End of the Month View – May 2012

I’m joining Helen the Patient Gardener for this month’s review of what’s happening in the garden this month.

Here in Italy May is the month when everything flowers!  I remember the first time I saw a garden at this time of year I thought it looked fake (like at Chelsea flower show) with plants that would be flowering a month or so apart all flowering together.  This is lovely but it does mean that everything is also over very quickly.  Many plants go into summer hibernation if there is a drought and usually there is no rain from June until mid-August or even September.

For that reason I’ve been posting every day this month and even doing this there are many plants that haven’t appeared in a post.  For June I don’t intend posting everyday but will try for a couple of posts a week.

This month I’d like to share with you a small area I’m developing within the upper drive border.  Below is an image from above; the area starts at an Arbutus tree to the left and continues around to just in front of a holly bush.

Looking down from the attic window

Last autumn I decided to increase the variety plants with crimson flowers here.  In winter I moved Rosa L.D. Braithwaite which was quite small and seems to have moved satisfactorily and has flowered.  I purchased some Asters of different heights and forms and added those to the mix; I need an area that focuses on late summer- early autumn blooms.  I also moved a Penstemon that my friend Linda from Garden in the West gave me in the form of some cuttings she carefully carried from her garden when she visited 2 years ago.  The one that survived has made a good plant and is flowering freely now.  I will take some more cuttings so I can increase the clump size.

There’s still lots of bare earth but it will soon fill in.

Above: Rose L.D. Braithwait

A very hardy succulent type plant, which can become invasive, was also planted – I just broke off some pieces from those situated in the large island and planted them directly into the ground to form good ground cover.  Lychnis coronaria  is already scattered through the garden and I moved some of these to this border too, I like their small points of intense colour and the foliage is quite good too, even in winter.

and in close up

The above bright crimson salvia was a cutting taken from a friend’s plant, I love the colour.

Lychnis coronaria.

Achillea is also making a show, this will clump up quickly.

My intention is to plant some Barcelona tulips that I saw on Hillwards site, they look just the right colour, I also saw a smaller tulips of a similar colour on Julie’s post about her tulips  of again a very similar colour so hopefully the wow factor will last from early spring through summer and into autumn.

To finish here’s some views of the garden that are particularly lovely at the moment and some views of the slope that I have been showing in these end of month views up until now.

Looking accross the garden from the drive, the upper slope is to the right and the large island bed to the left, and you can just see the edge of the circular rose garden.

Looking accross the slope.

The upper drive border.

Below is the first humming bird hawk moth I’ve ever managed to photograph, there are usually lots in the garden but they move so fast, I’ve never had n image any where near in focus.

End of Month View – March 2012 – The Slope

This is a very late post but I wanted to participate if only for my own records, I find this meme, hosted by Helen, the Patient Gardener, one of the most useful meme’s of the month.  It helps me see the progress in the garden and what still needs to be done to truly create my Hesperides garden.

From when I began work on the slope by the drive I have concentrated most of these posts on this area.  It has filled out well and has surpassed by hopes for it to become one of my favourite parts of the garden.  Almost everything is from self-seeded plants moved from other parts of the garden.  It is not irrigated and in fact would be very difficult to do so because water just runs off the, in places, very steep slope.

Here are two images of how the area looked in October 2009.

Looking accross the slope from the drive

Looking up the slope with newly planted Persimmon tree

In November 2010 I planted Stipa tenuissima, Gaura, Iris and Euphorbia all from the garden.

For this post I want to show some images of how full of interesting foliage and colourful flowers the slope has become.

Looking accross the slope from the same position as above

Time for the tree stakes to be removed

Looking up the slope, as above

The bare soil has been colonised by Californian poppy, European poppy (not flowering yet) and a wild plant, a member of the daisy family that I use the new leaves in salads. Here it’s called cresto di gallo or cock’s comb – a deliciously different taste, there is also wild rocket again I allow it to grow so I can pick it for salads.

The lower area edges the drive and at the top becomes part of a border that sweeps round and into a path that forms the large and small islands.  The part abutting this path I call the upper slope and will be showing this separately at some other time; the two areas are separated by windbreak planting of bush Quercia ilex, Arbutus and other shrubs which are included to protect the rest of the garden from the desiccating summer wind that blows in from the coast almost every afternoon.

End of Month View June

I had thought in the end of May View, that the slope wouldn’t change very much so I would have to choose another area of the garden; I was wrong, Wild Verbascums blown into the garden from the surrounding fields have changed the way it looks altogether.

