Hello to you all. Some of you have been kind enough to email me asking how we are surviving in Italy when I know the headlines around the world are suggesting conditions are dire here. Yet me reassure you that we are well. Continue reading
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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 ‘Tradescant’ also has a couple of flowers but I didn’t take a photo on the 24th November when I photographed the above.
Even my favourite rose ‘Veilchenblau’, which usually only flowers in early summer has put on a few flowers to charm me.
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).
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.
Thanks to Helen at Patient Gardener for hosting this meme; visit her to see what other gardeners have been up to this month.
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 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.
There are also lots of pinks, they almost seem out of place at this time of year.
Asters are beginning to put on a show.
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.
Thanks Helen for hosting this meme, even if it is a reminder of how quickly the year is passing!
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.
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.
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.
Sorry some of the images are a little fuzzy; the wind was blowing!
Time again to join Helen the Patient Gardener for her end of month view.
May and June are usually the best months for me; the weather is warm enough to enjoy meals outside, the garden is full of flower and everything is lush and full. May was almost like this, but there were cool evenings which meant no meals outside. The beginning of June was very windy so again not many meals outside and the plants in the garden took quite a battering. In the middle of the month the temperatures soared AND there were hot winds!
I usually delay turning on the automatic irrigation (except to the vegetable garden) for as long as possible; 1, because I want the plants to become tough and search out water deep down and 2, as all the water comes from a well 100 m deep there is considerable cost in terms of electricity to pump the water to the surface.
As it was cool in May, especially at night, there was always dew on the ground each morning so I felt it correct to wait before beginning the irrigation this year. With hindsight this was a mistake; the desiccating effects of the wind were pulling water up out of the ground via the leaves. When I went to Prague I didn’t want to begin irrigating without being there to make sure there were no damaged pipes (there was one so I was right about that). The wind became even stronger and the temperature rose to 37° – 39° Celsius over those four days and when I returned the garden was scorched, I used the term “flame gun” and this wasn’t really an exaggeration. The irrigation is on now, I have been hand-watering to try to help some of the plants that were really suffering, but with temperatures now pretty much set for the next six to eight weeks the summer hibernation of the garden has started early! Some plants do continue to bloom with minimum irrigation and I’ll be showing those over the next weeks.
Some plants will reward me with abundant blooms with very little water. Rosa mutablibis is one that only needs minimum water to flower almost continuously. Gaura lindheimeri is another that with just a little irrigation or run off from nearby roses flower profusely. The groundcover Verbena near the terrace is flowering much more than usual because I’ve been watering pots on the terrace and water has run off from there to reach them.
Figs grow all around the Mediterranean and I’ve seen them growing out of cliffs with no soil, but mine needs water every year! In past years this hasn’t occurred until August, but just look at my poor tree, and this was even before the last week of June; the first crop of figs hasn’t been harvested yet although any day now some should be ready.
Rosa Rimosa again has had only run off water from watering pots on the terrace is giving a great second display.
However the grasses are beginning to light up the garden, especially in the evening when the last rays of the sun shine through their flowers.
June is the month for Lavender and the sound of bees buzzing all day collecting nectar and of butterflies fluttering and dancing in the air above.
I’m joining Helen the Patient Gardener for this month’s review of what’s happening in the garden this month.
Here in Italy May is the month when everything flowers! I remember the first time I saw a garden at this time of year I thought it looked fake (like at Chelsea flower show) with plants that would be flowering a month or so apart all flowering together. This is lovely but it does mean that everything is also over very quickly. Many plants go into summer hibernation if there is a drought and usually there is no rain from June until mid-August or even September.
For that reason I’ve been posting every day this month and even doing this there are many plants that haven’t appeared in a post. For June I don’t intend posting everyday but will try for a couple of posts a week.
This month I’d like to share with you a small area I’m developing within the upper drive border. Below is an image from above; the area starts at an Arbutus tree to the left and continues around to just in front of a holly bush.
Last autumn I decided to increase the variety plants with crimson flowers here. In winter I moved Rosa L.D. Braithwaite which was quite small and seems to have moved satisfactorily and has flowered. I purchased some Asters of different heights and forms and added those to the mix; I need an area that focuses on late summer- early autumn blooms. I also moved a Penstemon that my friend Linda from Garden in the West gave me in the form of some cuttings she carefully carried from her garden when she visited 2 years ago. The one that survived has made a good plant and is flowering freely now. I will take some more cuttings so I can increase the clump size.
A very hardy succulent type plant, which can become invasive, was also planted – I just broke off some pieces from those situated in the large island and planted them directly into the ground to form good ground cover. Lychnis coronaria is already scattered through the garden and I moved some of these to this border too, I like their small points of intense colour and the foliage is quite good too, even in winter.
The above bright crimson salvia was a cutting taken from a friend’s plant, I love the colour.
Achillea is also making a show, this will clump up quickly.
My intention is to plant some Barcelona tulips that I saw on Hillwards site, they look just the right colour, I also saw a smaller tulips of a similar colour on Julie’s post about her tulips of again a very similar colour so hopefully the wow factor will last from early spring through summer and into autumn.
To finish here’s some views of the garden that are particularly lovely at the moment and some views of the slope that I have been showing in these end of month views up until now.
Looking accross the slope.
Below is the first humming bird hawk moth I’ve ever managed to photograph, there are usually lots in the garden but they move so fast, I’ve never had n image any where near in focus.