Wednesday with words – Flowers in the snow

Today more of the snow has disappeared but remains is hard crusty ice!  The peas and broad beans remain completely buried under their blanket of snow; the Pak Choi under its cover of fleece looks fine.  More snow is forecast during the night followed by rain and a rise in temperature so hopefully these will be the last of the images of my snowy garden ( I do hope I’m not talking too soon).  All the images were taken yesterday 27th February. Continue reading

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All Change Please

Firstly sorry there is no the Slope on Thursday this week.  There was torrential rain all day yesterday and it has continued all this morning; I’m kicking myself as on Wednesday there was a wonderful heavy frost and I should have taken lots of photos then instead I was intent on sowing tomato seeds – probably far, far too many but hey, I like the reliable ones I know but also plant to try some new ones as well. Continue reading

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

EMV – November a month to work in the garden

Thanks to Helen for hosting EMV; again it is so hard to believe it is the end of November already.

November has been the perfect month for a gardener; many days of warm sunshine interspersed with life sustaining rain.  Today (Wednesday) isn’t nice, heavy rain is falling, there is thunder and lightning which means that the internet is intermittent and it looks black outside, so not a gardening day today!

Not very much has changed in the garden since last EMV except that the walnuts trees have now lost all their leaves and the Mulberry will have done so after the strong winds today and tomorrow.

I have planted garlic (last week) and all the bulbs, except for 25 tulips, are all safely in the ground.

I have been tidying the beds, weeding and planting.  The smallest bed, the circular rose bed needed the most attention.  Gaura lindheimeri self-seeds profusely in this bed and I hadn’t cleared all last year’s seedlings which had grown so large they were swamping the roses; my plans to do a Chelsea chop didn’t happen so many plants were approaching 1.7 metres.  I potted up lots of smaller plants that should make good plants to swap and some with larger roots (almost rhizomes) I transplanted onto the slope where many of the existing plants had perished in the drought.  Gaura remains in the spaces between each variety of rose.  I also removed 3 large buckets of material to the compost heap.

From a distance all you can see is Gaura and Stipa tenuissima

You can see some of the Gaura in this image of R. Sophie’s Perpetual

I then decided to define the quadrants of roses more by planting Miscanthus Gracillimus midway to the centre of the circle between each type of rose and position a Pennisetum villosum in front of the Miscanthus.  There were already 2 Miscanthus and one huge Pennisetum in the bed.  I was able to divide one of the Miscanthus into 3 which gave me the required four; the Pennisetum is a bit of a thug, it spreads very freely so it was easy to divide it into four large pieces plus a dozen or so smaller sections that I planted onto the slope, replacing some Stipa tenuissima what had more dead material than green.  I think the Pennisetum will act well to hold the soil on the slope and they also make better ground cover and weed suppressant than the Stipa.

The finished bed

The bed is also very slightly sloping, so the edging helps contain the soil

Pennisetum villosum is drought tolerant in my garden and although it isn’t very pretty in mid-winter it soon puts on new growth in spring and then seems to flower until the first frosts.

The circular rose bed is (or was) the same dimension as the circular void in the middle of the formal garden and it forms the link between the formal front beds and the much more relaxed island beds.  Using a void and a positive space isn’t really to be strongly recommended because in fact you can’t SEE that they are the same, but it does give some rhythm so in this case it works.  The edge of this border has never been strongly defined before so I decided to use some crazy paving that had been on the front of the house (no, don’t ask why!) to sink into the ground to delineate the shape better.

Here are the roses that are still flowering in the bed this month.

Rosa ‘Queen of Sweden’

Rosa ‘William Shakespeare’

Rosa Sophie’s perpetual

Rosa ‘Tradescant’ also has a couple of flowers but I didn’t take a photo on the 24th November when I photographed the above.

Rosa ‘Veilchenblau’

Even my favourite rose ‘Veilchenblau’, which usually only flowers in early summer has put on a few flowers to charm me.

End of Month Review – A Busy Month

Autumn is the busiest time in the garden.  Not only the general clear-up of untidy plants and perennials that don’t give winter interest but more importantly it is THE time to plant new plants and take cuttings.

I visited a couple of plant fairs one in Rome in September (not very good) and another at Villa Landriana at the beginning of October but the highlight was a visit to Courson just outside Paris.  I think it is the best plant show I have ever visited and I bought as much as I could squeeze into a suitcase (but more of this another day).

Plant fair at Courson

I managed to find a few plants that I’ve been searching for.  Cytisus battandieri has been on my list for ages; sadly the example I managed to track down is infested with some kind of scale insect (I have picked them off the back of almost every leaf!)  The RHS website says that generally they are disease free so I hope that now it is in the ground it will strengthen and be able to fight any new infestations, I will keep a close eye on it and continue removing any new scales.

