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.

GBHD – What’s in the vegetable garden

I’m joining in with Barbara and Christine with their What we’re harvesting today meme; it’s interesting because they are now approaching winter and in Italy we’re going slowly into summer.

There are some strawberries almost every day

The strawberries have slowed down considerably since last month (am I really thinking “thank goodness”?)  There are some to eat most days and lots more flowers to give hopes of many more to come soon.

…and lots of promise of more to come with lots of flowers

Broad beans don’t always fulfill their promise

Having our own lemons is a treat

This year I decided not to buy grafted pepper plants and I am sure that this year the peppers will in fact be ready earlier.  If I wanted green peppers there are already a couple that are large enough to use.

Not actually harvesting peppers yet as I don’t usually eat them while they’re still green, except in Gazpacho, but I don’t have the other ingredients yet.

Not actually harvesting peppers yet as I don’t usually eat them while they’re still green, except in Gazpacho

The vegetable garden is already quite productive.  The greenhouse enables me to buy in small plug plants of many things early and grow them on, so that when I plant them out they are already good sized plants.  The tomatoes in the greenhouse have mostly already reached the top of their canes and those outside are well on the way to doing so too; the job of the moment is to keep them tied in and the side shoots pinched out.  When I plant the tomatoes I add an alkaline tablet to each planting hole to help prevent bottom rot.

The soil was, I think, a little acid for some of my herbs and vegetables as I’d used my own compost as top dressing and perhaps it needed a little longer to decompose.  Initially the basil was very yellow and it is only after watering with the heavily alkaline water from the well that it is now looking temptingly green and ready to use with tomatoes and very soon the first pesto sauce of the year.

The outdoor tomatoes are winning the race as to which will have the first ripe tomao to pick, this week, I think

The Basil was really yellow and sick looking but is now looking much better, I love using fresh basil with tomatoes and mozzarela de Buffalo

The Basil is looking beautifully green now

We have had rain all day today and when I went out to take these photographs it seemed that the sweetcorn had grown 10 cm during the day!  They are under-planted with melons, which are growing slowly, and Rainbow chard planted between them that will fill the space when the corn has been harvested (this inter-planting is also a sign that I am running out of space).

I can almost see the sweetcorn growing

I have already harvested quite a few of zucchini and the yellow variety that I grew from seed is just producing its first, rather weak-looking specimen.  I’ve used them in frittata, pasta sauce and in salad to replace cucumber which isn’t ready yet.  I like them cut very thinly into ribbons (like pappardelle) and served with an olive oil dressing.

Onions and garlic are growing well and I have been using any of the onions that have tried to produce flowers and young fresh garlic is perfect for Spaghetti, aglio e olio e pepperoncino (spaghetti dressed with garlic, oil and chilli with a topping of some freshly grated Parmigiano reggiano.

Garlic on the right and red onions on the left

There are various lettuces popped in around the plot, we’ve been eating them all through the winter

On the right misticanza, there is a lot of mustard leaves included, some would have been great but there is too much, on the left Barlotti beans are flowering now the cool weather has delayed their growth

Pak Choi has been a big success; it tastes delicious and grew from seed that I planted in April, I’ve been harvesting the outer leaves and leaving the rest to grow, I don’t know if this is standard practice but seems to work.

There is rocket around the garden that I add to salads and also Syrian thyme which adds a spicy edge.

My Thoughts – Chelsea Flower Show 2012

It is hard for me to leave my garden in May.  It is the month when everything flowers including some plants that only flower at this time.  But I like to keep up with new trends in design and also see new varieties displayed in the Grand Marque.  So I we went to London, met with friends and family saw a couple of exhibitions, ate some ethnic food (doesn’t really exist in Italy and is something I miss) and I got up early to be at the gates of The Chelsea Flower Show as they opened, full of hope for inspiration.  It is also where I usually choose my tulips as nothing compares with actually seeing the colour of the blooms.

I had managed to see a bit of the tv coverage of the show so I had an idea of what to expect.  I read several blogs criticising the coverage and while I agree about the presenters of the show I have to defend the BBC and tell British gardeners that they should be thankful they don’t have to watch Italian television, where gardening is considered some kind of weird interest programme to be treated as a joke.  (Moan over).

