This year’s olive harvest

The mild winter meant that the olives flowered early this spring.  I thought very early on that we would need to harvest much earlier than usual; however the mills are slow to respond to variations in the people’s needs.  Rain during summer isn’t what olives want, the trees have put on a huge amount of foliage; the vast majority of which will need to be pruned to allow light and air into the trees next year.  Fortunately our olives have always been unaffected by damage from the olive fly (Bactrocera oleae); I’m not entirely sure why as I never treat the trees nor hang pheromone traps.  This year however, due possibly to the damp conditions and maybe compounded by the congested foliage a lot of the olives showed the tell-tale exit hole of the larvae, feeling hopeful that at least some of the crop was unaffected we harvested this weekend.

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A response to Welly Woman – Is Gardening Cool Enough?

Welly Woman often writes thought provoking posts about her thoughts on gardening; she writes very convincingly and shares her ideas in a clear, often amusing way.  Yesterday she posted Is Gardening Cool Enough?

I remember a few years ago that the press were obsessed with gardening as ‘the new rock and roll’; everyone was trying to convince us that gardening was sexy! Continue reading

My Thoughts – Hemerocallis

Ephemeral they may be (each flower only last one day) but they really add intense colour into the garden over a long period.

Day Lilies (their common name) are tolerant of a wide range of garden conditions.  They don’t like intense shade but will flower well in partial shade.  They are pretty drought tolerant but will flower better when there is some moisture in the soil.  In winter the foliage dies back so they will survive low winter temperatures with no problems.

There are many, many cultivars; mostly the flowers are trumpet-shaped but some of the newer varieties are slightly star-shaped.  There are a vast array of colours, hues and sizes so you are sure to find one that is right for you.  They flower in slightly different periods and once a good clump has formed will flower for quite a long period.  Given some summer rain (or irrigation) and by cutting back the initial flower stems when they have finished flowering some will give a second flowering in autumn.  If the leaves become untidy in summer, cutting back the foliage to the base will produce fresh green foliage to provide good groundcover.  I wouldn’t recommend cutting back the foliage unless there is sufficient water.

I have a large clump of Stella di d’Oro planted under an Arbutus, they are inter-planted with Tulip Lambada to give a succession of colour; the foliage of the Hemerocallis successfully hiding the dying foliage of the tulips.  They flower in May, here seen with a Salvia.

Hemerocallis Stella di d'Oro

Hemerocallis Stella di d’Oro

A very pure yellow, slightly later flowering and taller than Stella di d’Oro is Happy returns.

Hemerocallis 'Happy Returns'

Hemerocallis ‘Happy Returns’

Hemerocallis 'Happy Returns'

Hemerocallis ‘Happy Returns’

Hemerocallis 'Happy Returns'

Hemerocallis ‘Happy Returns’

I have two whites which I now cannot distinguish; this year they are flowering much better than in other years so I think they appreciate the wet spring more than the yellows.  I think this is Joan Senior and this Gentile Shepherd

H. Gentle Shepherd

H. Gentle Shepherd

Growing to about a metre tall the very common H. fulva is planted all along the back border.  It has increased enormously meaning I can divide them and extend the planting.

H. fulva in the back border (June)

H. fulva in the back border (June)

H. fulva (June)

H. fulva (June)

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There are other oranges, H. Hot Ember and H. Mauna Loa.

H. Mauna Loa

H. Mauna Loa

H. Duke of Durham? or H. Hot Ember

H. Duke of Durham? or H. Hot Ember

Hot Ember is what I ordered but looking through the catalogue this colour appears to be Duke of Durham.  Any comments about which it is gratefully received.

Strutter’s Ball is an intense dark violet.

H. Strutter's Ball

H. Strutter’s Ball

Grape ripples is reputed to be perfumed but I have to admit that I haven’t noticed any perfume.