Another aspect I hadn’t taken into account was that plants I don’t count as being on the slope really, above the line of the Holm Oak bushes, have grown to such an extent that they have become the background to the slope – this is especially true of the large orange Knifophia, truly Red Hot Pokers!

From the top of the slope looking along towards the drive

In the foreground of the above image you can just see a Salvia Turkestanica which seeded from the huge one I had 2 years ago (I’m relieved this one is not so large as they are so awful to remove because of the ghastly smell –I noticed before it doesn’t start to smell until it has flowers, weird!

Looking up the slope with the amazing Solanum jasminoides that flowers for ever

From midway up the drive looking down

There is Perovskia in this border too!

Other things I’d quickly like to share with you: the blue of the Perovskia!

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.

From next month I’m thinking of writing about the progress of individual beds.  Listing all the plants they contain and highlighting changes I’ve made and why (if there is a reason).  If I do this I’ll begin with the Small Island, just because I’m so pleased with the way it looks this year

Part of the Small Island

This morning I harvested all the garlic and the white onions that had bent over (on their own, I don’t believe you should bend them forcefully)

Just over half of the white onions

You may have noticed fennel growing by the edge of the drive, I harvest the flowers, dry them put them into jars and use this intensely flavoured condiment when cooking roast potatoes, sausage risotto or Porcini (ceps).

Fennel, picked this morning

Picked last week, dried and awaiting the tedious job of piutting just the yellow flowers into a jar. Worth its weight in gold

As I walking past the lavender I saw this strange looking bug, I don’t know what it is or if it does any damage, it was alone so I doubt it will do much damage anyway.

Any ideas as to what it is?

&©Copyright 2011
All rights reserved.
Content created by Christina for
My Hesperides Garden.

Views from my windows

I haven’t been posting as much as I would like, but it is either actually get things done or write about doing them!

After several weeks of hot sunny weather yesterday afternoon we finally had a couple of hours of rain.  The first hour was extremely heavy, monsoon-like battering down the plants, the second hour was just what every gardener wants – steady but not damaging rain that really penetrates the soil.  Given that the temperature in the morning was about 27 ° C of even a little higher the result is that you can almost see the plants growing now.  Today is humid, hot and there was another shower, although not really enough to do more than wet the surface.

I would like to share with you the views from my windows, this will give you an idea of which bed I’m talking about in future posts and as some of the windows are quite high it is a bit like looking at a plan of the garden.  I am slowly trying to write details of each bed which will appear in Borders and areas within the garden, this will help me see the progress and changes that have occurred and remind me of all the plants in each bed.  I actually took these photographs a month ago and a lot has already changed, the roses flowered, were wonderful and have now more of less finished their first flowering; they have been dead headed and I need to feed them so they will flower again.  The only rose that is still looking amazing is R. Sally Holmes.

Upper Drive border and part of Large Island

Above you can see the drive, with to the right of the picture the olives with just grass and wild flowers under them.  The upper drive bed joins the Slope (you can’t see that from the windows but you can see progress there on my End of Month Views) and continues, wrapping around the Large Island, The Circular Rose Bed and the Small Island eventually becoming the Back Border which in turn joins the Left Hand Border.

A closer view of the Upper Drive Border

Part of the Large Island

I laid out the island shapes using hose pipe to help decide on the most pleasing shapes – this did involve a lot of going up and down my very steep stairs so quite a healthy exercise.

Above: The circular rose bed, with a small section of the Large Island (foreground, right) with the edge of the Upper Slope and a small piece of the Back border.

The Formal Garden

It is now becoming difficult to walk between the lavender hedges of the formal garden as they have grown so much and are about to flower.

Here is the Left Hand Border (in April 2010)

Rosa mutabilis hedge separates the vegetable garden from the drive and the back of the house

And finally the vegetable garden.

I hope that this helps to understand the layout of the garden.  The property is 3,000 square metres including the house, the olives and a portion outside the fence which I will be writing about in future end of month views.

&©Copyright 2011
All rights reserved.
Content created by Christina for
My Hesperides Garden.

May, end of the Month Review

So much has flowered this month it has been impossible not to walk around the garden without finding another plant that has begun to flower.

Our hot dry weather has continued for the whole month; and even when I can see rain falling only a few kilometres away nothing has fallen on My Hesperides Garden!  The ground was already dry as this winter there was hardly any rain at all.  A year ago it was very different (then we’d had almost a whole year of rain except of course for July and August when it rarely rains in Lazio).

