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JEARRARD'S HERBAL


17th January 2021

Daphne bholua 'Jacqueline Postill' .
With cold days and dark nights it is easy to cling to every glimmer of spring. There is something very heartening about announcing each chink in the armour of winter. Perhaps this week is slightly different, the light has been brighter, days have been perceptibly longer. The temperatures have gone up and the garden has felt warm. Granted, it is more due to the effect of fickle weather than real seasonal change but I sat out in the garden this morning with a cup of coffee. The sun was shining and the daffodils were poking their heads up. It all felt very different to the cold weather a week ago.
I am sure that the chill will return, it is too early to start surfing on the surge tides of spring. In 2018 I was sure in the middle of February that the worst had passed, and then we had the "Beast from the East" event so the feeling in the garden on a particular sunny day is not a reliable indicator of the season. However, for the first time in a couple of months it was nice to sit in the garden and listen to the passing traffic as it drowned out the song of the seagulls overhead.
Daphne bholua 'Jacqueline Postill' joined in celebrating "probably not spring but who cares" yesterday. In an afternoon walk around the garden she had perfumed the surroundings, the first time this year that I have noticed the scent. The perfume is tumbling onto a bed where I have planted a lot of spring bulbs. No sign of growth yet and I'm getting impatient. It's a small but significant change in attitude. I was delighting in the glimpses of spring, now I am offended by the remains of winter. I try to cherish these precious weeks of slowness in the garden, they are a very brief lull.


17th January 2021

Camellia 'Desire' .
In the autumn I walked around the garden looking at jobs that could be dropped until next year. Now I am walking around looking at all of the jobs that will have to be picked up again before long. There is a bonfire to burn for example. Too wet to attempt it now, and full to the brim with the idea of hibernating hedgehogs. I doubt there are any actual hedgehogs under there, I haven't seen one in the garden for years, but I enjoy the idea that they are hibernating under my bonfire pile. They won't be disturbed until the weather has warmed enough to dry the pile and set them on their imaginary way.
Camellia in the garden have been dithering, buds expanding slightly in the gaps between frost. The first flower on 'Desire' got as far as showing colour a fortnight ago but the outer petals were browned one frosty night. It has continued to open this week but it is a sad, mangled thing. Fortunately a few other buds following behind it have opened and are looking good. It is one of the earliest double forms to open here and the flowers have a precise regularity that is at odds with the rushed opportunism of the rest of the garden in the spring sunshine.


17th January 2021

Galanthus 'Ginn's Imperati' .
Snowdrops are moving forward with enthusiasm. For weeks they have been represented by a flower or two and the early thrill of noses as they appear above ground. The fallen leaves of autumn lay stretched over the beds like cling-film. Now the cover is being broken, snowdrops spearing through decaying leaves.
Among the hellebores the first flowers of Galanthus nivalis 'Flore-Pleno' have appeared. The fat buds glisten white as soon as they break through the surface looking like scattered popcorn among the hellebore stems. They are increasing well in the bed unlike the hellebores which are just about holding their own so the day could come when I think of it as a smowdrop bed with added hellebores for interest rather than the reverse.
I have a long bed of the single G. nivalis under some sycamore trees, walking beside them yesterday I noticed the greyish flower stems standing up, ready to flower in the next week or so. 'Ginns Imperati' has beaten them into flower. The name 'Imperati' was used by the Victorians to refer to the large flowered G. nivalis from Italy and for a long time I assumed this was a relic from that era. In fact it is more recent, collected by Robert Gathorne-Hardy somewhere near Rome. It has formed a decent clump and joined the earliest things in the garden to make a decent show.



17th January 2021

Helleborus x hybridus white double .
The hellebores are still a long way from reaching their peak. Over the last couple of weeks the shoots have been developing however flowers are still scarce. This double flowered white seedling is a favourite, usually one of the earliest to make a show. It has taken advantage of a few days of warmer weather to open the first flowers. The early blooms have a greenish cast but in a couple of weeks it will be a mass of pure white flowers. As they go over the greenish colour will return and the old flowers will become inconspicuous among the developing leaves. It is strange to find that I have favourite plants in the bed, the idea was to have a dense carpet of plants, an anonymous crowd of wonder. However, one or two plants stand out and make the rest look mediocre.
I have a lot more seedlings to plant but timing is crucial. They need to go in after the snowdrops have flowered but before there is much growth from annual weeds. The timing defeated me last year and I stopped planting almost as soon as I had started because I was digging up too many bulbs. I may have to be bolder this time, the young hellebores won't last another year in pots.
So next year the bed will be a turbulent froth of flowery beauty. I look forward to it, like the prospect of spring, with cheerful rather than reckless optimism.