End of the Month View – May 2012

I’m joining Helen the Patient Gardener for this month’s review of what’s happening in the garden this month.

Here in Italy May is the month when everything flowers!  I remember the first time I saw a garden at this time of year I thought it looked fake (like at Chelsea flower show) with plants that would be flowering a month or so apart all flowering together.  This is lovely but it does mean that everything is also over very quickly.  Many plants go into summer hibernation if there is a drought and usually there is no rain from June until mid-August or even September.

For that reason I’ve been posting every day this month and even doing this there are many plants that haven’t appeared in a post.  For June I don’t intend posting everyday but will try for a couple of posts a week.

This month I’d like to share with you a small area I’m developing within the upper drive border.  Below is an image from above; the area starts at an Arbutus tree to the left and continues around to just in front of a holly bush.

Looking down from the attic window

Last autumn I decided to increase the variety plants with crimson flowers here.  In winter I moved Rosa L.D. Braithwaite which was quite small and seems to have moved satisfactorily and has flowered.  I purchased some Asters of different heights and forms and added those to the mix; I need an area that focuses on late summer- early autumn blooms.  I also moved a Penstemon that my friend Linda from Garden in the West gave me in the form of some cuttings she carefully carried from her garden when she visited 2 years ago.  The one that survived has made a good plant and is flowering freely now.  I will take some more cuttings so I can increase the clump size.

There’s still lots of bare earth but it will soon fill in.

Above: Rose L.D. Braithwait

A very hardy succulent type plant, which can become invasive, was also planted – I just broke off some pieces from those situated in the large island and planted them directly into the ground to form good ground cover.  Lychnis coronaria  is already scattered through the garden and I moved some of these to this border too, I like their small points of intense colour and the foliage is quite good too, even in winter.

and in close up

The above bright crimson salvia was a cutting taken from a friend’s plant, I love the colour.

Lychnis coronaria.

Achillea is also making a show, this will clump up quickly.

My intention is to plant some Barcelona tulips that I saw on Hillwards site, they look just the right colour, I also saw a smaller tulips of a similar colour on Julie’s post about her tulips  of again a very similar colour so hopefully the wow factor will last from early spring through summer and into autumn.

To finish here’s some views of the garden that are particularly lovely at the moment and some views of the slope that I have been showing in these end of month views up until now.

Looking accross the garden from the drive, the upper slope is to the right and the large island bed to the left, and you can just see the edge of the circular rose garden.

Looking accross the slope.

The upper drive border.

Below is the first humming bird hawk moth I’ve ever managed to photograph, there are usually lots in the garden but they move so fast, I’ve never had n image any where near in focus.

May feast – Sedum update

When I wrote about the greenhouse last weekend I mentioned that I had just taken some sedum stem and leaf cuttings; I’m happy to report that some have already started to grow some new leaves so that it very satisfying.  I had taken just 2 long stems from one Sedum ‘Matrona’ plant so that you can’t even see that the plant is any smaller than it was before.  The ‘Purple Emperor’ and another slightly curly edged leaf variety I took just one stem.  I will leave them to grow a little more before transferring them into larger pots.

I think I will try some more cuttings of the other varieties I have and some more of the purple leafed one that I find particularly useful in the large and small islands where I don’t irrigate at all.  If I really have a surplus I will plant some onto the slope.

This is a very satisfying sight

The leaf cutting on the left has a new leaf growing!

I will post some images ASAP, but I’m having real problems uploading anything at the moment.  For the same reason I’m even having problems leaving comments.  I am reading them and I’ll be leaving comments again very soon I hope.

May Feast – The circular rose bed

Rosa Tradescant

R. Tradescant, full of flower

This bed was planted in 2009.  It consists of 4 varieties of Rose, quartered in the bed; in the centre is a standard Fejoa.  Between the roses, and wanting to take over completely, are masses of Gaura lindheimeri.  In front of the Gaura is Stipa tenuissima and geranium that I think I would like to propagate to add in front of all of the roses for continuity.

Rosa William Shakespeare

Both Tradescant and William Shakespeare have a delicious perfume, quite intoxicating.

Rosa Queen of Sweden

R. Queen of Sweden is very upright in its growth, could almost be a pillar rose

Looking down (May 9th) the formal beds are to the left and the large island is in the forground, with the small island behind

Rosa Sophie’s Perpetual

Rosa Sophie’s Perpetual, the darker outer petals outline the inner paler ones


Sambucus nigra ‘Black Lace’

What could be more beautiful?