H. Grape ripples?

H. Grape ripples?

I bought H. Scirocco to under plant Rosa mutabilis as it has a similar mix of colours.  The roses sooned filled the space so I moved the Hemerocallis and they need more time to really settle where I have planted them.

H. Scirocco

H. Scirocco

I purchased all except the tall orange H. fulva from a specialist grower in Sardinia (Vivaio i campi ); as I bought so many he gave me three extras, I don’t know their names but the yellow one has a huge flower and the plant has bulked up well.  The star-shaped dark magenta one fits well in the ‘Magenta zone’ and maybe ‘Crimson Pirate’.  The other is a washed out orange with a stripe, not my favourite but not unpleasant.

These were all flowering today:

H. Starling

H. Starling

H. 'Mary Todd' or 'Forsyth Lemon Drop'

H. ‘Mary Todd’ or ‘Forsyth Lemon Drop’

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H. Mauna Loa

H. Mauna Loa

H. fulva

H. fulva

H. Duke of Dureham

H. Duke of Dureham

H. Joan Senior

H. Joan Senior

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H. Gentle Shepherd

H. Gentle Shepherd

I didn’t have the name when I purchased this antique pink blotched variety.  Looking in the catalogue all these look identical to me! Allways Afternoon (miss-spelt in the catalogue), Chicago Heirloom, Druids Chant or Royal Braid – take your pick!

Hemerocallis 'Allways Afternoon' ???????????

Hemerocallis ‘Allways Afternoon’ ???????????

Hemerocallis 'Allways Afternoon' ???????????

Hemerocallis ‘Allways Afternoon’ ???????????

Hemerocallis 'Allways Afternoon' ???????????

Hemerocallis ‘Allways Afternoon’ ???????????

Whichever one this is, I would have to say if is difficult to place with other plants, its antique pink colour is not like anything else.

Does anyone have any experience of the pale pink varieties, I’d be interested in knowing if they maintain their colour.

Chelsea 2013 – The Pavilion

The pavilion is a great showcase for good nurseries all displaying their plants growing to perfection; the winners of the medals are always the nurseries where the owners are passionate about what they do.  A chance for the ‘big names’ to strut their stuff, Hilliers again presented us with so much to look at and it rivalled some of the show gardens for the class of its design and planting.

Vibrant colour and well-grown plants on the Hilliers stand

Vibrant colour and well-grown plants on the Hilliers stand

The cooler weather may have made it difficult for the growers to get plants ready for the show but at least it meant that they remained in tip-top condition during the week.

I noticed a new trend this year; many were selling ‘something’ not just taking orders or selling catalogues.  Seeds were an obvious choice even from nurseries whose main business is actually selling plants; others were selling small packs containing sample plants (I think they were rooted cuttings and so sidestepped the rule about NOT selling plants.  I sympathise with them, the cost of being at Chelsea must be enormous, a large percentage of their trade for a smaller nursery.  Of course they want to be present to establish themselves in the eyes of the visitors but perhaps they need the opportunity of some instant payback.  Selling something there and then is necessary for them.  Perhaps the RHS needs to address this.  I am not suggesting that the Pavilion becomes a giant market place, but with all the technology available today perhaps one could order and pay for plants at the stand and collect the plants from a collection area.  Some of the bulb companies take orders at the show and you give credit card details, payment being taken when the bulbs are dispatched; this could also work for plants by mail order which would surely encourage everyone to buy from committed nurserymen rather than buy later from unhelpful garden centres that are mostly just bringing plants from Holland, and we all know the problems that this causes in the long run.

I always head for the Tulips displays, there is nothing like seeing the colours ‘in life’ to encourage me to begin thinking about my autumn bulb order now.  All the tulips were in excellent condition, and why wouldn’t they be, they are still flowering in many UK gardens.  The following caught my eye, but I am very happy with my selections this year that came from seeing other bloggers tulips actually growing.  So what tulips worked well for you this year?

