GBFD – Sunshine, blue sky, I’m smiling

Welcome to Garden Blogger’s Foliage Day, where I celebrate the foliage that is the most important feature of my garden.  Today, as you can see from my title is sunny and after a cold start is now beautifully warm.

Looking across the garden from the top of the drive

Looking across the garden from the top of the drive

Apart from the leafless trees this scene looks more like summer.

Continue reading

The Spring Walk – Back Border

I mentioned last autumn that I was extending and changing the planting in the back border to create a spring walk.  I was also toying with the idea of adding a pleached hedge of Lime (Tilia) or Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus).  I’m still thinking about this as maybe a pleached hedge would block out a lot of the sky from my kitchen window (not so good); it would also obscure the view of the nearest house (good). Continue reading

My Thoughts – Plant Fair at Courson

A couple of weekends ago I flew to Paris for some serious indulgence; no, not food, not culture but plant hunting.  Several of my Italian friends had visited the plant fair at Courson in previous years and were full of enthusiasm.  I have to admit to being a little sceptical.  So far, no plant sales fair in Italy has been very good – poor quality plants, always in large sizes and often straggly tall plants that don’t bush out.

I left home late-morning on a warm, sunny Friday; I’d studied the forecast and rain was predicted for late Friday afternoon and Saturday early morning but clearing by 10 am – it might be cold, but warm clothes were not a problem; I’d actually rather be hot than cold.

I was with a French-speaking friend who had visited on several occasions previously (she is a Botanical artist and has had stand to sell her work at Courson in the past).  Our hotel was near the Jardin du Plantes so our walk to the station the following morning was through the garden; a nice start to the day (it was very grey with very low cloud but trusting in the forecast I was hopeful that by the time we arrived the sun would be shining!

As we boarded the shuttle bus that took us the last 30 minutes of our journey to the Chateau of Courson the rain began to fall in earnest, I was trying to be very positive that the rain would stop before we arrived, but no, it rained and it rained and it rained for most of the day turning the ground into a quagmire of mud.

But I had come too far to be put off; French couples and ladies on their own were arriving well prepared with shopping trolleys on wheels, waterproof boots and weatherproof coats with hoods!

Undeterred we entered the showground, first port of call a small tent manned by two patient men each with a computer.  Ask them the name of a plant you were searching for and they would look it up and tell you which stands had it!!!!!!!!!!  I was impressed.

Rows and rows of plant stands, all with great plants; it seemed like paradise.

I wasn’t sure what I would buy but I was hopeful that I would find a good selection of Agapanthus.  Now you may think that Italy would be an ideal place to grow Agapanthus and indeed many gardens have them but all I have been able to find are the very large evergreen varieties that suffer badly each winter and every year I am fearful they won’t survive.  I wanted some hardy perennial varieties that I knew would survive the winter well in my free-draining soil.  Success!  I soon spotted a stand specialising in only Agapanthus!  Better still (from my point of view) he was a Yorkshire man, a holder of the National collection.  We were soon deep in conversation while I was selecting which of his vast assortment of varieties to buy.  The rain came down even harder, he very kindly offered me an umbrella (I had left mine in the hotel – believing the forecast and also not wanting to have one hand occupied uselessly).

With my purchases from him made and the plants safely in bags behind his stall, awaiting collection later in the day I was ready to begin searching for other plants that would fit in my one suitcase.  With my borrowed umbrella I could at least keep my head dry.

Do check out his website, all the plants were well grown, good sized and he promises will flower in their first year in the ground. Agapanthus specialist.

‘Something for the Garden’ – The Agapanthus stand in a moment without rain

Next up Irises; something else that grows wonderfully for me here but which for some strange reason are difficult to find in nurseries here or when you do find the odd one cost a fortune.  Cayeux, one of the leading Iris growers and sellers in the world did not disappoint although if I had been searching for particular varieties I might have been better to simply order on-line; they too have an excellent website and if I decide to buy more I will order from them in this way.

