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

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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

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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.

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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.