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JEARRARD'S HERBAL


26th April 2020

Paeonia rockii .
Another summery week, the sunshine has made working in the garden difficult on occasion. Fortunately at the end of the week the temperature dropped a bit and a cool wind appeared. Between the two things there was a moment of dead calm, perfect for spraying the new border. I wanted to get the last of the perennial weeds sprayed before I planted it up. Some bindweed has started to appear and I am hoping that I have set it back at the very least.
The plan is to use the new border for all of the herbaceous peonies and Astilbe and all the other clutter that has been lying around in pots. It is a design driven by environmental circumstances rather than aesthetics. At the top of the garden in full sun and exposed to the wind, it is a space to plant things that I want to get rid of. Will that red look good associated with the pink and orange, who cares!
There is a space, that will do.
With my new-found aesthetic ruthlessness I am quite pleased to see that sometimes things work out better than expected. In 2013 I bought 20 cut price Paeonia rockii seedlings from a discount catalogue via a friend (thanks). I wasn't expecting a great deal but for a pound each I was happy to give it a try. When they arrived they were dry and late but in good condition and a decent size. I was very happy. I planted them around the Agave house in an adventurous combination of Agave and Tree Peonies. Most of them have survived, a great many have prospered. When I see the giant white flowers with deep burgundy splashes at their base I wonder if perhaps I could do without the Agave. Then the transient flowers shatter, the petals scattered among the rigid grey rosettes of the succulents and there is a moment of philosophical wonder. The fragile petals wilt in the steely arms of the Agave.
There is an old scientific adage that what you find is entirely determined by how you look.


26th April 2020

Iris confusa 'Martyn Rix' .
So I don't really care what goes in the new border. Those things that prosper will produce an unexpected crop of wonderful moments. In their own way it will be much more satisfying than planning a ruthless silver and purple garden and discovering that year after year it is silver and purple. Duh!
Let's put it down to a long holiday in the garden. It's making me frisky. I have been getting on with all those jobs that require concentrated effort. All the things that are put aside until there is enough time. It reminds me that I should take a long holiday every year just to get things done.
Iris confusa 'Martyn Rix' is an example. I have legions of plants in pots waiting to be planted out. The time and space never seem to arrive. After a while their potted existence is taken for granted, they get overlooked and one year they turn out to be dead. 'Martyn Rix' was lucky, shoved into a space on a whim one morning. It has prospered and yesterday when I went around with a camera it had half a dozen sprays of flowers flexing athletically in the breeze. There are a few other species in the same section of the genus. I have grown many of them but this is the only one to survive, accidental beneficiary of a pre-breakfast walk around the garden. Something I should clearly do more of.


26th April 2020

Agapetes 'Ludgvan Cross'.
Time in the garden means that I am making progress with jobs that looked imposible. I have been felling trees and clearing scrub. Most of it has been Sycamore seedlings that have blown it. I have been putting it off until there was enough time and now I have run out of excuses. I have cut down a Holly that had grown to 8m tall. I must have planted it, I am sure it had a name with it once, but it was ugly (insofar as a Holly can ever be ugly) and it was in the way. I don't remember anything about putting it in, I won't miss it. It has left me with space, and in the space I can plant all the shrubs-in-waiting. I'm not sure when, the weather is getting to dry for planting out, but I will have the space which is the first essential. Light at the end of the tunnel.
And light slicing through the garden in strange sheets and shafts. The trees are leafing out and the evening atmosphere is flickering in anticipation of the night. I have been out with a camera trying to capture the moment as sunset illuminates the flowers. I have a decent picture of Agapetes serpens 'Scarlet Elf, the glowing orange flowers crackle-glazed with darker markings. It inspired me to go and look for 'Ludgvan Cross', struggling and ignored in a corner of the greenhouse. Now moved to a more suitable spot where it will be watered reliably. It is doing its best in difficult circumstances. I should plant it out but it probably isn't hardy. I will root some cuttings as soon as it has recovered enough to produce some strong shoots.



26th April 2020

Paeonia rockii .
Did I mention that I have Paeonia rockii this week? The elegant magic of its scattering petals. There is a Madonna video that I vaguely remember, where she disintegrates into a flock of black crows, like Voldemort being vanquished. The peonies do that in total silence, the petals slip from the flower without regret, obscuring any background noise. I could sit and watch it for days. At least I like to think I could, I don't have that sort of attention span. I could manage about five minutes before I started to shake the flowers to chivvy them up. I am impatient, always wanting the next thing.
And the peonies have delivered it. My Paeonia rockii seedlings were clearly not grown from a venerable old plant on a lonely mountain. They are the surplus product from a breeding program somewhere, they are variable. I have white and pink and purple, with and without dark splashes in the heart. Singles, semi-doubles and for the first time this year, full doubles.
This one was amazing. I was wafting stylishly through my Agave-Peony wilderness when I was hit in the face, almost literally, by this gigantic, wonderful, terrifying pink Godzilla-blossom. One of those unexpected moments when you have to put everything you have previously thought aside and start again. I had to manoevre to get a picture, got stabbed by an Agave, swore quite a lot and ended up laughing in the sunshine. Into every life a little rain must fall.
A little rain would be quite welcome at the moment.