Now that there are so many changes in the garden every time I walk around I think the time is right to begin regularly showing the same view (as last year) on Tuesdays. Cathy at Words and Herbs (our host for this meme) will, I’m sure, also begin posting on a regular basis very soon. Continue reading
Italy has been is chaos for the last week. Snow has fallen in huge quantities over much of the country including Rome and the South where it is more unusual for there to be very much snow. To say it caught everyone unawares is an understatement. The schools in Rome have been closed for the last week and all public offices were closed for 3 days, and not a great deal better in Viterbo.
It began snowing on Friday 3rd February. Here the flakes were small and icy and the wind was so strong that it wasn’t beautiful at all with deep drifts where the wind dumped the snow and poor icy-stemmed plants being bent horizontal by the North –North East wind that was said to be coming from Siberia.
The lane to our house was cleared by a friendly farmer on Sunday afternoon but the wind covered it with snow again so that it was very difficult to get out. The NG struggled to the station on Monday morning only to find that there were no trains. I didn’t get out of the house until Thursday; by which time I was feeling quite stir crazy.
Friday seems to be the day for snow and last Friday (10th February) we awoke to already deep snow – it continued all day and continued until just after midnight. This snow, with less wind was beautiful, deep and crisp and even making the garden a magical place. We haven’t had anywhere near as much snow as this since we moved to Italy in 2003; in fact I don’t remember seeing this much snow except when in the mountains to ski.
In the above image you can’t see the lavender hedges at all; they are entirely enveloped in snow; today (Sunday) I removed the snow from the box cubes because the snow was breaking the shapes open and I worried that some stems would be broken.
The town is more organised this week and yesterday evening a tractor with a snow shovel came to clear the road and the lane to our house, we had to clear the 100 metres of drive ourselves this morning. We are now hoping that the wind doesn’t deposit too much of the surrounding snow back onto the lane.
Inside the greenhouse things are rather different. It is protected from the cold winds by Leylandii and Olives, so much so that the automatic roof lights have been opening and inside I have been forced to water everything. I was very worried about doing this as if the night temperatures drop very low the plants will suffer but they were actually wilting so I had no choice. An update on the peppers that I left to grow during the winter, I am astounded even with temperatures that have only crept a little over zero for the last 10 days the peppers are ripening, slowly yes, but they are ripening. I harvested some during the week when vegetables outside were buried. They even tasted very good!
There are also lettuces that take longer to bolt in the cold so we may even manage to eat them all. In the pot you might recognise carrot leaves, I’ve never had success growing them outside so followed an idea from an Italian gardening magazine and I’m trying them in a large pot.
In the garden the only colour is from fruits and berries, the bright red of the crab apples attracts the birds but they don’t actually eat them, I’m not sure why.
This is very late, I have been sick, nothing serious but it meant I didn’t feel my sparkling self and up to writing a post.
Last month in this meme I wrote about the greenhouse and tomatoes, this month I’ll concentrate on the various fruits I grow and what I do with them.
First the failures: I planted a large apricot tree (it cost €150) in the spring of our second year here; the first year because the tree had been in a protected position in the nursery while it was in flower, it had some fruit. Since then there has always been a frost or a very cold wind just as it was flowering and setting fruit and so no fruit! I showed images in spring of this year of the flowers turning brown and I knew then there was little chance of any apricots this year. The options are to try moving the tree, it is probably too large to do this so I will probably buy another tree (a sapling this time) and plant it in the area that is protected from the north and northeast winds that I have been preparing and hope for better things to come.
The other tree hit by the late cold wind was a plum, this tree was already in the garden is probably a wild form, the fruits are always small but usually there are lots and they taste good, this year nothing. I have tried to grow currants, red and black with no success at all. There is just not enough water for the blackcurrant and though it doesn’t die it only produces a small handful of currants, not enough even for a summer pudding.
The redcurrant has grown amazingly this year but again with very few fruit I have taken the view that I should grow what is correct for my conditions and not fight nature by trying to grow things that I grew and loved in England. This week the currants have been removed and will be given to a friend who lives much higher where it is cooler and she has a better water supply.
Blackberries on the other hand grow very well but the variety I’ve planted are strange. The fruit ripens from the tip back and the black tempting parts are eaten by the birds before the whole berry is ripe, however worse than this is the fact that they aren’t actually very nice blackberries, not sweet and lacking in flower, again I made the decision to remove them and will try to get cuttings from a friends plant that I know is delicious. There is no point spending time and effort and vitally expensive water resources on plants food or ornamental that don’t give satisfaction.
There are 2 walnut trees, planted in the back border; these are what remain of the 6 or 7 walnut trees that were here when we bought the property. They have always been diseased and produce very few healthy nuts, I should probably remove these too but they give shade to the back border and provide privacy. It would be nice if they were something prettier – they don’t give autumn colour, have already lost almost all their leaves and I know they put out a chemical into the soil that inhibits growth in other plants.
But it is not all gloom and doom in My Hesperides Garden. The quince has produced masses of fruit this year. The quince was the ‘golden apple of the garden of the Hesperides that Hercules had to collect as his 11thlabour so it is fitting that these grow well in the garden. The blossom is lovely is spring and the fruits glow yellow as they ripen.
I have made two kinds of jelly one sweet and the other picante with the addition of chillies to the pan while the fruit was cooking – I serve this Italian style with cheese. The rest I cooked and have frozen to eat as stewed fruit during the winter. I love the perfumed flavour of quince and I’ll try it in pies and crumbles this year.
