It is a great rose! Mine -as you can see- is left free to form a fountain shape and makes a very elegant specimen. Leaves are dark green and deeply veined, blooms are abundant, mildly scented and of a very candescent colour, from custard yellow to barely white. Absolutely a “must have” rose in every garden. I know it could be also trained as a medium sized rambler because I gave some cuttings to my neighbours and they are training it, quite happily, on a fence.
At the moment the second show stopper, when reaching the house, is New Dawn. This rose is not old (ca. 1930) but often listed amongst species and first crosses in catalogues. It is a hybrid Wichurana and shows off all its characteristic glossy leaves that look as if someone had just polished them -one by one. I have it trained on the pillar by the portico.
It is a large flowered climber, with pearl rose semi-double blooms and its flower buds open like a swirl. Scent is delicate but unique; a large specimen could be sniffed at a distance. Like Ghislaine de Féligonde, these roses have a main, glorious blooming period in May/June, then produce scattered flowers during all the warm season. New Dawn also sets several bunches of blood-red, fat hips. Definitely, it’s another “must have” rose, in my opinion.
In front of the house, under the small pergola, the courtyard is now invaded with gaura lindheimeri, stipa tenuissima, centranthus ruber… and lazy dogs sunbathing. Plus there is a huge hollyhock grown from seeds scattered by the original one (which I had obtained from seeds collected -not stolen!- from the Kew Gardens in London some years ago). I am pretty confident it will bear simple, pale pink blooms with a pearl-white throat that makes the flower glisten. The size of the plant is magnificent! I just hope it won’t collapse too soon…
This self sown ‘bed’ in the middle of the courtyard also makes a link with the gravel garden and the squared bed. Here, only verbena bonariensis and centranthus ruber had started to bloom, together with convolvolus sabaticus and sisyrinchium. All the grasses are forming a luscious background and the echinaceas will soon go “primetime” with veronicastrum, eryngium yuccifolium and other summer things.
The only grass in bloom now, other than stipa tenuissima, is hordeum jubatum (I love the common English name “foxtail barley”).
It is an annual grass that grows quickly from March/April and blooms now, with a pink tinge on its longer fur. Then it goes to seed and almost disappears as quickly as it arrives. As you may know I am not a seeder so I let this plant self seed wherever it likes. I just try to push her a little bit here, a little bit there… but it always sprouts in the middle of something, like unwanted friends or my mother’s calls… This year it has taken the whole passageway from the kitchen to the gravel garden, taking only a square meter or so of free gravel space but on a busy spot. No worries; I know this plant has a short life, just like my mother’s calls, so I get the most of its beauty and bear to lift my legs when passing through. It is particularly nice with centranthus ruber and gauras since all of them have exactly the same warm pink tinge on them.
There is also rosa Rival de Paestum blooming not far from there. It echoes the light of the gauras – and with a dark purple background provided by persicaria microcephala ‘Red Dragon’ and phormium, it really stands out! This rose is a newcomer in my garden but it flowers freely from late spring on.
The funny thing is that this layer of persicaria and phormium also shelters the fine pinks and whites from primary colours showing off on the other side: the yellow phlomis russelliana mixed with cyan nigella seedlings and magenta centranthus.
Speaking of magenta and purple… I am not a big fan of tomato red in the garden but I love all the other shades of red, from magenta to purple and orange too. In the rose garden there are quite a few of them mixing up: like rosa gallica Ombrèe Parfaite with vibrant blue salvia nemorosa, or rosa gallica Violacea contrasting with the chamois yellow of rosa Golden Moss, or rosa Jude the Obscure behind purple berberis x ottawensis or even the striped rosa gallica Belle des Jardins with burgundy penstemon ‘Blackbird’
Amongst all this beuaty I feel so relaxed and pleased: all the bad things go away… and when the night comes, I know I’ve just lived another day in Paradise. The gloom then lights up with hundreds of fireflies floating in the dark and glistening like Hell.
Since Sunday, it’s been raining “on and off” like a broken light bulb, but I managed to finish up a job I started the weekend before and that I’ve been planning for quite a few before then: re-converting the former vegetable garden. It’s pretty clear that I can’t manage a vegetable garden: too time consuming for a mere bunch of tomatoes (said the fox to the grapes…). Anyway, I guess some proper flower beds will look way much better than an abandoned vegetable garden, overtaken by weeds. The only things left there are three artichoke plants, the young persimmon, the even younger pomegranate and a very old and a very large clump of kniphophia uvaria.
First step was preparing the soil, I’ve broken it up roughly, mixed in peat moss, compost and a load (literally a load!!!) of shingle, used to make concrete and made of sand and gravel. Then I worked the soil again and for now the result seems to be fine. I am happy with that so now I can start planting the few pots I’ve recently brought home from the various local Spring flower festivals…
The vegetable garden was situated just behind the gravel garden and the squared bed (central in the picture below), although I am not sure I will be able to see anything from this vantage point in full season. In the picture you still can see some of the mixed sand and gravel I used to mend the soil; I’m going to use the rest to stabilize part of the gravel paths…
Now I just need a name for these beds. I guess they will mainly host roses, some grasses (not too tall and some drought tolerant perennials. Salvia greggii ‘Blue Note’ will certainly be planted here, as well as this beautiful early hybrid of rosa hulthemia (r. persica) called Edward Hyams: leaves are glaucous and flowers are rather small, single, bright yellow with a reddish hint at the base. This rose is close to the botanic form and related to those exotic roses recently introduced as ‘Eyes for you’ (and eyes for other’s too but I don’t remember all their names, they look like shrub peonies).
