End of month review: September

Sadly, I suppose this is really the end of summer review.

The olives are at least 2 weeks ahead of last year. Almost ready to harvest

When the olives are ready, you know it’s autumn.

Last week it was still summer but the beginning of this week the cold wind and dark mornings and evenings declared it is autumn.  Today is lovely but there is a coolness in the air that makes it a pleasure to be outside but remind you that you must find your autumn warmer clothes and put away white linen – it won’t be needed again this year. This is the moment  to think about which plants were successful, which failed to live up to expectations; which combinations of textures or colours worked together to make a ‘whole picture’ and what failed to impress.

Abu Husan tulips and Stipa tenuissima look great together

French Lavender looks great with Tulipa Negrita

Rosa Molineux, Nepeta, Hemerocallis and Kniphofia work well together but I don't like the bare soil between them

Actually I never like seeing the soil, it’s the reason I plant too close together and have to divide so regularly.

Sysirinchium and Stipa tenuissima

Stipa again, it looks wonderful with almost everything.  I’m definately going to use it as the linking plant on the slope I talked about last month.

Roses and Gaura

Gaura is another plant that weaves its way around other plants.  It flowers all summer and continues until the frost.  Something else that will work on the slope, giving the impression of a meadow or prairie planting

Arbutilon and Hermerocallis - great together

Sorry these are mainly successes but like everyone I didn’t photograph the things I didn’t like, though this will be a lesson to me to do just that, as though I think I’ll remember what didn’t work  I probably won’t and will be angry with myself next year when the same thing happens again.  It is in this way, the time spent writing the blog will actually pay off.

I always like this part of the garden

Lavender over the path with tall Hemerocallis behind

The Hemerocallis are also very versatile.

The upper slope that was planted last year has grown well, I just hope I can get the rest of it planted during October!

Upper slope at the end of June

The lower slope waiting to be planted

After last month’s end of month post several of you kindly recommended prostrate rosemary – which is there!

What is clear looking through my photos is that in August I didn’t take many photos; there is a reason for this – the sun is so hot that nothing really wants to perform and of course the fact that bright sunlight makes photography difficult.  I must find more plants that will look good in August.  Also my time was spent harvesting from the veg. plot, so much to pick that there wasn’t time to sit and ponder in the garden.

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Rain drops on roses etc. actually on Gaura

Saturday morning I woke to find that it had rained for some time during the night.  It must have been lovely gentle, English type rain as it hadn’t woken me, or battered down any plants.  The Gaura were already bowed over because they have grown so much they are arching over the roses.  The water droplets sparkled wonderfully in the morning light.

Here are more photos; I think they are so beautiful I wanted to share them with you.

The rain of a couple of weeks ago, even though it was so little has started the Muscari into growth; another 500 arrived last week with my bulb order, so will need to get them into the ground  fairly quickly.

Muscari starting into growth

Seedlings of Cerinthe have emerged too, they are all a bit crowded together so I’ll need to prick them out and space them; I think I’ll put some onto the bank as actually their leaves become rather untidy, but I like them flowering during the winter which they seem to do here, though I seem to remember the seedlings were around much earlier last year.

And finally this might just contain the eggs of the tiger spider!

Tiger spider

Argiope bruennichi

I call this the ‘tiger spider’; the female body length is about 20 mm – so quite scary when you first meet one!  Every year at about this time I find the webs in the newly sprouting lavender.

There is other wildlife in the garden.  I hadn’t realised that the male locust is so much smaller than the female.

There aren’t many locusts here, so they aren’t a problem.  They are wary creatures so I can understand how they can reproduce and become problamatic.

In the wood shed we found what looked like apiece of mud, on further investigation it is some kind of home built to protect some grubs – any ideas as to what they might be?

And another view, looking at the cut end.

2010.09.15 September Bloomday

All the photos were taken quite early this morning so the light isn't that good

What a difference a month makes!  August was so hot, now the mornings are cool, typically 15° at 6.30, the temperature rising during the day to about 27° and then cool again in the evening.  We have also had a couple of thunder storms, and although it hasn’t rained very much what rain we’ve had combined with the cooler weather means that the garden is looking more green and the roses are beginning to flower again.  Today the sedums are the stars, literally, of the garden; I really love them when they clump up.

It was quite windy this morning which means some photos were too out of focus to include.  Rosa mutabilis and some salvia are missing from the photos.

For the first time I managed to take a photo of the Gaura that I am pleased with; it has flowered without a break since June with only minimum irrigation.

Gaura has looked wonderful all summer

Click on the photo of Gaura, above, to see all the things flowering this morning.

To see more Bloomday flowers go to http://www.maydreamsgardens.com/  hosted by Carol.

Plant fair in Lucca, Murabilia

Although I am lucky to have a very good nursery here in Viterbo, you would be surprised just how difficult it is to feed my addiction for buying plants. Buying named cultivars is very difficult indeed.  Last weekend there was an excellent plant fair in Lucca and as it coincides with my birthday we decided to go and make a weekend trip (it is do-able in a day) stopping off at the beach for a swim on the way there.

