End of Month View – There is Colour Again

Incredibly it is the end of September already.  Where do the months go?  It’s the time to join Helen the Patient Gardener for the EMV.

My Hesperides Garden is almost back to normal; there is colour again, there is GREEN again.  September has been the coolest I can remember since we moved to Italy in 2003; after such an unbearably hot summer it has been such a welcome relief.  There has been rain, we need more but the plants have appreciated what has fallen and have shown their gratitude by bursting into new growth and in some cases into flower.

Colours are different in autumn light, sunrise and sunsets are beautiful and on the duller days subtle colours that would have appeared faded in strong summer light have looked bright.

There is perfume in the garden again too; the subtle fragrance of Rosa mutabilis is the first thing I notice when I step out of the door.

Rosa mutabilis

Rosa mutabilis is so generous, apart from the hottest months in flowers most of the year.  When there weather is cooler there are more apricot coloured blooms, staying that colour longer than when it is very got so providing more variations of colour at any one time.  The two links above are to different posts.

More powerful is the intoxicating accents of Elaeagnus x ebbingei coming from insignificant but exquisitely scented flowers.  I’m told the fruits eventually produced in April are edible, delicious even, if I remember I’ll try them next year and report back.

Lots of the flowers are blue; Salvia ‘Indigo Spires’, Caryopteris ‘Heavenly Blue’ and Perovskia are all clear pure blues.

Caryopteris ‘Heavenly Blue’, loved by the bees

There are also lots of pinks, they almost seem out of place at this time of year.

Tubaglia, these were divided in spring so didn’t flower much this year but are putting on a welcome show now.

Hibiscus have put on a long show this year, I bought another pure white from a plant fair, they are valuable plants in the garden, coping with drought and flowering later in summer and into autumn

Asters are beginning to put on a show.

You can hardly see the foliage on this Aster.

But more about them another day.

I have been busily taking cutting of plants I want more of in the garden, especially those that are drought tolerant.

My bulb order arrived this week and I have begun planting; it takes a while as I need to tidy and clear the spaces first.  I am finding that the spread sheet I created when I made my order with the positions of each bulb listed is making planting more efficient.

Another scented plant that is a joy when I walk into the garden in the morning or evening is the Datura; its perfume is so alluring to the bees that often they can’t wait for the flower to open (just as it’s getting dark) and they bore a hole to reach the nectar.


Thanks Helen for hosting this meme, even if it is a reminder of how quickly the year is passing!

The Formal Garden

This year the Perovskia in the formal beds at the front of the house did not do well.  I mulched the ground heavily to suppress weed growth and I think it must have been too acid; the plants haven’t grown as much as in other years and are only now beginning to flower well.  The lateness of flowering is, I’m sure, also due to the exceptionally hot summer.

This is a bonus as the blue haze when I look out of the windows is very much appreciated now.

Looking down from a first floor window

The LH border is to the left with soft edges while the lavender is cut straight.

Taken from the right side of the terrace looking diagonally across to the mulberry tree.

In the above image you can see where some of the lavender may be dead, I’m relieved to see that there is a lot of new growth on most of the hedge.

Looking through the beds, the blue of the perovskia is so intense

This is the view from the kitchen window

Here you can see the symmetry; taken from the centre of the front door.  The pre-existing bay block at the back of the garden isn’t central, I’ve added a couple more plants but they need to grow to reach the height if the original before their presence will be felt.  The Walnut trees are happily placed more or less centrally to the beds on each side, I also want to divide the Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’ so there are four in front of the Bay.

A Butterfly Day

Monday was a lovely day in the garden, the sky had scudding clouds and it was windy, for some reason the butterflies thought it a perfect day and fluttered about every time I passed any of the plants they were feeding from.  The wind, of course, made it challenging to photograph them, but here are a few I managed to capture.

This moth was flying by day, not sure what it is on this Sedum

Either a long or Lang’s short-tailed blue (you’d think it would be easy to tell them apart!

Silver studded blue?

With the wings open you can see why they are ‘blues’ – closed you can’t see the blue at all

This one definately looks like it has long tails!  Feeding on the newly flowering rosemary

The caterpillar of the Swallowtail butterfly likes fennel to feed on and to make its chrysalis.

