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JEARRARD'S HERBAL


15th December 2019

Mahonia x media 'Maharajah' .
Much of the week has been spent viewing the garden through a crack in the back door. It isn't a particularly good view but it is a warm, dry view. That has mattered this week. Rain has disrupted all advance planning, I have improvised my way from day to day, taking advantage of the things that can be done. There is a list of things still to do in that glorious period when the days will unfold in uninterrupted simplicity. We all know that those days will never come, the "to do" list is really just a catalogue of the things that aren't going to happen. Listing them is just a way of reconciling myself to that reality.
It has been wet, and perhaps that is why the Mahonia media forms have been uninteresting this year. They are all flowering but the heads look sparse and underdeveloped. Mahonia have brittle petals, it makes them irritating as cut flowers. Almost immediately they are cut they start to scatter fallen petals like pallid confetti. I think that might be what is happening in the garden. Heavy rainfall is stripping the petals from the racemes of flower, leaving them threadbare. 'Maharajah' is the only impressive one at the moment and it is still growing in the greenhouse, protected from the weather.


15th December 2019

Camellia sasanqua 'Paradise Blush' .
The best Camellia sasanqua forms are also growing in the greenhouse. The first few I grew were potted up in the greenhouse and there they remain. They will have rooted through to the ground many years ago. When I get tired of their inconvenient bulk they will be moved into the garden and left to take their chances. They will either appreciate it or not.
Subsequently I bought a range of other cultivars and planted them straight into the garden. They have suffered a little from rabbit damage but they have started to grow away, reaching up above bunny-stretch. I still shout at the rabbits when I see them in the garden, determined to keep them from feeling too comfortable but it is a token deterrent and we all know it. They lop gently out of view and carry on with what they were eating.
'Paradise Blush' was one of this second wave of acquisitions, planted a few yards from the back doot it has escaped serious damage and is now mature enough to flower. Planted too close to other shrubs, some hard decisions will have to be made one day. The Camellia is only a few feet tall, it could be moved but unfortunately that is a job for the "to do" list.


15th December 2019

Primula allionii 'James' .
The run-up to Christmas is the gloomiest time in the garden, the days are shortening, the light levels are depressing. Walking around the garden leaves a footprint catastrophe in my wake, like treading on wet concrete. The feeling that the indentations will never be repaired. I have a sort of tip-toe gait, a apology for my presence made physical. At any moment spring will squelch from the wet ground. Perhaps there will be a snowfall and the garden will again be dressed in blinding brightness. I can understand why people hang up Christmas lights, anything for some brightness. I have four sets of solar powered sparkling lights. I bought them in a summer sale many years ago with the intention of decorating some key shrubs when the gloominess was most intense. The winter light isn't strong enough to power them.
Primula allionii delights in the brightness of the southern mediterranean winter, sheltering from the glare of the sun in shady mountains behind the Riviera on the border between France and Italy. With admirable stoicism it has started into growth here, producing an odd flower or two, a kindly european gesture of good will. It will be much brighter in the New Year. Won't we all.



15th December 2019

Narcissus 'Rijnveld's Early Sensation' .
The slow pulse of spring has started to beat. There are a few delightful flowers that I grow simply because they act as milestones along the way to spring. Camellia 'Show Girl' is a favourite, appearing during the kinder spells of December and bringing its brazen optimism to a corner of the garden. Not far away, Fuchsia excorticata would wisper the same message with brownish flowers strung along the older branches. It won't be doing it this year, the beast from the east killed it stone dead. I thought that there was some promise of a sucker but it turns out that I was the only one.
Narcissus 'Rijnveld's Early Sensation' is the third significant occupant of my "signs of spring" corner. The first flowers appear in the middle of December, it has arrived exactly on cue. The garden is a biodiverse habitat but all of its denizens seem to feel the weight of the lull before Christmas, hungry for change, hungry for brightness and ,as it turns out, hungry for 'Rijnveld's Early Sensation'. The first flower is always visited by slugs long before I get there, this year has not been an exception. There was a single rather strange angle from which the damage was almost imperceptible and that accounts for this picture.
The subsequent flowers will be fine it is the first one that attracts attention, like beaujolais nouveau. By the time I have a meadow of its flowers spring will have developed other attractions, slugs will have other targets. Warmth and light will sparkle through the garden.
One more week to the Solstice.