My other passion, as my regular reader will know is grasses; again I was spoilt for choice with many of the stands having grasses and a couple of specialist growers too.  A few found their way into my bags along with some Asters a friend asked me to look out for.

Plant hunters were undeterred by the incessant rain

The show doesn’t have show-gardens, nothing to distract from the pursuit or plants!

This was the closest to a show garden any of the stands got.

I have never seen anything like this before; maybe Hampton Court Flower Show would be the nearest thing but Courson had hundreds of top quality nurseries selling an amazing number of different plants.  I haven’t mentioned the vast selection of trees, shrubs all in different sized containers.  I think many English gardeners would love this show.  It’s not far from Paris and so great for a weekend break.  We combined this with a day seeing the show gardens at Chaumont.  But that’s for another day.

If you are travelling by plane, some careful thought is needed.  My choices of Anapanthus and Iris I packed without soil; the grasses too, I removed most of the soil while still at the show ground.  A tiny Kaffir Lime I tenderly wrapped and placed with soft cushioning around it to protect it from the sometimes rough treatment of the baggage handlers.

Autumn light – dusk

The evening autumn light is magical; it washes the garden in warm colour.  Fleeting though it is it is one of my favourite times of day in this season.

The rays of the sun wash over the trunk of the mulberry making the seat under it even more enticing, if only for a few minutes.

Where would the garden be without grasses?

The light captures their ephemeral beauty.

….. and then of course there’s the sky!

GBBD November

The weather is still very good for gardening, last Saturday the wind changed direction, the tramontana, or the wind from the north (or literally the wind from the mountains) was blowing; this is what I call a lazy wind, because rather than go around, it goes straight through you!  The sun is still shining and so it is still pleasant to be outside if you’re protected from the wind.  By Monday it was lovely again, warm, sunny and a real joy to be in the garden

I think there are as many, if not more, flowers blooming as there were in October.  Even the Philodelphus has a couple of flowers.

In my last post I asked whether it was spring or autumn; there is still a lot of new growth on many shrubs but all of the trees have either lost their leaves or their leaves have changed colour so the answer to my question is now it is autumn.

Almost every variety of rose I have has blooms; outstanding are the usual suspects of Rosa mutabilis plus R. Molineaux which looks as good as in spring and R. China Rose – this was given to be by a friend as a rooted cutting it is today looking wonderful, I had been thinking of moving it but until I’ve taken some cuttings myself and know that they have taken I don’t think I would want to risk losing it.

R.Molineaux covered in blooms

A perfect bloom, not autumn looking at all

It’s companion planting of Hemerocallis Sol d’oro.

R. China Rose

and in close up

I love the light at this time of year – it is so bright (difficult for photographs) and lower in the sky so it lights up the grasses all day and not just in the evening as in summer.

Back border

Reading about gardens in other parts of the world where there has already been frost or snow makes me realise how lucky I am enjoying this extra-long season of good weather.  I’ve only just put the heating on in the last couple of days and then only for a couple of hours in the evening.

I have been changing a small area around the Arbutus.  It had a strange mix of oddments that I’d put there when I didn’t know where else to plant them; I wanted to have an area with Asters for autumn interest, I also realised looking at images for recent posts that I have quite nice mix of plants all with crimson blooms, I have decided to put them all here adding to an Oleander and Salvia of that colour.  The rose will be to be moved later in winter but I’ve moved a Penstemon (a cutting from Linda’s garden in the West) and divided some claret achillea’s to extend the period of interest, so this area will be crimson all summer hopefully, next autumn I’ll put in some crimson tulips too to stretch the season even more.

Penstemon, just moved and looking a little sad

Salvia, such difficult plants to photograph

R. ? Braithwaite

Achilliea

Click on the image below to see all the blooms in My Hesperides Garden this month.

Thanks to Carol at MayDreams Garden for hosting GBBD, why not visit her and then see what’s blooming in gardens all around the world.