The first picture was in the morning, by early evening it had climbed up to the fronds of the fennel where they usually make their chrysalis.

There was a Swallowtail flying around in the morning but it wouldn’t settle to be photographed.  I think it was confused as I have Brassicas in the same bed as the fennel, in fact they are now rather swamping the fennel so the butterfly could sense there was fennel somewhere about but couldn’t quite locate it.  Just shows it’s worth planting different smelling things together to confuse predators.  The fennel would have been more obvious when the eggs were laid of this caterpillar.

Not just butterflies – I found a stick insect on the wall, if they are on sticks they are usually invisible.

I’ve never seen so many Carpenter bees in the garden all at once as there were on Monday. This was alone feeding on Salvia

But there were dozens on the Perovskia

They look like shadows in the image, I hope you can see them.

September GBFD – Getting the garden back

September has brought with it some refreshing rain, cooler temperatures and regrowth of foliage.

I was surprised just how many plants underwent summer dormancy this year; the high temperatures, hot wind and no rain meant that even many of my drought tolerant plants looked miserable, well to tell the truth many looked dead!  But the plants were being sensible retreating beneath the soil, or leaving brown crusty leaves above to protect and presumably reduce the temperature actually hitting the plant.

Now it seems more like spring, with new foliage pushing through the soil.  I am appreciating this growth even more than in spring because this is proof that the plants aren’t dead, so reassuring that they mayflower now, if the weather doesn’t become too cold too quickly or that they have time to build some strength before winter and another period of dormancy.

Re-emerging thyme

Bit by bit this thyme lost all signs of green until I was almost convinced it was dead, it all looked like the part on the right in the image above; now, slowly, slowly new growth is pushing through the dead, maybe I should give it a ‘haircut’ to allow more of the green foliage space to grow.

After pruning the lavender in the formal beds I was dismayed that so much seemed dead; while it was flowering all appeared well, the usual huge number of bees, butterflies and other pollinators all testified that the flowers contained the usual pollen and nectar; but after pruning there was a lot of dead wood, I did give it some water but the hedge is long and so it didn’t receive very much and hey – lavender doesn’t need irrigation!  Now most of the old wood is shooting, if you look closely you can see tiny new leaves appearing, some are doing even better with lots of new foliage covering the plants; I think one or two bushes maybe dead but they were planted quite closely so I think those adjacent will knit together to reform the hedge.

Spot the new growth

Looking down onto the upper drive border you can see there is now more green than brown. Stipa tenuissima needs a bit of a comb but the new growth is there.

I have removed most of the Festuca around the garden; even those that aren’t dead are too full of thatch which is impossible to remove.  I have some small plants that are potted up seedlings and the plants that have more living material can be pulled apart to yield some new specimens.

This year it has been easier to get started with the autumn clean-up because so much of the foliage had stopped growing.  Seeing the Iris foliage cut and looking clean and fresh really makes me feel I am getting the garden back.

Iris foliage standing to attention

This year all the foliage of the Hemerocallis died back; I enjoyed pulling away the dead leaves and seeing tiny green shoots; within a week they have grown back, I think they may even flower again!  In the background the Nepeta has also grown back quickly after trimming away all the dead flowers and foliage.

As you come in the gate at the bottom of the drive, the prostrate Rosemary always look happy, they are even beginning to flower!  That is even earlier than usual, every time I pass there is a waft of bees and butterflies in the air.

New buds and foliage, Rosa Clair Martin

Many of the roses are putting on delicately coloured new growth, this is what feels like spring, best of all there are buds and flowers as well.

Now I’m looking forward to seeing what foliage is giving you pleasure now that autumn is here in the northern hemisphere and spring in the southern.  Please just add a link to your post with your comment.  Thank you in advance I really appreciate you joining in this meme.

Visiting Villa d’Este in the evening

I visit Villa d’Este, Tivoli, regularly; I take students to study its place in Garden history.  We are amazed by the amount of symbolism.  You can walk around the garden and be educated the references to Greek and Roman mythology.  The original owner, Ippolito d’Este was a member of one of the richest most cultured city states in Renaissance Italy.  He just missed being voted in as pope five times; his yearning to be in Rome is ever present in the garden.  It is a wonderful place to visit (you can easily take the bus to this UNESCO site from Rome for an afternoon away of the crowds and heat of the city.