I love pomegranate juice, especially when I have a cold, the tree hasn’t produced as much fruit as last year but enough, I’ve also been told that pomegranate jelly is delicious so I must look that up and try it.
I’ve spoken about the raspberries on numerous occasions, the crop was large, I tried to eat some fresh every day I harvested them and then froze the rest to make jam, coulee, ice-cream and crumbles throughout the winter months. The autumn fruiting plants didn’t do as well as last year but I think this was the fault of my pruning, they all fruited together and for such a long time I’m not complaining. One perfect fruit was even picked yesterday.
In England I lived near a ‘pick your own’ so never bothered with strawberries, it was easier and not expensive to just go to pick when the fancy took me. Here the season for strawberries to be in the shops is very short and ‘pick your own’ doesn’t exist, so in March I decided to buy some plants which promised fruit over an extended period. I didn’t really expect too much in their first year but I was pleasantly surprised. The initial crop which presumably should be the main crop was sparse, but as the summer continued there was hardly a day when there wasn’t a small bowl to enjoy, and for my birthday in September there was enough for a party of 25 (just a small serving each); runners have rooted all around and they have fruited too; certainly I need to do some organising but they have paid for themselves many times over in their first year.
Figs were good, although I felt the birds had more than their share, but I had enough. I love figs so I’m thinking of growing other varieties to extend the picking season. This is greedy as they fruit twice a year!
Due to the cold winter last year the crab apple flowered and fruited very well. I enjoy seeing the bright fruits in the garden during the winter too much to harvest them for jelly. A second tree that has yellow fruits seems to drop them very quickly so if I have a crop next year I may harvest these to make crab apple jelly (not something my Italian friends have heard of.
I’m a bit undecided about the melons I grew – I love growing them because I can (nearly impossible in the UK without lots of work); and most tasted good although I’m not sure that the shop bought ones weren’t sweeter, they took quite a lot of space and needed masses of water; those I grew in the greenhouse contracted a mouldy growth in their leaves quite early on although they continued to produce ripe fruit with hardly any leaves as I removed the diseased leaves so the mould wouldn’t spread to the tomatoes.
I probably will grow them again as then I don’t have to go to The lemons and limes I bought in spring have provided most of what I needed. They don’t like the westerly hot wind during the summer and will be better when they can be in much larger pots. Now the weather has cooled and the wind dropped there are lots more fruit that I am hopeful will ripen during the winter in the greenhouse. the shops to buy them; I made gelato and granite with them as well as eating them for breakfast or with prosciutto as an anti pasto.
I’d like to add a peach maybe grown as an espalier, a cherry or even 2 and a purple mulberry. We have a very large white mulberry but I find the fruit insipid so am happy to let the birds devour them.
Sorry Helen for being so late; if you haven’t visited her yet visit the Patient Gardener for her end of month view and to read others bloggers accounts of what is happening in their gardens around the world.
The weekend offered, again some glorious weather, although unseasonably hot. The tulips will not last very long this year; already T. Brown Sugar and Negrita are losing their petals. I wanted to share the joy the tulips give me so I invited lots of friends to come to visit the garden. Gardeners and not all enjoyed the show. Fringed, Parrots, and even Lilly shaped are pretty much unknown so I was repeatedly asked if “this one” was also a tulip. Some were surprised that they didn’t need watering during the summer and others unbelieving when I said that watering in summer actually stops them flowering for a second year. It is the third year for the white flowers in the formals beds and I think they actually look better this year than in the past, so I am back to toying with the idea of planting more in the other 2 beds this autumn. Maybe I could plant T. Swans Wings to add a little variation – Fringed varieties usually repeat well.
When we were looking for houses to buy we saw one that had an ancient wisteria on a pergola over the terrace; we were both so bowled over we nearly bought the house even though the house so terrible and probably needed to be pulled down. But it meant that when we found this house putting in a terrace and building a pergola were very high on the list of priorities. The pergola was finished in autumn 2008 and even before the builders had left I had planted wisteria on two sides of the house. I have to admit that the four white ones have never done so well, being planted on the north east side of the house. This year they seemed full of bud, but yet again I am disappointed, the birds have pecked out almost every single bud, see more about this here.
Wisteria prolific planted on the pillars facing south have also been damaged, first by the birds and now by the huge black carpenter bees that scatter the petals to the ground, frenzied by the perfume of the flowers
Walking along the terrace the perfume is so strong I think we would find it impossible to sit here for very long; but sadly this show will also be over all too quickly, leaving the delicious shade we also desire as the foliage fills out and later smaller, less intensely perfumed flowers, that are hidden amongst the leaves.
The garden is looking full of growth and probably more colourful than I’ve ever seen, I must admit that my breath is taken away sometimes when I turn a corner or catch sight of something from a different angle.
Both the crab apples are full of blossom this year, I’m pretty sure that this is due to the cold winter; apples need cold during the winter months to flower well. Last year after a wet but mild winter there were hardly any flowers and of course, very little fruit.
Last year the first roses were flowering at the end of March, this year despite it being so hot for much of the last month the first rose didn’t bloom until Sunday 10th April.
To finish something I think will make you smile or maybe cringe!
Yesterday I went to my seed and plug plant provider, more about this soon. It could only happen here in Italy where the countryside is scoured for tasty leaves to add to a salad, but would you really want to BUY dandelion seeds?????????????