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JEARRARD'S HERBAL


5th January 2020

Galanthus 'Bess' .
With admirable restraint the garden has waited for the New Year before bursting into Spring. I went looking for flowers on Fuchsia magellanica gracilis, sure that there would still be a rosy flush from autumn hanging on to the bare twiggy branches. Not a single flower. Winds and cold nights through the Christmas period have destroyed them all, vanquishing Autumn in the process. Of course it's not that simple, 'Lechlade Magician' and 'Hawkshead' still have flowers but I can be magnanimous. I can overlook them!
The year has started with the pale colours of January dominating. That same magnanimity overlooks the scarlet flowers on Grevilea victoriae and the red Hamamelis sparkling in the low sunshine. This is the pale season and thats an end to it.
Last week the snowdrops were all silvery snakes sliding upwards, the buds barely swelling at the tips of the scapes. During the week they have expanded and opened. There are nodding heads speckling the ground. I checked for 'Lady Elphinstone' in the meadow but there was no sign. She emerges very late and the first flowers open at ground level before rising up. The first appearance will look like scattered popcorn in the grass. No popcorn yet. Others that I expect to see at the end of February are already in bud. I'm waiting for the chill to arrive that holds everything in suspended animation for a few weeks.


5th January 2020

Helleborus x hybridus .
Hot cross buns have arrived in the supermarkets like the first migrating birds of spring. Fat, fruit-filled stodgy birds huddling together for warmth. The supermarkets are desperate to find something new to sweep away the detritus of Christmas and hot cross buns have answered the call. In the same way the garden centres are thrashing around looking for seasonal novelty. Something to fill the christmas tree vacuum. Pots of early bulbs have appeared, barely awake yet, yellowed shoots just poking through the compost. The Christmas Roses that filled the shelves in December are being replaced by Helleborus x hybridus in assorted colours and shapes. I have a general principle (that I don't manage to stick to) that I only buy flowering hellebores in January. I am very fond of them right through the spring but if I am going to pay money then they have to be early. I walked straight past a delightful display during the week. They looked too good. They looked as though they had been grown under glass, flowering in January despite their natural inclination.
A week ago I searched high and low looking for early flowers in the garden before the end of the year. There was nothing. This week I have half a dozen, the best one looking a bit tired as though it had been open for a fortnight and I had missed it. They are all in the muddy pink colour range, hidden in plain sight against the soil. I might well have missed it.


5th January 2020

Narcissus romieuxii 'Joy Bishop' .
The daffodils have been harder to miss. Last week there was Narcissus cantabricus providing significant comfort. The daffodils have started, spring is upon us. There is another subtext - "and you haven't killed them all in pots over the summer". I am reassured in both counts. Every indication of spring is welcome, and the survival of the daffodils is a mighty joy. Those growing in the garden are fine, the shoots are pushing through the earth in increasing numbers every day. They will continue to prosper until the surrounding trees start to shade them out. Unfortunately in recent years I have become rather fond of tiny daffodils. Besotted is too strong a word. The sort of tiny daffodils that would be lost in the garden. The sort that need pots and greenhouses and constant worrying. The sort that produce tiny seed capsules filled with promise for the future. Perhaps I will have to allow besotted.
The early stages with any new plant involve thrashing around wildly hoping to get the conditions right. I have been growing Narcissus romieuxii for years, probably decades, leaving it to get on with growing, a task it performs with admirable efficiency. Unfortunately I have begun to care rather obsessively. I am quite capable of smothering them with the equivalent of love, that is to say, horticultural cleverness. I think I need a special bench put aside for little daffodils, not least to house the pots of seedlings that I have somehow produced. A special bench where I can not-kill them more thoroughly.



5th January 2020

Camellia 'Nuccio's Pearl' .
This is Cornwall and despite my attempts to pull the garden away from the traditional Cornish garden flora, Camellia continue to provide a backbone and a heartbeat to the scene. They are just so useful. I have a long row of field maples planted when I moved in, to provide a windbreak. Beside them I have a long row of Camellia planted to enhance their statuesque but agricultural aspect. Now I want to fell the maples. No problem, the Camellia will take the strain, or take the wind, or strain the wind. Whatever, the Camellia will do it.
The first flowers mark the transition from "might-as-well-be-a-cherry-laurel" to "decorative-darling-of-the-gardening-classes". Last week I had a few autumn flowering cultivars hanging on, and 'Show Girl' proving that incompatible parents are an ideal launching pad for a life in the entertainment industry.
This week things have changed. The evenings are noticeably brighter and the mainstream Camellia have started. 'Nuccio's Pearl' is always early to rise but it doesn't stand up well to harsh weather. If things turn cold it will retreat to its remaining buds. It has Californian roots. 'Nobilissima' and 'Drama Girl' have also opened and will keep flowering now during every frost free moment.
The supermarkets are looking forward to Easter, the daffodils are welcoming spring, and I am worried about cold weather arriving from the east.
Happy New Year.