The Slope on Thursday – Chiaro/Scuro

The weather remains changeable!  I don’t think I’ve ever written that during a summer in Italy.  Yesterday and today are hot but there is a breeze and in the evening the temperature drops so that it isn’t always possible to eat outside.  The whole garden is more lush and jungle-like than I have ever seen it.

On the slope this morning at 10.30 there is bright sun and deep shadows, hence my title of Chiaro/Scuro.  Eschscholzia californica are flowering again, the rain having helped germinate seeds and tempting into re-growth the older plants that were cut back.

The usual view, Perovskia and fennel obscuring the drive

The usual view, Perovskia and fennel obscuring the drive

Eschscholzia californica back for an encore performance

Eschscholzia californica back for an encore performance

Deep shadows cast by the Quercia ilex bushes creates this Chiaro-Scuro effect

Deep shadows cast by the Quercia ilex bushes creates this Chiaro-Scuro effect

The texture and form are what please me in this planting

The texture and form are what please me in this planting

The fennel on the slope seems taller than the trees, it is certainly more than 6 feet (1.8 m)

The fennel on the slope seems taller than the trees, it is certainly more than 6 feet (1.8 m)

I have already dried lots of fennel flowers so I want to leave the rest to make seed (to collect and cook with), I’ll need to be careful that none falls and is able to germinate otherwise all I’ll have is a forest of fennel next year.

Looking up the slope; deep lush greens and blond Stipa tenuissima

Looking up the slope; deep lush greens and blond Stipa tenuissima

I love the strong verticals created by the Verbascum.

Perovskia and Verbascum creating a pleasing contrast

Perovskia and Verbascum creating a pleasing contrast

The Perovskia is proving that even drought tolerant plants look better with some rain!  It is bluer than I’ve ever seen it before.  Do you have plants that perform better when the conditions aren’t actually those that the plant is supposed to prefer?

How is summer treating your garden; I was told this morning that the changeable weather will last through August with September being hot; I’m not sure I believe it but if true it will produce some interesting results as however hot the days are, there will still be cooler longer nights creating some dew so growth may continue well in autumn.  Is summer typical for you this year?


47 thoughts on “The Slope on Thursday – Chiaro/Scuro

  1. I’m writing from Tasmania so we are in the depths of winter. However I did spend all of May and June travelling through Greece from Crete to the Albanian border and the weather was cooler, wetter and more changeable than I experienced in three previous visits. The wildflowers were still marvellous though

      • Our winters are temperate with four distinct seasons. i live on the coast where its rarely below 4 celsius overnight and ranges from 9 – 13 during the day in winter, apart from an occasional really cold (for us) day when it doesn’t get above 7. Blue skies and sun today! Heavy frosts depending on the location, but I still have tree dahlias flowering. Its quite a versatile climate for gardening

  2. You have some beautiful vistas – I love the verbascum and perovskia as well as the blond stipa with the greens. My single perovskia plant is doing well and should flower soon. I have it on a dry sunny slope, but we have had some heavy rainfall too, so hopefully it will be happy.
    Interesting how your climate is so different this year, our summer seems fairly typical, sunny days and rainy days, but we had such a mild winter and spring that the whole garden is ahead of schedule by a good few weeks.

    • Our winter was very mild too, but the prolonged cooler (relatively) days has meant that many plants have flowered for a longer period ; maybe more like in the UK, often each season is very short here from a flowering point of view.

  3. Lovely pictures Christina. Here in Piemonte the summer has been cool and rainy up till now, more or less like a very good warm English summer. I have been lucky because I did a lot of planting last year and am trying to to work out what will grow well here. I’ m probably being completely misled with such a mild winter followed by a wettish spring and summer. It all seems very easy so far! So we’re a bit like you and have had some oddly cool evenings, causing lots of complaints!

    • Welcome to my Hesperides Garden Jane. Yes, this last year has been very different so you had the ideal first year for your plants. Piemonte isn’t usually as hot or dry as here in Lazio so you will probably find it not too difficult. Christina

  4. Really beautiful views Christina, its interesting to see everything so lush in July. Your fennel is wonderful, I have a sad piddly specimen this year! I am indoors this afternoon sheltering from the heat in the UK, its due to be 30 degrees tomorrow and breaking with storms on Saturday.

