GBFD – Spring has Sprung

So officially spring has sprung; but what tells us that this is true?  What does spring mean to us?  In Italy there is a proverb: “One swallow doesn’t mean it is spring”; in the UK the proverb is almost the same except that the swallows proclaim it to be summer.  The birds take a while to fly north waiting to follow the increasing insect populations that provide the food for their young.

Returning to the idea of spring I was thinking that it was the first appearance of a particular flower that convinced me spring had arrived.  When I lived in the UK is certainly was a flower. To me daffodils WERE spring, but in Italy because of the lack of long cold winters where I live the daffodils often appear at the same time as tulips.

Spring is the moment of rebirth, rejuvenation, renewal, resurrection, and regrowth so I think that for me, now, it isn’t a flower but much more the fact that the garden and the surrounding countryside is becoming freshly green that lifts my spirits and makes me believe that Spring has truly Sprung!

Bright green fields tell me its spring

Bright green fields tell me its spring

In winter many of the fields are green but not in a new, bright fresh way they are now.  Everywhere in the garden new shoots are pushing through the soil, new foliage is opening even on evergreen shrubs giving them a new rejuvenated appearance.

There is enough grass for the sheep to be left in the field all day and not just an hour or so

There is enough grass for the sheep to be left in the field all day and not just an hour or so

Yes it is FOLIAGE that makes it spring, not a flower at all.  For this Garden Bloggers Foliage Day let me share with you some of the ‘greens’ that make it “spring”!

Bright green foliage on the pillar roses

Bright green foliage on the pillar roses

Even the Acanthus looks different in the spring sunshine

Even the Acanthus looks different in the spring sunshine

Spring light shining through tulip foliage

Spring light shining through tulip foliage

Tulips and Hemerocallus - green, green and more green

Tulips and Hemerocallus – green, green and more green

Green in the garden, green surrounding the garden, glimpses of green - foliage says it all

Green in the garden, green surrounding the garden, glimpses of green – foliage says it all

What makes it spring for you?  Is it flowers?  Is it the Foliage?  Or one particular favourite plant that whispers in your ear that spring has arrived?

…..and if you’re in the southern hemisphere I haven’t forgotten that it isn’t spring where you are but I’m sure you will forgive us longing for longer days and for our gardens to once again begin their cycle!  But we’d still love to know about the foliage in your garden as you slip into autumn.

You are very welcome to join in GBFD, just write your post and link it to your comment here, thank you.

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First Tulips

Yesterday the sun shone and the first tulips of 2013 opened!  I am so happy!

The first tulip opens in 2013 - T. Persian

The first tulip opens in 2013 – T. Persian Pearl

Not just one, and doen't the new foliage of Sedum Matrona look nice with them

Not just one, and doesn’t the new foliage of Sedum Matrona look nice with them

Hyacinth Miss Saigon is opening more each day too

Hyacinth Miss Saigon is opening more each day too

Today is not sunny, this morning was grey and this afternoon there is steady gentle rain (good for the garden unlike the heavy rain and horizontal winds at the weekend) so the tulips aren’t open but Hyacinth Miss Saigon is opening more each day.

Thank you all for your response to my appeal for a plant ID.  Here is an image of the foliage so that even though the stems didn’t exude an orange liquid it seems clear this is a Celandine, just that it has pointier petals than any of the images I saw when searching.

Here's the foliage of the flower I posted about 2 days ago

Here’s the foliage of the flower I posted about 2 days ago

Talking of foliage just a quick reminder that it is GBFD on Friday 22nd please feel free to join in with anything that takes your fancy foliage-wise.

Is this a Celandine?

Walking around the garden today after some terrible weather at the weekend I found this.

Is it a Celadine?

Is it a Celandine?

It has seeded itself in the shade under the Mulberry, so it has chosen a shady dry spot for itself, although sunny for now, until the Mulbery foliage appears.

I know some gardeners think they are a weed.  What do you think?

GBBD March – spring begins

Not in the sense that we have spring weather, no, it is cold, it is wet and the winds have been gale force; there has been some sun but mostly March has definitely come in like a lion…..

