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JEARRARD'S HERBAL


3rd November 2019

Acer palmatum .
There are always weeks through the winter when I imagine that there will be nothing in flower to show on these pages. I tease myself with the idea that I will just have to show some leaves. There are plenty of things that I grow for their foliage interest, their appearance here just suggests that the garden is going thropugh a lean patch.
It isn't always so. This week has had a reasonable selection of flowers but they have been assaulted by the autumnal weather. They have been the blooms of obstinacy, clinging on where lesser petals have fallen. Autumn has dominated the garden and the colours of autumn have overwhelmed all other ideas. There are leaves everywhere. Every nook and cranny is packed. They lie strewn over the ground and for every one that has fallen there is another trembling on a twig in giddy anticipation of the roller-coaster descent to come.
It has been a wet week. The rain started to fall on Monday afternoon and it didn't let up until Thursday morning. The wind has howled and there has been a low, penetrating mist that seeps into the house and leaves a damp film on the walls. It hasn't produced a frost for us yet, but summer has been shown the door. Winter is awaited.
Through it all Acer palmatum has been attempting good cheer, laughing at the clouds and stamping in all the puddles. The colour has deepened appreciably during the week, yellows have darkened to orange and browns have turned scarlet. This is my favourite of the moment, the label records with pointless precision - "Name Lost".


3rd November 2019

Hydrangea macrophylla 'Youmefive' .
Colour isn't restricted to the falling leaves. Hydrangea 'Youmefive' (sold as TOGETHER) is a double flowered selection of H. macrophylla. On my slightly acid soil it is a good, pure blue at the peak of the flowering season. It makes a compact shrub and heads form on all of the shoots so it is covered in flower. Most importantly the flowers die well, turning this fabulous vinous burgundy as they pass beyond freshness. They don't curl, they don't droop, they remain in perfect clusters as the darkness takes them over. At the end of the flowering season there is a moment when there are fresh blue heads scattered among the purple. It is magnificent. I regularly stand and watch it, hardly daring to believe that it is real. It is one of those plants that performs above and beyond any reasonable expectation.
A couple of weeks ago the last blue flowers darkened and now, soaked by the rain, they are a shining wonder. There are a lot of Hydrangea in the garden. Many of them have blue flowers. A few of them are still producing fresh heads but none of them can match this shimmering blob of colour. If you grow a lot of members of a genus then every now and then you will find something really special. This is it for me. The one that made all the other Hydrangea worth searching through.


3rd November 2019

Liquidambar styraciflua 'Worplesdon' .
Liquidambar are friendly trees. I don't know why that it but I always feel as thoughI am welcome as I lean against their trunks. I am very pleased to spend time with them, and it feels mutual. I promise myself a grove of them but it hasn't happened yet.
'Worplesdon' is an old selection with fabulous autumn colour. There are newer forms that are brighter and others that are darker with autumn leaves like polished coal, but I like 'Worplesdon'. It's brashness has been softened by age. Perhaps I will try some of the flashy youngsters when I plant the grove.
It has suffered a bit over the years. Last winter a large branch snapped off of one side and lodged half way up. I spent the summer expecting it to crash down at any moment. Eventually I pulled it down in August, the tip of a twig had slipped just low enough for me to get a hold. Just in time for the tree to shake itself free and prepare for the autumn display. It has been rushed this year. A month ago the margin of the canopy started to colour and this week it has turned crimson and gold as the wind started to strip the leaves. I snatched the picture while I could, by next week it might be completely bare.
The warm, wet climate of the garden isn't best suited to a strong display of autumn colours but every year there seem to be a few moments of delight, made more precious by the gales howling through the treetops.



3rd November 2019

Roscoea purpurea .
Eventually I was driven under cover. I can stand an hour or two in the garden, laughing in the face of a storm. I can always go in and dry out in front of the fire with a hot chocolate. The camera is a little less tolerant. It isn't long before it seems sensible to hide in a greenhouse.
The Roscoea have been good this year undercover. They were doing well in the garden but they were getting confused. Some of the named forms were being swamped by their own seedlings. I lifted many of them and potted them up. The intention is to keep them under cover, split them during the winter, and replant the surplus outside again. While they are under cover I took the opportunity to raise some seedlings from the red forms of R. purpurea. I flowered about a hundred, have selected about a dozen, everything else will go outside. It is terrifyingly easy to end up with far too many good Roscoea. I have a bed earmarked for them in the garden where they can cavort themselves into nameless chaos and all I will have to do is delight in their variability. At least that's the plan.
Among the selected ones in the greenhouse, a few have developed remarkable autumn colour as the stems slowly die. Those with red stems and green leaves have turned to scarlet and gold but this one has been the most striking. It had dark leaves, and now the hole plant has turned red. It is only a consequence of the slow drying out they get under cover. I'm sure it wouldn't happen outside, it might not even happen again next year, but that is the delight of autumn colour. It is fleeting.
It could easily have blown away by tomorrow. Perhaps it will take the grotty weather with it. There's always a chance.