GBFD Evergreen forms for winter

Until I began my post for ‘In a vase on Monday’ this morning I hadn’t realised that it was 22nd of the month already – where does time go?

It is that time when I write about foliage in my garden.  Having walked around the garden to take some photographs the thing I really notice is how much the evergreens have grown during the winter.  Coming from a different climate I am still surprised that the main growing period for evergreens here is from the end of September to December and from mid-February to the end of April.  Those are the periods when it is usually quite mild and often there is some rain or at least humidity.  Continue reading

Garden Blogger’s Foliage Day – Autumn and Spring

I have been in Suffolk, England for the last two weeks and in that time many of the trees have changed their colour from green to gold; and from there being no fallen leaves in the garden, suddenly the grass is covered with a layer, albeit thin, of yellow leaves. Continue reading

Garden Bloggers Foliage Day – May

Welcome to GBFD, we I ask you to think about the foliage in your garden rather than the flowers; when I walked out into the garden late yesterday evening to take some images of foliage that was making an impact in the garden I thought that it would be impossible to take any wide angle shots because May is when everything flowers in my garden.

However I was wrong!  The very hot beginning to May has meant that many plants have flowered and have now decided a rest is in order and have finished. Continue reading

GBFD Foliage and structure at Sissinghurst Castle

It is hard to believe that a week ago today I was praying for the rain to hold off long enough to be able to fully enjoy my visit to Sissinghurst Castle.

The forecast subjected that if we visited as soon as the garden opened we might be lucky; I so wanted the American friends we were visiting with to see the garden at its best and not be miserable in heavy rain.  As it turned out we were very fortunate and the rain arrived very late in the day after a very interesting visit to Bodium Castle too!

So you’re thinking what has this to do with GBFD!  Well, when I think of Sissinghurst I think of flowers and especially roses but on this visit even though the garden was still full of colour my belief that foliage and structure are THE most important factors in a successful garden was reinforced by the beautifully clipped box and Yew.

The White Garden, Sissinghurst, Beautifully clipped box

The White Garden, Sissinghurst, Beautifully clipped box

I’m not sure I am correct but I think the box hedging in the White Garden has been pruned differently; I need to find my old photographs to check.  Now the hedging seems narrower and taller which I thought looked much better and was probably initially done for safety reasons as before the hedges were shorter and wider, possibly a trip hazard now they make a definite statement and also I thought they were more elegant.  Do let me know if you think there has been a change or if it is just my imagination playing tricks on me.

The Yew alleys with focal points had also just been trimmed and were crisp and sharp creating wonderful shadows as hedging does in Italian gardens becoming an architectural feature and not just planting.

These long narrow spaces give a rest to the eyes from the intensely planted borders and create wonderful long views that stimulate exploration of the garden

These long narrow spaces give a rest to the eyes from the intensely planted borders and create wonderful long views that stimulate exploration of the garden

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I love that the spring walk is left almost empty as it would have been in Vita and Harold’s time; when each garden room had its moment of glory and would perhaps be left unvisited for the rest of the time – something that is not feasible today when thousands of people make the pilgrimage to the garden from all over the world and expect to see most of the garden looking perfect.  I have always coveted the pleached limes bordering the spring walk and am hoping to plant some myself this winter and create a little spring walk myself at the back of the garden.

Pleached limes in the Spring Walk, Sissinghurst

Pleached limes in the Spring Walk, Sissinghurst

The beds are ready for the mass planting of bulbs which will fill this space with colour all spring.

I am late posting today (I apologise) so I thank Pauline and Susie who have I know already posted for joining in.  Do add your own post about what foliage is interesting or stunning in your own garden this month.  Autumn tints are already beginning in some parts of the world; I especially love seeing those as we don’t really experience that here in Lazio.  Just leave a comment with your link and leave a link to this post in your post; I look forward to reading them all.

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.

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


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.


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.

GBFD December – Foliage says it all

At this season of the year flowers are few and far between; those that are in the garden are usually small, with an intense perfume to attract the very few pollinating insects that brave the cold air.  So it is foliage that fulfils the function of colour, form and texture.