Don’t forget to join in Garden Bloggers Foliage day on the 22nd November, I really look forward to seeing all the lovely autumn colour and the spring foliage from the southern hemisphire

Is it autumn or spring?

The weather continues to play tricks on the garden – the plants are confused; is it spring? Certainly the roses, Hemerocallis and Photinia think it is; even the Quercia ilix have put on considerable new growth in the last few weeks, the colour of the new foliage is very obvious.

A bright green halo of new growth on the holm oak

R. Rhapsody in Blue also smells wonderful when I pass

R. mutabilis

Rosa mutabilis hasn’t had as many flowers as this since spring.

Hemerocallis are full of flower

Hemerocallis are full of flower creating the same combination as in spring with R. Molineux – this is the rose that really does believe it is spring it has so many flowers and buds I can hardly believe how lovely it looks.

R. Molineux is pure yellow again, in summer it was apricot coloured

R. China rose is growing so well; I had decided to move it but it is now growing so well I don’t want to risk losing it, perhaps it would be better to take some cuttings and when I know I have a safety net I can risk moving the parent plant.

Cerinthe major purpurascens certainly thinks it is spring or at least not autumn as sometimes it does flower very early in the year when it is still winter.

Cerinthe

On the other hand, the walnuts and fig  have now lost most of their leaves so they know that winter is not so far away.

autumn grasses, red new growth on the Photinia, no leaves on the walnut and fig, Perovskia flowering again

All the grasses are doing what is expected of them in autumn – that is looking wonderful with the low sunlight shining through them.

Miscanthus with Abutilon in the background

The strawberries are still providing a few tasty mouthfuls and the flowers promise more to come.

Rain has fallen this week, but more as April showers than the heavy rain of autumn (we have been lucky, you will have seen on the news the terrible floods that there have been in Liguria, Tuscany and in Torino); but the temperatures have remained very mild, still no need for central heating, so the question remains “Is it Spring or is it Autumn?”.

 

End of Month Review, August

The bee eaters have been flying low around the house as if to say goodbye until next year.  Normally they are high in the sky and although we know they are beautifully coloured, as we see flashes of iridescent blue and gold; we’ve never been able to see them so clearly before!

I don’t claim any credit for these photographs, my husband who is quite keen on bird watching took them.  I did try, but the birds flew so fast and only hovered in a tantalising way before diving off in unexpected directions.

On 15th August, GBBD I reported about the difference in the weather this year – cooler, more rain – on the 16th the weather changed completely!  The daytime temperatures rose from the mid to high twenties to the high thirties and I believe one day 40° C!  No rain, not even a little morning mist and the night-time temperatures were the same as the daytime ones a few days previously.  Only in the last couple of days have temperatures become more tolerable – I hate the heat!  Many of the trees I had planted in 2009 became very stressed; the persimmon lost all its fruit; the fig that has always been here lost half of its leaves and the September fruit, which had been growing and ripening well, is now dropping of the tree and although we are able to eat some, many the ants get first!

Miscanthus with fig tree (almost without leaves)

The sun sets earlier and one of the pleasures this brings is to see the grasses, most are flowering now, with their seed heads being lit from behind.  I am going to make a determined effort to collect some seed and try to grow more.  Many don’t need water and so would be great on the bank which is very steep and therefore always very dry; even some of the Gaura succumbed to the intense heat of the last couple of weeks.

Pennisetum villosum with Sedum Matrona in the small island bed

Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster' on the upper slope

Pennisetum 'Little Bunny'

The almost impossible to photograph Eragrostis spectabilis with in the background Pennisetum 'Karley Rose'

Some Miscanthus are already flowering and most are much more tolerant of drought once established than the books would have you believe.

Above is either Miscanthus ‘Gracillimus’ or M. Graziella, I moved it to the circular rose bed this spring as it grew less tall where it was before and I thought it would fit better here; luckily Rosa ‘Queen of Sweden’ is also growing taller than expected and so the Miscanthus forms a pleasing division between this rose and the shorter deep coloured ‘Tradescant’.

