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JEARRARD'S HERBAL


8th March 2020

Pleione Eiger .
The weather is warming up. Without really trying I saw five species of Acacia in flower last week, a measure of the mildness of the winter. The rain has continued which won't have suited the Acacia very well but they seem to have stood up to it without losing either flowers or the will to live. The garden has reached that point when it is time to say goodbye to the threat of winter.
The easiest place to dispense with winter is the greenhouse, where the temperatures have started to rocket on the sunny days. Pleione have been producing pink swellings at the base of the pseudobulbs for weeks, but they have all started to resolve into buds now. The earliest of them have even advanced to flower and with luck the season will continue for a couple of months. I think I still have two stocks of Pleione Eiger but they have been confused. I usually write the source on the back of the label to distinguish them but along the way I have labelled some pots "Eiger" and left it at that. This is my second clone with pink outer segments. It is vigorous and holds the flower well. My first clone has white outer segments, the flower droops over the rim of the pot, a sprawling parody of its parent, P. humilis. It is far less vigorous than this one but it has charm. This one is lovely, the paler one is lovely. The difference is a tone of voice that (I might have realised) won't be apparent here!


8th March 2020

Primula allionii 'Henry Burrow' .
If a tiny Primula could roar with the triumph of a conquering lion then that is what you are hearing. It is an enchanting little species that has been beguiling growers of alpines for decades. Originally from that part of southern Europe where Italy and France merge imperceptibly into each other, it needs to be cultivated under glass here if only to keep the rain off. I have struggled to grow it for a long time, partly out of love but mostly out of bloody-mindedness if I'm honest. For years I have wrestled with its intractable nature and deliciousness to vine-weevil. The latter are now being kept at bay by a biological control, the intractability seems to have reduced significantly since I started to use limestone chippings in the mix. I regularly see domes of pink flowers at AGS shows, usually from growers in the north, and marvel at their talent. I get a speckling of flowers through the season which is delightful but not in the same league. I had put the difference down to colder winters synchronising flowering more effectively but this year a number of cultivars are making a decent show here. Perhaps in cultivation terms it is simply the slow emergence of competence. That would be a gently satisfying thought.


8th March 2020

Erythronium dens-canis 'Old Aberdeen' .
As the snowdrops go over, the leaves of the Erythronium are pushing through the ground. Beneath the trees at the top of the garden I am slowly naturalising Galanthus plicatus. I have a number of forms in the mix and I am hoping that they will seed about eventually though they haven't shown any sign of it yet. In the meantime I am lifting and splitting them as the chance arises and this year they have started to speckle the ground over the whole area. They are still a long way from the dense carpets of my imagination but things are developing nicely.
Between them I have planted Colchicum 'Waterlily' and Erythronium 'Pagoda'. As the snowdrops fade the ground is filled with their fresh shoots. I planted a few Erythronium dens-canis among them, just because I had a small bag of bulbs to hand and couldn't think what to do with them. They seem to have established, rather to my surprise. Previous experiments had been less successful but it may be another plant to naturalise more widely up there.
Planted among the snowdrop collection, Erythronium dens-canis 'Old Aberdeen' has flowered, bringing a touch of warmth to the fading white snowdrops. I was told that it was vigorous, floriferous and lilac and it has fulfilled those promises, refreshing the exhausted snowdrop border.



8th March 2020

Crocus tommasinianus 'Whitewell Purple' .
Biodiversity is one of those delighful phrases that trip from the tongue enthusiastically. Mice, rats, voles, squirrels and rabbits all wander around the garden with biodiverse impunity. I don't have a mechanism for responding to any of them. Wire netting around newly planted trees helps protect them from rabbits for a while but for the most part I just accept the presence of critters in the garden. I like the word as well, embracing a philosophy of acceptance better than the term vermin.
So we all get along, singing and dancing through the garden in our own merry harmonies with the single exception of the little bastard that eats my Crocus bulbs. I don't know who it is, but they aren't very popular. I had given up planting Crocus altogether. Critters I can live with but fat critters are an insult too far.
So this little patch of Crocus 'Whitewell Purple' (I think) is a triumphant delight. Definitely the best thing in the garden on a sunny afternoon. They went in twenty years ago if not more and I haven't seen anything much of them for a decade. Suddenly there is a smiling purple moment in the sunshine.
I might try just one more time with Crocus. Perhaps I could plant them deeper, spread them more thinly around to reduce the density of dinner. As a last resort console myself with the thought that fat critters can't run as fast. That's a warning.
And the critters are looking back at me thinking run, don't make us laugh.