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JEARRARD'S HERBAL


3rd May 2020

Hyacinthoides non-scripta .
Another week with the luxury of time in the garden through the spring. Things are moving rapidly, as they always do at this time of the year. I stand in the middle of it from time to time looking perplexed. Last time I remember looking out over the valley the fields had crisp, regular outlines. There was a suggestion of dark mist over the hedges where the bare twigs caught the light. Standing in quiet amazement yesterday looking at the same scene it was as though someone had popped the Yorkshire-pudding landscape into the oven and the thin hedges had bubbled up into crusty green shapes. The trees have leaves on them now, the space beneath has filled with dramatic light, summer weeds and baby rabbits.
I have been cutting down trees. I have too many, they are too large, the space beneath is too congested. Keeping the balance right is an ongoing problem. Time in the garden is the solution.
In August last year I made a start on the woodland garden, removing many of the smaller trees that were simply not competing. I wanted to clear space and let more light in for the plants on the woodland floor. I got about half of it done. Within a week of clearing the ground I found the first Colchicum bud pushing through the soil. They are followed by the early snowdrops, wood anemones and then the Erythronium. Finally, with summer in view, the bluebells take over. They are a mixed blessing, sometimes I curse them when planting other things and every spadeful of soil is thick with their white bulbs. However, for a couple of weeks at the end of spring they are a delight. A tide, a hoard, an invasion of delight.
And I can't complain, I sowed the seed deliberately, knowing that I would never be able to undo it. Hoping that I would never want to. So far so good.


3rd May 2020

Calycanthus floridus var. glaucus .
Cutting out excess trees is a thoroughly satisfying thing to do. It gives time to look at the broader outlines of the garden, time to consider the grand plan, away from the little details of planting. Time to lie back in exhaustion on the warm ground and think about less tiring things to do.
Those were the considerations that brought me to the Hedychium house. It has needed clearing out for a few years now, one of those projects that requires some dedicated time. It has been far too easy to put it off in the frantic flow of everyday life. I made a start last week, removing anything that was dead or unwanted and planting out in the garden everything that I could find a space for. Clearing trees has helped - there are a lot more spaces suddenly.
Calycanthus floridus glaucus was one of the problems. I bought it years ago, a ragged specimen wobbling in its pot at the end of the year. I repotted it, stood it in the Hedychium house to establish, and there it remained. Years later it had rooted through, grown into a large shrub and was flowering with enthusiasm. Sadly it had to be moved, the situation was unsustainable. So on Friday evening it was dug out and trimmed hard, the remnants of the pot were cut off and it was planted out. I don't know how it will respond to such harsh treatment at this time of the year. With luck it will get some decent rain on it and grow away. On the other hand it might just give up hope and fade away. A picture of the flowers before I cut it back may be the last I see of it.
I'm not going to worry, I can't have a large shrub growing in the middle of the greenhouse and that's all there is to it. Rain overnight was welcome.


3rd May 2020

Ourisia coccinea .
Trees and shrubs are difficult. They get bigger. Little creepy herbaceous things have a different set of problems. How do you protect them from the trees and shrubs that are constantly getting bigger? I grow a lot of stuff in pots, risking it in the garden when I have a surplus, when there is a suitable niche and just occasionally when I get frustrated by all the clutter. It isn't a perfect process. I see gardens with organised beds and rich loam soils, gardens with spaces to plant things out in. Part of me envies them, seemingly freed from the constant assault of chaos that threatens to overwhelm me here.
In the winds a couple of weeks ago a great mass of Clematis montana stems fell out of one of the trees, lying on one of the paths like a wicker shed. I wound it into a large coil to be removed later when I had a suitable pair of secateurs to hand. During the week the fallen vines burst into scented pink flower where they lay coiled. I took a little break from felling trees, curled up among the stems and dozed in the sunshine. Perhaps the chaos isn't all that bad.
If I have to keep Ourisia coccinea in a pot, it's a small price to pay. I have a feeling that it would probably grow quite well among the Sarracenia, producing its tall heads of scarlet flowers just as they bloomed. It could do with dividing anyway.



3rd May 2020

Iris innominata Apricot .
The snowdrops provide the first surge of spring enthusiasm, flowering in the frosts of early spring. Then the Pleione come, their rich colours signalling the return of warm weather. The Pleione are fading as the Sarracenia start to flower, and the Disa are in bud. They have taken advantage of a warm winter to rush into early growth. I grow a number of things that fill the gaps between the major performers and in the last few years I have become interested in Pacific Coast Iris. During the week the first of this years crop of seedlings germinated, almost as exciting as the first flowers appearing on the parent plants. I have struggled with them for a few years, listening to advice, doing all the wrong things. Last year I got fed up with their reputation for finicky behaviour and stood them all in water. They have prospered. It was only after I did it that I discovered they are essentially bog plants in habitat.
Iris innominata had been struggling in an ordinary pot and eventually I lost it. This apricot flowered strain is my only survivor, rescued from dry conditions and dunked in water it has prospered. The first flower was an unexpected pleasure. I am keeping it away from the others at the moment, they hybridise like mad things and I would quite like to raise some more little apricots before it abandons innocence entirely.
These are the chaotic details of spring. Next week it is back to the calm of the trees.