End of Month View

Time again to join Helen the Patient Gardener for her end of month view.

May and June are usually the best months for me; the weather is warm enough to enjoy meals outside, the garden is full of flower and everything is lush and full.  May was almost like this, but there were cool evenings which meant no meals outside.  The beginning of June was very windy so again not many meals outside and the plants in the garden took quite a battering.  In the middle of the month the temperatures soared AND there were hot winds!

I usually delay turning on the automatic irrigation (except to the vegetable garden) for as long as possible; 1, because I want the plants to become tough and search out water deep down and 2, as all the water comes from a well 100 m deep there is considerable cost in terms of electricity to pump the water to the surface.

As it was cool in May, especially at night, there was always dew on the ground each morning so I felt it correct to wait before beginning the irrigation this year.  With hindsight this was a mistake; the desiccating effects of the wind were pulling water up out of the ground via the leaves.  When I went to Prague I didn’t want to begin irrigating without being there to make sure there were no damaged pipes (there was one so I was right about that).  The wind became even stronger and the temperature rose to 37° – 39° Celsius over those four days and when I returned the garden was scorched, I used the term “flame gun” and this wasn’t really an exaggeration.  The irrigation is on now, I have been hand-watering to try to help some of the plants that were really suffering, but with temperatures now pretty much set for the next six to eight weeks the summer hibernation of the garden has started early!  Some plants do continue to bloom with minimum irrigation and I’ll be showing those over the next weeks.

Some plants will reward me with abundant blooms with very little water.  Rosa mutablibis is one that only needs minimum water to flower almost continuously.  Gaura lindheimeri is another that with just a little irrigation or run off from nearby roses flower profusely.  The groundcover Verbena near the terrace is flowering much more than usual because I’ve been watering pots on the terrace and water has run off from there to reach them.

Ground cover verbena benefits from a little irrigation to ensure it flowers all summer

Figs grow all around the Mediterranean and I’ve seen them growing out of cliffs with no soil, but mine needs water every year!  In past years this hasn’t occurred until August, but just look at my poor tree, and this was even before the last week of June; the first crop of figs hasn’t been harvested yet although any day now some should be ready.

Poor tree, it must have lost half its leaves

Crumpled, yellow and brown, the fallen leaves under the fig tree

Rosa Rimosa again has had only run off water from watering pots on the terrace is giving a great second display.

See more about this good tempered rose here.

However the grasses are beginning to light up the garden, especially in the evening when the last rays of the sun shine through their flowers.

Pennisetum villosum lighting up the garden

Another Pennisetum, possibly Karly

June is the month for Lavender and the sound of bees buzzing all day collecting nectar and of butterflies fluttering and dancing in the air above.

With the extra pruning this year I can just squeeze through the lavender surrounding the formal beds

A honey bee doing what they do best!

Silver-Studded Blue Plebejus argus

My Thoughts – Rosa mutablis

Some plants will reward me with abundant blooms with very little water.  Rosa mutablibis is a good example of this.  From late March or early April it is full of flower, these continue to a lesser extent for most of the summer.  Later when the cooler weather arrives they are covered with blooms again usually until Christmas.

This year I didn’t begin to irrigate until late June (more about this in my end of month view on the 30th July).  I noticed that one end of the hedge was beginning to flower again and put the difference down to the fact that one end was receiving more light than the other; always at the beginning of the season one end of the hedge starts blooming before the rest.  When I came back from Prague it was much more marked; there was a real cut-off point; up to one side of a line the roses were in full flower again to the other side not one flower!

No flowers and leaves yellow, sad roses

To the right lots of flowers and the foliage is green

Why, I wondered?  Then I realised that the point where the flowers stopped was directly in line with where the end of one of the vegetable beds was.  The light dawned! – The vegetables are irrigated and this bed has been watered since April.  Although I use porous hose for the vegetables and imagined that all the water was only going to the roots of the plants in this bed; some water was seeping down through the soil and spreading to the roses; so very little water was making all that difference.

A very marked difference.

Rosa mutabilis is also interesting as the flower opens pale peach colour, then changes to pink, then darkens to crimson.  This is largely dependent on temperature.  The higher the temperature, the faster the change takes place.

Mid stage, pale peachy pink

Deep crimson pink, the colour before the petals fall

Sometimes you have all the colours together

2012.06.25 My Thoughts – Growing Lilies in Pots

All the advice about growing any bulbs in pots is that you will have excellent flowering the first year and this will decline if you continue leave them for future years; they may flower well in subsequent years if they are planted out into the garden.  Certainly the advice has always been true for Tulips, however for lilies I have found the opposite to be true.  The first year the flowering is OK, the second it is better but in the third year they are exceptional and even in the fourth year they are acceptable.

I don’t buy many different lilies as until this year I have tried to avoid having pots that need endless watering but this year I have decided that if the pot is very large and the soil is shaded I shouldn’t have to water too much.  The pots arrived a long time after the plants so this year I’m not expecting great things, but hopefully I’ll learn what is successful and what is too needy.