One of a number of ornamental varieties bred from native elder, ‘Black Lace’ makes a striking plant for the back of the border. It has very finely cut, almost black foliage, which is the perfect foil to the pink-flushed blooms. It will grow almost anywhere, including difficult conditions such as waterlogged or very chalky ground. In autumn, leaves turn rich red. To produce the best coloured leaves, some experts suggest pruning plants back to ground level every year in early spring.  I don’t do this, I’m so happy to see that it has survived the winter.  It needs some irrigation in my free-draining soil and hot summers; it is also planted near a bay hedge which obviously adds to the problem.  It is, however, a tough plant and I think that when has really established itself it will cope better.  I have moved it from a shadier position where its leaf colour was not so good, and it is described as wanting full sun.

It is planted in the triangular rose bed and forms the background to Rosa ‘Secptred Isle which is soft pink and needs something darker to highlight its beauty.

Melia azedarach

Botanic description
Melia azedarach is a deciduous tree up to 45 m tall; bole fluted below when old, up to 30-60 (max. 120) cm in diameter, with a spreading crown and sparsely branched limbs. Bark smooth, greenish-brown when young, turning grey and fissured with age. Leaves alternate, 20-40 cm long, bipinnate or occasionally tripinnate. Leaflets 3-11, serrate and with a pungent odour when crushed. Inflorescence a long, axillary panicle up to 20 cm long; flowers showy, fragrant, numerous on slender stalks, white to lilac; sepals 5-lobed, 1 cm long; petals 5-lobed, 0.9 cm long, pubescent; staminal tube deep purple blue, 0.5 cm long, 1 cm across. Fruit a small, yellow drupe, nearly round, about 15 mm in diameter, smooth and becoming a little shrivelled, slightly fleshy. Seed oblongoid, 3.5 mm x 1.6 mm, smooth, brown and surrounded by pulp. Because of the divided leaves, the generic name is derived from the Greek ‘melia’ (the ash); the specific name comes from the Persian ‘azzadirackt’ (noble tree).

History of cultivation
This tree, well known as Persian lilac, is native to India but is now grown in all the warmer parts of the world; in many of these places it is naturalized. It is widely planted in Nigeria, for example.
Natural Habitat
A tree of the subtropical climatic zone, the natural habitat of M. azedarach is seasonal forest, including bamboo thickets, Tamarindus woodland. It is highly adaptable and tolerates a wide range of conditions; for example, the most frost-tolerant cultivars can be planted outdoors in sheltered areas in the British Isles.

Melia azedarach here as a multi-stemmed specimen

It is the quickest growing tree I have ever seen.  This was planted as a small seedling plant given to me by a friend, each stem was no thicker than my thumb and about 70 cm tall in 2007.  There is another on the other side of the garden in the left hand border.

Very delicate flowers

The bark is really beautiful at least on young trees like mine.

19th November 2011, the berries on the tree (left hand border)

The butter-yellow autumn foliage and yellow berries against a cloudless sky 14th November 2011

GBFD – Calm amidst the storm

Here at My Hesperides Garden the weather has not been kind to plants.  May has been one of the coldest I remember since we moved here.  This last week there have been horrible winds that have done their best to remove all flowers and distribute them across the garden; I have been surprised at just how tenacious many blooms are at clinging on.  Added to the wind has been the dramatic differences from daytime to night-time temperatures; these have ranged in one 24 hour period from 26°C high to 4° C low!!!!  The night-time lows are equal to most winter lows.  I never know quite what to wear and the plants can’t decide if they should grow or wait.

So although the garden has more blooms than at any other time the importance of good foliage is still paramount in how the garden actually looks.  It provides a calm centre to the stormy multitude of flowers.

Lavender and Perovskia not yet flowering creating a sea of restful foliage

Small Isalnd – sedum and Achellia

Small island

Yes, the Stipa gigantea is flowering but the view is green harmony

Again green harmony (the small island)

As much as I love wistria flowers, and I do, the shade its foliage gives in summer is a reason of its own to grow it.

Everywhere in the garden Stipa tenuissima waves its bright green foliage, adding movement and life to the garden

You can read my thoughts on Stipa tenuissima here.

What foliage is making your garden look special today, to join in just leave a comment with the link to your post.  If you’ve written a post recently that you think is relavent, please feel free to add the link to that.