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JEARRARD'S HERBAL


14th June 2020

Dactylorhiza maculata .
We have had a spring drought and everybody has been very careful not to call it a drought. There are enough problems at the moment, not mentioning the incidental ones is a good way of dealing with them. The garden was dry, even the long grass had started to wilt. Then a minor low pressure system wandered over the county and deposited a months rain in a single night. Suddenly the wilted grass revived.
During the winter I suffered from a mechanical networking problem. That is to say, the last fragments of metal that held my elderly mower together finally stopped performing that task. The pieces of mower have been recycled, I was looking for a new one when the lockdown arrived. So I have spent spring watching the grass grow. In an unlikely corner, deep in the shade of a Field Maple a couple of these Dactylorhiza have flowered. Perhaps they have been growing in the grass for years, mown and unseen. It would be useful if they grew in the meadow a few yards down the hill but that would be too sensible, too convenient. Before I get a new mower I am going to move them. Perhaps if I make the point in a simple and practical way they will get the idea.


14th June 2020

Hippeastrum 'Eyecatcher' .
The week has veered from spare simplicity to ridiculous excess with hardly a moment between to adjust. I slept through the rainfall, went to bed from a droughted garden and awoke to find puddles of water crowded around the back door. Down among the dessicated Nerine leaves in the greenhouse a single Hippeastrum spike has opened. I have failed to kill quite a lot of Hippeastrum over the years. I don't make any claim to grow them, they are miserable and stunted. They hate the conditions among the Nerine but I can't think what else to do with them. I have just planted a lot of the spare Clivia seedlings in the ground in the Hedychium house thinking that perhaps I could intersperse them with Hippeastrum and solve two problems in one go. I should have known better, the space was used up long before I go to the point of "interspersing". I have solved a Clivia seedling problem that has been nagging for years, too many starved and stunted seedlings, no extra space for them. They are already looking greener and healthier so I'm not complaining. If the damp weather continues I might be able to plant out more Hedychium and create more space.
I'm not sure that the greenhouse will be warm enough for either the Clivia or the Hippeastrum but it has solved a problem. A flower spike on 'Eyecatcher' serves to remind me that growing Hippeastrum in a cold greenhouse is a win-win situation. Whatever happens will be ridiculous.


14th June 2020

Utricularia dichotoma .
When I was a child I had a plump teddy that growled if he was turned upside down. Over the years the fibre stuffing has reduced and the growl stifled. I have him still, wrapped in plastic in a drawer, no longer needed but too precious to part with. Both the fabric and the memory have been thinned by time.
Gardens work in the other direction. Time takes the outline and slowly pads it out. Gardens become fuller, richer and fatter. Space between plants in an old garden is filled with the ghosts of previous plantings. Earlier years still cast shadows over the beds.
I remember quite clearly the first time I saw Utricularia dichotoma in flower. A friend had just imported it and had it in a heated growing case, the thin flower stem offering an insight into the unknown. A decade or two later it had been widely distributed and I was given a piece at a meeting. "You might like this" being the perfect preamble to handing me a plastic bad of mud and sludge. I popped it into one of the Sarracenia beds and it has grown vigorously, filling the early summer with an increasing horde of lilac flowers. It emerges from the sludge of the past, a tangled mass of leaves and ghosts. I couldn't part with it any more than I could part with teddy. Gardens become fat.



14th June 2020

Disa Linda Bee .
The Disa are doing the same. When I started to grow them it was for the simple wonder of large red flowers. I started to kill them at about the same time, cultural conditions take a while to get right, even for simple things like Disa. It has taken me a lifetime to appreciate that simple fact of cultivation. Killing a few plants at the outset doesn't matter much, it's just a phase.
As time has passed I have become more obsessed with small Disa in strange colours and I have paid less attention to the big red flowers. However my hybridising strategy leaves plenty of space for whimsy. Sometimes I am in the greenhouse in the evening pollinating happily in the disa-zeitgeist and I am overtaken by an urge. I don't know what inspired me to cross D. Frieda Duckitt with D. Thelma Kindred, they are both large, red hybrids. Perhaps I thought it was time to try something novel. It turns out that it wasn't as new as I thought, the hybrid was registered in 2009 by M. Bee. I am just repeating it.
A pretty flower, large and red. This is the first of the seedlings to bloom. It isn't a surprise and I wasn't expecting a surprise. One more layer in the fat history of red Disa hybrids.
Inevitably I will keep it, not because it is special but because it marks the passage of something or other. Time, attention, effort. Something indefinable, a fragment of imagined meaning. Like the rain, it was important when it happened.