing old or just crumbling. Perhaps it's simply the dank realism of autumn.