In a Vase on Mon… Tuesday

I’m a day late joining Cathy at Rambling in the garden for her weekly meme where she challenges us to find material in our own gardens to bring into our homes to enjoy.  I was away from home yesterday; we had been to Viareggio in Tuscany to see the Carnival parade.  It was bitterly cold on Sunday and is not much warmer today. Continue reading

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In a vase on Monday – thank goodness for evergreens!

I had a few things that needed to be done first thing this morning and I wasn’t convinced there would be anything to pick for a vase to today so I wasn’t sure I would join Cathy at Rambling in the Garden‘s Monday challenge to find something in our own gardens to cut and put in a vase to enjoy in our homes. Continue reading

In a vase on Monday – First bulbs

How times passes, it is already the 11th January almost half way through the month and still the weather isn’t cold; although we are threatened with snow and ice from Siberia at the end of this week or the beginning of next.  Monday is when Cathy at Rambling in the garden challenges us to pick material from our own gardens to put in a vase to enjoy indoors.  As always Cathy has come up with a charming vase and an intriguing title. Continue reading

In a vase on Monday and a book review

Monday is the day to join with Cathy at Rambling in the Garden and share a vase of flowers picked from our own gardens.  I use the word flowers loosely, in my Garden in January there are few flowers and those that are there are needed to add that extra spark to the borders.

In the cuttings bed the only plants remaining are the Antirrhinums and they are stubbornly refusing to actually open their buds, maybe if I picked them they would open.  So wandering around the garden I was beginning to feel a slight sense of panic, what could I use and not repeat the vase produced last week for which there would have been more material. Continue reading

Winter flowering plants in my garden – my thoughts

When designing a garden I have always given a lot of thought to how the garden looks in winter.  When I designed gardens in the UK I often devoted the front garden to winter interest as I feel it gives a lot of pleasure to the owners and passers-by at a time when many front gardens are rather bare.  The back garden was the space used most in summer and therefore I concentrated the other seasons there.

When I started gardening in Italy, between Rome and Siena I thought it would be possible to grow many plants to give pleasure during the winter months, I imagined that many bulbs would flower earlier here and so spring would be spread into the winter months.  I already knew a lot of shrubs that flowered in winter imagined my garden as an oasis of flowers throughout the year.  I WAS WRONG.

Many shrubs that flower in winter are triggered to flower by COLD; here the cold weather rarely begins before January so many plants that flower from November or December in the UK don’t start into flower here until February.

A case in point is Lonicera fragratissima, a favourite of mine as, for me; it has the best perfume of any plant.  In the UK it often begins to flower in November, maybe even October if there has been cold weather in September, here in Central Italy it doesn’t really begin to put on a show until February, then flowering on through March and if it isn’t too hot into April.  The heat of spring soon brings flowering to an end so if it didn’t have such a wonderful perfume I wouldn’t grow it here.

Lonicera fragrantissima

Lonicera fragrantissima

Viburnum tinus is perhaps the most reliable winter plant in the UK; yes, it is used in every municipal planting but for a very good reason, it flowers for 9 months of the year.  Not here!  It is really only just beginning to open its tightly closed buds and by April it will be over – then the foliage looks dismal before the new leaves grow, so not such a useful plant, mine was burnt badly by last year’s hot winds so is in need of a drastic prune, I had left the branches in the hope they might recover.

Tightly closed Buds of Viburnum tinus

Tightly closed Buds of Viburnum tinus

Shyly opening buds of Viburnum tinus

Shyly opening buds of Viburnum tinus

Some years daffodils don’t flower at all, or if they do it is late, so late that summer plants detract from their beauty.  Tulips, I won’t give up, I adore their colour and form but they too flower only a little earlier than in the UK and are often accompanied by early roses throwing my ideas of the seasons into confusion.

So it is with very much pleasure that this winter two plants have flowered for months and don’t seem to need cold temperatures to propel them into growth.  What plants you may wonder; well I think this post is long enough so I’ll describe these plants soon, can you guess what they are?

GBBD – Few but very Precious

The few flowers there are in the garden at the moment at very precious to me as a sign that spring is on the way.

Teucrium fruticosa flowers continuously from November through to April so though the flowers are small, they are profuse so they add a blue haze for many months.

Teucrium fruticosa

Teucrium fruticosa

Euphorbia rigida is the first to show signs of the acid yellow inflorescence that proclaims spring is here!

Euphorbia rigida

Euphorbia rigida

First pink colouration appears as the ‘buds’ swell, then they open to reveal bright, acid yellow/green.

Euphorbia rigida

Euphorbia rigida

These small Irises are one of my favourites, they don’t last very long and it can be easy to miss seeing them at all, but they don’t cost very much so I’m prepared to indulge myself.

Iris Purple Gem

Iris Purple Gem

Iris Purple Gem

Iris Purple Gem

Next

Lonicera fragrantissima

Lonicera fragrantissima

Lonicera fragrantissima has the very best perfume of any plant I know! It doesn’t flower for as long a period here as it does in the UK, it needs some cold to trigger the flowers.

Viburnum tinus is mostly tight pink buds with just a few open to revel the white flower inside.  This is another plant that does not flower for such a long period as in the UK where it flowers for maybe 6 months of the year.  My plant has not fully recovered from the burning winds during the summer and a couple of large stems still seem to be dead.  I’ll prune them out later in spring if there really is no chance from them recovering.

Buds of Viburnum tinus

Buds of Viburnum tinus

Opening buds of Viburnum tinus

Opening buds of Viburnum tinus

Arabis

Arabis

Arabis, grown from seed is full of tightly closed buds, but a few are braving the cold nights.

A surprise is that one Phlomis sufuiticosa has buds that are nearly open, while another plant, perhaps a metre away, doesn’t even have any buds yet!

Phlomis

Phlomis

I planted these yellow Crocus Ancyrensis last autumn, I love their sunny colour.

Yellow Crocus Ancyrensis

Yellow Crocus Ancyrensis

Rosemary continues to attract bees to its masses of blue flowers.

Rosemary

Rosemary

But best of all are the dazzling flowers of Anemone Sylphide; I’ve never manages to grow these before and they are one of my favourite cut flowers too so now I’ve had some success I’ll plant lots more next year!

Anemone Sylphide

Anemone Sylphide

Anemone Sylphide

Anemone Sylphide

Anemone Sylphide

Anemone Sylphide

Not only are the colours stunning but the flowers last a long time, I showed the buds just before they opened for last GBBD and this is one of the flowers that was a bud then – I am impressed because we’ve had frosts many of the nights and heavy rain and terrifyingly strong winds and still the flowers are beautiful. Others I planted under the Mulberry tree are slower to flower but that will only extend the season further.

A very happy Bloomday to all gardeners everywhere. Thanks to Carol for hosting.

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.