End of month review – November

Well today certainly tells me winter is here.  This is the first day when it has been raining and COLD, 4° C but with the rain it feels much colder; I am not working in the garden today.

To continue the theme of most of my end of month reviews, I’ll describe the progress of planting the bank. This shows the slope back in December 2008, when I was marking out the beds and pathways.

You can see the existing cypresses, umbrella pine and an Arbutus I had planted in spring 2008

The upper part of the slope above the level of my shelter belt of 4 Quercus ilex, a Viburnum tinus and a large bush Arbutus to the cypress half way up the drive I will describe soon in my borders and areas of the garden section.

Below the shelter belt the slope is quite steep; I have been straining to keep my balance while planting which has caused my back to ache.  This emphasises how important it is to plant closely not allowing any space for weeds as weeding will always be a problem here.  I also don’t want to irrigate this part of the garden 1) because the water would tend to run off anyway and maybe cause erosion of the soil and 2) I want areas that demonstrate that it is possible to have flowers and colour in summer without irrigation.

Looking accross the slope at the shelter belt planting

Below the line of shelter belt shrubs, in autumn 2009, I planted a second line of more decorative shrubs including Oleander, Teucrium, Lagerstroemia, and a Cotinus. Also present are: Perovskia, Panicum Heavy Metal and P. Warrior and a Feijoa.

My decision has obviously made my choice of plants more restricted but I think mass planting of just a few species will look more appropriate here so my overall aim is a prairie style of planting. Some of the existing plants in other areas are obviously very happy in free-draining soil, so much so that they have self-seeded profusely – so my decision was made, use what I have and try to plant creatively.

The plants are therefore: planted everywhere to create a grassland, prairie feel, Stipa tenuissima; Verbena bonariensis to give see-through height, Gaura lindheimeri to give the impression of a thousand butterflies floating in the air. Some clumps of wild Iris moved from the tuffo bank, I planted high on the bank where they should be visible when they flower but be hidden by flowering plants growing taller than them when they have finished flowering.  Below a Persimmon, I transplanted Euphorbia (the original plants I had grown from seed), interplanted with tulips.  Through this matrix there are three streams of planting.

  1. Artemisia ponticum with grape hyacinths, Allium aflatuense and Schizachyrium scoparium.
  2. Cerinthe major purpurascens – I will leave them until they set seed, then remove them – they usually flower very early for me, sometimes as early as Christmas.
  3. Prostrate rosemary.

There were very few plants in the garden when we moved here but one which always surprises me by just how long it flowers is Solanum jasminoides album – I have taken some cuttings, if they are successful I will plant several as ground-cover making a foaming white stream near the boundary.

There seems to be a lot of bare soil

I hope to be able to show you how all this looks next year.

Thanks to Helen the Patient Gardener for hosting the End of Month meme.

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First Frost

We had our first frost of the winter on Saturday.  I didn’t take any photos, sorry.

It was very cold when I first went outside at about 8 am, but during the morning it warmed up so that it was a pleasure to be outside.  I planted a small area which has dissatisfied me for some time.  A very large Datura was planted here (spreading to about 3m x 3m); it looked interesting in the evenings when the white flowers opened, but they closed again and died as soon as the sun reached them in the morning.  In winter it died back completely leaving a very bare patch.  We see this area from the part of the terrace which is shady at lunch time and is protected from the west wind – so we often sit here.

The Datura in July 2008

I have for some time admired plantings of box, trimmed into balls forming ‘cloud’ effects.  This seems the ideal place in the garden for just such a planting – not too large (therefore not too expensive) and needing evergreen interest.

The new planting

Although this area is in full view of one part of the terrace it is behind a pomegranate tree and so not visible when walking up the path by the left hand border, I like this element of surprise.  I have planted strategically a Miscanthus gigantean which forms a back drop to the box and will form part of the picture of the planting I always enjoy in the LH border.  I also planted a Teucrium fruticans which I will prune into a large sphere (a cheaper option than a very large box.  I transplanted a couple of Thyme that needed to be transplanted from another part of the garden as they seem to grown naturally into a sphere; they can be removed when the box needs more space.  There is a rosemary planted close by and I have pruned that into a ball to add to the scheme.

Rainbow, sun and rain

The weather has been so strange in the last few days.  You may have seen the post about the walk we did on Saturday, it began in the rain and ended with a wonderful sunset.  Then Sunday, Monday and Tuesday were very wet and the wind blew and blew, but it wasn’t cold.  Yesterday, Wednesday, was sunny and warm so I was able to work transplanting Stripa tenuissima, Verbena bonarienis and Gaura from where they had seeded themselves to the slope (it is filling up nicely).

Today I woke to clear skies and it was quite warm, then this afternoon as I was driving home the temperature dropped suddenly to 4° C.  By the time I arrived home it was raining hard but the sun was still shining – I looked for a rainbow and was rewarded with a rainbow that completely encircled the house, some of the time it was even a double rainbow.  What a wonderful gift!  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

You can just see my shadow

This last photo you will maybe recognise from my post last week; the same view but in a very different light.

A country walk in November

You can see the T - the false door to the under world of Etruscan culture

We are lucky to live near an Etruscan archeological site and it is often our destination when we want an interesting walk.  There are often wild flowers and I enjoy the sense of walking in a place inhabited for the last two and a half thousand years.
Feeling cheated of the sunshine of earlier in the week we set out from home in strong drizzle; but as we continued the weather improved.

I saw several flowers determined to flower despite the arrival of autumn.

Verbascum with just a few sunny flowers

Verbascum, standing like soldiers to attention!

Chicory is sort for its edible foliage, a slightly bitter vegetable

And how do you get rid of red-eye – actually yellow eye from cats!

I’ve never seen real cats looking so much like china ones, sitting on the step waiting to be allowed into the farmhouse kitchen.

By the end of our walk the rain had stopped and the sun, low in the sky was lighting the foliage and landscape with amazing colour.

November in the Vegetable Garden

I began writing this last week so ‘today’ refers to 17th November.  This weekend (20th 21st November) I picked four red peppers and 2 yellow, 3 rather hard skinned aubergines and more broccoli and Romanesco.  I harvested a fennel bulb and made an orange and fennel salad along with a few of last year’s olives.

Here’s what I picked today Sunday 21st.

I didn't expect a crop like this in mid-November

I picked a courgette today, I’m sure it will be the last.  Here’s what ready to eat, some you’d expect but some, like the peppers, are hanging on much longer than I imagined.

Probably the last tomatoes

Chillies are still growing well

These are black chillies

The peppers are a big surprise!

We've already eaten all the primary heads of the broccoli

Romaneso, small but perfectly formed - an example of Fibonacci numbers

I rather doubt the Brussels Sprouts will be ready for Christmas

I use Black Tuscany cabbage in soups

We must use the Fennel before the weather gets cold

Blue Sky Day

Today was the most beautiful blue sky day, I wanted to share it with you.  The mid-day temperature was  pretty warm.  I ate my lunch outside enjoying the peace and quiet and not quite believing how warm and sunny it was!

The air was so clear, the mountains appeared dark

Berries on the Melia, shining gold

just one leaf of the mulberry hanging on this branch

Rosa Gertrude Jeckyll looks on

Looking up through the branches of the mulberry