In autumn 2008 I bought 10 Lilium regale (pure white, shaded yellow throat, exterior wine-coloured, trumpet lilies) from Peter Nyssen; they cost £9 plus delivery cost, but they were part of a big order so the delivery cost was negligible.

One of the pots with 5 lilies, end of June, 2009

21st June, 2010, they grew straighter and with more flowers

More in bud here but I think they look healthier than the previous year. 10th June 2011

Few blooms this year but still wonderfully perfumed

I have to say I think the bulbs were an excellent purchase.  I didn’t feed them in 4 years and once they’d flowered they only received sporadic water.  In autumn I’ll plant them in the garden and I’ll report if they flower again next year.

In autumn 2009 I bought 10 Longiflorum ‘White Heaven’ for £8.50 again from Peter Nyssen.  In 2010 I think they were so disappointing I didn’t even take a photograph, so you’ll have to take my word that they weren’t very good.  They were planted 5 to each pot.

25th June 2011, they were quite tall and with multiple flowers per stem.

This year the pots looked so full and beautiful I moved them to either side of the front door

There are so many blooms they are jostling for space

Looking down, they look like this

The only problem with lilies is lily beetle!  I also have Madonna lilies and they are savagely attacked every year; however many we pick off and squish, they are damaged.  I see these lilies growing by the roadside here all looking perfect and undamaged – how is this possible?  Are they a slightly different strain (again mine come via the UK so are Dutch in origin)?  If I bought them from an Italian source would it solve the problem?  The good news is that Lilium ‘Regale’ is rarely attacked, but L. Longiflorum ‘White Heaven’ is also prone to attack so we need to be vigilant.

Which lilies do you grow that aren’t attacked?  I heard the RHS were conducting a survey to find if certain lilies suffered less than others, I would love to hear the results.

Garden Bloggers Foliage Day – June – Blast Furnace Days

I was away from the garden for a long weekend in Prague, visiting friends who were teaching there for a month; a great city for a break with masses to see especially if you like Art Nuevo and music – ah the music!

But I digress.  Before I went away we had more than a week of strong winds with temperatures about average or a little below the norm for this time of year.  On the day we left the direction of the wind must have changed bringing scorching temperatures of up 38 or 39° C, with wind as well on the first day.  So in four days the garden looks totally different.  Actually it looks as if someone went crazy it with a blow torch!

I hadn’t begun the automatic irrigation because every morning there had been evidence of quite heavy dew, so I felt the plants should cope.  I should have realised that the wind was already drying them out and that they needed a little help.  The automatic irrigation is now on; I’ll post about the different types of irrigation tubes I use and what I think are the pros and cons of each kind soon.

We are now entering the period when there are less blooms, only the toughest of plants flower when its this hot.  So I am now relying on foliage and form to give life to the garden.  Shiny, glinting silvers sparkle in the shimmering heat.  Even very tough, drought tolerant plants like Cistus don’t look their best; their leaves shrivel a little to help prevent water loss.  The garden has lost that feeling of lush plenty and is looking parched and lean.  Not my favourite time.

View of the Large Island with mounds of various silver-leaved plants

You can see in the above that my Cordyline is not happy, it really doesn’t like the heat; its days are numbered.

I showed this plant in spring, when it was wet so you could see how felt-like hairs on the leaf surface protect it from the strong rays of the sun.

Artimesia ponticum

Without these silver-leaved plants the garden would be very sad in summer.

Looking almost blue in the shade earlier this morning

Even the plant’s flower stems and flowers are covered in in tiny hairs for protection

Festuca glauca sparkles in the heat

These leaves look like machine embroidery lace

Euphorbia rigida

Euphorbia rigida’s new foliage is lifting itself clear of its spent flowering stems.  The seed pods were popping for weeks, I expect to find many new seedlings in autumn, time now to clear away the debris.

Euphorbia myrsinites is doing the same, its seedlings are already emerging in the gravel paths

More work to be done, did I really say in an earlier post that there wasn’t much to do in June and July in the garden?

Metallic leaves of Convolvulus cneorum have tough leaves for their protection

The loveliest thing happening in the garden is all the bees and butterflies that fill the space with fluttering wings and various levels or buzzing.  But even here there are things to shock.  Looking at the lavender hedge of the formal beds and taking as many photos as I could I saw this, at first I could quite believe what I was seeing.

Was the bee really being attacked?

I really think it has trapped the bee and is eating it! What could it be?

I checked in my ‘Complete Mediterranean Wildlife’ book and found that it is an Assassin Bug, Rhinocoris iracundus.

I hope you will join in GBFD and tell us what foliage is looking great in your garden at the moment.  To link in just leave a comment with a link to your post; I look forward to reading them.  I’ll read and comment on all GBFD posts, thank you for joining in.

