2012 End of Year review

A view of Lake Bolsena on a cold crisp January day

A view of Lake Bolsena at the end of a cold crisp January day

December has sped past as it always will, with the busy time running up to Christmas.  The garden has changed with the effects of frosty mornings, cold nights and more rain.  And so another year comes to an end!  Why is it that they flash by so quickly?  Soon it will be time to begin sowing seeds – the beginning of a new season.

As I did last year I thought I would share with you the images that I used as my screensavers through the year.  Sometimes I change the image almost as soon as I take a new batch of photos; other times a favourite image will stay for weeks.

I notice how often I use the formal beds at the front of the house; I think I find the formality restful; not all the images are of the garden, the surrounding countryside also figures often.

Seed heads and berries bring life to the garden

January Seed heads and berries bring life to the garden

In Febuary we had snow

In Febuary we had snow

February: We were snowed in for a few days but the views outside were lovely

February: We were snowed-in for a few days but the views outside were lovely

To me March is YELLOW

To me March is YELLOW

March, Euphorbia add acid colour

March, Euphorbia add acid colour

March, Californian Poppies open their sunny faces to the sun

March, Californian Poppies open their sunny faces to the sun

April brings Poppies that carpet the countryside, my favourite wild flower

April brings Poppies that carpet the countryside, my favourite wild flower. I smile every time I see them!

April brings new bright leaves to the trees and tulips

April also brings new bright leaves to the trees and tulips

April, tulips and Photinia and new growth on Rosa Westerland all have the same warm colour

April, tulips and Photinia and new growth on Rosa Westerland all have the same warm colour

April, before the storm

April, before the storm

April, looking accroess to the large island

April, looking accross to the large island

April, the slope was very colourful

April, the slope was very colourful

May, a profusion of Californian poppies

May, the slope with a profusion of Californian poppies

May, Rosa Rimaso

May, Rosa Rimosa on the perpola

May, Irises

May, Irises and Cistus with olives in the background

June, Penesetun villosa already doing a great job

June, Penesetun villosa already doing a great job

June, ever present butterflies on the lavender

June, ever present butterflies on the lavender

June, the formal beds

June, the formal beds

June, not just butterflies feel on the lavender

June, not just butterflies feel on the lavender

June, the surrounding fields are at their abundant best

June, the surrounding fields are at their abundant best

July, more butterflies, here the false swallowtail

July, more butterflies, here the false swallowtail

July, of course many bees visit too!

July, of course many bees visit too!

September, the formal beds crisply clipped

September, the formal beds crisply clipped

September, Asters are the stars of the show

September, Asters are the stars of the show

September, Penesetum villosa still reflecting the evening light

September, Penesetum villosa still reflecting the evening light

October, Aster 'Monte Casino with Knautia

October, Aster ‘Monte Casino with Knautia

October, wonderful sunsets areone of the joys of autumn

October, wonderful sunsets are one of the joys of autumn

October The Perovskia was late to show its beauty this year because of the drought

October The Perovskia was late to show its beauty this year because of the drought

November brings sudden storms and dramatic skies

November brings sudden storms and dramatic skies

November, Iris

November, Iris unguiclaris

November, Miscanthus

November, Miscanthus

November, more sunsets

November, more sunsets

November and the sky is on fire

November and the sky is on fire

December brought and early winter, with frost every morning for 10 days or so

December brought and early winter, with frost every morning for 10 days or so

December, the formal beds from above

December, the formal beds from above

December, frost on alreadysilver foliage

December, frost on already silver foliage

December the light turns the Euphorbia and Argave blue

December the light turns the Euphorbia and Argave blue

December, Garlic Chives, Allium tuberosum, Seedheads

December, Garlic Chives, Allium tuberosum, Seedheads

To each of you who regularly leave comments and I count very firmly as my gardening friends and to those who read quietly but leave on trace of their presence I wish you all a Very Happy Gardening New Year! Christina

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GBFD December – Foliage says it all

At this season of the year flowers are few and far between; those that are in the garden are usually small, with an intense perfume to attract the very few pollinating insects that brave the cold air.  So it is foliage that fulfils the function of colour, form and texture.

Last year I posted about how we can learn about the structure of our gardens by taking photographs in black and white (or rather turning our colour images to black and white by editing our images – very easy to do).  This is useful in summer too when the colour of our favourite blooms blind us to the lack of form and structure and maybe trick us into thinking that our planting is more successful than perhaps it truly is.  In winter when often the colours turn to sepia of their own accord we are more aware of problem areas.

