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JEARRARD'S HERBAL


31st January 2021

Camellia 'Mary Christian' .
Professional photographers should be a happy gang. The job must involve endlessly looking for the best in things. Perhaps the reverse is true, perhaps they are constantly troubled by their failure to quite capture a moment perfectly. A fraction more to the left, missing the perfect lighting by a whisker, the tiniest softening of focus, the small child in the second row poking his tongue out. Perhaps photographers are actually the personification of misery, endlessly falling short of their own hopes.
Whatever the truth of their experience, the pictures will add a gloss to events that borders on fiction. That is how the garden will look this week as the spring sunshine sparkles through the delicate web of winter twiggery. It is all fiction, it was a horrible week. The rain fell incessantly, the wind rattled everything that was loose and the sky was dark and ominous. On Friday the sun emerged briefly, I grabbed a camera and trudged through the wet garden looking for highlights.
There were plenty to find. The temperature of the rain has gone up, the garden has warmed and spring has surged. I expect that the cold will return in the next month but the garden has started. If the frost comes back then plants will tuck their heads down and shiver for a while until it passes.
Perversely, the most convincing sign of spring seemed to be these fallen flowers from Camellia 'Mary Christian'. They have already done their job for the year, a quick rattle from the wind and they have retired in their dotage to take up carpet making.


31st January 2021

Galanthus 'Brenda Troyle' .
On the subject of carpets, Galanthus 'Brenda Troyle' is doing her best to cover the ground under the Camellias. It is an old variety, selected by William Thomson and named by Samuel Arnott. By today's standards it is rather ordinary with no outstanding attributes, however it is a good thing. It has persisted in gardens for more than a century and it has the elusive "star quality". Good rounded flowers, produced freely on upright scapes, it makes dense clumps that flower impressively over a long period. There are many modern cultivars that are more striking, more distinctive, more desirable and inevitably more expensive. Only the passage of decades will determine their garden value.
I have been growing 'Brenda Troyle' for some time. In the early 1980's I gave a few snowdrop cultivars to my mother, among them was 'Brenda Troyle'. It did very well for her, she lifted and split the clumps regularly and every year the flowering improved. In 2006 I bought another bulb for my own garden to confirm the identity of the plants we were both growing (labels having long vanished). Eventually my mother moved out of her house and I took a wheelbarrow load of her snowdrops to make a carpet under the Camellia.
They have been there for a decade now, the time has come to lift and split them again, roll the carpet out a little further.
There is a delight in the detail of snowdrop flowers, in their seemingly endless expression of slight variation. However, I get as much pleasure from a broad sweep of 'Brenda Troyle' as I get from all the little crouched lovelies put together. It is part of the magic of gardens, the plants and the environment combine to create special moments. It has been a grey week with just a photographic instant of wonder on Friday.


31st January 2021

Narcissus 'Bowles Early Sulphur' .
Photographs are not to be trusted. I have been out in the garden a few times this week. It wasn't a sensible thing to do, it wasn't even particularly pleasant but it was good to get some fresh air, even if I did have to snatch it as it passed. They say it blows away the cobwebs - poor old spiders. I have been rained on almost every time and then the sun came out, the daffodils opened and it felt like spring rather than Siberia.
'Bowles Early Sulphur' surprised me by opening. I hadn't noticed the buds coming up and suddenly there was a flash of yellow among the snowdrops. Down by the side of the house I have a bulb of a hybrid between 'Bowles Early Sulphur' and N. cyclamineus that I bought at an AGS show in early 2020. Those days feel like another world now, however the new hybrid has also just opened. In my memory they both look indistinguishable, the short walk between the two plants is enough to scramble the recollection for me. It is only a comparison of the photographs that shows the difference. The new seedling is chunkier, deeper coloured with a more flared corona and a better flower shape. I am reluctant to say so, but it seems like a better thing. Of course, photographs are not to be trusted. However it seems they are more reliable than memory, at least in my case.



31st January 2021

Primula allionii 'Andrew' .
So, it has been a week of filthy weather and real spring. Not the promise of spring, the prelude or prospect of spring. This hasn't been the whisper of spring on the wind as it whooped around the chimney. This has been the real spring, cold, wet and abundantly tangible. The garden is filled with delight.
After a dull week I was astonished and delighted to find a Crocus in flower. It shouldn't really be a surprise, I put in about 100 last year to add some early interest to the new herbaceous border. What I remember most was the tedious process of planting the corms and the sense of futility that comes from knowing that rodents will find them all and eat them. However, it is difficult to be pessimistic in the last warmth of autumn so in they went. Up they have come, complete with little purple flags to direct the rodents ravages. I took triumphant pictures, time will tell how the process develops.
Down in the greenhouse the first alpine Primula has opened. I try not to fall in love with Primula allionii but it is probably too late. By the time I realise that I am resisting I have already lost the battle. They share several attributes with the snowdrops; earliness, cheer, minute variation and of course the need to stoop. Perhaps that is the attraction, blood rushes to the head.
P.a. 'Andrew' is early and it has been a pleasure since the start of January when the first pink pearl buds appeared on the rosettes like tiny droplets of distilled joy. I will never manage the spectacular specimens that more northerly growers produce. In my mild winters, flowering is sporadic and spread over a long season rather than coordinated by cold. I have neither the techical skill nor the dedication to produced perfect pink cushions.
Spring has arrived. I have spent a grey week sitting in front of a computer listening as the rain clatters against the window, and I have lost the battle to resist Primula allionii.
The rush of blood to the head is thrilling.