    • I realise that when I say it’s cool, I may be confusing everyone. Today it will be 31 or 32°C, which is cool for the time of year and it has been only in the mid to high 20’s for most of the month, it would be a good summer’s day in England. Which is why I’m enjoying it and the Italian’s aren’t!

  5. I love the fennel and Perovskia combination in that first photo. The colors work so nicely together. Your summer weather sounds like a gift to enjoy and you seem to be making the most of it. We’ve had one of those summers to forget, miserably hot, hot, hot and humid and dry. Most plants have dried up. This week a thunderstorm reached us at last and the temperature is more moderate, making for a lovely day.

    • Sorry your summer isn’t so good this year. Too much heat and not enough water is not a good combination. I hope you do get the rain you need. Perovskia combines well with many different plants, especially Gaura, and grasses.

  6. For those of us who don’t speak Italian, what are Chiaro and Scuro – is it sun and shade, or light and dark? As you have said, the textures are really noticeable in these pictures. Temperature in parts of the UK are only a little less than yours, and tomorrow we have an extreme weather warning – stay out of the sun!! No breeze here – but we did have a small shower yesterday evening and expect heavy rain for much of Saturday, something we need, certainly in the Midlands and SE

  7. How nice that you got an encore performance from the California poppies! That’s unlikely here, where yesterday the California legislature adopted new penalties for excessive water use outside. My husband and I have already spent some time deliberating on which portions of our irrigation system can most easily and productively be converted to drip systems and I’ve got a pile of new mulch to spread around during the upcoming weekend to keep the soil as moist as possible this summer. As to the subject of drought-tolerant plants that perform better with some extra water, the agaves appear to fall into that category – the 2 Agave ‘Blue Glow’ that get more water than than my other 4 have grown at almost double the rate.

    • Wow! I wouldn’t have expected the Agave to respond so well to extra water, it just proves that all plants really want water and warmth to grow well. I think there are only a few exceptions to that.

  8. Isn’t it amazing how green it’s all looking! To some extent my garden is also greener than usual, as it often starts to look pretty frazzled by mid-July. Is the ground cover in the 4th picture Thyme? I have found Marjoram does very well here, and the bees and butterflies have been flocking to it. The effect of the different textures really is noticeable in the light/shade photos. You have created such a beautiful space Christina!

  9. Glorious! I love the combination of the perovskia with the fennel. I still have no real idea what constitutes a normal summer here, but this year so far has been close to perfect, lots of hot sunshine but with near weekly rain over night. Great for settling in new plants. I’m still getting used to what grows well in my sandy soil, so far the biggest surprise has been that astrantias seem to be settling in well, they were chancy, I thought, as they prefer heavier soil.

    • It’s great you’ve had good weather for settling in your new plants. I’m not sure ‘normal’ exists anywhere any more. Up until this year July as been guaranteed to be hot and dry but this year that’s completely changed. Maybe it was ever thus and we just imagine there is a normal!

  10. Your perovskia gets better and better each time I see it, it is gorgeous! I have a single verbascum pop up which is like yours, it must be from seed from many years ago, I like it so it can stay!

    • Verbascum seed must be tough and able to be dormant for many years; as shown in the field which only seems to have the Verbascum is any numbers every 4 or 5 years.

  11. Its fairly tropical here,some thunderstorms, warm and damp. Everything in the garden is very early- some asters are beginning to flower now. My late summer garden will be over in August! I envy your beautiful blue perovskia.

    • The Perovskia is wonderful this year, much bluer because the flowers are staying alive all up the stem rather than just the tips being blue and the rest a quite satisfying grey.

  12. We have actually had a couple of cooler days with chilly nights! I took advantage by getting some work done in the garden. This is not at all typical, and today I feel the sweltering heat returning. Your slope is looking wonderful I love the Perovskia/ Fennel combination. Happy summer!

  13. Like Janet, I can’t say what’s normal. It has been very hot and dry here – the tropical border in particular needs almost daily watering. And we cut all the mixed hedging on the hottest day of the year. Which was very hard. Dave

    • If I tried to grow tropical plants in our normal summer I’d have to stand over them with the hosepipe 24/7 I think! The farmers have been working through the nights over the weekend to cut and bale the hay before today’s heavy rain arrived. Perhaps you’ll have to get out there with a torch on your head like the miners Dave!