Last year I posted about how we can learn about the structure of our gardens by taking photographs in black and white (or rather turning our colour images to black and white by editing our images – very easy to do).  This is useful in summer too when the colour of our favourite blooms blind us to the lack of form and structure and maybe trick us into thinking that our planting is more successful than perhaps it truly is.  In winter when often the colours turn to sepia of their own accord we are more aware of problem areas.

The slope in the early morning

The slope in the early morning

Above the slope, still mostly in shadow has lots of new fresh green from self-seeded Californian poppies and ‘cresto di gallo’ (a wild daisy-flowered plant I allow to grow as its new growth provides adds great taste to salads) and the darker foliage of prostrate Rosemary.

In black and white it looks quite different

In black and white it looks quite different

In black and white I can see the need for some foliage with larger leaves; but this is a very small area and large leaves are provided close-by in the form of Verbascum, but something I will think about when adding something new to this planting.  But there is a good mix of solid and more airy forms.

In the early morning when the garden was white with frost I enjoyed the large ice crystals that covered so much foliage.

Large crystals of ice have decorate the leaves of thyme

Large crystals of ice have decorate the leaves of thyme

The Frost highlights the difference in form of these leaves

The Frost highlights the difference in form of these leaves

The frost has attached itself to the protective hairs on the thyme foliage making it look like a cactus

The frost has attached itself to the protective hairs on the thyme foliage making it look like a cactus

Phlomis foliage edged in white by the frost

Phlomis foliage edged in white by the frost

Even the gravel is frosty, the formal beds looking west

Even the gravel is frosty, the formal beds looking west

In the large island Cerinthe, with the light shining through the foliage, contrasts with the frosty white leaves in other parts of the garden.

In the large island Cerinthe, with the light shining through the foliage, contrasts with the frosty white leaves in other parts of the garden.

Despite ten days of sub-zero temperatures at night most plants are still looking very green and happy.  All the Hemerocallis foliage has turned a deep yellow and has wilted onto the ground to form heaps that to me look like writhing snakes (I’ve no idea why it seems like that to me, we don’t have any yellow snakes as far as I know).

Collapsed Hemerocallis foliage adding a splash of yellow

Collapsed Hemerocallis foliage adding a splash of yellow

I know it is a busy time for everyone but I would enjoy seeing what foliage you have in your garden at the moment that is giving you pleasure.  Just leave a link to your post when you comment, and thank you for joining in this meme to celebrate foliage during the past year.

I would like to wish you all a very Peaceful, Happy Christmas and that the New Year will bring you good health and serenity in your garden.

GBFD – There is a little autumn colour

There are only a few things I miss about not living in England and most of those are garden-related.  Bluebells in spring (I have wild cyclamen in autumn here which I love almost as much), spring bulbs in everybody’s gardens, the possibility of visiting inspiring gardens easily and, at this time of year, the changes of colour of foliage of trees and shrubs.

It’s not that there is no change in colour at all; the pomegranate turns a love bright yellow before the leaves fall, the apricot is taking time to lose its foliage and that too turns an appealing yellow, but there is very little more.  Cotinus look more or less the same colour they’ve looked since spring and I doubt they will become the gorgeous red that I’ve seen in other gardens around the world.

The pomegranate contrasts well with the surrounding evergreen foliage and when the leaves do fall the form of the tree is lovely

Foliage on the apricot turn yellow before falling

The walnuts changed to a brown-yellow before quickly falling.   Oaks hang onto their foliage here in the same way that beech does in the UK; the dead foliage persists until the new foliage appears the following spring; I don’t find this characteristic as attractive in trees as I do with beech or hornbeam hedges.

The largest tree in the garden, the mulberry slowly losses its leaves with hardly any change in colour at all

I planted two Lagerstroemia (crape myrtles) because they flower very late August and into September and maybe even October when they are larger and their foliage does change to an attractive red in autumn.  But nothing very exciting, the main autumn colour here really is fresh green, which is welcome after the drought of summer.

When the Lagerstoemia are larger they will add some bright colour

Kochia trichophylla, an annual does provide some deep pink in that the flowers, seeds and stems of the plant all change to an exciting crimson as autumn progresses.

Some grasses also delight me with their change of colour but most of their interest derives from their flowers.

