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JEARRARD'S HERBAL


24th May 2020

Primula auricula 'Avon Khaki' .
Cold winds have continued to tickle the garden through the week. They aren't like the winter winds that slice through the trees like a sword, they are almost playful. They dessicate the plants and ruffle their foliage but they also lower the temperature and that has been a relief. A couple of short spells of rain have also helped. The garden has softened slightly both in its appearance and in its physical response. I felled a tree on Monday and it came down like a sigh of resignation against the ground rather than the shattering thunder of the week before.
Tree felling has had an effect on the garden and it has had an effect on the gardener. More time in the greenhouse while I recover from the exertion. It has meant that I have finally sorted through the auriculas. I have been putting off doing it, knowing that some are dead but not wanting to face the reality of it. In the final investigation, some were flowering, some were dead and some were in limbo between the two states. Those that looked optimistic were saved, those that didn't went to the compost heap. The problem is always vine weevil. It adores them, infesting every nook of their delicious rootiness. Where I have waged war on weevil the plants have succeeded, where I have been lethargic they have failed.
'Avon Khaki' has been vigorous and I like the flower. Regular repotting has helped to control the weevil infestation while I find a longer term solution. The nematode treatment is very effective but I have to remember to apply it! At present my future with auriculas remains in the balance.


24th May 2020

Sarracenia x moorei H-246-DB .
The Sarracenia collection has been reducing as well, though in a more controlled fashion. I grew too many and had spent years telling myself that simple fact. Eventually I grasped the nettle and gave away a number of the plants I was no longer interested in. The dull huddled masses were thinned out and the remainder are in the process of being repotted. For the first time in decades there is some space in the benches and I am enjoying it. There is room to see the plants, I even enjoyed tidying them during the winter which had come to be a dull, cold, unrewarding chore.
As a consequence the flowering season this year has been a delight, the sun has shone, the flowers have glowed and it has been very pleasant to walk through the rows in the evening light enjoying the details. It has emphasised the value of the hybrid S. x moorei, with flowers that range from yellow through intermediate shades to red. I like the colour of this one, though the leaves are rather ordinary when they appear. There are plenty of good foliage forms in the collection, I can afford to carry a few duds if they have good flowers.


24th May 2020

Utricularia reniformis .
Utricularia reniformis also has magnificent flowers and is also a dud in some ways. I grow it because it is one of a strange collection of Brazilian plants plants that are cold tolerant in this climate. That isn't to say they are hardy, they do best in a cold greenhouse where they get some summer warmth, but they will withstand some winter frost. That is why I grow it, but it isn't why I got it. I bought it because it is carnivorous, however it is a dud. All of the action goes on in small bladders beneath the ground, nothing to see. Even when I repot it I have trouble making out the details. The flower is a wonderful thing but they aren't produced very freely. Years can go by without any sign of a flowering shoot - although to be fair to the plant, it is getting more reliable as it gets more established. It has only taken 20 years.
So in the final analysis I grow it for its unexceptional green leaves and because I can. Perhaps it is not such a surprise that it never really caught on in general horticulture. Notwithstanding, I am very fond of it and grow three different clones. Worse than that, I would grow more if I could get hold of them! This is the best, I got it from Chris Crowe a couple of decades ago where it was romping through a bed of shallow water in a cold greenhouse. It was one of those moments of insight that change perception. I didn't think that it would ever romp through anything with me, it was slow to establish. However in the last year or two it has escaped through the holes in the bottom of the pot and started to wander through the water bed with intermingling glee along with Utricularia praelonga. I am happy to let it wander, occasional flowers are a generous recompense.



24th May 2020

Paeonia 'Cora Louise' .
Every time I look at the peonies I think of Goldilocks and the three bears. One bowl of porridge is too hot, one too cold but one is just right.
I am always impressed by the herbaceous peonies, I luxuriate in their opulent glamour whenever I see them prospering. They are less impressed with me, if I see them prospering it is never in my own garden. Tree peonies are redolent of the intricate arts of China, the astonishing flowers are an end in themselves, the knobbly twigs beneath them are just the required support mechanism. However in my exposed garden, the mechanism is not suficient. Those tree peonies that I grow are in the Agave house where the wind is (hopefully) less devastating. So I am left with the intersectional hybrids where the porridge is just right.
The flowers are less impressive than either of the parent groups, and at present the scope for improvement seems limited by a high degree of sterility, but they have been good performers under my conditions. I got this one as 'Intersectional Hybrid', bought with my usual attraction to the mysterious and cheap. On flowering it became clear that it was 'Cora Louise', the large bloom favours the tree peony parent but it grows on short, almost herbaceous stems. It doesn't have the rich scent of the P. lactiflora cultivars but then neither do the P. lactiflora cultivars in the herbaceous border (I am still waiting for flowers, planted 2007).
I have spent more time in the garden this spring and have seen more of the wildlife. I am learning to live with the vine weevil, noted a black baby rabbit under the azaleas with dispassionate interest and smiled benignly at a buck roe deer as he hopped through the red campion in the meadow. How I would respond to the arrival of three bears remains to be tested.