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JEARRARD'S HERBAL


27th September 2020.
Nerine sarniensis .








A couple of cold nights in the week have underlined the changing of the seasons. The garden is still fat fom summer but any day now the winds will blow, the leaves will fall and suddendly its skeletal structure will be laid bare. It's a good/bad thing. There is something very refreshing about the winter garden, stripped of complexity. There is a scattering of detail but the effect is very calm and relaxing. I have a small square space on the south side of the house where I like to sit out with a cup of coffee. At present it is cluttered with tubs of tiny daffodils but the longer I sit in it the more I think it would be improved if it were empty. Less is more. Less fat in the garden, less clutter around the house, less size in the daffodils. I can go for that.
It is not a message that I would take to the Nerine house where more is clearly more. My father was once asked what was his favourite dessert and he replied "big". That is clearly the guiding spirit of Nerine. In the course of the week the Nerine have shifted from a speckling of bright colour to a rainbow of astonishment. It will continue for several weeks, I have no doubt it will be better in a weeks time, but there is something very special about the first overwhelming moment. All of the detail knits together into a single experience. I love them all, every single foolish one of them. I even love them in the summer, asleep in the pots with just their nobbly noises showing. Suddenly in the autumn they transcend all of that. They form a river of colour and I am transported.
Here endeth the metaphysical clap-trap.

27th September 2020

Colchicum 'Waterlily' .
There is a festival of lilac in the garden that marks the story of the lawnmower. During the winter my delightful, aged and probably unsafe lawnmower finally passed beyond repair. It ascended into the arms of the scrap merchant at the top of the hill. I was all set to replace it but suddenly the dealers were all locked down. I spent the summer without a mower, the grass grew long and the grasshoppers flourished. In recent months I have been rushing to replace it but dealers are out of stock, manufacturers are behind and deliveries are uncertain. I thought that I would have it last month, it may actually arrive next week.
Perhaps it doesn't matter, but the Colchicum beds have to be mown. There is a short window of opportunity between their leaves fading and the new flowers appearing - lets call it August - when the bed can be cleared. All of the annual weeds are cut down, everything is tidy for the winter. Right up until last week I thought that there might still be time. I went up there to check on Wednesday and it was clearly too late. Colchicum 'Waterlily' has burst into flower, stimulated by the rain and chilly nights. The ground is lilac with their flowers, propped among the dead stems of the years weed growth.
It isn't a problem, the Colchicum will be fine. They will stop flowering in November and if there is a decent day I can still mow down the overgrowth before the snowdrops appear. Assuming the mower actually appears next week.

27th September 2020

Hedychium gardnerianum 'Kenneggy' .
Hedychium gardnerianum 'Kenneggy' looks like a return to the "less is more" theme, but it doesn't really apply in this case. H.g. 'Keggenny' is a delightful dwarf form of Hedychium gardnerianum raised by Stephen Mules. I have grown it in a pot for several years where it reaches a height of about 30cm. Planted in the ground it has shown some extra vigour and reached 40cm with rampant recklessness. It is a charming, tiny, manageable and scented thing.
Not far from it in the garden are an assortment of other cultivars of the species, the distinction between them being more a matter of labelling than anything else. They all share a certain magnificent charisma, in fact the distinctions between them are so slight that they could all be said to have the same magnificent charisma. They have the opulence of an autumn harvest, that sense of abundance that comes from a full summer of growth. Planted in the garden they are all of a moderate size, somewhere around a metre tall, far shorter than the 2m they regularly manage in the greenhouse. They flower freely and where they are hardy they are in the top rank of species.
H.g. 'Kenneggy' is smaller in all its parts. Shorter stems, smaller leaves, smaller flowers but it isn't less it is just different. It plays a different role in the border. It is a tidy celebration of the season rather than an unruly whoop of excitement. In my opinion it is also the best new Hedychium in decades!

27th September 2020

Galanthus reginae-olgae 'Blanc de Chine' .
In a strange year filled with strange weather it is a surprise to discover that things are flowering exactly as they should be. I started watering the autumn snowdrops about six weeks ago, when the first heavy rains of autumn fell. I have been expecting to see them popping up ever since. They grow in the Nerine house where conditions seem to suit them. I have had a few outside in past years but they sulk, they look miserable, they don't flower. An autumn snowdrop without flowers is just expensive grass.
I have watched the tubs they grow in, I have weeded them repeatedly, peering at the surface inch by inch as I go. Nothing to see. I was becoming worried, the perennial insanity. Could I possibly have killed them all this year, did I do something wrong, should I have fed them? The most recent worry was narcissus fly, have they all been eaten? I have had a few years of this, the gloomy pessimism that comes in the weeks before they flower. Enough experience to put a cheerful smile on events at any rate and wait with patience for a change. Last weekend there was nothing, this weekend I have flowers springing up. 'Blanc de Chine' is the first but 'Pink Panther' is not far behind. Once I had signs of growth I had the courage to go back to my records and discover that the last week in September is entirely normal. I will try to remember that for next year.
The Nerine will carry their autumn colour through into January, the snowdrops have already set the scene for spring. With any luck I will once again be able to ignore the idea of winter.