Panicum adds some bright tints

Trachelospermum jasminoides

Evergreen Trachelospermum jasminoides tries hard with some leaves turning to the best red I have in the garden but only a few leaves do this the rest remaining resolutely green.

Looking at these images you might think I do have some autumn colour but it really is very limited,   so I have been reading with great pleasure posts from the UK and the US full of wondrous, breath-taking colour, feasting my eyes on such an incredible range of foliage colour I almost wonder why anyone gardens for flowers at all!

I’m adding links to some great posts but I’m eager for more.  To join in GBFD just write your post and add your link to your comment here.  I’ll be just as interested to see some spring/early summer foliage from the Southern hemisphere.

Debbs Garden Journal has a wonderful woodland as part of her garden, at this time of year it looks wonderful. Here are three posts you might enjoy. One, two, three.

Pauline at Lead up the Garden Path has also posted a couple of times sharing the colours around her in Devon. The Golden glow of November and about a glorious visit to Westonbirt.

To all my US readers have a very happy Thanksgiving.

September GBFD – Getting the garden back

September has brought with it some refreshing rain, cooler temperatures and regrowth of foliage.

I was surprised just how many plants underwent summer dormancy this year; the high temperatures, hot wind and no rain meant that even many of my drought tolerant plants looked miserable, well to tell the truth many looked dead!  But the plants were being sensible retreating beneath the soil, or leaving brown crusty leaves above to protect and presumably reduce the temperature actually hitting the plant.

Now it seems more like spring, with new foliage pushing through the soil.  I am appreciating this growth even more than in spring because this is proof that the plants aren’t dead, so reassuring that they mayflower now, if the weather doesn’t become too cold too quickly or that they have time to build some strength before winter and another period of dormancy.

Re-emerging thyme

Bit by bit this thyme lost all signs of green until I was almost convinced it was dead, it all looked like the part on the right in the image above; now, slowly, slowly new growth is pushing through the dead, maybe I should give it a ‘haircut’ to allow more of the green foliage space to grow.

After pruning the lavender in the formal beds I was dismayed that so much seemed dead; while it was flowering all appeared well, the usual huge number of bees, butterflies and other pollinators all testified that the flowers contained the usual pollen and nectar; but after pruning there was a lot of dead wood, I did give it some water but the hedge is long and so it didn’t receive very much and hey – lavender doesn’t need irrigation!  Now most of the old wood is shooting, if you look closely you can see tiny new leaves appearing, some are doing even better with lots of new foliage covering the plants; I think one or two bushes maybe dead but they were planted quite closely so I think those adjacent will knit together to reform the hedge.

Spot the new growth

Looking down onto the upper drive border you can see there is now more green than brown. Stipa tenuissima needs a bit of a comb but the new growth is there.

I have removed most of the Festuca around the garden; even those that aren’t dead are too full of thatch which is impossible to remove.  I have some small plants that are potted up seedlings and the plants that have more living material can be pulled apart to yield some new specimens.

This year it has been easier to get started with the autumn clean-up because so much of the foliage had stopped growing.  Seeing the Iris foliage cut and looking clean and fresh really makes me feel I am getting the garden back.

Iris foliage standing to attention

This year all the foliage of the Hemerocallis died back; I enjoyed pulling away the dead leaves and seeing tiny green shoots; within a week they have grown back, I think they may even flower again!  In the background the Nepeta has also grown back quickly after trimming away all the dead flowers and foliage.

As you come in the gate at the bottom of the drive, the prostrate Rosemary always look happy, they are even beginning to flower!  That is even earlier than usual, every time I pass there is a waft of bees and butterflies in the air.

New buds and foliage, Rosa Clair Martin

Many of the roses are putting on delicately coloured new growth, this is what feels like spring, best of all there are buds and flowers as well.

Now I’m looking forward to seeing what foliage is giving you pleasure now that autumn is here in the northern hemisphere and spring in the southern.  Please just add a link to your post with your comment.  Thank you in advance I really appreciate you joining in this meme.

GBFD – Hotter Still!

This is my 200th post, I wish it were a more positive one – but it is giving you a true vision of how the heat is effecting My Hesperides Garden.