Tulip Curley Sue

Tulip Curley Sue

T. Pink Diamond, Queen of Night, Ciy of Vancouver

T. Pink Diamond, Queen of Night, City of Vancouver

Tulip Marilyn

Tulip Marilyn

Tulip Avignon

Tulip Avignon

Does anyone know the name of this? my system failed

Does anyone know the name of this? my system failed

My most interesting conversation was with the knowledgeable staff on the East Malling Reseach stand.  They are doing research into the problems that could be caused by warmer winters.  I have a similar problem; the winters here aren’t reliably cold enough for me to grow apples and pears so I will be very interested when their site is updated to included chill factor requirements for different varieties.  Also I hadn’t realised that ALL dwarfing rootstock trees don’t have a tap root, which for trees planted in drought prone area can make a huge difference to its survival.

Dwarfing root stock

Dwarfing root stock

A couple of other plants attracted my attention, maybe they’ll find their way into the garden next year.

Ixia Mabel

Ixia Mabel

Dahlia Magenta Star

Dahlia Magenta Star

Chelsea 2013 – Small Gardens

While Kazuyuki Ishihara for his garden Satoyama Life won the best in show of the Artisan gardens I have to admit to being less enthusiastic.  Don’t misunderstand me, it was beautiful.  Perfectly designed and impeccably planted but this like the Roger Platt garden I discussed yesterday was almost identical to other gardens he has created in former years.

Perhaps I am being unrealistic and certainly I’m not someone who likes change for change’s sake, but surely if the RHS can’t persuade designers to be more original then they need to change the brief and be more critical of the designs when they are submitted and not just accept them because the designer is well respected.

My favourite in the Artisan category was UN GARREG – one stone by Welsh designers Harry and David Rich.  The planting was beautifully understated and their use of stone was exemplary.  Laying the stones vertically in parts of the traditional dry stone wall showed real ingenuity.

David and Harry Rich (I think)

David and Harry Rich (I think)

The Box ball seemed a little out of place

The Box ball seemed a little out of place, the wall behind was stunning.

The planting was nicely understated

The planting was nicely understated

Iris Sultan's Palace took my eye, but not really emblamatic of a Welsh hillside

Iris Sultan’s Palace took my eye, but not really emblamatic of a Welsh hillside

There were several gardens based on recreating a natural environment this year including the above Artisan garden, The Australian Garden winner of best in show and a garden in the Fresh category that illustrates a garden in the south of France after a fire by James Basson.

Living in a more or less Mediterranean climate myself (we have colder winters than ‘true’ Mediterranean climates) I was particularly interested in how the plants looked in this garden.

New growth emerges after the fire

New growth emerges after the fire

At least here ALL the plants were suitable for the climate.  I think they had been grown in the UK though because they were ‘soft’.  I’m not sure how else I would describe them. Plants grown in Italy (or France in this case) grow tough because they don’t receive copious amounts of water, the wind is strong and the sun is really hot, the lavender in particular hardly looked like the same plant.  But this is an observation not a criticism.  I felt the contrast between the dead trees (from the fire) and the new vibrant life growing underneath was evocative of ‘place’ in a way few of the other gardens achieved.

Iris in the garden

When I lived in the UK I never grew Bearded Irises, now they have become one of my favourite flowers.  Partly because they love the climate here and my very free draining soil in particular, they form clumps of colour very quickly.  I also enjoy the strong form of the foliage, perfectly making a strong full stop when planted next to more softly rounded forms.

This Dutch Iris has been flowering for a while

This Dutch Iris has been flowering for a while

This is a real beauty, it came from a friend when he thought he was giving me a different variety

This is a real beauty, it came from a friend when he thought he was giving me a different variety

I've decided on a new place for this clump, I want to put them in the Large Island in front of Phlomis

I’ve decided on a new place for this clump, I want to put them in the Large Island in front of Phlomis

Looks like velvet in close-up

Looks like velvet in close-up

Pride of Kent came from the same friend when I first had this garden

Pride of Kent came from the same friend when I first had this garden

This was an unknown quantity from a plant swap - rather nice.  When it has made a clump I'll move it from the slope

This was an unknown quantity from a plant swap – rather nice. When it has made a clump I’ll move it from the slope

I bought some new varieties when I visited Courson last autumn and am pleased to see that they are producing strong flower spikes in their first year.