But despite this, blooms have opened, some bulbs are already finished, Crocus have been shredded by the whipping wind and Iris reticulate, although lasting longer than other years are now putting on foliage rather than flowering.

The best blooms are still the Anemone sylphide, close to them the other bulbs I chose for their similar fuchsia pink colour are showing their buds.  Hyacinth Miss Saigon, another bulb I’ve never grown before will be open in a few days and Barcelona, Persian Pearl or Antraciet Tulips are showing colour in their buds.  I don’t know which tulip this is because I planted all three here hoping for a continuation of intense colour, I’ll know when it is fully open I hope.

Anemone Sylphide

Anemone Sylphide, no apologies for showing these again!

Hyacinth Miss Saigon

Hyacinth Miss Saigon

Barcelona, Persian Pearl or Antraciet Tulip?

Barcelona, Persian Pearl or Antraciet Tulip?

The plum is now flowering with the promise of small sweet yellow plums later in summer.

Plum blossom

Plum blossom

The rest of the blooms are those you would expect in March with one exception, Rosa rimossa on the south-facing pillars has two flowers, one has already been almost destroyed by wind by the other is more tucked away so will hopefully bloom for a little longer.

Rosa rimosa three days ago

Rosa rimosa three days ago

and now after the wind

and now after the wind

R. rimosa, another bud opening

R. rimosa, another bud opening

Ceanothus repans continues to flower out of its usual late spring season, the plant is dying back in the middle and I fear it will die, they are capricious shrubs that often die for no apparent reason, I will replace it if it does die, I am trying cuttings but they are slow to put down roots.

Ceanothus repans

Ceanothus repans

Cerinthe is late flowering this year but there are masses of self-seeded plants in the large island making quite a statement.

Cerinthe

Cerinthe

Cerinthe's purple bell flowers

Cerinthe’s purple bell flowers

Viburnum tinus still not fully open, it really is a short season here

Viburnum tinus still not fully open, it really is a short season here

Periwinkle grows in the hedges

Periwinkle grows in the hedges

Violas have been flowering all winter in large pots which will some be displaying tulips

Violas have been flowering all winter in large pots which will some be displaying tulips

Euphorbia rigida is still putting on a great show

Euphorbia rigida is still putting on a great show
Euphorbia mysernites is adding colour around the garden

Euphorbia mysernites is adding colour around the garden

A few Verbena are flowering in sunny spots

A few Verbena are flowering in sunny spots

Prostrate Rosemary is doing a great job of forming a strean of blue on the slope

Prostrate Rosemary is doing a great job of forming a strean of blue on the slope

20130313_9999_10There’s lots more flowers to come.

Lonicera fragrantissima is at its best now, sweetly perfuming the air by the drive

Lonicera fragrantissima is at its best now, sweetly perfuming the air by the drive

Teucrium is reliable for flowering all winter

Teucrium is reliable for flowering all winter

Clumps of Muscari are beginning to bloom

Clumps of Muscari are beginning to bloom

where-as Eleagnus is coming to an end

Where-as Eleagnus is coming to an end

Oestiospmum also have a few blooms

Osteospmum also have a few blooms

Thank you Carol at MayDreams for hosting GBBD; visit to see what gardeners around the world have flowering in March.  Happy GBBD to everyone.

All is Revealed!

I promised not to keep you waiting for the name of the two plants that have been wowing me this winter.

I am surprised none of you guessed as I’ve mentioned the plants over the last couple of months.  Maybe you thought I was implying a shrub, well sadly there isn’t a shrub that flowers all winter here, I really wish there was.  Yes Rosa mutabilis flowers into December and this year actually managed blooms in January but it doesn’t flower in the bleak months of January and February, the months when I want some colour to cheer me.

So first is Iris unguicularis, I wrote about it as a plant of the moment on November 26th, not expecting that it would flower almost continuously until now March 7th.  There was only a two week period when there were no flowers; my clump is quite new (three years old) and already it has sent out a new clump about 30cm from the original plant.  This is the first year that it has flowered so much, I knew it would take a while to establish but it has certainly been worth waiting for, a delicate colour but not a delicate plant it has stood through strong winds and 6 weeks of sub-zero night-time temperatures, but it began flowering before any cold weather had arrived so it isn’t dependant on the cold to start it flowering.

