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JEARRARD'S HERBAL


31st May 2020

Dactylorhiza praetermissa .
The heat of summer has hung heavy through the garden this week. A strong breeze has livened the atmosphere but dessicated the plants. Up in the meadow the grass had been combed into waves by the winds action but now the taller grasses are starting to wilt. Flowers with large petals are dropping them as fast as they can or they are wilting and clinging to the stems. All of the evergreen azaleas have faded leaving the plants coccooned in a brown tissue paper of dead flowers.
During the week my attention was drawn to Dactylorhiza praetermissa by an accidental comment. It occurs quite frequently in Cornwall but it is not a species that I am very familiar with, questions about identification continue to perplex me. It is also true that most of the orchids I see in the county are spotted through the car window as I whizz past - never the best way to secure a confident identification. I grew it a few years ago from a cultivated source but my plants died out eventually and I thought that was the end of that. Much as I enjoy Dactylorhiza it seems to me that they decide for themselves where they are going to grow and there isn't much point in fighting it.
Then came the accidental comment. It seems that I live on the edge of one of the well-recorded colonies in the county. I hadn't noticed it. I determined to pay more attention, possibly even go out on a walk to have a look. I was strolling up the path from the greenhouse thinking about these things when I noticed that a couple of Dactylorhiza seedlings in the Watsonia pots had started to flower. I looked at them last year and was convinced they were hybrids because they weren't like anything else I knew.
Can you hear the sound of the penny dropping. The chattering monkey-mind is temporarily silenced by realisation.


31st May 2020

Crinodendron hookerianum .
My Crinodendron is looking good. I know it is looking good in the way that I know that the Agave house is warm, I don't have to walk up there and check. During the spring I cleared a lot of the scrub that had grown up around it and gave it some more light and air. The branches were crowded with young buds promising great things for the year. I have repeatedly thought that I must check it next time I'm passing, always forgetting, eyes fixed firmly on the ground (a useful safety precaution to be fair). A friend mentioned how good it had looked when she drove past. I know it is looking good.
I finished cutting down trees in the middle of the garden during the week. As I cleared away the last of the branches a window opened through the undergrowth, and there in the centre of the view was my Crinodendron, looking magnificent. I have been distracted by the white flowered 'Alf Robbins' lately, by the way the pink flowered 'Ada Hoffman' is at last performing. I had forgotten that I was only interested in these colour variants because of the spectacular show from the crimson form. In the late evening sunshine I am very happy to confirm that my Crinodendron is indeed looking good.


31st May 2020

Dryopteris affinis 'Crispa' .
One of the other consequences of clearing space in the centre of the garden is that I have revealed the ferns growing there. I haven't planted them, they are all just natives that have put themselves into suitable positions, but with the sunlight streaming in I can see them more clearly. I can't identify them with much certainty but I am working on it slowly. For the first time I have found Polystichum setiferum growing in the garden. I think it is a recent arrival, I don't think that I have seen it here before. I have also started to distinguish the various Dryopteris that grow here. I don't have a great deal of confidence, but I have made a start. A magnificent clump of golden scaled Dryopteris affinis ssp. affinis growing among the evergreen azaleas provides a high point in spring as the new fronds unfurled.
It was this new found experience that enabled me to identify Dryopteris affinis 'Crispa' in the herbaceous border. I planted it in 2006 and have pictures of it through the years as it has grown, but now the label has been engulfed in the heart of the fern and it would have perplexed me for some time. A little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing, but in this case I think it has been useful.



31st May 2020

Magnolia tripetala .
When I moved into this garden I planted a ring of trees around the perimeter to act as a windbreak. They have grown magnificently and serve a useful purpose, however I am aware that they are ageing and that there are now spaces between and beneath them where the wind can funnel through. I have started on the slow process of rejuvenating the windbreak, clearing out dead branches and scrub and planting evergreen shrubs to fill the spaces. After a few years of piecemeal work I have now started at one end and am working around the margin of the garden systematically.
Magnolia tripetala belongs to an earlier, more haphazard phase. I bought a young plant thinking that I would need a sheltered spot for it. I planted it in the protection of a large Leyland Cypress in the windbreak and was dismayed when the Leyland fell down in the next winter gale. Fortunately the Magnolia is made of stern stuff and it has continued to grow well in an exposed position. The flowers lack the magnificent opulence of the broad petalled species but the tree has become a favourite of mine, narrow buds open to narrow flowers. They barely last a day or two in the wind, the petals brown and are torn off almost as soon as they open but as the tree grows larger there are plenty of them and after several days trying I finally got a picture of one in its prime.
It is the last of the spring flowers in the garden. As I walked back to the house I noticed that the first Hemerocallis had opened so I suppose it is time to acknowledge the presence of summer.