When I visited in July I saw the publicity about the garden being open Friday and Saturday evenings for July, August and into September.  During the summer we often go to the beach at the weekends so the trip was put off (as it has been for the last 2 years).  Eventually we organised ourselves to go on the last day of August.

..and Wow!  I was blown away by the different experience, seeing the garden illuminated by lights and candles and a full moon instead of sunlight!

Looking down onto the Tivoli fountain

The fountains were all illuminated, there were candles everywhere.  What surprised me more than anything was that the fountains sounded even more powerful than when you see and hear them during the day.  The water roared!  It thundered.  I was also struck that all the people visiting were there to ENJOY the garden, not to look at it as if were only a piece of art.  It is art too, of course, but it was as if we were experiencing the garden as it was by the numerous visitors when it was first completed in the 1560’s.

There is a link to my garden too.  Villa d’Este’s iconography is based on Hercules’s 11th labour of collecting the golden apples from the garden of the Hesperides.  In the Renaissance almost all gardens allude to this story a way of stating that the garden was ‘the perfect garden’ where the golden apples (in Greek they were probably Quinces, not apples) could give immortality to whoever processed them.

The dragon Ladon guarded the entrance to the garden and in some versions of the story Hercules had to fight the dragon to gain entry and be able to steal the apples.

In daylight The hundred fountains path is my favourite part of the garden

Not just the fountains were illuminated

The visit has made me want to add more lighting to my own garden.  To create silhouettes of trees, to highlight features.  It becomes dark here earlier than in the more northern latitude of the UK so that when we have dinner on the terrace it is always dark before we finish; we have a light over the table and some lights on the pillars (these need replacing as they fuse when they are switched on after it has been raining.  I am also aware that I don’t want to create a huge amount of light pollution (not that my neighbours seem to consider this) but I will be thinking about making the garden even more enjoyable at night.  I am already concentrating on having white flowers near the terrace and of course perfumed plants are even more important at night.

The courtyard of the Tivoli fountian; I’ve hardly noticedthis amazing tree in daylight

The organ fountain plays music using the power of water! it is amazing and was only recently restored by an English company.

If you have the opportunity to visit next year, do go you won’t regret it at all.

GBBD Rain Drops on Roses…..

Actually not just on roses but on everything.  For the last two nights it has rained and for a couple of hours during the day yesterday and most of the day today – I am very happy!

So when I went outside to take my photos for bloomday it was under the protection of an umbrella.  It wasn’t raining too hard and it was so god to see and feel the rain; the umbrella was more to keep the camera dry.  Today it is windy which isn’t so good, I want rain, soft and gentle to soak right into the soil.  Temperatures yesterday and today haven’t risen above 20° C.  It almost feels like winter, but it is so nice to feel cool; to go to bed and pull the sheet around me rather than throw it off in an attempt to be cool.

Next week the temperatures are set to rise again, but only during the day, at night it will be cool.  Even during the day it should just be pleasantly warm to work outside.

All the blooms this month have raindrops on their petals, for some this makes them even more beautiful.

Gaura are always beautiful with drops of rain on their stems

New foliage and new blooms on Rosa Clair Matin

Caryopteris is very reliable at summer’s end, even after the hot summer we’ve had this year it is flowering beautifully

To see what else is flowering in My Hesperides Garden in mid September, please click on the image below.

To enjoy what’s flowering in gardens around the world, some just entering spring and others beginning to look autumnal, visit Carol at May Dreams Garden,

Just a Little Bit

Of rain that is!  Yes, just a little bit of rain and temperatures falling especially at night means things are happening in the garden.  Walking around (and I’m enjoying doing this again) and I see that just a small quantity of rain has spurred some seeds to germinate – yes of course weeds are germinating, it doesn’t take much for them to get going but also Cerinthe are pushing their first leaves up through the soil.  Usually I wait for them to grow a bit bigger than these are and then transplant to where I want them to grow.  They may be a little early as if we get a hot second half of the month they may still wither and die.  In other places Californian poppies are covering the ground in the most extraordinary way, if they all gow the garden will be a riot of colour; some might even flower this autumn.  Autumn crocus are also pushing up so I will get some saffron this year.