A week ago rain was forecast and I was just a little hopeful that the temperatures would begin to fall.  Mid-August is when often the weather breaks; but not this year!  This last week has been hotter than ever with news broadcasts recommending that the elderly stay indoors or visit air-conditioned shopping centres to keep cool!  More elderly people die in Italy during hot summers than in winter.  By eight in the morning it is almost too hot to stay in the garden and in the afternoon it is still really too hot to work even at six pm.  The plus side to this is obviously that we can have dinner outside and watching the sun going down and begin to breathe again.  This is an exceptionally hot year; records are being broken but I sincerely hope that the furnace that is August this year won’t be repeated for some years to come.

In the parts of the garden planted with drought tolerant plants I have been shocked to see plants suffering and possibly dying!  Just how many plants I’ll lose is difficult to tell just yet; maybe I won’t know until next spring the exact number of plants that have succumbed to the record temperatures and the lack of any real precipitation for many months.

I admit to being deceived earlier in the year April and May were not as hot as some other years although there was little rain.  I resolved not to begin irrigating until it was really necessary – MISTAKE!  Early June was also not excessively hot but the 15th June the temperatures suddenly rose and with the heat also came strong desiccating winds – worst scenario for a garden and worse still I was away in Prague that weekend.  When I returned and saw the garden on Tuesday morning I realised that the ground was already dried out and that many plants were struggling, the struggling has continued to now.

What plants have thrived in this heat and parched summer?  Not many have thrived!  Euphorbia myrsinites doesn’t mind how dry or hot it is, and most of my other Euphorbias are doing well too, especially E. rigida.

You can see how shrunken the foliage is on this Phomis fruticosa

I had imagined that all silver leaved plants would at least tolerate the heat but some look pretty sad.  Senecio maritima and S. cineraria aren’t dying but their foliage is curled to protect them even more from the sun’s rays, this is also true of Artemisia varieties.

Curled leaves even on a Senicio.

This usually beautiful spreading thyme seems to be 85% dead

Foliage of Solanum jasminoides also shows how leaves curl to protect itself from too much sun. It isn’t wasting energy by flowering either

Ceanothus repans certainly copes in these conditions and gives a lovely dark green mound at the corner of the drive.

Ceanothus repans looks good

Festuca glauca was another plant that I thought I wouldn’t have to worry about (it is a signature plant in my garden), but the larger plants are looking very untidy and with more dead thatch than I’ve ever seen in previous years.  I am hoping that if I lift and divide them the new plants will establish for next summer, I also have some small plants that were self-seedlings that can be planted as replacements for any that are truly dead.

Surprisingly Lonicera fragrantissima hasn’t lost any of its leaves, I have given it some water during the summer but only when a nearby crab apple is stressed and I water that.

Lonicera fragrantissima

Viburnum tinus is usually considered a tough plant for almost any conditions; it is the wind that has caused most damage to this shrub, the side that receives the afternoon wind from the west is completely scorched, and I doubt that the branches on this side will recover.

Viburnum tinus has been very damaged by the hot wind

Even the lavender hedge around the formal beds has patches that I’m hoping aren’t dead.  It has been pruned so that light and air can reach into the bushes; again this will be a wait and see scenario; it will be a huge problem if some plants have died completely leaving ugly gaps.

To finish a few other images (good and bad) of My Hesperides Garden today.

These box balls are likely to be my more expensive loss!

I love how prostrate rosemary clings to the wall. It thrives in the heat

I don’t think these Hemerocallis are dead but they are really suffering.

The large island is planted with drought tolerant plants but it doesn’t look great at the moment

Wisteria on the pillars is lush and full of flower, but it gets some irrigation as the roses planted close to them receive water, which even reaches the lavender hedge close to the terrace

All the images were taken at around 8.30 in the morning, you can see how strong the glare of the sun is, even at that time.

A Cotinus is happy, the purple leaved versions are less content

View accross the garden from the Large Island

I hope you will want to share some of your foliage on this Garden Bloggers Foliage day, just leave a comment with the link, thank you.  I’m looking forward to some lush foliage from the UK and spring offerings from the southern hemisphere.