By the beginning of May all the tulips were finished, a very short show this year but enjoyable all the same.  Then in very quick succession Irises, Allium and then of course, May means roses.

a successful combination of Iris, Rosa rubifolia and Artemisia ponticum

Allium cristophii remains interesting for a long time

Rosa Gertude Jekyll looking and smelling wonderful

Last Monday I was a judge at an International Rose competition and I have to say that it made me realise how many bad roses enter into the market without having any additional value than the thousands that already exist.  We were judging roses that had been in commerce for less than 5 years and apart from perhaps one or at most two of those being evaluated I don’t think they merited inclusion ion any garden.  It certainly made me appreciate my own roses even more and made me happy with my choices.

Eremurus cleopatra

For the first time some of the Eremurus I planted 2 years ago have flowered.  Either they liked the cold this winter or the lack of rain – I like them but think they are probably too fussy for me to purchase more, maybe they will spread by themselves, I hope so.

Now on to the slope, the part of the garden I usually concentrate on for the EoMR.  Here is the slope when I first planted Stipa, Gaura and Verbena bonarienis last November.

7th November 2010

The same view now.

Everything has grown much more than I could have hoped and it is looking how imagined it would look in a couple of years’ time.  The effect of a meadow or prairie is strong especially with Stipa tenuissima blowing in the wind.

at the beginning of the month

The Weigela was moved here a year ago. it seems to like it

Stipa on 4th May

I admit to sowing the poppy seed

Evening light on the slope

Poppies with a giant Verbascum that seeded itself here from the fields outside the garden

Stipa now - just look how much its grown!

As always there are some happy accidents, I found some loose bulbs at the bottom of the box and thought they were allium so added them to the ‘stream’ flowing down the slope but I was wrong they were Gladioli byzantinus  – I love the contrast in colour with the Cerinthe and large grey leaves of Verbascum.

The Gaura is also beginning to flower, a few plants didn’t survive ants mining under them, but there are enough and I have more I can add if necessary.

What do I need to do to improve the planting?  I’m very satisfied already and I don’t want to add too many different plant species to the mix.  I’ve already planted the cuttings of Solanum jasminoides album I took last autumn and they are growing, I’m longing for the mass of frothy white flowers that will flow from the top of the bank to the bottom in future years.  At the moment I think I need to just wait and see what happens.  The Cerinthe are looking well past their best, but I’ll leave them to set seed and hope they plant themselves in an interesting way; the same for the poppies, both Californian and European.  If the Stipa get s too big I’ll just pull it out and allow seedlings to grow where they choose.

Just to finish a couple of views across the garden and a rose that grows wonderfully in hot climates but doesn’t like damp, cool weather so isn’t often grown in the UK.  R. Sally Holmes, I have three in the garden that were cuttings from a friend 4 years ago.

R. Sally Holmes in the Left hand border

Isn't that just beautiful?

Evening light shines through the planting

Looking accross from the greenhouse

Thank you Helen at Patient Gardener for hosting the End of Month View this month.  Visit her to see what others are planning and doing in their gardens this month.

&©Copyright 2011
All rights reserved.
Content created by Christina for
My Hesperides Garden.

End of Month Review 30th April 2011

The bank is filling out.  There is an issue with weeds unfortunately; and because it is so steep when I tense myself not to fall while I’ll pulling out weeds I damage my back.  There have been some moments in the last week when I was bent almost double like a very, very old woman!

The Stipa tenuissima has really filled out since last autumn

Some Gaura are looking a little wilted; it has been a very hot month with very little rain.  As I write it is raining very gently just perfect for soaking slowly into the soil.  When it rains hard the water just runs off the slope and very little is absorbed.

A bit further up the drive

Finally the Panicums showed signs of new growth so I have been able to lift, divide and replant them.  Some have found homes in other beds too, where I needed grasses that didn’t require water.  I have spaced them differently too so that I will add some other perennials between them to add to the prairie effect.  There are lots more Gaura self-seeded in the rose bed and also into the gravel paths so I will move some of these.

Newly re-planted Panicums

I would also like to add tulips here in the autumn although the thought of planting them is rather daunting.

I hope you can see my method of planting; creating a depression around the plant to hold water while it establishes – this is the method I use for all my plants; trees and shrubs have a large depression(we call it a vase here) around them that might remain for up to one year.  It allows me to give a lot of water at one time, then nothing for a while to encourage the roots to search deeper for water.

