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JEARRARD'S HERBAL


21st March 2021

Cymbidium Nagalex 'Hatsune'
A second dry week in March is almost unheard of. A fortunate time for working in the garden. The bonfire has slowly consumed the pile of the prunings from last year. Warm dry nights mean that the ashes have remained hot enough to restart the next morning with little trouble. Last night I loaded up the final two stumps which probably smouldered and went out. I haven't been to see what happened overnight. I have stopped caring. I have carried enough branches, burned enough stumps and wafted through enough smoke for this month, it is time to stop. If the last to stumps didn't burn then I will drill a hole in the top and call them planters, I have had enough of bonfires.
The space that has opened up is already letting the sunshine in. I hope to keep planting things out until the end of April, with luck by then the greenhouse will be emptier and the garden will be benign paradise of cultivation. Ha, fat chance!
While this activity has been going on outside Cymbidium Nagalex 'Hatsune' has been creeping into flower. This was no wild springtime rush, the flower spike has been developing since November, but it has finally got through the last of the cold nights and relaxed into flower. I would say "burst" but it didn't do anything as dramatic as that, it simply exhaled gently in the sunshine and was open.


21st March 2021

Erythronium tuolumnense .
Last week the first Erythronium buds were showing in the snowdrop bed. The leaves had barely emerged from the ground and the only colour came from E. 'Susannah'. The bud had opened as soon as it came through the ground. Facing upwards to the sky, the flower sprawled over the tuft of leaves like a six foot man on a five foot bed. A week of warmth has helped to restore some dignity. The stem has elongated and the flower inverted.
E. tuolumnense is usually the first of the American species to flower but a warm March means that several others have appeared at about the same time. In the wild E. tuolumnense is restricted to a few mountain valleys in Tuolumne County, California where it fights for habitat with loggers and increasingly intensive land use. In cultivation I have seen little variation, the cultivar 'Spindlestone' looks exactly like this but flowers a week later. The plant has never set any seed with me or I would now have lots of pots of tiny seedlings filling the nooks and crannies of the garden. It may be that the "mountains" of Cornwall lack the drama of it's Californian home, or perhaps long isolation up a mountain has left the population ailing and enfeebled. Whatever the reason, I am keen on seedlings but the plant is not.


21st March 2021

Pleione Adams .
Down in the greenhouse the warm gusts of spring have reached the Pleione bench. In the gaps between loading up the bonfire, I weeded all of the Pleione and moved them onto a new bench. In the process I managed to consolidate the collection. Over the years I have tried a number of different cultivation techniques and each time I shift to a new technique, I have left a representative collection behind in the old system just in case the new one is a catastrophe (it can happen). The result is that I had three complete copies of the collection growing in different media in different places and a mass of young plants grown from bulbils in the propagating house. The time had come to integrate the groups so that I could see what I actually grow. I have a few plants that carry virus and as the season progresses I am hoping to identify them and throw them out so that there are no new infections. I'm not sure what will happen if it turns out that the entire stock of a cultivar is infected. If I am feeling resilient they will be thrown out, if I am less determined then they will be stood out of harms way while I summon some courage. I know they have to go but sometimes it is difficult.
The stock of P. Adams has been doing well. I haven't seen any obvious signs of viral markings in the flower and it is a good dark colour so at least one of the cultivars will survive to flower next year. It's an optimistic start.



21st March 2021

Paeonia corsica .
Through the winter the cold weather is made more tolerble by the hot shoots of the peonies. In early January the first scarlet growths are visible and they are the brightest thing in the garden. If the peonies never did any more they would still pay their way for the January thrill they provide, but they have more to give.
Paeonia cambessedesii would usually be the first in flower but this year there are no buds. I grow it in the Agave house and for a number of reasons the roof wasn't cleaned last year. Slowly it has become more shaded in there and the peony has objected. Yesterday I moved it out into the garden. It isn't the hardiest of the peonies, but it will be fine.
In its place I have P. corsica. The flowers have started to open in the last couple of days and if the sun shines next week, the whole greenhouse will be filled with their scent. It could also go outside but it is so good under cover that I am reluctant to disturb it.
I have just been told by the weather forecasters that we have finally entered astronomical spring. So many different definitions of spring that it is difficult to know what is happening. Uncertainty may even be the defining characteristic of the season.
Whatever is happening at the moment in the Met Office, in the garden the peonies have started summer.