Overall I enjoyed much of what I saw, was disappointed by the overall standard of the planting; happy that the standard of the catering facilities seems to improve every time I visit (not every year) and that someone has organised the toilet facilities so that queues were rare, I never had to queue.

Every year at Chelsea there is one plant that somehow makes its way into every show garden, 2 years ago it was a brown iris, possibly Kent Pride and I was feeling a bit smug as I already had this in my garden (I’m kidding really, I had it by chance and I don’t choose my plants for fashion, this year this is the plant of the moment.

Flower seen in most gardens

Other trends, planted roofs and walls were featured heavily; I don’t really have strong feelings about these; the university here in Viterbo has also set up an experimental planting on a wall at a nursery; I can see advantages for small gardens and certainly a planted roof has environmental advantages, this year they were planted with grasses and perennials rather than the usual sempervirens – I think sempervirens are more likely to be successful in the long term as they will survive periods of drought and exposure to wind.

Planted roof on a studio room itself designed for a roof top terrace

This was also a roof although it is difficult to see that from this image

walls and roofs planted were the main trend of the show

The Fresh gardens I thought were anything but this; it seemed like young designers thinking they were being controversial or modern but actually most were just boring.

Fresh or just juvenile

Many of the planted walls looked as if they would need a great deal of irrigation.

walls again – Fresh

The garden below ‘The Satoyama Life’ garden by the Ishihara Kazuyuki Design Laboratory was much more accomplished and drew lots of admiration.

Lovely moss lovely the external walls of a botthy

Undeserved gold

I very much admired the Pleached copper beech walk in Arne Maynard’s garden, although the effects of the difficult spring made the copper beech less beautiful than it might have been.  The garden was very popular with the crowds, maybe for its pretty, pretty pink combinations; although I liked some of the planting I felt it was an impossible garden to really create as there was no way that the gardener could get in amongst the plants to pick flowers as Arne suggested.

Arthritic Research Garden

There were two show gardens I enjoyed enormously; they are in any order I loved them both equally but for different reasons.  The first was the Arthritic Research Garden designed by Thomas Hoblyn.  I liked the sunken garden effect and I enjoyed his taking his inspiration from Villa d’Este, Tivoli and Villa Lante, Viterbo that he had visited during his honeymoon.  I visit both these gardens on  very regular basis and his interpretation is modern and usable in a garden today (albeit for a very wealthy garden owner)

by Thomas Hoblyn

excellent restrained planting

The planting was possibly the most realistic of all the gardens, by this I mean that he had used plants that had similar requirements, basically Mediterranean climate, so that they looked superb together.  This aspect of the other gardens was one of my disappointments with the show; many of the planting schemes seemed to have been done by people with no knowledge of plants needs at all.  With all the talk of drought and planting for climate change there should have been more attention shown to planting sensibly.

Fountain inspired by the hundred fountains path at Villa d’Este

Here are a couple of images of Villa d’Este so you can understand his inspiration.

100 fountains path, Villa d’Este

Villa d’Este, Tivoli or Oval fountian

In the first image of Thomas’ garden you can see a fountain on the left, the image above of Tivoli or Oval fountain was its inspiration. Much less impressive but more likely to be acceptable to a contemporary client.

Stripa tenuissima as waves

On one of the numerous trade stands selling garden furniture (do you think there are too many?) the fun planting of Stipa tenuissima with swimming fish also attracted admiring glances and showed the versatility of this, one of my favourite and signature plants in my garden.

I liked this interesting water feature again on a trade stand I think, although I’m not sure.

Now for the garden I think deserved to be ‘Best in Show’, designed by popular TV presenter Joe Swift.

Joe Swift’s garden

The well designed use of space made the garden feel much larger than it actually was.  The cedar arches were beautiful although I imagine any gardener would have preferred traditional pergolas so that they could have been planted with climbers.

great design

inspired planting

The planting was inspirational, he used all plants that needed no irrigation but were all suitable to the temperature range of at least the southern part of the UK.  The limited colour palate gave a restfulness to the garden that none of the other gardens achieved.  Certainly the crowds at Chelsea spent longer looking at and admiring this garden than any other I think.