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JEARRARD'S HERBAL


29th December 2019

Nerine 'Christmas Dreams' .
Sometime in the middle of summer the skies will open and the rain will fall with the relentless determination of a badger digging up earthworms. I fill up on coffee and fill out my tax return. A few weeks later a notice will arrive from the tax office telling me that I must pay them a given sum by 31st January and adding that they will send notification of how to pay them closer to the date. I am left in uncomfortable obligation, knowing they must be paid but without a mechamism for doing so. For a period after my bank closed its local branch I was in a similar situation. Able to write cheques but without any mechanism to pay them in.
In a nutshell, the Christmas syndrome. Nothing can progress until Christmas is out of the way.
The New Year will perhaps feature extreme cold weather. There is a sense that the garden is trembling fearfully in anxious anticipation of something that cannot be averted. There is no mechanism to move things forward. I could skip around wafting fleece behind me like some nebulous fabric fairy, but it wouldn't achieve anything, it would just be displacement behaviour. Christmas acts like a block, once it is over I am able to face the reality and start to deal with the prospect of cold weather.
So Nerine 'Christmas Dreams' is welcome. The autumn was magnificent but now it can be put aside. The season of frosty breath and foot-stamping chill has arrived, clear nights and ominous forecasts. Christmas has passed and released both garden and gardener from fluffy bravado. For a couple of months we will just have to grit our teeth and deal with it.


29th December 2019

Galanthus elwesii 'November Flowering' .
Perhaps not the cheeriest introduction to a November flowering snowdrop but snowdrops are the crampons of the winter garden. They stop it from sliding backwards.
The daylength is increasing, the sun is climbing higher into the sky. The quantity of heat arriving in the garden from the sun is going up, before long average temperatures will stop falling and start to climb again. There may be icy spells ahead but the inexorable progress of snowdrops will deliver us all safely into March. The first buds on 'Lyn' tipped their nodding heads downwards during the week, poised to open. It is a spring snowdrop of the 'Atkinsii' persuasion, the snowdrop baton has been handed on from the heroic advance guard of autumn. Not that this 'November Flowering' form of G. elwesii could be described as heroic. It is an opportunist. If I was being harsh then it could be lost in the swirl of the 'Hiemalis Group' but Bob Brown distributes it as a distinct clone and in the obsessive world of snowdroppery, that is sufficient. It flowers when it pleases, pays little heed to others expectations and is something of a loose cannon. It has arrived as December closes with scornful nomenclatural poise.


29th December 2019

Camellia transnokoensis .
Despite the tardy appearance of the 'November Flowering' G. elwesii there are other plants in the garden that take my view. Christmas is over, lets just get on with it. Camellia transnokoensis is an unexpected companion. In the days when the RHS held an Early Spring show to rouse the dormant gardener from slumber, C. transnokoensis was the camellia of the moment, bountifully dressing the evergreen branches with white flowers from the red tipped buds. A perfect shelter for the early snowdrops and crocus.
I was surprised to see the buds swelling during December but I have watched them in past years puffing themselves up in slow motion and waiting until the first few days of February to actually open. I thought that was what was happening here, but the first buds have opened unexpectedly. Last year it continued in flower until the end of March with nothing but the briefest pause for icy moments. A few flowers browned here and there and immediately replaced.
It is a gorgeous Camellia, it will flower for months without ever looking tired. The old flowers are shed, the developing buds are delightful. These are the warriors of spring that fight off the short days and cold nights.



29th December 2019

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Ruby Glow' .
Years go by and each one is different. It is difficult to know how much is climate and how much is chance. Some days I look at the weather forecast and Cornwall is five, or even ten degrees warmer than southern England. I go to bed feeling quietly smug. On other days the temperatures are much the same and I scowl at the weather map. However I have one measure of the milder climate that I have come to enjoy since I moved to the county.
I have started to deny the existence of winter.
Autumn tapers away as the first signs of spring appear. The seasons are indistinct and a bit of fudging of definitions makes winter vanish. My only real exception comes with the archetypal winter flowers of Hamamelis. I could include the Sarcococca as well, but they are growing so badly here that it hardly seems worth streching definitions for their convenience. H. x intermedia 'Ruby Glow' is generally the first to flower, though this year there could only have been a few hours in it, 'Orange Beauty', 'Jelena' and 'Diane' are also waggling stray petals into the wind. They frost the grey branches with a rime of colour.
The tax office have sent a notice telling me how to pay. The season of prevarication is over, spring is coming. Time to get on with it.