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JEARRARD'S HERBAL


17th June 2018

Meconopsis baileyi .
A heavy, overcast week without enough water to be called rain. We have had moments of dense cloud at ground level, full of cooling promises that are never made good. Above all it has been hot. Then suddenly this morning the cloud bulked up a bit, resolved into water and space and started to fall. I had to go up to Devon so I left the house hoping that it would continue. I came back to more cloud and no appreciable accumulation of water in the bucket by the back door.
It's a pity, because if there is one thing that likes moisture it is Meconopsis baileyi. A most tiresome name, I feel obliged to add "was M. betonicifolia".
When I first discovered that I couldn't grow the blue Meconopsis it was M. baileyi that I was killing (frequently and regularly). Then taxonomic wisdom intervened and informed me that it should really be M. betonicifolia (I have the reasoned argument somewhere but I can't be bothered to unearth it - I think it was just a matter of priority). For a long time I would follow the name with "was M. baileyi" when I wrote it. Decades later that opinion has been reconsidered and we are back to M. baileyi. It's hot and I am evidently grumpy.
Well, I can't grow blue Meconopsis so what does it matter. I'm not going to let on that they are doing rather nicely, that I have a fine crop of seedlings coming on, that I am feeling quite smug about it all. In weather like this they could all drop dead overnight if they thought I was taking them for granted. I snapped at someone for being anthropomorphic about plants this afternoon and I'm sorry. Just grumpy weather.


17th June 2018

Roscoea purpurea 'Wisley Amethyst'.
There is a sea of Red Campion surging over the top of the garden. It feels worse than usual this year, perhaps I am late doing anything about it. I try to spray it off before it flowers to stop the seed setting but I have missed the opportunity. Perhaps spring was just condensed. It takes me a few weeks to think about it before I actually get a suitable moment on a suitable day. As a consequence the Roscoea up there are invisible. Many wonderful things will no doubt flower and fade without much attention from me. Fortunately I had started to lift and split them, so I have plenty in the greenhouse to enjoy.
'Wisley Amethyst' was one of 200 plants associated with the Royal Horticultural Society that were used to celebrate their bicentenary. It comes from a collection by Frank Kingdon Ward in Assam in 1938 (KW.13755). It was about time it got a name, the purple striped labellum is very distinctive. The cultivar 'Purple Streaker' is very similar, and presumably comes from the same collection. It also flowers very early in the season for a form of R. purpurea, many of the others are only just showing above the ground.


17th June 2018

Utricularia dichotoma .
The water tanks have been drying out, it is a time of the year when I get nervous about the water situation. On Thursday I went away visiting gardens for a couple of days and usually I go without a second thought. This time I had to check the night before that there was enough water to keep things going until I got back. There was, but I still had some nervous moments during the trip home. If there had been a catastrophe I would just have to start again.
It is the familiar that I would miss most, the things that I pass by without comment. I have had U. dichotoma for a very long time. It is a native of Australasia, a friend imported a piece from a grower in the USA in 1988 and flowered it that summer, the first time I had seen it. As is so often the case I thought, oh well, it's a Utricularia and left it at that. I got a division a few years later and it has stood in a tray of water ever since. Slowly its qualities have become apparent.
The first time I took notice was the first time the water trays froze. The leaves were trapped in the ice, I was convinced that it was dead but I was wrong. As the ice melted, it shrugged and carried on. Then it started to creep out of the pot and along the bottom of the tray, forming a loose mat of underwater foliage that rises in summer into a cloud of lilac flowers.
Some Utricularia are Utricularia, others are lovely. I don't need many, I certainly don't need them all but one or two are very satisfactory indeed.


17th June 2018

Epipactis gigantea .
One of the visits was to the Malvern International Orchid Show. A lovely lady was explaining to me how easy hardy orchids were to grow. I listened, it seemed rude to mention the Dactylorhiza flowering where I forgot to cut the grass. I came away with a very useful leaflet. I think I have killed all my Cypripedium again. I wish I could visit someone who was succeeding, I'm sure I would see what I was doing wrong. Feed them well was the best suggestion I was offered and that may well be the cause of death for the next nominated victim. There is bound to be another. If the Meconopsis have taught me one lesson it is that I can be more pig-headed than the plants. I'm having another go at Calanthe as well after the total extermination of a hard winter following years of substandard cultivation.
I didn't like to talk about Epipactis either but the subject came up. "Easiest orchids to grow" I was told. Not the time to admit to anything. I keep them too dry, I know the problem but when I keep them wet, they die anyway. This flower represents a partial success. It is growing in a large pot and I try to remember to water it. I have seen the species prospering in a good loam in full sun, all it needs is to be kept free of weeds. A quick glance towards the towering tide of Red Campion was enough to convince me to keep it in a pot for now. This one has survived but a seemingly identical twin growing beside it dropped dead. I haven't got it right yet but I will keep trying.
Pig-headed, bloody-minded, call it what you will. Water off a ducks back to me. I wish we'd had enough water for that.