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JEARRARD'S HERBAL


7th June 2020

x Rhodoxis 'Aya San' .
Cold winds have blown from the north, dull clouds have filled the sky and the end of the week has been decorated with light showers. At long last summer has arrived. I had been getting a bit fed up with the heat, dessication and sun-hats of May. The garden has suffered as well, even the weeds are wilting. There is no sign of a major deluge in the weather forcast at present, which is what the garden really needs, but I see that as a good thing. In my experience these things arrive very suddenly in summer, catching the forecasters by surprise. They always talk after the event of "weather systems that develop very rapidly". The fact that they are sure there is nothing much in the way of rain due during the next week gives us all hope. It may arrive at any moment.
The Rhodohypoxis have been suffering. It is one of those genera of bulbs that always look as though they grow in dry conditions, but actually prefer to be soaking wet. This year they have dried out entirly during spring, only one or two are attempting to flower, most have remained dormant. We haven't had much rain over the last two days but it has moistened the top surface of the soil and it might be enough to start them into growth. 'Aya San' would normally be a carpet of colour at this time of the year, but instead I have three flowers. They are very pretty flowers but there are just the three of them. I have a plan to move them all into the new herbaceous border at some point. It comes into the category of "good ideas".


7th June 2020

Oxalis 'Anne Christie' .
Good Ideas are the things that cause revolutions in the garden. I am quite good at having them. Sometimes the good ideas come so thick and fast that I have scarcely completed one before it is all ripped out to make way for the next. I have been felling trees through the garden. The plan is to clear a new path through a section of garden that was unused. It isn't a new plan, more an uncovering of a path that was abandoned many years ago. The path connected the lower garden with the upper garden, but then I decided to remove the hedge that separated them and the path became irrelevant. Now I have visions of a very simple path, bordered by delightful shrubs and small trees. A place to stroll in the evening and perhaps a seat or two to ameliorate the effect of the diagonal slope of the ground. It is a good idea. I am sure of it.
Just as I was sure that it was a good idea to move all of the Oxalis into the Nerine house. They will love the spring moisture, the summer drying out. They will prosper, erupting from the ground in late spring to fill the house with glorious colour as the Nerine shrivel away for the year. That isn't what happened. They hated it. I don't have a lot of Oxalis, at least not those I grow deliberately, and this latest good idea has reduced their number. Eventually I learned the lesson and moved the survivors back into an Alpine house. Oxalis 'Anne Christie' has responded by looking better than it has for some time.


7th June 2020

Puya spathacea .
Sometimes good ideas happen when a problem and an opportunity collide. I like bromeliads. It isn't really open to analysis, they do very little to support my affection but still it persists. It is difficult to say where it started, but the failure to kill Vriesea splendens when I was a teenager played a part. The unexpected toughness of some of the Neoregelia certainly helped my enthusiasm along. I still grow a foolish selection of Neoregelia under my propagation staging where they lurk in the gloom like gangling childhood memories. My affection for bromeliads doesn't stem from the sensible, terrestrial, succulent and almost hardy species, it flows from the insane tropical epiphytes of imaginary jungles and Tarzan films. Even as a child I had recognised that Neoregelia carolinae 'Tricolor', a variegated South American bromeliad, didn't really belong on an "African" film set but Hollywood has a beguiling way of ignoring the technical details.
So the idea of Puya overwhelmed me even as I struggled to keep the prickly reality from doing the same. I had a number of species in pots, mostly stored under benches, waiting for a suitable location to prosper. The Agave house provided the perfect solution, or so I thought. P. berteroana spent a single year dedicated to outgrowing the headroom before it had to be removed. In its place went the more restrained beauty of P. spathacea, chosen on the promise that it would stay less than a metre tall. It has obliged and now flowers with increasing magnificence every year. I do have occasional moments when I want to thread branches and lianas through the Agave house and fill it with Neoregelia but I resist the urge. That house can only support one good idea at a time.



7th June 2020

Disa Sussex Sun .
There aren't very many scarlet orchids and orchid growers feel the deficiency. The introduction of Phragmipedium besseae caused a flurry of hybridisation as growers rushed to capture its colour in their seedlings. Disa is one of the few genera that can be relied on to produce rich red, scarlet and orange flowers. So it is curious that I have become interested in growing white and yellow forms. It isn't entirely insane, there are already hundreds of good red cultivars with large, bright flowers. They are wonderful, but there isn't much to add. My good idea was to produce yellow and white flowers of comparable size. It is a slow process and others around the world are already succeeding but it seemed like a fun way forward.
Disa Sussex Sun was my attempt to retain the yellow colour of Disa aurata while increasing the size of the flower. I crossed D. aurata with an orange form of D. Kewensis. The seedlings were quite well developed before I discovered that I was following in the footsteps of A. Kindred who registered the hybrid in 2003. This is the first of the group of seedlings to flower and I am pleased with the colour. The flower shape leaves a lot to be desired but it shows that I am succeeding in principle. There are more seedlings to flower and I have high hopes for them. I have already started planning new hybrids for this year.
So it has been another week of good ideas, things to keep the garden moving forward. Among the Disa, as with so many things, a partial success feels like a triumph.