April 8th 2016 No apologies

I mentioned that we have been walking in the local lanes as part of my husband’s rehabilitation; it is a great time of year to be doing this as day by day the wild flowers are beginning to flower just as much as in the garden.

A couple of day’s ago Richard returned full of excitement; he had just seen one of the sheep in a field very close to us give birth; well, to be totally honest  he didn’t witness the actual birth but he arrived on the scene moments later when the umbilical cord was still attached to the lamb and it had just got to its feet.  The following day I went too; this may or may not be the lamb he saw!

New lambs are so snowy white in comparison to their mothers

New lambs are so snowy white in comparison to their mothers

It is unlikely that the two lambs are twins; they aren’t bred for that here; the lambs are a by-product of the need for the ewes to produce milk for our local famous Pecorino cheese. Continue reading

Making me smile this week 3rd February 2016

Weather-wise it has been a mixed week with a couple of days of really warm sunshine and blue skies and the rest rather grey with a cold wind.  On Monday I began pruning the wisteria on the pergola at the front of the house.  I wish I’d taken a photograph immediately as the new structure against the blue sky was really making me smile a lot, against the grey sky today it looks far less impressive.  Continue reading

Looking good today – 13th November

I’m not managing to post as much as I would like at present.  I’m working in the garden more than writing about it, plus I am still having issues with our internet, often too slow to upload even the smallest image.  Hopefully today I will be able to join Gillian and her ‘Looking good’ meme. Continue reading

The Slope on Thursday 23rd October and Olive oil update

Firstly I’d like to thank you for making my 500th post such a special event.  More people than ever before joined in with a post about the foliage in their garden, or a particular plant or foliage seen on a visit to an arboretum or a nursery.  If you haven’t read them all you can find the links in yesterday’s post. Continue reading

The slope on Thursday – A little autumn colour!

Monday and Tuesday were perfect autumn days; perfect gardening days too!  Sunny, warm but not too hot it was a pleasure to be in the garden.  Wednesday afternoon brought sheet lightening, thunder and lots of rain which continued intermittently overnight and into the early morning.  There is a strong breeze too today making the drying leaves rustle on the trees.

I know that autumn is here even if I want to live in denial a little longer; I know because the days are becoming shorter but I know most because the shield bugs are coming into the house to find suitable hibernation sites, I carefully remove them, not daring to squash them because of the pungent, long-lasting odour they emit.  I’m sure that during summer they don’t produce the odour so it seems to be a way of protecting themselves while they are hiding.  Strangely I have the impression that very few survive the hibernation process as I find lots of darkly coloured ones dead.  There are many kinds of shield bug (aptly called smelly ones in Italian), the type that come into the house are, I think, Piezodorus lituratus or gorse shield bug; the name obviously references the bad smell they emit. Continue reading

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.

Wildlife Wednesday

I find it so interesting the way different insects (animals in general) use different materials to build their homes, or in this case the home for their young.

I was preparing the spare bedroom which hadn’t been used for a while and found this outside the window but inside the shutters.

Another example this time on a stake to hold a garden candle (this inside the shed)

I recognised immediately what it was; but this was the first one in a reachable position that I could investigate.

The young in their individual cells

The nest is constructed of mud and stocked with spiders for its young to eat as they emerge from the chrysalis.  Several cells are connected alongside each other, sharing the mud walls, but they are individual, sealed tube. Each cell will contain one egg and be provided with food for the larvae when it hatches. The food is in the form of small spiders with between 6 and 14 per cell. These are mostly small crab or jumping spiders.

The spiders don’t seem to be dead, but paralysed by the adult’s sting so that they remain fresh for the emerging larvae.

This is the insect in question: the thread-waisted Wasp, Sceliphron spirifex.  I can’t imagine how many trips it must take to construct the nest; sometimes they are huge!

Sceliphron spirifex, Thread-waisted

Garden Bloggers Foliage Day – June – Blast Furnace Days

I was away from the garden for a long weekend in Prague, visiting friends who were teaching there for a month; a great city for a break with masses to see especially if you like Art Nuevo and music – ah the music!

