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JEARRARD'S HERBAL


4th March 2018

Agave mitis .
Lat week the weather was dominating all thought, this week it has dominated everything. The long threatened freeze arrived and the garden has been forced to abandon spring for a while. Cold weather saps the energy as well as the enthusiasm. I walked up the hill several times through the week to see how the top of the garden was coping and it was a matter of short walks and long rests.
On Tuesday the freeze really set in. Snowdrops and daffodils were all lying flat on the ground, hellebores had gone down and Camellia flowers had all browned.
Wednesday dawned cold and clear but the forecast had started to promise the arrival of a puff of warmer air from the south and it appeared mid-morning, bringing snow. By the end of the day a couple of inches had fallen and the road outside had gone white. More snow on Thursday closed it completely and there are still cars parked haphazardly at the bottom of the hill waiting to be rescued.
Fortunately by Friday the temperature had risen above freezing and the snow has been clearing slowly. I still have little dabs about the place, like wind blown litter, but the sun has come out and the garden is warm.
Last year I planted a new border on the south wall of the house. Leucadendron argenteum was dead by November, Protea cynaroides defoliated in the snow. Agave mitis was looking more hopeful yesterday, even as the snow thawed. In the sunshine this morning it looks as happy as it did a week ago, not a mark on it.


4th March 2018

Corydalis solida 'Beth Evans'.
Not far away, Correa glabra var. turnbullii also seems to have made it. I planted it out last autumn because it was long past time I tried the genus outside again. It's an Australian group that I enjoy just for being odd. I have killed them several times, both in the greenhouse and outside, but there has always been a nagging feeling that it was as much my carelesness as winter woes. I have tended to plant out the scraggy ones, those that have overgrown the pots and the feeble surplus, so they haven't always had a fair chance. This time I put out a nice big plant, growing strongly. I was a bit late planting it, but that was the only problem it had to face. Give it a few weeks and if it is still looking healthy I will be very happy.
A miserable cold spell at the very end of winter is not the same thing as a long frozen winter, but its survival is an optimistic sign.
Just beyond it, Corydalis solida 'Beth Evans' has shrugged it all off. It was covered in 5cm of snow and the soil must have frozen for a few cm at least, but it has emerged in flower. It will look better in days to come I am sure, but for today I am happy to have some sign that spring has survived the wintery onslaught.


4th March 2018

Leucojum aestivum 'Gravetye Giant'.
In the centre of the garden I have a large wire netting pen. It keeps the rabbits out. When I planted out the bulk of the Epimedium I was immediately attacked by a furry fury of rampant rabbits eating Epimedium. The wire netting went up the next morning. It is getting a bit tired and saggy now, the whole construction needs attention, but it has served its purpose. I always told myself that rabbits were a (moderately) natural hazzard and that plants that couldn't survive them would be eaten. In reality I don't have the cold blood required for that sort of sacrifice and while I dislike the rabbit pen, it serves a purpose.
In the week before the freeze I had started to cut down trees around the perimeter of the pen. Outside the protection, in rabbit-land, the scrub had grown up and was producing too much shade. I have tolerated it for the wind protection it offers but it was getting to be too much. As a result, the perimeter is currently hidden beneath a long mound of cut trunks and branches.
The consequence? You get this awkward picture of Leucojum aestivum 'Gravetye Giant' up against the wire. Too cold and wet to kneel down and pose the flower, not enough wiggle room between the branches to get a better angle.
After a miserable week I am quite determined to include the Summer Snowflake.


4th March 2018

Tropaeolum brachyceras .
I had a look in the Agave House yesterday, things weren't looking good. The Agave are fine as far as I can tell. Agave weberi 'Arizona Star' will be interesting. In the last run of cold winters it was damaged but pulled through. Time will tell how it has coped with a late severe freeze. Other shrubs up there have fared less well. Meryta sinclairii has defoliated for the first time ever, as has Ficus macropohylla columnaris. Frosted evergreen Ficus look truly miserable. Entelea arborea as defoliated but I was fed up with it anyway so there won't be many tears if it is dead.
Tropaeolum brachyceras was an unexpected survivor. It isn't very vigorous because it never gets watered, but I was pleased to see the hair-thin stems grow in autumn, and it has reached the top of a bamboo cane in time to flower. When I planted it I had some worries that it would invade the whole house. There is a Bomarea trying to do that, but I think the freeze has given it a check. The Tropaeolum has been perfectly behaved, a lovely fragile counterpart to the slightly thuggish Agave.
Looking forward, the weather forecast is offering warm weather for next week, and surely by the middle of March we are out of the woods?
Next week will reveal the extent of the damage, just in time to clear space on the benches for a new season. I have a feeling that this years compost will be very exotic indeed.