The other plant I’ve had my eye open for is Leonotis leonurus which I first saw in the Botanic Garden in Phoenix on New Year’s Day this year and which many of you helped me identify as I wrongly surmised it was a Phlomis (from the form of the flowers you can see why I thought this).  I now have three as I think they will be drought tolerant and are a bright cheerful orange, a colour I really enjoy when the light is bright in summer.  For a strong contrast I’ve also planted some new deep blue Agapanthus nearby; I’m hoping this will give a zinging contrast to the path border at the top of the slope that meets the rest of the garden.

Leonotis leonurus

Thanks to Helen at Patient Gardener for hosting this meme; visit her to see what other gardeners have been up to this month.

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.

Datura

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

EOMV – Scorching August

Another month has passed and it’s time again to join Helen the Patient Gardener for the end of month view; thanks for hosting again Helen

On Sunday last we had a little rain, enough to wet the ground.  Night-time temperatures have dropped a little; being able to sleep at night has made me feel a little better.

If the cooler nights continue, but already last night was warmer than Sunday night, the plants will benefit from some dew.  Lower temperatures are also promised for next week (I have everything crossed!).

The August issue of my Italian gardening magazine communicates that there hasn’t been a June and July together this hot and this dry since records began (and now there is a scorching August to add into the statistics); local friends, who are assiduous at keeping records of max. and min. temperatures and measuring rainfall, tell me that there has been no measurable rain since May 28th!  Again this morning we had a 15 minute shower – not enough to do much good but, for me psychologically good as it brings a promise that we will get some proper rain soon.

The extreme conditions are making me reassess my thoughts on what drought really is.  I’m sure this sounds silly – a drought is a drought is a drought.  But actually it isn’t just about there being no rain; we rarely get any rain here from July through to the end of August.  What has made the difference this year is the higher temperatures, just a few degrees higher every day and less obviously higher night time temperatures, giving plants less time to recover.  Then there have been even more strong winds this year; this morning’s shower wet the ground but then the wind grew stronger and everything was dry again within half an hour (at the most).  As I write the wind is blowing continuously, I can hear it in the chimney; I’m listening to the leaves of the wisteria rustling.  This desiccation by the wind is not to be underestimated.

I’m looking with reawakened interest at the plants that are really thriving, not just surviving; I will use more of them as structural plants so that when this hot summer is repeated in the future there will be more plants that I don’t have to worry about.  I mentioned some in my post about foliage; the good ones are rosemary, Ceanothus, Teucrium, Myrtle and Euphorbia, although a couple of plants have died but they were probably a bit old.

Teucrium, thrives in the heat, you can prune it – maybe I will replace the dead box with this, not as long lasting but tough!

Cistus and Pholmis sufruticosa are alive but their foliage has curled to protect itself so that don’t look wonderful.

Then there were the surprises – plants I would have bet good money that they would be OK; Festuca glauca is a plant I’ve always considered very, drought tolerant but several have died and there is such a build-up of dead thatch on others that they either need replacing or digging up and dividing, discarding the dead stems and hoping that they will reform into their usual round shape.

these three Festuca glauca look dead to me

the alive one at the back is just on the edge of where the irrigation drip hose reaches

Nepeta is tough, just a couple of soakings with the hose and it is regrowing! I intend taking cutting and using more of this around the garden, I love its colour.

Most of the Sedums are growing well, although some are smaller this year.

I will use sedums as fillers around other plants, they needn’t be near irrigation drip hoses, I already took a lot of cutting earlier in the year, I’ll take even more next year

With irrigation (3 hours per week) the grasses look great

These grasses, Miscanthus and Pennisetum are on the edge of the circular rose bed, they are just receiving water through the soil, there is no direct irrigation to them but the roses receive 1 hour per night 3 times per week.

Once the trumpet vine is established it shouldn’t need any irrigation

In my free-draining soil Gaura needs just a little water, the amount in the soil near the irrigated roses is enough, to flower for months. In some soils they need no water at all.

There is a very obvious truth behind all the above.  If I want a garden full of flowers in July and August all I have to do is use masses of water!  I don’t want, or indeed feel it is right, to irrigate the whole garden so I must rethink some areas so that I am not forced to go around with a hose early morning or late at night trying to keep plants alive.  Where the irrigation is, the plants survive on the amount I give them, they won’t flower in a very hot year like this one has proved to be but they will persist to flower another year and I think I have to be content with that.

This abutilon was more damaged by the cold winter than the heat of summer but it does receive some irrigation

The Echinacea I grew from seed seems happy with just a little water

This double Hibiscus is still quite small, it was a cutting taken by a friend. Once established it is very tough and will survive with very little water

Asters need more water. I need to concentrate them in one or two areas where I’m prepapred to irrigate 3 times a week.

Sorry some of the images are a little fuzzy; the wind was blowing!