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JEARRARD'S HERBAL


4th October 2020

Bletilla striata .
The wolves of autumn have been howling down the chimney and I'm going to stop the analogy there because it has been raining heavily as well. The garden has benefitted from these strange times in a number of ways. The usual frantic rhythmn of life has been replaced by an unusual frantic rhythmn and a different set of jobs has been done. In the spring I cleared a lot of space in the middle of the garden and now I watch the trees swaying in the wind and wonder if I have left the remainder vulnerable. It's too late to worry but it will be interesting to see if I lose anything through the winter. I would hate it to be my big, non-flowering Liriodendron that crashed to the ground on a dark and stormy night ... but on the other hand it is in the way! (It's quite safe, it has been in the way for 30 years without me doing anything about it, we enjoy a chat and some banter whenever I pass).
The grass has been another matter, turning to meadow through the year and producing a bumper crop of grass-hoppers. I finally managed to cut it last beek, and now I have paths again. It may be the last opportunity this year, the ground was already getting too wet for the tyres to grip on the slopes.
I have hardly visited any nurseries this year and added almost no new plants to the garden. Then the rain drove me indoors and I started peering through the rectangular window into the internet. I have (recklessly) bought a few new Dendrobium and now I am worrying that they will immediately run into winter and start to suffer. I should really only buy them in spring but who knows what will be possible next year.
Shorter days and abundant rain have triggered a "little spring" in the garden. It has even reached into the greenhouse. I have never had unseasonal flowers on Bletilla striata before so this odd spike was a surprise, coming just as the last buds open on B. formosana and B. ochracea.


4th October 2020

Galanthus reginae-olgae 'Pink Panther' .
The feeling of "little spring" is enhanced among the Nerine where the autumn snowdrops are housed. There is activity showing in a number of the pots now and I can put aside my perennial fear that I have killed them all through the summer. I have the same worry about the spring snowdrops. The summer might have been too hot for them, they might have been attacked by Narcissus Fly, the new additions might have simply faded away (snowdrops can do that, the whimsical little tykes). Unsurprisingly I would expect to see 'Remember Remember' at the start of November - no sign yet. I will worry for a few more weeks.
'Pink Panther' is a strange thing. Seen in isolation it might be taken for white but when compared with a normal snowdrop it is clearly tinged with pink. I haven't yet seen a picture that shows the difference conclusively but there is a difference, it isn't just the eye of belief. This picture is shown exactly as it came out of the camera - that is to say I haven't tinkered with it at all (I very rarely do, but in this case it helps to be explicit). Unfortunately the gravel mulch has a warm tint and the plastic of the greenhouse has a blue tint so colours are difficult to judge.
Over and above that, I spent more on it than I normally would for a snowdrop. I think it is fair to assert that it is economically pink!


4th October 2020

Hyacinthoides ciliolata .
Hyacinthoides ciliolata comes from north-east Tunisia and was previously included as a variety of Hyacinthoides (Scilla) lingulata. I have two plants and there are two names, I would like to think that they matched up in a tidy way. I was hoping that they would flower together this autumn and allow me to compare them directly but they haven't. It isn't essential because the main difference lies in the presence of fine hairs on the leaf margins of H. ciliolata. I think all of my plants have fine hairs but I need a spare half hour and a magnifying glass to be sure. It may be that my H. lingulata needs to be relabelled.
Putting their identity aside, the pale blue flowers are a welcome suggestion of the spring to come when the wolves stop howling. There is an autumn flowering Muscari (M. parviflorum) that is also called from the ground by aerial wolves. I should probably try it. Despite my general caution around Muscari it might be rather cheering as the evenings grow darker.


Footnote: Later investigation with a decent hand lens shows identical tiny hairs on the margins of both of my plants so I probably don't grow H. lingulata after all.



4th October 2020

Nerine 'Mr John' .
The Nerine will continue to fight off the dark evenings for as long as they can. I sit in the greenhouse sometimes just to be surrounded by their reckless colour. I am uncertain whether the plastic covering on the greenhouse keeps the worst of the weather out or the best of the colour in. Perhaps it does both.
Leaden skies yesterday were an aid to photography, the colours shone brightly in the dull light. Unfortunately the camera wasn't quite so impressed with low light levels and from time to time clicked cheerfully without bothering to deal with small issues like focus. I have a number of pictures showing fuzzy blobs of colour on a fuzzy background. It seems that after a hundred years the mechanical technology of the camera has evolved as far as Monet and the impressionists. I will keep one of two of the pictures and laugh out loud in an incomprehensible way when I see them. Perhaps I should get one framed as well. If elephants can paint pictures I don't see why cameras shouldn't, wasn't Data sentient? It's a Star Trek reference, I'm boldly mixing cultures.
'Mr John' is a fabulous thing, sold as hardy but that doesn't seem to have been most people's experience. I grow it in the greenhouse where it prospers. Recently I have seen reports of it thriving outside so it might simply be an establishment problem, Nerine do not generally respond well to the rigours of the dry-bulb trade. I have a couple of established plants that are showing signs of virus infection and I would rather try them outside than simply burn them. It might not entirely answer the hardiness question but it would solve one problem.
Happily I also have a couple of pots that I think are virus-free, I would be sad to lose this bright colour from the collection.