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JEARRARD'S HERBAL


2nd February 2020

Narcissus 'Bowles Early Sulphur' .
The weather has oscillated between slightly wintery and slightly spring-like. So slightly that the difference has been hardy noticable. I have lit a fire in the evenings out of habit and it has caused problems. The chimney refuses to draw. I even went as far as sweeping it again this afternoon, not because I thought it would make a difference but because I couldn't think of anything else to do. The problem has been the weather. For the last four days there has been no breath of wind in the evenings. The heavy dew falls like a thick duvet over the garden almost pinning plants to the ground. That has been the problem in the chimney, no air movement.
So winter has started to worry me. There is no sign of cold high presure systems falling down from the arctic, though they are bound to come. No sign, but the air has been completely still for most of the week. There is a moment in winter when the thrust of warm air from the south-west meets a heavy drift of cold air from the north-east and everything comes to a halt. So the chimney won't draw and I am worried.
However the garden is convinced that winter has passed. The larger daffodils have started to flower and there is a selection of smaller ones producing buds. 'Bowles Early Sulphur' is a perennial delight and I was pleased to see some self sown seedlings around it. They are growing much more vigorously than the ones I sowed under cover. Not for the first time, I remind myself not to be so self-important, and leave things to get on with it themselves. Why do I have any daffodils under cover?
I don't really have a convincing answer. Overwhelming ego I think.


2nd February 2020

Galanthus 'Joy Cozens' .
Narcissus 'Bowles Early Sulphur' is one of the few plants I have that remember E. A. Bowles and his garden at Myddleton House in Enfield. It is a connection to a man I never met, writer, philanthopist but mostly gardener. He spent his life in his garden, growing older and grumpier with every year. I have aspirations, let's think of it as a retirement plan!
Every year the gardens host a snowdrop sale, and that was where I went last weekend. I don't need any more snowdrops, don't really want any more snowdrops but I can't resist the urge to have a look, see the snowdrops in the garden, feel distantly connected. I have an urge to step in grumpy footprints.
So despite my good intentions I came away with a plant of Galanthus 'Joy Cozens' (and I seem to have left behind forty pounds). It is, as the snowdrop grow may regularly say, something I don't have. I was curious about it and I find it very difficult to let go of that. It was the first (?) of the orange tipped snowdrops. The buds have a distinct orange/apricot/mud-spattered tip. A novelty in a genus of unstained whiteness. As you can see from the pictures, taken five days apart, the colour fades as the bud expands. I don't mind, it is a strange and distinctive thing that moderates its weird behaviour by ending up looking exactly like every other snowdrop. Myddleton House seems the perfect place to buy such a thing and sometimes you have to put all other thoughts aside and just go for it.


2nd February 2020

Narcissus cantabricus var. petunioides .
I wish I had understood that better when I was young. A friend showed me a picture of Narcissus cantabricus petunioides when I was a teenager. An old black and white picture in a library book. Did I think he could grow it on a cold windowsill? I had no idea, I had never seen the plant in the flesh no idea where it could be obtained. It was a wonder beyond comprehension. I didn't think it could be grown on a windowsill, didn't think it was available (I was probably right about that), didn't give it much further thought. But I yearned. Quiet, practical, no-nonsense yearning that has stayed with me for decades.
And then I was offered a pot for a couple of quid at a meeting. The money was out of my pocket faster than the passing of the years. A few stringy leaves and the promise of the fulfilment of a teenage dream. At last a flower has opened, unexpectedly, un-noticed in bud. Just the shock of walking into the greenhouse and meeting my teenage self grinning from ear to ear. Come on winter, do what you want, you can't touch me where it matters.
If you're reading this Chris, thank you for borrowing the library book, suggesting the impossible, opening an unlikely door. Big cheesy grin. Thank you.



2nd February 2020

Galanthus woronowii gold leaf .
So I try to take more chances on the unlikely. Give it a go. The worst that can happen is a plant or two die, I have killed enough through the years to take the risk. I was in a garden centre this morning, following an obsessive thread. The chance of a snowdrop that has been stuck in my head for a week or two. It wasn't there, I have let it go (I didn't want it anyway, so there)!
Instead they had some pots of Galanthus woronowii on the benches, all looking a bit ragged, grown from imported bulbs but always worth casting an eye over. Nothing very remarkable in flower , indeed most of them weren't even going to flower, but in the middle of one pot was this gold leaved bulb. I was mystified. I was amazed. Hope courses through the veins like a greyhound chasing a rabbit. I am excited but not stupid. These sort of things occur from time to time, etiolated shoots, starved bulbs, irregular harvesting, storage and growing conditions. This is probably just a physiological hiccup, the bulb will probably come up with perfect green leaves next year. It might even green up once it is properly exposed to the light. I note the green ovary. I would expect that to be golden in a real gold leaved form. I nearly left it where it was, but I didn't. This is that dangerous thing, a golden flicker of unlikely hope in the face of common sense. I will pay a few pounds and find out rather than walk away wondering.
Perhaps it is the weather or the slow pace of the garden through the spring. Perhaps I have more money than sense (seems unlikely) or perhaps I spend too much time day-dreaming.
It seemed like a good day to take a golden chance.