Iris unguicularis

Iris unguicularis

I am sure the Iris will continue to spread and flower even more profusely in years to come, I intend leaving the main plant where it is (I couldn’t bear to not have the flowers next year, but I will move the off-shoot and hope to have a few clumps in strategic places in the future.

I hope with my second revelation that I’m not jumping the gun.  I planted Anemone Sylphide for the first time last autumn (at £2.00 for 25 corms from Peter Nyssen not an expensive experiment).

I didn’t soak them before planting although I did soak a different variety that I planted a bit later under the Mulberry; it did rain very heavily soon after planting them so I think I was probably lucky.  The growth appeared after about a month and I was surprised and a little worried that it should appear so early.  I showed the first bud about to open in January’s GBBD and that first flower lasted more than a month!  I call that pretty amazing.  Other buds appeared and the group still has lots of new buds waiting to open, I’ll report when the last bloom fades.  For something that gives such impact through these dull months I think it must be hard to beat.  At the price I paid I would even be willing to consider them an annual.  I will plant more next autumn and I’m looking forward to knowing whether they will return for a second and hopefully more years.

The bud appears with an elegant bent neck

The bud appears with an elegant bent neck

then shyly puts its head up to show the colour of its bud

then shyly puts its head up to show the colour of its bud

The colour becomes stronger

The colour becomes stronger

and shines in the light

and shines in the light

Slowly it opens to reveal the black centre

Slowly it opens to reveal the black centre

In the sun it opens fully

In the sun it opens fully

I want swathes of this colour to brighten winter days

I want swathes of this colour to brighten winter days

Winter flowering plants in my garden – my thoughts

When designing a garden I have always given a lot of thought to how the garden looks in winter.  When I designed gardens in the UK I often devoted the front garden to winter interest as I feel it gives a lot of pleasure to the owners and passers-by at a time when many front gardens are rather bare.  The back garden was the space used most in summer and therefore I concentrated the other seasons there.

When I started gardening in Italy, between Rome and Siena I thought it would be possible to grow many plants to give pleasure during the winter months, I imagined that many bulbs would flower earlier here and so spring would be spread into the winter months.  I already knew a lot of shrubs that flowered in winter imagined my garden as an oasis of flowers throughout the year.  I WAS WRONG.

Many shrubs that flower in winter are triggered to flower by COLD; here the cold weather rarely begins before January so many plants that flower from November or December in the UK don’t start into flower here until February.

A case in point is Lonicera fragratissima, a favourite of mine as, for me; it has the best perfume of any plant.  In the UK it often begins to flower in November, maybe even October if there has been cold weather in September, here in Central Italy it doesn’t really begin to put on a show until February, then flowering on through March and if it isn’t too hot into April.  The heat of spring soon brings flowering to an end so if it didn’t have such a wonderful perfume I wouldn’t grow it here.

Lonicera fragrantissima

Lonicera fragrantissima

Viburnum tinus is perhaps the most reliable winter plant in the UK; yes, it is used in every municipal planting but for a very good reason, it flowers for 9 months of the year.  Not here!  It is really only just beginning to open its tightly closed buds and by April it will be over – then the foliage looks dismal before the new leaves grow, so not such a useful plant, mine was burnt badly by last year’s hot winds so is in need of a drastic prune, I had left the branches in the hope they might recover.

Tightly closed Buds of Viburnum tinus

Tightly closed Buds of Viburnum tinus

Shyly opening buds of Viburnum tinus

Shyly opening buds of Viburnum tinus

Some years daffodils don’t flower at all, or if they do it is late, so late that summer plants detract from their beauty.  Tulips, I won’t give up, I adore their colour and form but they too flower only a little earlier than in the UK and are often accompanied by early roses throwing my ideas of the seasons into confusion.

So it is with very much pleasure that this winter two plants have flowered for months and don’t seem to need cold temperatures to propel them into growth.  What plants you may wonder; well I think this post is long enough so I’ll describe these plants soon, can you guess what they are?