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JEARRARD'S HERBAL


29th March 2020

Anemone nemorosa 'Bowles Purple' .
Sunshine has crowned the week. A cold wind has kept it fresh but the sparkling light has been a relief after months of dank and gloomy weather. It's a pity that it has happened when we are all staying home but it has allowed me time to enjoy my own garden, time that would have slipped away otherwise. Down in the greenhouse colour is bursting from the pots. I have been slow to water, as I always am, enjoying the lethargy of winter long after the hose-dragging season has begun. Yesterday I settled down and watered everything. I say everything, I got about half way round. The second installment will come today or tomorrow and then I can expect spring to explode on the benches with renewed enthusiasm.
The garden has been the focus this week. The ground is drying fast in the sunshine, the breeze removing the remaining water vapour. I mowed the front lawn during the week, and the grass dried almost as it was cut, falling in fluffy piles behind me. I haven't seen that for many months.
A week ago the first Anemone nemorosa forms opened. Immediately the sun came out to meet them and they opened wide with an arm-stretching vegetable yawn. 'Bowles Purple' caught the light, caught my eye and ensured its place here. As with all named Wood Anemones, this may not be the real thing, there is very little authentic description to use in verification. However it is springtime, the garden is glowing and the possibility of seedling impostors can be discounted for long enough to enjoy the plant.
'Bowles Purple' should have purple undersides to the tepals and since that seems to be the only distinguishing feature, this must be it!


29th March 2020

Ficaria verna 'Ken Aslett' .
There is a small band of enthusiasts left speechless by the wonder of Ficaria verna. I found one yesterday as I went to switch the water off, a perfect cushion of green leaves topped with an icing of gold like a glowing green fairy-cake. A beautiful thing, growing in the centre of the path to make adoration simpler. I coudn't have planted it more perfectly, and therein lies the problem. I didn't.
Ficaria verna is delicious or pernicious, it's a matter of viewpoint. I choose to delight in their bright diversity, understanding that I can't do anything about it anyway. They are very easy to collect, very easy to select. Depressingly easy to name, there are hundreds of them. Fortunately for the most part they have a limited lifespan in cultivation. Within a few years the single flowered cultivars will be overwhelmed by their seedlings and slowly blur themselves out of existence. It is the sterile doubles that remain. Planted in a good soil they will persist without drowning in their own offspring.
'Ken Aslett' has prospered for many years among the snowdrops, as good a white double as I know. Originally found by Ken Aslett growing on the rock bank at Wisley, I have always assumed that it was a relic from a previous planting that had long lost its label and slipped into obscurity. I may be wrong, it could be a spontaneous seedling but that doesn't seem the most likely origin.
However it arose, with the spring sunshine opening the petals wide it was a tiny delight.


29th March 2020

Gentiana acaulis .
Spring sunshine and opening petals are key points. I have had a bud on Gentiana acaulis for a fortnight. A fat, swollen bud perched on the point of bursting. Perched very securely on the point of bursting as it turned out. This was no teetering toddler wobbling on fat legs before falling into flower, this bud had taken teetering into the realms of art. I watched it every day, waiting for the magical moment of expansion but nothing. I sat and watched, it sat and watched back. Stalemate.
I have a short history with gentians, short in many ways. I haven't tried to grow them for long, certain that I could not meet their requirements. They don't seem to like the warm south of the country and I do. In the last couple of years I have made an occasional attempt and I have a short history of failure to show for it. The failures have been both short and decisive. I tried to grow G. sino-ornata a couple of years ago. I bought it in flower and the plant was dead before the flowers faded, a very curious phenomenon.
So this gentian flower is important to me. This plant flowered last year as well, this has been a survivor, a success, possibly even a triumph. Except that it wouldn't open. In the end I lost patience, took a blunt pin and carefully unwound the twisted tip of the flower. There was an almost audible pop of relief as the bloom burst open. At the last stage of expansion the petal tips had stuck to each other. I shared the relief.
This is not to suggest that I have any expectations for it, I live in the wrong part of the world for gentians. This was one of those stange freaks of survival that might lead the unwary into crowing loudly and enthusiastically of their great success. No, this is more a flicker of success in the sunshine as the dark clouds gather.
With that understanding I have enjoyed it.



29th March 2020

Narcissus 'Eystettensis' .
There have been a lot of daffodils in the garden this year. I struggle to explain how that has happened, I am generally quite careful about adding new cultivars to the garden. I am fed up with seeing plantings of mixed daffodils in parks and gardens. Let's just put the cheapest ones in, who cares what they look like? It's an approach that makes my skin crawl. Who cares? Well, I care. Among the many thousands of cultivars of daffodils that have been raised there is a cornucopia of glee to be had. Falling back on mixed daffs feels like inviting mediocre misery into the garden. No, no, no.
So I am careful. Each daffodil in the garden is there for a reason, bringing with it a unique moment of wonder and joy every spring (or occasionally autumn). Except that suddenly the glee seems to have taken over. I opened the door a crack to let the tiny miniatures in and some giant monsters followed them. Fortunately, I have a soft spot for narcitious monsters.
Narcissus 'Eystettensis' straddles the boundary. It is monstrously tiny, a double flower unlike other double daffodils, the spreading tepals arranged in ranks, one on top of the next. It doesn't show very well in this flower but it can be a delight of geometric precision. I have had my bulb for a long time, but it was first recorded by Clusius in 1601 and on that basis it could well be the oldest thing in the garden. The flower is rather heavy and bends downwards on the thin scape. In the warm sunshine I had to lie flat on the ground to get a decent picture and that was a delight in itself. I didn't see any great reason to move for a few minutes, just lie there listening to the newly arrived Chiff-chaff singing his heart out. I moved on after a few minutes, he had moved on by the next day, flying north looking for a garden to call home.
I expect he wants to grow gentians.