June – visitors to the garden

The gardens is full of butterflies and bees.  They love the Lavender (this is a good reason to keep it).

I have seen Swallowtail butterflies, a black and white butterfly that comes rarely to the garden that I never manage to photograph and there was a mucher larger humming bird hawk moth, again it was too quick for me.  Even the bees tempt me because they seem slow only to fly off as the press the shutter; I have numerous images of only sprigs of lavender when I hoped I was taking bees or butterflies drink necter.

This honey bee is feeding on Thyme, a variety that smells of camphor.

A small bumble bee on lavender

I usually cut the flowers off the santolina before they open as I don’t like their colour, but having left them this year, I find they are visited by numerous different insects, so perhaps I should always leave the flowers for them.

A waspish-looking hoverfly

The iridescent green of the fly reflects the acid yellow of the Santolina

Not just flies and bees like the Santolina.

A spider sets its web where it knows there will be many passing visitors which it can ensnare.

The spider is coloured like a wasp or bee.

You can see blue markings on the underside of the wing.

This moth? is on a tomato leaf, I hope it’s not going to cause problems

And these are from last month that didn’t find their way into a post.

Verbena bonariensis is another popular flower for bees and butterflies

But not all the visitors are harmless.  Rosa Molineux has been ravaged by one kind of insect that I’ve not noticed in the garden in other years.

Any ideas as to what they are?

They eat the petals almost completely!

So if you know what they are, what can I do about them (organically).

I can’t leave you with this horrible image, so here’s a swallowtail from last month.

GBBD June – Looking for shade

Another GBBD has arrived; each seems to arrive so quickly now that there is so much activity in the garden.  Thanks to Carol at Maydreams for hosting this meme.  Pay her a visit to see what’s blooming in early summer or early winter (depending on which hemisphere) around the world today.

At last it’s hot, well today it is hot but the weather has been anything but consistent, rain, wind, cool nights, more wind and yet more wind that has been late May and up to now in June.  But the days are hot enough that when I want to sit outside during the day I am so grateful that the wisteria is filling out and the front terrace is in dappled shade.  A bonus is that the wisteria is flowering again profusely; I always think that the first flowers of spring are larger, but no, this year there are long racemes of delicately perfumed blooms hanging down under the canopy of shade giving foliage.

I tied in some of the new growth and pruned out tendriles that I didn’t want yesterday

The colours in the garden are heating-up; from pinks and purples to oranges, yellows and crimson.  I spoke about the gold of the small island a couple of days ago but gold and burnt orange aren’t restricted to that bed, they creep into the most surprising places, especially the Californian poppies which seed themselves charmingly into all the right places.

Just like the sun, yellow and gold!

The Salvia behind this is almost the same colour.

Tall, Hemerocallis

But there are so many blooms demanding my attention, click on the image below to see all the blooms in My Hesperides Garden today, they’re not all orange!

Looking accross the upper drive bed to the large island

Wild Flower Wednesday

On Sunday we drove to Orvieto to watch the Corpus Domini Procession, during the drive we were open mouthed at the number of poppies, some fields were completely red.  We stopped by a lane that was sprinkled with various flowers, some I’ve never seen before, but all were lovely.

The bright red contrasts so well with the vibrant green.

Beautiful close up

….and in the distance

This delicate viola stole my heart

These I’ve not seen before but they look garden worthy!

…..and this is what we went to see!

Men in tights!

wearing beautiful shoes.

View of the Day

Small Island, looking east

Suddenly the small island has burst into tones of gold.  Predominately the lovely gold comes from  Achellea millefolium.  There are many new plants that have self-seeded from my original planting.

Can you see the hidden spider

Stipa gigantea

Festuca glauca is flowering, these were self-seeders I moved to the small island.

Kniphofia ‘Little Maid’

Exotic bird of paradise tree

Alliums in the formal beds

I planted 1000 allium aflatunense ‘Purple Sensation’ in the front two formal beds in autumn 2008.

26th April 2009 First year after planting the alliums

All have now disappeared sadly; rather than replant I have decided to scatter seed from a wild allium that grows on the road verges and in the area outside the gate.  I have been sprinkling the seed already for the last couple of years but it obviously needs a year or two for the seed to produce a plant large enough to give flowers.  This year there is a small group of flowers which poke satisfyingly above the growing Perovskia.  I like the effect, maybe even more than the cultivated variety.  So I am now noting carefully where I see them growing wild so I can hopefully pick them when the seeds are ripe and spread them throughout the 4 formal beds, I realise it will take some time before the beds are overflowing with the lovely blobs of purple, but I can sometimes be patient!

There are actually many more than you can see here, but they will spread.

I love the contrast between the foliage of the Perovskia and the purple allium

The above image was taken late in the evening, silver of the Perovskia becomes almost blue.

the wind alliums have an even stronger colour than ‘Purple Sensation so I think they will look even better.