To one side where there is a Solarnum jasminoides I have planted some rooted cuttings I took last autumn.

First flowers on the Solanum jasminoides

I underrate this plant (it was the only flowering plant in the garden when we bought the property), it has just begun to flower this year and last year it was continuously in flower until December.  I am hoping for a frothy white mass tumbling down the bank.

This week the alliums my friend planted for me last autumn have opened their buds and are making a striking contrast with Californian poppies that I scattered the seeds of when planting everything else.

A big thank you to Helen, the Patient Gardener, for hosting the end of month review.  Visit her to see what’s happening in other gardens.  Reviewing the garden, or at least part of it every month really helps to focus the mind about what is working and what needs to be done.
&©Copyright 2011
All rights reserved.
Content created by Christina for
My Hesperides Garden.

March – End of Month View

March has had so many flowers beginning to bloom, so much work done, so much growth on everything telling me spring really is here now and even if there are any more cold days the progress of the plants is now unstoppable.

Those of you who have been following my end of month reviews will know that I have been concentrating on the slope or bank which I planted last autumn with mainly plants that had self-seeded in the rest of the garden.  Interestingly in March’s issue of Gardenia (the Italian Gardening magazine I subscribe to) there was an article about designing a border with just plants that would self-seed; this would mean that the planting wouldn’t actually be static but change over time as plants died and new seedlings grew in slightly different places.  All the plants I’d used were mentioned and there was a list of others that I will consider using too.

The Gaura and Stipa are filling out very fast and of course the Verbena bonarienis can’t be stopped!  Artemisia pontica that was planted with the Muscari to hide their leaves when they finish flowering is emerging from the soil – I’m amazed so much is growing as only tiny pieces with a little root were taken directly from the parent plants in the Large Island Bed.  It is a bit of a thug; the underground runners spread very quickly through a border, I may remove it from the Island (if I can) and just let it colonise the slope where its ground cover properties will be most useful.  I will continue to give updates with photos of the slope as spring and summer progresses.

The stream of Muscari looking down the slope

...and up the slope

As not so much is happening on the slope I thought I’d give you a taste of the Tulips which may be my favourite flower (if it isn’t Wisteria).  With the warm weather this week many of the tulips have stated to flower, next week I’ll post more with their names and where they are in the garden but for now just enjoy!

Clematis armandii and Tulip Negrita, with the about to flower Wisteria in the background

Last year's T. Negrita reflowering as well as first time around

Water Lilly type

I expect I’ll be blogging almost every day with Tulips and, I hope, Wisteria during April.

Next to the warm brick pillars the wisteria is nearly fully out - you can smell the perfume.

A shame I won't see these flower

Looking accross the garden from the drive

A big thank you to Helen, the Patient Gardener for thinking up the idea of this meme and keeping it up (and reminding me it was the end of the month by posting her review last night).  Visit her and see what’s happening in other bloggers’ gardens.

And finally, next month for the end of month review my intention is to tell you about a part of the garden I’ve never even mentioned before – an area outside the garden proper that has always been abandoned – it is covered with brambles, weed trees and is where the fox likes to dig his holes.   I want to make a little orchard here as it is protected from the north wind by the tuffo block.

It is also where there is an Etruscan tomb with a domus leading to it

……and also where the stone blocks that our house is built from were cut.

&copyCopyright 2011
All rights reserved.
Content created by Christina for
My Hesperides Garden.

End of the Month Review, February 2011

I will continue to show progress on the slope for the next few months so you can see how all the seedlings I transplanted last autumn are developing.

Stipa tenuissima on the bank is beginning to fill out

Gaura from 4 leaves to small clumps over the winter

I am surprised by just how much growth even the tiny Gaura seedlings have put on.  Last autumn I didn’t expect them to flower this year, now I’m hopeful there may be a few flowers from each plant, my fingers are crossed.  It is strange, I’ve had some Gaura plants in the Left Hand Border (I really must think of a better name for this area) for the last three years and have never found any seedlings.  Then in autumn 2009 I put 9 plants into the circular rose bed, they flowered for months covering the roses and everything else in the bed. When I was tidying up last autumn I found masses of seedlings growing over the whole bed.  I lifted and transplanted masses onto the slope.  Most were very small but I thought they would have more chance of establishing in this challenging situation while they were small – they have clumped up incredibly well so I’m really looking forward to seeing the whole slope covered with their butterfly flowers.  I have since potted up about another 100 small plants that I’d left in the rose bed to grow on a bit, I gave some to friends but there are still a lot I’ll need to find homes for.