I was looking for plants for the slope, some fillers for other borders and plants on my wish list I hadn’t been able to source locally.  Here is what I bought.  I was also able to speak to an excellent nursery from near Torino and order some other plants to be delivered at another plant fair in Rome.

They aren’t very good here at attaching names to the plants.  I tried to write down or photograph the names of most things (even taking my own plant labels with me) but as always happens, there is a plant without a name.  If you recognise it please let me know what it is.

What is this ?

Changing the subject, I thought you might like to see the locusts in the garden.  I didn’t know the male is so much smaller than the female.

mating locusts

End of Month review – August

The garden hasn’t actually changed very much since the end of month review in July.  The plants just survive (or don’t) the heat and the hot winds during most of July and August.  So I thought I would consider a part of the garden that is waiting until mid September to be planted.  Tt is a steep bank; so I also thought it would be interesting to compare thought processes with Helen who hosts the end of month reviews.

The shaping of the island beds began in December 2009 after a new drive position had been established.  I worked out the shapes using hosepipes.  Usually I design on paper but as there is a very steep slope it was actually much easier to lay out the hosepipe and run up stairs to look down on the shape from the top window and walk around the paths that were formed.  It is the first time I’ve worked in this way and I am very happy with the result.

Looking down on the site

I will write about the other island beds another time, today I will concentrate on the thought processes for what I call the drive border – actually I refer to it (at least in my head) as the upper drive border and the lower drive border.  The division between the two areas is a planting of Quercus ilex, Viburnum tinus, Oleanda and Arbutus which act as a shelter belt to protect the garden from the wind or at least to create a microclimate without wind.  These were actually planted in spring 2008 before the pergola and terrace around the house were built and before the drive was repositioned.  I have since learnt that spring planting is not a good idea here as the plants especially if they are large specimens suffer during their first summer and need constant watering, whereas planting in autumn means they can establish during the rains of winter and be ready to face their first summer with their roots already expanding out into the soil and so can be watered about once a week instead of every day.

Looking from the edge of the formal parterre across the builders rubble to the ‘shelter belt’

During late winter and spring of 2009 the persistent weeds were removed and the upper area dug to remove all the roots of the ’gramigna’ (a couch –type grass with long roots like convolvulus).  I broke my own rules and did plant some things that I hadn’t been able to resist buying during the previous year and that were already suffering in their pots, plus some Verbena bonariensis that had self seeded.

The main planting of the upper drive bed was completed in September/October 2009.

Upper drive border, planted

Now to the point of this post – the slope (bank).  It was impossible to dig here as there is virtually no soil and it is too steep.  It as been sprayed with glysophate in and attempt to remove and ‘gramigna’ and other weeds have been pulled out as soon as they grow.

Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster' on LHS of lower slope

The Panicums and Perovskia with the Calamagrostis in the back ground, a month later

Now to the point of this post – the slope (bank).  It was impossible to dig here as there is virtually no soil and it is too steep.  It as been sprayed with glysophate in and attempt to remove and ‘gramigna’ and other weeds have been pulled out as soon as they grow.

So here is the lower drive border that was planted in spring 2009, plus a few additions to the shelter belt plants, including Teucrium, Oleander, Philadelphus and Cotinus.

My initial thoughts were grasses, maybe only grasses as they move so beautifully in the wind and those planted in the garden already ‘do’ very well. Obviously the plants will need to be draught tolerant as there is little soil, though the tuffo (volcanic rock) does hold water at a deeper level.  I don’t want to irrigate as most of the water would be likely to run off anyway, plus I want the ground covered as it will become even more difficult to access this area to weed when the plants have grown.  I kike the idea of ‘rivers’ of plants flowing down the bank, I don’t want a gradation of heights from the top to drive level but would like some low growing species flowing down from the top creating different views, depending on where the viewer is.

This is my almost blank palette, the very old bitter cherry will have to go as it is suffering from the fact that it is planted over a void (I think there is an Etruscan tomb under it.

The bank at the edge of the drive

Bank, to the right hand side of image above

Like Helen I had thought of a wild flower meadow, but the period when there is very little interest is too long and uncut long grass is a fire hazard here in summer. I also like prairie planting as a style and I think that would work here; Panicum sp., Stipa tenuissima, Pennisetum sp., thrive in these conditions.  I may add more Perovskia because I have many seedlings and it flowers for a very long period and I like repetition, for the same reason I may plant more Festuca glauca.  Gaura also has a very long flowering period and thrives with very little water.  I haven’t yet thought what low growing species might work – I need them to be evergreen so maybe even a mass of sempervirens would work or in another direction altogether I have a low growing Ceonothus which gives me a lot of pleasure when it flowers at the same time as a pale blue iris. So I must decide and order the plants I need if I’m to be able to plant this autumn;  mid September to end of October would be the ideal time to plant.

The size of this wedge shaped area is 16 m x 20 m (edge of drive) x 7 m (very steep slope).