Iris Dear Jean, planted close to Rosa Molineux, almost exactly the same colour

Iris Grand Canari, planted close to Rosa Molineux, almost exactly the same colour

Iris 'Immortality', a lovely pure white

Iris ‘Immortality’, a lovely pure white from a local supplier

Iris Jane Philips - not shown well here, it is a very pure pale blue

Iris Jane Philips – not shown well here, it is a very pure pale blue

It’s now raining too hard to take any more photographs, so I’ll post the rest tomorrow.

My thoughts – Tulip Jan Reus

I saw Tulip Jan Reus when I visited the Chelsea flower show in May 2010 and just fell in love with the intense red colour.  I was thrilled when I placed my bulb order with Peter Nyssen that they stocked this very special variety which they describe as “chrysanthemum crimson” so really indulged myself with 100 bulbs, not too expensive at £17.

T. Jan Reus, Chelsea flower show 2010

T. Jan Reus, Chelsea flower show 2010

They were planted in Autumn 2010 and flowered well in spring 2011 and most, but not all came back in 2012.

T. Jan Reus April 12th 2011

T. Jan Reus April 12th 2011

T. Jan Reus April 5th 2012

T. Jan Reus April 5th 2012

This year there has been an explosion, I counted them yesterday and there are now 150!  They are still much the same size as they were in their first year.  So this is one I would strongly recommend if you like red!

T. Jan Reus 11th April 2013

T. Jan Reus 11th April 2013

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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?

GBFD, February – My thoughts on Acanthus Mollis and Spinosa

First I apologise that I’m late with the post for my meme; my only excuse is pressure of work and that I’ve had a virus that has left me without any energy.

PBM garden’s post is here and Lead me up the garden path here.  Thank you for joining in.

I find this plant interesting because it behaves completely differently here in Italy than it did in my garden in the South of England (which was also free draining gravely soil in a south facing garden.  So although obviously the summer temperatures in England are much lower and there is more rain the winter conditions really aren’t so different, possible temperatures get a little lower here in Italy but also there are more sunny days.

The RHS describes it thus: Acanthus are robust herbaceous perennials with handsome, lobed foliage and tall, erect racemes of two-lipped flowers with colourful bracts

A. mollis is a vigorous plant with large, glossy dark green leaves, pinnately lobed and, in late summer, tall racemes of white flowers with dusky purple bracts

Common names: bear’s breeches, brank ursine, common bear’s breech, soft-leaved bear’s breech

Foliage: Dark Green in Spring and Summer.  Flower: Purple and White in Summer

Characteristics:  Plant type: Herbaceous Perennial

Habit: Columnar/Upright.  Resilience: Hardiness: H4 (hardy)

But that isn’t how they grow here.  With the first rains of early autumn the foliage appears, new and fresh and shiny.  They remain evergreen all winter, their beautiful architectural leaves filling the space under the Mulberry tree.  In late spring and early summer the flower spikes appear.  By the end of July the plant is in summer dormancy, the leaves shrivelled and brown and the flower spikes spreading their seed.

Acanthus mollis under the mulberry tree

Acanthus mollis under the mulberry tree, January 2013

Acanthus mollis, flowering in June 2011

Acanthus mollis, flowering in June 2011

I grow Acanthus for its glossy green leaves when little else is in flower.  I need to combine them with something that is flowering or interesting in July and August; if you have any suggestions they will be gratefully received.

To join in GBFD please post and leave a link with your comment here.  Thank you for joining in and again my apologies for being late this month.