The slope in the early morning

The slope in the early morning

Above the slope, still mostly in shadow has lots of new fresh green from self-seeded Californian poppies and ‘cresto di gallo’ (a wild daisy-flowered plant I allow to grow as its new growth provides adds great taste to salads) and the darker foliage of prostrate Rosemary.

In black and white it looks quite different

In black and white it looks quite different

In black and white I can see the need for some foliage with larger leaves; but this is a very small area and large leaves are provided close-by in the form of Verbascum, but something I will think about when adding something new to this planting.  But there is a good mix of solid and more airy forms.

In the early morning when the garden was white with frost I enjoyed the large ice crystals that covered so much foliage.

Large crystals of ice have decorate the leaves of thyme

Large crystals of ice have decorate the leaves of thyme

The Frost highlights the difference in form of these leaves

The Frost highlights the difference in form of these leaves

The frost has attached itself to the protective hairs on the thyme foliage making it look like a cactus

The frost has attached itself to the protective hairs on the thyme foliage making it look like a cactus

Phlomis foliage edged in white by the frost

Phlomis foliage edged in white by the frost

Even the gravel is frosty, the formal beds looking west

Even the gravel is frosty, the formal beds looking west

In the large island Cerinthe, with the light shining through the foliage, contrasts with the frosty white leaves in other parts of the garden.

In the large island Cerinthe, with the light shining through the foliage, contrasts with the frosty white leaves in other parts of the garden.

Despite ten days of sub-zero temperatures at night most plants are still looking very green and happy.  All the Hemerocallis foliage has turned a deep yellow and has wilted onto the ground to form heaps that to me look like writhing snakes (I’ve no idea why it seems like that to me, we don’t have any yellow snakes as far as I know).

Collapsed Hemerocallis foliage adding a splash of yellow

Collapsed Hemerocallis foliage adding a splash of yellow

I know it is a busy time for everyone but I would enjoy seeing what foliage you have in your garden at the moment that is giving you pleasure.  Just leave a link to your post when you comment, and thank you for joining in this meme to celebrate foliage during the past year.

I would like to wish you all a very Peaceful, Happy Christmas and that the New Year will bring you good health and serenity in your garden.

GBBD – Searching for blooms

November’s GBBD it seemed like spring, there is no deluding myself now.  With the change of month from November to December came, too, the change to winter.  There has been frost on the ground almost every morning since the 1st of December.  Maybe the coldest December since we bought this house and I began the garden.

The few rose blooms that remain seem almost petrified by the cold.

Rosa 'Sophie's Perpetual' frozen in time

No more Californian poppies defying the month to flower with their sunny faces.  Iris unguicularis has produced lots of flowers, usually only one at any one time, so not a profusion of colour but beautifully elegant never the less.

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No need for a slide show this month, you can see everything that is blooming in this post. (this isn’t a link, just wordpress being difficult!)

 

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Rosa ‘Sophie’s Perpetual’ frozen in time

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The beauty in the garden this month is mainly from seed-heads and foliage, I’ll be posting about what foliage is looking good on the 22nd.

Thanks to Carol at May Dreams (I’m dreaming of May too now) for hosting this opportunity to link with gardeners everywhere to see what’s blooming now around the world.  It’s summer in the southern Hemisphere so we can enjoy some sunshine and warmth by sharing their walks around their gardens.

Civita di Bagnoreggio

Last Friday I visited Cività di Bagnoreggio with some colleagues.  A hill town like many around here; actually it’s hard to find any towns that aren’t built on a hill.  The origin of this, as many others, is Etruscan.  But the choice of this site wasn’t good as the city has been slipping down the side of its hill since mediaeval times; an earthquake accelerated the process by destroying the road.  Today very few people live here, some of the houses are holiday homes; the only way to reach the city is by a pedestrian causeway.

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The surrounding area is called Calanchi (bad lands in the US) and it is this scenery that you can often see in the background of Leonardo da Vinci’s painting.

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Is it snow?