In this general view with the umbrella pine you can see how the seed heads and grasses combine with the flowers to create an overall ‘fullness’ in the garden.  I like the very solid forms of the Box cubes and bay that contrast so well with the airy grasses and ephemeral Gaura.

My plans for September are to divide and move some of the plants that have begun to outgrow their allotted spaces.  I’ll begin next week with Irises as they won’t mind even if it stays quite hot, then some Hemerocallis that were on the list last year and are very squashed where they are now.

Finally I’d like to introduce a new meme I’m starting about Foliage in the garden.  It can be foliage plants that don’t flower at all, foliage when the flowers have finished, grasses which I think count as both flowers and foliage, new growth that might be very different from the mature leaves and of course we are coming into autumn (at least in the northern hemisphere we are) so I hope for some fabulous autumn colour.  It will be the 22nd of each month.

If you would like to read more about what’s happening in other gardens all over the world visit Helen at The Patient Gardener.  Once again a big thank you to Helen for hosting this meme for us.

Foliage and heat in the garden

I have decided to write on a regular basis about the foliage in the garden.  My intention is that I’ll write on the 22nd of the month.  I hope some of you might like to do the same thing so that we can compare as we do with GBBD.  As you will notice I am already late this month but hey this is the first one!  I also don’t know how to set up a “mister linky” but I’ll try to learn before next month!

Sedum and Artemisia ponticum

I think this image of a purple sedum and sage green Artemisia ponticum show very well how plants can work together; the solidity of the sedum versus the airiness of the Artemisia.  At the back of the garden I have a solid block of bay, it doesn’t line up with the central path at the moment but it will as I’ve planted some more and am trying to be patient while they grow to extend the block; planted in front are two Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’ which move in the wind against the solid Bay.

This will be even more obvious when the Miscanthus flowers – though I really think of  grass flowers as foliage, but they add so much to the garden I feel it correct to count them twice!

Here’s the same colour combination as above using Albizia ‘Chocolate’ and another Artemisia.

When I first thought about this and walked out into the garden with the camera I wasn’t sure how much interesting foliage there would be; that was a strange thought really as I think I like my plantings more for the foliage than I do for the flowers though I do enjoy those very much too.  When I plan a border or area of the garden it is just as important to me that the plant has interesting textual foliage as that it has a beautiful, perfumed flower of the right colour.  I don’t think there is a plant that has flowers longer than it has foliage – I may be wrong but none come to mind as I write; accepting this, then, the contribution made by the texture, form and colour of the foliage is going to have more impact on the overall impact the garden has than perhaps anything else we plant.

The Large Island is predominately silver foliage because this bed is not irrigated

In my post for GBBD I mentioned that we’d had a coolish summer (for Italy) with unprecedented rain during July; the temperatures in the last week have made up for that with several days of 35-37° C with a strong wind from the west and night-time temperatures only dipping to 24°C.  To me it seems some plants have been lulled into a false sense of security and have not pushed their roots down further to reach the damp lower layers.  Several now look very stressed and I have had to give them some water or I fear they would die.  Interestingly the Italian way of saying a plant or tree has died is to say it is seccata (dried) as death through lack of water is the major cause of losing plants.

Even my fig tree is very stressed and is losing its leaves and dropping the ripe fruit; the walnut also has many leaves which frankly look scorched.

Scorched fig leaves

fallen fig leaves, I must give it some water

Worst is the Bergenia, I will have to move them either to a shady spot or remove them altogether as they suffer like this every year and don’t actually flower all that well either.

Poor Bergenia

On a happier note the silver foliage in the garden is positively sparkling and glinting in the sunshine.

The vegetable garden can also thrill when the sun back lights the gorgeous red stems and leaves of Swiss Chard ‘Bright Lights’.

Can you spot the Verbena bonariensis growing as a weed in the vegetable garden!

Click here to see the foliage in My Hesperides Garden today.

Here’s a link to Carolyns Shade garden who has posted about her textural contasiners. http://carolynsshadegardens.com/.