Tuesday View 15th November

Yesterday was dull and cloudy all day but today is totally different, the sky is blue and the sun is shining, but it is cold.  Our weather in Italy seems to have been unseasonable almost all year.  We had a wet spring (May and June), an extra hot July and August, a very wet autumn from September to now. Continue reading

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The Slope on Thursday 12th December

The weather continues to be very enjoyable.  From Monday there haven’t been any frosts and the days have been warm and sunny.  Strangely there are still leaves on the Wisteria, less on the part of the pergola in front of the kitchen but still masses in front of the sitting room.  The sun is low in the sky and pours into the kitchen sometimes making it hard to see the computer screen; but I find it even harder the close the inner shutter to keep the sun out! Continue reading

The Slope on Thursday 14th November

The weather really changed this week.  It was quite a shock to the system as the temperatures dropped and on Monday there were gale force winds and rain for most of the day; the wind has continued all week, dropping in intensity a little on Tuesday but still strong yesterday.  Leaves were ripped from branches whether they were ready to fall or not; a whole branch was broken from one of the Leylandii.

But today is sunny and bright, the wind still present but not so cold.

Continue reading

The Slope on Tuesday 6th August

The intense heat that is August has arrived; it began in earnest last week and now the temperature hovers around the very high 30°’s C and into the 40°’s C.  Too hot for me.  I try to get up early, 6 is what I aim for but that is also the moment when it is a pleasant temperature to sleep so I have to choose, sleep or work in the garden – a difficult choice.  In the greenhouse it is 45.9°C – too hot for most plants to thrive, and impossible to enter except first thing in the morning. Continue reading

EMV – November a month to work in the garden

Thanks to Helen for hosting EMV; again it is so hard to believe it is the end of November already.

November has been the perfect month for a gardener; many days of warm sunshine interspersed with life sustaining rain.  Today (Wednesday) isn’t nice, heavy rain is falling, there is thunder and lightning which means that the internet is intermittent and it looks black outside, so not a gardening day today!

Not very much has changed in the garden since last EMV except that the walnuts trees have now lost all their leaves and the Mulberry will have done so after the strong winds today and tomorrow.

I have planted garlic (last week) and all the bulbs, except for 25 tulips, are all safely in the ground.

I have been tidying the beds, weeding and planting.  The smallest bed, the circular rose bed needed the most attention.  Gaura lindheimeri self-seeds profusely in this bed and I hadn’t cleared all last year’s seedlings which had grown so large they were swamping the roses; my plans to do a Chelsea chop didn’t happen so many plants were approaching 1.7 metres.  I potted up lots of smaller plants that should make good plants to swap and some with larger roots (almost rhizomes) I transplanted onto the slope where many of the existing plants had perished in the drought.  Gaura remains in the spaces between each variety of rose.  I also removed 3 large buckets of material to the compost heap.

From a distance all you can see is Gaura and Stipa tenuissima

You can see some of the Gaura in this image of R. Sophie’s Perpetual

I then decided to define the quadrants of roses more by planting Miscanthus Gracillimus midway to the centre of the circle between each type of rose and position a Pennisetum villosum in front of the Miscanthus.  There were already 2 Miscanthus and one huge Pennisetum in the bed.  I was able to divide one of the Miscanthus into 3 which gave me the required four; the Pennisetum is a bit of a thug, it spreads very freely so it was easy to divide it into four large pieces plus a dozen or so smaller sections that I planted onto the slope, replacing some Stipa tenuissima what had more dead material than green.  I think the Pennisetum will act well to hold the soil on the slope and they also make better ground cover and weed suppressant than the Stipa.

The finished bed

The bed is also very slightly sloping, so the edging helps contain the soil

Pennisetum villosum is drought tolerant in my garden and although it isn’t very pretty in mid-winter it soon puts on new growth in spring and then seems to flower until the first frosts.

The circular rose bed is (or was) the same dimension as the circular void in the middle of the formal garden and it forms the link between the formal front beds and the much more relaxed island beds.  Using a void and a positive space isn’t really to be strongly recommended because in fact you can’t SEE that they are the same, but it does give some rhythm so in this case it works.  The edge of this border has never been strongly defined before so I decided to use some crazy paving that had been on the front of the house (no, don’t ask why!) to sink into the ground to delineate the shape better.

Here are the roses that are still flowering in the bed this month.

Rosa ‘Queen of Sweden’

Rosa ‘William Shakespeare’

Rosa Sophie’s perpetual

Rosa ‘Tradescant’ also has a couple of flowers but I didn’t take a photo on the 24th November when I photographed the above.

Rosa ‘Veilchenblau’

Even my favourite rose ‘Veilchenblau’, which usually only flowers in early summer has put on a few flowers to charm me.

End of Month View

Time again to join Helen the Patient Gardener for her end of month view.

May and June are usually the best months for me; the weather is warm enough to enjoy meals outside, the garden is full of flower and everything is lush and full.  May was almost like this, but there were cool evenings which meant no meals outside.  The beginning of June was very windy so again not many meals outside and the plants in the garden took quite a battering.  In the middle of the month the temperatures soared AND there were hot winds!

I usually delay turning on the automatic irrigation (except to the vegetable garden) for as long as possible; 1, because I want the plants to become tough and search out water deep down and 2, as all the water comes from a well 100 m deep there is considerable cost in terms of electricity to pump the water to the surface.

As it was cool in May, especially at night, there was always dew on the ground each morning so I felt it correct to wait before beginning the irrigation this year.  With hindsight this was a mistake; the desiccating effects of the wind were pulling water up out of the ground via the leaves.  When I went to Prague I didn’t want to begin irrigating without being there to make sure there were no damaged pipes (there was one so I was right about that).  The wind became even stronger and the temperature rose to 37° – 39° Celsius over those four days and when I returned the garden was scorched, I used the term “flame gun” and this wasn’t really an exaggeration.  The irrigation is on now, I have been hand-watering to try to help some of the plants that were really suffering, but with temperatures now pretty much set for the next six to eight weeks the summer hibernation of the garden has started early!  Some plants do continue to bloom with minimum irrigation and I’ll be showing those over the next weeks.

Some plants will reward me with abundant blooms with very little water.  Rosa mutablibis is one that only needs minimum water to flower almost continuously.  Gaura lindheimeri is another that with just a little irrigation or run off from nearby roses flower profusely.  The groundcover Verbena near the terrace is flowering much more than usual because I’ve been watering pots on the terrace and water has run off from there to reach them.

Ground cover verbena benefits from a little irrigation to ensure it flowers all summer

Figs grow all around the Mediterranean and I’ve seen them growing out of cliffs with no soil, but mine needs water every year!  In past years this hasn’t occurred until August, but just look at my poor tree, and this was even before the last week of June; the first crop of figs hasn’t been harvested yet although any day now some should be ready.

Poor tree, it must have lost half its leaves

Crumpled, yellow and brown, the fallen leaves under the fig tree

Rosa Rimosa again has had only run off water from watering pots on the terrace is giving a great second display.

See more about this good tempered rose here.

However the grasses are beginning to light up the garden, especially in the evening when the last rays of the sun shine through their flowers.

Pennisetum villosum lighting up the garden

Another Pennisetum, possibly Karly

June is the month for Lavender and the sound of bees buzzing all day collecting nectar and of butterflies fluttering and dancing in the air above.

With the extra pruning this year I can just squeeze through the lavender surrounding the formal beds

A honey bee doing what they do best!

Silver-Studded Blue Plebejus argus