But I digress.  Before I went away we had more than a week of strong winds with temperatures about average or a little below the norm for this time of year.  On the day we left the direction of the wind must have changed bringing scorching temperatures of up 38 or 39° C, with wind as well on the first day.  So in four days the garden looks totally different.  Actually it looks as if someone went crazy it with a blow torch!

I hadn’t begun the automatic irrigation because every morning there had been evidence of quite heavy dew, so I felt the plants should cope.  I should have realised that the wind was already drying them out and that they needed a little help.  The automatic irrigation is now on; I’ll post about the different types of irrigation tubes I use and what I think are the pros and cons of each kind soon.

We are now entering the period when there are less blooms, only the toughest of plants flower when its this hot.  So I am now relying on foliage and form to give life to the garden.  Shiny, glinting silvers sparkle in the shimmering heat.  Even very tough, drought tolerant plants like Cistus don’t look their best; their leaves shrivel a little to help prevent water loss.  The garden has lost that feeling of lush plenty and is looking parched and lean.  Not my favourite time.

View of the Large Island with mounds of various silver-leaved plants

You can see in the above that my Cordyline is not happy, it really doesn’t like the heat; its days are numbered.

I showed this plant in spring, when it was wet so you could see how felt-like hairs on the leaf surface protect it from the strong rays of the sun.

Artimesia ponticum

Without these silver-leaved plants the garden would be very sad in summer.

Looking almost blue in the shade earlier this morning

Even the plant’s flower stems and flowers are covered in in tiny hairs for protection

Festuca glauca sparkles in the heat

These leaves look like machine embroidery lace

Euphorbia rigida

Euphorbia rigida’s new foliage is lifting itself clear of its spent flowering stems.  The seed pods were popping for weeks, I expect to find many new seedlings in autumn, time now to clear away the debris.

Euphorbia myrsinites is doing the same, its seedlings are already emerging in the gravel paths

More work to be done, did I really say in an earlier post that there wasn’t much to do in June and July in the garden?

Metallic leaves of Convolvulus cneorum have tough leaves for their protection

The loveliest thing happening in the garden is all the bees and butterflies that fill the space with fluttering wings and various levels or buzzing.  But even here there are things to shock.  Looking at the lavender hedge of the formal beds and taking as many photos as I could I saw this, at first I could quite believe what I was seeing.

Was the bee really being attacked?

I really think it has trapped the bee and is eating it! What could it be?

I checked in my ‘Complete Mediterranean Wildlife’ book and found that it is an Assassin Bug, Rhinocoris iracundus.

I hope you will join in GBFD and tell us what foliage is looking great in your garden at the moment.  To link in just leave a comment with a link to your post; I look forward to reading them.  I’ll read and comment on all GBFD posts, thank you for joining in.

June – visitors to the garden

The gardens is full of butterflies and bees.  They love the Lavender (this is a good reason to keep it).

I have seen Swallowtail butterflies, a black and white butterfly that comes rarely to the garden that I never manage to photograph and there was a mucher larger humming bird hawk moth, again it was too quick for me.  Even the bees tempt me because they seem slow only to fly off as the press the shutter; I have numerous images of only sprigs of lavender when I hoped I was taking bees or butterflies drink necter.

This honey bee is feeding on Thyme, a variety that smells of camphor.

A small bumble bee on lavender

I usually cut the flowers off the santolina before they open as I don’t like their colour, but having left them this year, I find they are visited by numerous different insects, so perhaps I should always leave the flowers for them.

A waspish-looking hoverfly

The iridescent green of the fly reflects the acid yellow of the Santolina

Not just flies and bees like the Santolina.

A spider sets its web where it knows there will be many passing visitors which it can ensnare.

The spider is coloured like a wasp or bee.

You can see blue markings on the underside of the wing.

This moth? is on a tomato leaf, I hope it’s not going to cause problems

And these are from last month that didn’t find their way into a post.

Verbena bonariensis is another popular flower for bees and butterflies

But not all the visitors are harmless.  Rosa Molineux has been ravaged by one kind of insect that I’ve not noticed in the garden in other years.

Any ideas as to what they are?

They eat the petals almost completely!

So if you know what they are, what can I do about them (organically).

I can’t leave you with this horrible image, so here’s a swallowtail from last month.