At present the Cerinthe are just 2 leaves pushing though the soil, but there are lots!

Their leaves are quite distinctive.

Well, well, well!

At last the temperatures began to fall a little on the 26th August (the day we celebrated the feast of San Fiacre (the patron saint of gardeners, he also the saint of haemorrhoid sufferers!)  The days following continued hot but with promises of rain and cooler temperatures that never arrived.  Then on Friday 31st August it was overcast and cloudy all day and the temperature dropped by about 10° centigrade.  Sunday and Tuesday it rained wonderful gentle rain, I call it English rain because normally Italian rain is torrential.  But this was perfect garden rain, slowly, very slowly soaking into the ground.  Already the drought tolerant plants that had curled their leaves to help avoid water loss have uncurled them and the garden looks ‘fuller’.  The night temperature has also fallen by about 10° C, this means I can sleep and that the plants get further respite from the heat and sun.  In August the temperatures at night were between 24 to 28°, now they’ve fallen to a comfortable 18° C.

Thank goodness it did rain as on Friday night evening we discovered the pump in the well wasn’t working, in fact every time the pump tried to switch on it blew the main fuse of the house!  We isolated the fuse for the pump and called the plumber.  He came on Saturday morning and appeared to wave his magic wand and the pump worked for half a day; then during the afternoon the same thing started happening again.  So we had a third of a tank of water to last us until Monday morning when the plumber could return.

I’ve always valued water and been grateful for it and careful about how much I use.  When all your water, for the house and garden comes from a well you are very aware of its value.  We had been told that our well was 100 metres deep, this means a very powerful pump and an autoclave are needed to circulate water all around the house.  So, the plumber arrived, realised that before the arduous job of lifting the pump from the well it would be good to check all the electric circuitry.  Monday happened to be the day when Viterbo celebrates its Saint by carrying a ‘100 foot high tower’ around the town; my electrician is one of the 100 men who carry the tower (they’re called Facchini or porters) so he couldn’t come, every number we called was busy doing something for the BIG day.  Finally my electrician found someone he trusted who could help.  But he couldn’t fix the problem.  The pump was hauled out of the well, at this point we discovered that it is, in fact, 54 metres deep rather than the 100 we’d been told; the men were pleased about that!  The electric cable needed replacing and the pump itself was corroded by the minerals in the water.  However the plumber thought he could clean it and that it would work for a year or so longer and it was his advice that we didn’t need to purchase a new pump just yet.  He tested it above ground, it was working WRONG!  The pump was lowered back down the well, switched on – the main fuse blew again!!! Oh no! they’d have to heave it out of the well again and we needed to buy a new pump – it was lunch time so of course all the shops, including trade shops were closed until 2.30 (this is Italy – everything closes for lunch!)  The men went to eat (lunch time for them too, of course), there was virtually no water left in the tank at all now.  But at least with Sunday’s rain the garden didn’t need watering for a couple of days.

The new pump was fitted after lunch and hopefully all is now working properly.  But those 3 days with only the minimum amount of water really demonstrated that without water it is impossible to live (of course we all know that in an abstract way but actually LIVING without water SHOWS you).

If the pump had failed just a week previously I would have lost every plant in the vegetable garden and many other plants in the garden might not have recovered a further reduction in water.  I FEEL SO LUCKY!

Here are a few images of the 100 foot ‘tower’ that is carried through the streets of Viterbo.  The design of the ‘tower’ is changed every 5 years or so. This is not my favourite design but seeing the beginning, when they lift the tower in the air is very emotional.  The facchini take the last rites before beginning; as it has been known for a facchino to die during the transportation.

The ‘tower’ still inside its scaffolding support. The white figures are the facchini (porters)

The facchini praying in front of the macchina and being blessed by the bishop of Viterbo. Local dignitaries look on including the major.

The macchina is lifted to loud cheers, the band begins to play the special facchini tune and the transportation begins.