April 6th 2016 – busy in the greenhouse

It seems that I find time to write my daily posts later in the day so that the date at the top of the post is actually the following day – more confusion I’m sorry. Continue reading

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Visiting the Lentil Fields at Casteluccio

The July following our arrival in Italy some friends took me up to what seemed like the top of the world to see the lentil fields flowering in Casteluccio in Umbria.  We were a little early so although I enjoyed the day there wasn’t all that much to see.

I have been promising myself and my husband that we would go up one weekend when we were sure the fields would be colourful.

So nine years later we got there! Continue reading

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.

Wild flowers in Puglia

Last weekend we drove south to spend the weekend in Puglia, on the Gargano peninsula to be exact.  The sea was amazingly blue and it was so hot, the water was where I wanted to be.  On the map the Gargano is the spur on the boot of the Italian peninsula.  It is mostly a National Park and I’ve been told that in spring there are more varieties of orchids found here than anywhere else in Italy, some that are only found here.

While driving to visit some of the different towns we often stopped the car to enjoy the stunning views.  By the roadside were wild flowers that could obviously cope with the difficult conditions.

Right by the road I spotted this root;

Knurled and twisted root

what could it be?  The root of a tree? Cistus?

Following the roots to some green leaves…

the plant was much smaller than I had imagined it would be.

with the foliage and also a few flowers it was easy to identify as a Thyme, certainly the most tenacious thyme I have encountered.

At another stop I saw these beautiful flowers.

They also grow on cliffs, seemingly not to need and soil at all to survive.

From the buds that you can see, can you guess what plant it is?

Here’s a further clue.  We eat them in bud and in the fruit stage……

Here are all the stages; bud, flower and fruit

Did you guess? Yes, that’s correct.  This is the caper plant (Capparis spinosa).

The buds are picked and then either conserved in brine or under salt with no liquid which is the way I prefer to buy them as they have a more intense flavour, great on Pizza or in Spaghetti alla Putanesca.  The fruits (also conserved in brine) are often served along with olives for aperitivi.

I’ve tried to grow it in the garden but for a plant that seems to need so little to grow, it is very choosy and it is very difficult to encourage it to grow in a garden setting.

May feast – visitors to the garden

Scarce Swallowtail

Shield bugs mating on rosa Rhapsody in Blue

There are always a lot of this beasty

Wasps make their nests all over the garden

I used to be terrified of wasps but now, in the garden, I’m happy to see them – they eat aphids, here on Sedum, and butterfly eggs and cabbage white butterfly eggs and small caterpillars.  The sedums looked really sick, ants were milking the aphids until the wasps arrived to clean things up.

This green caterpillar’s days were numbered when I found it on a Heuchera bud.

The stripy bug again, this time on Allium

Sharing a meal; pollen seekers on thyme

Red Admiral

A pollen seeking fly? there were lots all on the same plant

And there are always lizards who don’t usually wait around to be photographed!

in the greenhouse

in the triangular rose bed

My thoughts – Pollinators in the Garden

When I walk around the garden one pleasure that is difficult to share via this blog is the SOUND in the garden.  Bees of all kind buzzing and flying from flower to flower and by default pollinating the plants will the air with sound!  Sometimes I am aware that the garden is positively noisy!

I notice that different plants attract different pollinators.  Entomology is a skilled science and I will leave the difficult job of identification to the experts as I am certainly  not an expert in this field.

Thyme attracts what I think I recognise as honey bees; I’ve thought hard about actually having a hive but I think I would find it difficult, I don’t like the thought of being stung plus perhaps more importantly I don’t think we would ever use the amount of honey a hive is likely to produce.

Another view

Convolvulus cneorum also attracts honey bees.

Teucrium attract larger bees, but they were too fast for me today and all the images were blurred.  I’ll try again on a less windy day when they might be more static.

A tiny solitary bee on Euphorbia

Not a bee, but looks like its collecting pollen

They definantely like Euphorbia

Definately more fly-like than bee-like

Completely black, this looks quite evil! Not quite in focus, sorry

All the T. Satin Pink had one of these in their centres today.  At first glance they look like bees but I’m pretty sure they’re not.  When the roses begin to flower this is the pest that eats into the centre of the flowers, destroying them, the tulips may have even killed them as they weren’t really moving.  When they appear on the roses I go around and pick them out (wearing gloves as I’m a bit squeamish) and squash them to stop them reproducing and getting out of control as they don’t appear to have a natural predator.

On warm days this week there have also been lots of butterflies but I have failed to get good images of them.  This is from earlier in the week.

A Painted Lady?