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JEARRARD'S HERBAL


3rd January 2021

Narcissus 'Rijnveld's Early Sensation' .
2020 has passed and although it will be remembered, its passing may not be lamented. It had one final surprise before it ended. In the last hours of New Years Eve the snow started to fall. It hadn't been forecast and wasn't expected so when I heard that it was snowing at the bottom of the hill I was inclined to ignore the report. The more fool me! When I got up in the morning the world outside was white. Fortunately ground temperatures are still high, the sun shone and the air was warm, so the snow started to melt almost immediately. By the time I got out with a camera the thaw had started and by the end of the day things were almost back to normal.
Narcissus 'Rijnveld's Early Sensation' took about 36 hours to recover it's composure. The flower stems flopped overnight. I think it is low-temperature wilting rather than the weight of snow on the flowers. As the snow melted during the day the flowers stood up in unsteady ranks as though dazed. It wasn't until the next day that they regained their composure and stood up straight rather than being hung-over.


3rd January 2021

Cyclamen coum .
I have a small group of Cyclamen coum under a Sycamore. I look to them as the first signs of spring appear in the garden. A couple of the plants have strong pink flowers that shout out in defiance of the dull light of the season. Unfortunately they aren't very happy under the tree. I think they would do better in a brighter, more open position. It wouldn't be possible to keep them free of weeds in the open so I have been forced to accept that they will slowly fade away where they are. Now when I go looking for flowers in January, it is more in hope than expectation.
I planted a second group in a tub in full sun, and they have been doing much better. Rather stupidly I planted a Bearded Iris in the same tub, thinking that it would enjoy the same conditions. It isn't happy, barely managing a flower or two at the end of May but producing tufts of sickly foliage through all the months when the Cyclamen are dormant. I ensures that the whole wretched tangle is impossible to weed thoroughly and as a result there are some tiresome grasses establishing. The Iris will have to go. The Cyclamen makes such a cheering splash of colour in spring that I will happily forgive it's summer dormancy. I can always put a wooden top over the tub in summer and call it an occasional table.


3rd January 2021

Daphne bholua 'Jacqueline Postill' .
Daphne bholua has spent several years at the top of the garden smiling gently as it watches me kicking myself. It serves to remind me that my own opinion is the last thing I should take any notice of. When I was young I was taught that Daphne were difficult, required great care and dropped dead for no apparent reason. As a result I didn't plant them in any previous garden and I had no intention of planting them in this one. There is enough work involved without inviting the difficulties in.
At the time, Daphne bholua seemed like a rare, precious and intractable thing. I was happy to accept that it was not for me, an opinion that I clung to long after it had become commonplace in the trade, at least in the form of 'Jacqueline Postill'. I am still not sure that I would have bought one for the garden. I was given one and have been forced to change my opinion.
At the time I was developing a small border of shrubs and the Daphne was included, growing in full sun and hardly protected from the wind. At the time the whole border looked foolish and vulnerable. A few years have passed, the border is now thick to the point of congestion. I am going to go through it when the opportunity arises, removing about half of the occupants. The Daphne is safe, I have grown very fond of it. The perfumed flowers open in the darkest days of the year, responding to the slightest warmth. They open with the optimism of spring, something to do with the fragile colour of the broad petals. Daphne are not long lived, it may survive for a second decade or it might drop dead this year, it doesn't matter. I will replace it if I have to. I might even plant some others, time has modified my opinion. The Daphne continues to smile gently, and I will continue to kick myself.



3rd January 2021

Narcissus 'Viridi 5' .
As a genus, Narcissus is distinctly angular. That is to say there are a lot of odd corners concealing unexpected plants. Narcissus viridiflorus occupies one such odd corner, an autumn flowering species with dull green flowers that seems to prefer warm, dry conditions. I think I grew it once decades ago, so long that I have forgotten the details. It wasn't with me for long enough to make in impression. I'm not sure the bulb ever progressed beyond dormancy, I certainly never flowered it. However, I like odd corners. If I can't grow N. viridiflorus then I will try some of it's hybrids.
I have been fixated on the idea that they will all want warmer and drier conditions than my garden provides, so I had a few in pots in the greenhouse where they were struggling. Despair rather than reason led me to move the pots outside but it seems to have been a good thing. I had expected feeble leaves this year and instead I have a couple of bulbs that will flower.
The most successful have been the 'Viridi' series raised by W. F. Leenen in the Netherlands which were bred with the objective of increasing the vase life of the flowers, rather than developing the green colour. I got them as Viridi 1-6, they haven't yet been given cultivar names (and I think I have lost 'Viridi 1' and 'Viridi 6'). While I will enjoy the flowers, if they prove to have a long life, I am certainly more interested in the green colour - some of these hybrids are greener than others. I assume that the breeder is still selecting seedlings that are white or yellow to develop as a cut flower crop, so I am very pleased to get these early stage hybrids before they lose their unique colour.
This one bent to the ground in the snow, but stood up straight again the next day. Long may it continue.
Happy New Year, by the way.