This week has seen a big change in the weather.  No more kidding myself that it is spring or autumn, winter has arrived.  It is early for it to be so cold here in Lazio

On Monday I drove to Rome, I chose the road that goes over the Cimini hills (mountains) they aren’t that high so it rather depends where you come from whether you consider them mountains or hills, the highest point on the road is 850 m.  It was cold but also beautifully sunny, as I was driving I saw in the distance the snow tipped peak of Monte Amiata, but that’s higher than the Cimini and way off in Tuscany so I didn’t change my mind about my route.  Mistake!  As I climbed the trees began to be sprinkled with white.  Was it frost?  Then it became clear, the trees were coated in a thick layer of snow; it was amazingly beautiful and I regret not taking any photographs, but I thought the road was too dangerous to stop.  Cars coming in the opposite direction were driving very slowly and as I neared the highest point (860 m) there was a group of Carabinieri, stopping the traffic, saying the road was closed due to ice!  So I retraced my steps and took a lower road to arrive at my destination an hour late on a journey that should have taken 50 minutes!

Then yesterday, Wednesday when the forecast said it would be sunny, it first rained and then hailed, huge pieces of ice some about the size if a marble, others smaller – and it was so cold that many remained on the ground for two days!

Hail stones on the window cill

Hail stones on the window cill

Hailstones on the terrace

Hailstones on the terrace

Hail in the garden

Hail in the garden

White fields of hail stones

White fields of hail stones

Today garden is white with frost, the clipped Lavender looking lovely outlined in white; but some intervention is needed; the lemons and limes that I had already moved from the north east side of the house to the west side to avoid the cold north wind (Tramontana) now need to be moved into the greenhouse, so a little rearranging is also called for there.

Lavender in the formal garden white with frost

Lavender in the formal garden white with frost

GBHD – Eating and harvesting at the beginning of December

I mentioned picking the main heads of broccoli, well already many of the plants have large secondary heads; one plant has so many there is more to eat from the secondary florets than there was from the first main head!  I love broccoli cooked in many different ways: just plain with a little new oil drizzled over, cooked then refreshed and then recooked in oil flavoured with chilli and garlic, roasted in the oven with coriander and garlic and, perhaps my favourite, cooked then used to make pasta sauce along with anchovies, garlic and chilli – this is a speciality of Puglia (Apulia).  Risotto with broccoli is also a warming winter dish.  Last week when I picked all the secondary heads that were ready there was enough to make risotto, pasta sauce and two portions just eaten as a vegetable.

A few fresh dwarf green beans - a treat at the end of November

A few fresh dwarf green beans – a treat at the end of November

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I’ve never had such large secondary heads on broccoli before.

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Colourful chard is giving a good crop and amazingly I picked fresh dwarf green beans from the last sowing outside, they are slow to grow now but taste very good.

Strawberries continue to give us a couple of bowlfuls a week, such a treat at this time of year.  I made juice with the pomegranates, there weren’t so many this year and they were small so not enough to make jelly as I had intended, but the juice was delicious.

Last weekend was cold, a time to be in the warm kitchen and cooking.  With some leeks, carrots and celery plus frozen Barlotti beans I made a hearty soup, served drizzled with our oil it was perfect to warm us in what is now definitely winter.

I also decided to make some jams and jellies with fruit I’d stored in the freezer during the summer.  Raspberry jam and Blackberry jelly (actually from fruit from 2011)

Blackberry jelly, just beginning to boil

Blackberry jelly, just beginning to boil

and strawberry jam, crab apple mint jelly and (something I’ve never made before) green pepper and chilly jelly; there is one red and one yellow pepper but the rest are all green and I don’t think there is much chance of them ripening, hence the idea of making the jelly.

Green peppers ready to be added to the food processor along with green chillies

Green peppers ready to be added to the food processor along with green chillies

I can post any of the above recipes if anyone would like them.

There are a few aubergines, enough for one last meal but then the plants will be pulled out and added to the compost heap along with the basil plants that have lost all their leaves.

I’ve already used all my onions from this summer so I’ll have to grow more next year.  I’ve already planted some garlic and bought some red and yellow onion sets plus some shallots, I think now that the weather seems to be getting cold, I’ll wait and plant all the sets in February or early March.

While I was buying some new gardening gloves I saw that they were selling asparagus crowns, so I was tempted into giving them a try.  They weren’t a named variety and I’ve no idea if they are male or female, I will have to wait to see if they are worth the space they will take up.  I’m trying to work out how I might have space for some more beds – there is an area that is part of the property but outside the fence.  I is a bit of a slope so will need to be terraced I think.  It maybe too much work to be able to develop this space but it is hard knowing the space is there but I can’t use it.

Thanks to Christine and Barbie for hosting GBHD; they have late spring and summer crops now, so that will be a contrast to the wintery veg from the northern hemisphere.