Muscari beginning to form the 'stream'

You may remember me saying that my good friend Linda from the Garden in the West very kindly planted some bulbs for me when I was suffering from tendonitis and couldn’t do very much; the Muscari are beginning to flower creating the blue stream I had hoped for.  There is also a stream (perhaps more a river as the scale is different) of prostrate Rosemary which has been flowering for the last month or so.

In other places in the garden, where the Muscari have been planted for longer the clumps already look as if they need dividing.


At this time, I’m full of hope for good things to come – the ‘wild’ Iris I moved from the top of the Etruscan tomb (outside the fence but inside our property) are looking fine, I don’t know if they’ll flower this year or not.

In other parts of the garden Allium are pushing their spider leaves up through Euphorbia Myrsinites

Apricot flowers

I’m not so hopeful about the Apricot tree.  Its flowers continue to open even in the freezing winds and I have doubts about there being any apricots to harvest.  My hope is that the below zero temperatures are coming to an end and there are lots more buds on the tree, so I will have to be patient and wait and see.

Some flowers are turning brown probably frost damaged!

Maybe some of you heard Anne Swithingbank, on Gardeners Question time (Radio 4) describing combing her grasses to remove the previous years growth much as I described in a previous post about Stipa tenuissima.

As always thanks to Helen at Patient Gardener for hosting the End of the month reviews.  This was such a great idea, Helen, thank you.

End of month review – November

Well today certainly tells me winter is here.  This is the first day when it has been raining and COLD, 4° C but with the rain it feels much colder; I am not working in the garden today.

To continue the theme of most of my end of month reviews, I’ll describe the progress of planting the bank. This shows the slope back in December 2008, when I was marking out the beds and pathways.

You can see the existing cypresses, umbrella pine and an Arbutus I had planted in spring 2008

The upper part of the slope above the level of my shelter belt of 4 Quercus ilex, a Viburnum tinus and a large bush Arbutus to the cypress half way up the drive I will describe soon in my borders and areas of the garden section.

Below the shelter belt the slope is quite steep; I have been straining to keep my balance while planting which has caused my back to ache.  This emphasises how important it is to plant closely not allowing any space for weeds as weeding will always be a problem here.  I also don’t want to irrigate this part of the garden 1) because the water would tend to run off anyway and maybe cause erosion of the soil and 2) I want areas that demonstrate that it is possible to have flowers and colour in summer without irrigation.

Looking accross the slope at the shelter belt planting

Below the line of shelter belt shrubs, in autumn 2009, I planted a second line of more decorative shrubs including Oleander, Teucrium, Lagerstroemia, and a Cotinus. Also present are: Perovskia, Panicum Heavy Metal and P. Warrior and a Feijoa.

My decision has obviously made my choice of plants more restricted but I think mass planting of just a few species will look more appropriate here so my overall aim is a prairie style of planting. Some of the existing plants in other areas are obviously very happy in free-draining soil, so much so that they have self-seeded profusely – so my decision was made, use what I have and try to plant creatively.

The plants are therefore: planted everywhere to create a grassland, prairie feel, Stipa tenuissima; Verbena bonariensis to give see-through height, Gaura lindheimeri to give the impression of a thousand butterflies floating in the air. Some clumps of wild Iris moved from the tuffo bank, I planted high on the bank where they should be visible when they flower but be hidden by flowering plants growing taller than them when they have finished flowering.  Below a Persimmon, I transplanted Euphorbia (the original plants I had grown from seed), interplanted with tulips.  Through this matrix there are three streams of planting.

  1. Artemisia ponticum with grape hyacinths, Allium aflatuense and Schizachyrium scoparium.
  2. Cerinthe major purpurascens – I will leave them until they set seed, then remove them – they usually flower very early for me, sometimes as early as Christmas.
  3. Prostrate rosemary.

There were very few plants in the garden when we moved here but one which always surprises me by just how long it flowers is Solanum jasminoides album – I have taken some cuttings, if they are successful I will plant several as ground-cover making a foaming white stream near the boundary.

There seems to be a lot of bare soil

I hope to be able to show you how all this looks next year.

Thanks to Helen the Patient Gardener for hosting the End of Month meme.