The Slope on Thursday 3rd April

It has been sunny and warm and perfect gardening weather since last Thursday but the forecast says it will rain tomorrow and Saturday and the north wind will return so no more lunches outside for a little while.
All of the trees are now showing their new green leaves and the crab apple and quince have flowers!

Continue reading

The Slope on Thursday 27th March

The weather has been wintery since last Thursday; it seems unusual to have such a long period of cold temperatures in March but I don’t think that is true, it can snow in this part of Italy in March!
So it is lucky I didn’t have time to plant some of the tomatoes out as I had intended, fortunately the sunflowers are tougher than I suspected and are still alive, but they haven’t grown at all this week. On Monday night the temperature in the greenhouse fell to 2.8° C and there was frost on the solar panel, which it has to be said seems to have frost on it when nothing else does, there must be some logical reason for this but nothing springs to mind.

Continue reading

The Slope on Thursday 16th January

Monday was a reasonable day, Tuesday it rained heavily from half way through the night until about 2pm, Wednesday was gloriously sunny all day followed by a cold night and today, Thursday, it’s grey and tomorrow it is forecast to be grey in the morning with rain in the afternoon.  So nothing to become bored with!  Everyone keeps telling me that much colder temperatures are predicted to arrive soon.  Some very cold weather is always good.  Continue reading

GBFD – Silver and Purple

When it is hot and it is very HOT, the light shimmers and plants with silver or grey foliage look their very best.

The combination of silver and purple always looks great together; sedum ‘Purple Emperor’ seems to love the heat and its colour is better than ever.

Sedum 'Purple Emperor'

Sedum ‘Purple Emperor’ loves the heat

Continue reading

GBFD – Evergreens and Greys

At this time of year in the northern hemisphere it is the foliage that sustains interest in the garden.

Yes, there are some flowers and they may be what give us that little flutter of the heart when we see a lone bloom braving the cold to open for us; but that quickening of the heart aside it is the foliage that forms the background to that solitary flower.

A lone bloom of Solanum jasminoidese album, but it is the mass of rich green foliage that you see

A lone bloom of Solanum jasminoidese album, but it is the mass of rich green foliage that you see

Having some evergreen foliage in the garden is a must for winter structure, fading into the background in summer; it demands our attention in winter; with evergreen I include ever-silver which forms much of the structure of my Mediterranean garden.  Lavender, Euphorbia, the Olive trees, these give the bones to my garden and form a gentle background to bleached colours in summer too.

I won’t show you images of the formal garden, you can see that on almost all my recent posts; many of you kindly commented that the images in the snow showed how strong the structure.

Let me show you some of the plants and areas of the garden that are looking particularly good at the moment.

As you come in the gate, the Euphorbia mysenites and small Agave catch the eye

As you come in the gate, the Euphorbia mysenites and small Agave catch the eye

Followed by prostrate Rosemary which is growing to cover the tuffo wall

Followed by prostrate Rosemary which is growing to cover the tuffo wall

As you continue up the drive, Euphorbias attract your attention

As you continue up the drive, Euphorbias attract your attention

P1070038

A little further up the drive the slope looks like this.  The stream of more prostrate Rosemary has filled out and is now making quite a statement.

Further up still and the view stretches accross the epth of the garden

Further up still and the view stretches accross the depth of the garden

I must admit to being very pleased with the above view of the garden, even in January it is full of colour, texture and form almost all from the foliage plus a few points of interest from some seed heads and berries.

P1070056

On the other side of the garden Box balls and rounded humps of Thyme give a different structure, sadly the loss of the two larger balls due to the drought last summer have left some gaps that I haven’t decided how to fill, you can just see the indentation where one of the box was planted.

Acanthus mollis under the mulberry tree

Acanthus mollis under the mulberry tree

In summer the area under the Mulberry tree is in deep shade; in winter sun-light filters through the stems and branches of the tree onto the large green leaves of Acanthus mollis.  This plant is a bit of a thug, self-seeding indiscriminately around and with tap roots that dig deep into the rock under the small amount of top-soil.

What pleasure is the foliage in your garden giving you?  What difference is it making in your garden?  To join in please just leave a comment with a link to your post, thank you.

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!

My thoughts – Pollinators in the Garden

When I walk around the garden one pleasure that is difficult to share via this blog is the SOUND in the garden.  Bees of all kind buzzing and flying from flower to flower and by default pollinating the plants will the air with sound!  Sometimes I am aware that the garden is positively noisy!

I notice that different plants attract different pollinators.  Entomology is a skilled science and I will leave the difficult job of identification to the experts as I am certainly  not an expert in this field.

Thyme attracts what I think I recognise as honey bees; I’ve thought hard about actually having a hive but I think I would find it difficult, I don’t like the thought of being stung plus perhaps more importantly I don’t think we would ever use the amount of honey a hive is likely to produce.

Another view

Convolvulus cneorum also attracts honey bees.

Teucrium attract larger bees, but they were too fast for me today and all the images were blurred.  I’ll try again on a less windy day when they might be more static.

A tiny solitary bee on Euphorbia

Not a bee, but looks like its collecting pollen

They definantely like Euphorbia

Definately more fly-like than bee-like

Completely black, this looks quite evil! Not quite in focus, sorry

All the T. Satin Pink had one of these in their centres today.  At first glance they look like bees but I’m pretty sure they’re not.  When the roses begin to flower this is the pest that eats into the centre of the flowers, destroying them, the tulips may have even killed them as they weren’t really moving.  When they appear on the roses I go around and pick them out (wearing gloves as I’m a bit squeamish) and squash them to stop them reproducing and getting out of control as they don’t appear to have a natural predator.

On warm days this week there have also been lots of butterflies but I have failed to get good images of them.  This is from earlier in the week.

A Painted Lady?