  14. We have just returned to having thunderstorms and over 65 mm of rain in two nights. Not a lot of damage but still some broken branches. The forecasts cannot get it right because the weather is so unsettled and I find it unsettles me too. Amelia

    • This is the first summer that has been so cool and wet so the fact is is changeable has pleased rather than unsettled me, it all seems like some wonderful reprieve from the heat I hate.

  15. There’s always something new to see there, I love it!
    Smart of you to remove the fennel seed. I’ve never been able to follow that advice and have fennel galore to weed out in the spring 🙂

  16. glad you are having a better summer Christina, I love the first photo with the lavender blue perovskia and fennel, your fennel looks so airy, in our wet climate mine is more of a blob though the flowers look airy above the foliage,
    the fourth photo down, with the wonderful foliage textures, the line down the centre of lower growing foliage looks like a river running through, I like the effect,
    drought tolerant doesn’t mean a plant has to have drought, same as wind tolerant doesn’t mean it needs the wind, these terms just mean the plants can cope with these conditions but would probably prefer conditions less extreme,
    our summer here is wet and cool, I noticed you replied to someone that cooler for you is late 20’s early 30’s Centigrade, here warmer is 15C, lol, it’s all relative, I’ve become cautious about saying to people south of here that it was a bit warmer for 3 days last week as I know they are thinking of ‘their’ version of warm, since I’ve been here I’ve only once before experienced a summer as wet as this one, I’ve given up hope of drier weather,
    I can’t finish this comment on that note so have been trying to think of something positive, yes, I noticed when I did get into the garden that despite the rain the ground was not swampy, my additions and conditioning of the soil seems to be paying off for good drainage, 🙂 Frances

    • I’m glad you liked the ‘river’, because of the form of the slope there are several rivers of plants as they seem to look their best like that (there are rosemary, thyme, muscari in spring and less visible Artemisia pontica). your point about the meaning of drought tolerant is of course absolutely correct but as these plants on’t like wet soil I always expect them to be happier when it is hot and dry – as I’ve mentioned before it can be a bit annoying to see these plants (pretty much the ONLY plants I can grow) actually looking much better in an English garden where the temperatures are always lower and there is usually some rain every month. It’s good you’ve been able to improve your soil because you’re right water logged soil is more of a killer than every very dry. Your 15°C high would be an average winter day here. Christina

      • Christina, I know one of your garden designs elements is to create rivers of plants through borders, it was you I got the idea from, I had had the idea to create a river of daffodils on my wildflower slope (which still hasn’t happened as they flower at different times) but is was your suggestion to create them through borders and beds, what I particularly like about this photo is the low growing river plants, are they the thyme? with the larger plants along the edges, like boulders and banks on a river, it’s very effective, Frances

        • Thanks Frances, the river idea wasn’t mine, I read about someone doing it with lavender down a hillside in Provence, and yes it is thyme so looks lovely when it flowers too; I try hide not to plant everything like this on the slope otherwise it would just become stripes so I try to have amorphous groups too that could be pools as with the Euphorbia and Iris, the Verbascum then gives some welcome vertical accents. Something I like in planting schemes is that plants run from front to back in a border not in straight lines so creating distinct fields of view through taller plants, it can also give taller plants some breathing space. Christina

      • I love the idea of ‘pools’ of flowers, so much nicer sounding than ‘blocks’, my river of daffodils wiggles and at the bottom of the slope I’ve spread them, I was thinking of waterfalls, in one of the books I’ve borrowed from Stornoway library several times as I enjoy the inspiration in the photos, there is a photo of a river of low growing plants coming through larger plants, it’s on a gentle slope and there are strategically placed large rocks and small boulders in the river (it doesn’t say if they were already there or not), these give another dimension which is quite effective, the garden is in California, Frances

        • Waterfalls is a good description too. I think planting theory can get very verbose and a bit scary but descriptions like this everyone can relate to and understand. All the talk of blocks, matrix and drifts can be intimidating but natural planting can be achieved by thinking in terms of how water flows.

  17. It was and cool spring here in southern Ontario, Canada. and it’s been a cool-ish summer with enough rain to keep the plants looking lush and vigorous. Many gardeners are loving the weather. Others? Maybe not so much. Your post is lovely, by the way.

  18. What a treat to see your garden blooming so much in summer….we are getting rain with cool weather again and the rain will be in the forecast daily with temps in the high 70s or low 80s…my garden seems to be enjoying it!

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