Other roses are bravely starting to open just before it rains, slightly later than 2014 which was a little warmer at the beginning of Spring and so pushed everything into flower a couple of weeks earlier than this year. No hurry! The china roses are always the first to enter and the last to leave the stage… Their only sin is that they aren’t particularly scented when compared to other roses like the gallicas or the rugosas for example.
I particularly like the small concrete water tank by the pergola.
The young wisteria ‘Texas Purple’, phormium and persicaria microcephala ‘Red Dragon’ are making a purple shaded backdrop to the little bright yellow buttons of nuphar luteum (an endemic relative of waterlilies in Italy).
I found that concrete tank not very far from its present position, when I bought the house. I guess it was once used to feed pigs. It’s been moved using rounded wooden chunks as wheels, like the Egyptians did with those heavy pieces with which they built the pyramids… This tank is freaking heavy too!!! there are some little fish in the water (to prevent mosquitos) who happily overwinter even under a cover of thick ice.
I am definitely paying my dues with gardening! A whole year of neglect can be devastating in terms of maintenace in a garden as big as mine.
Anyway I’ve been working very hard during this last month and I have had the time to get ‘in touch’ with the garden again.
Lately I’ve been pruning roses, trimming grasses and perennials, and tiding up in general almost everywhere. I also sprayed a preventative treatment of Bordeaux mixture on the roses so that they can have a fresh start without last year’s fungus and diseases still attached to the trunks and old leaves. I might give them another spray in full summer, when they’re more prone to blackspot… and crap like that. I have also sprayed the yuccas which had rusty spots on their old leaves. I also gave them a fresh haircut that made thier look turn from Cousin Itt (remember the Addam’s Family?) to exotic palms in California. I love the new style!
I have to say I am quite proud of my efforts, so far. Roses are full of fat buds and soon they will start blooming (they were already in prime time last year in this period, but I guess the season was a little early because of a very warm winter we had).
While taking care of my plants, I had the time to note what’s working… and what’s not, both in design and specimen. It is about time to make things simpler: a tidy and healthy garden definitely looks better than a complicated design and sophisticated combinations that don’t work and are far higher maintenance.
The crabapple trees are all in full bloom now. The three malus ‘Red Sentinel’ had grown rather tall so I decided it was time to get rid of the lower branches to let some light in. Malus ‘Coccinella’ is very pretty, and although its colour does bother me a little bit sometimes, its arching behaviour is quite interesting.
Malus ‘Evereste’ had been planted too close to a dark green phormium which had become huge over these last two years, all the same I like the combo – both when in flower and when bearing fruit on bare branches. I might get some more crabapple trees, although their flowering season is pretty short they are a beauty in winter too.
I realised I need more shrubs in the woodland, and particularly under the cherry trees. The wild cherry tree’s been flowering for a week now and it’s such a beauty; the other one, the one producing actual cherries, will be blooming right afterwards.
There are shrubs doing rather well in the garden: eleagnus umbellata (autumn olive tree) is such a fast grower, and it look pretty good in bloom too. I have just found out that its berries are edible too, I shall try.
On the other hand elders are not really making a move; this is pretty disappointing since they grow wild everywhere around here. I didn’t expect viburnums to behave so well in my garden but they do indeed, except for an evergreen veriety called ‘Chesapeake’ which I reckon had passed out during this last winter. Never mind, I saw a terrible program on TV where this man travels around America to find out disgusting things to eat. He was at Chesapeake and there he ate a living blue crab and a deliciously cooked muskrat (yes, I said muskrat!). He had grilled raccoon the other day! I stopped watching the program (and liking the place…).
Bearded irises seems to have found their proper place in my garden; they grow and bloom and I love their leaves. This is a particularly fine scented one that started flowering yesterday. Rhyzomes came as a gift a couple of years ago, although during the first season it just grew and didn’t flower. Today, the warm air smells wonderful outside: all the fruit trees and the irises make it smell like confetti.
Also this last month I have been pretty busy educating a little sweet monster that arrived…
Say hello to Gaga (although not so “Lady”…), a wire-haired dachshund that will hopefully help me conquer the moles…
I told you I had a plan. It worked in history, why shouldn’t it work in a garden?
My garden is already divided in sectors or large beds, since all of it is a total mess, I decided the best thing to do was to conquer it – sector by sector – and win my garden back again. Starting with the passageways.
It’s a path I have to take at least once a day, normally on evenings, to take the kitchen waste to the compost leap, for example. It’s a simple path and it’s ‘floored’ with gravel, which glows a little, so most of the times I don’t even bring a torch with me and venture out in the gloom. You might not believe it, but several times I’ve been attacked by rose branches in the dark. I felt my trousers torn, my wrists and hands brushed with thorns; sometimes they even knock my hat off.
You may recognize the same vantage point of some nice pictures shown on my previous post, the one with all those lush roses in bloom. Here you can see them – at their worst!
I took a class of rose pruning in Trieste a few weeks ago. The trainer was Maurizio Usai, an important garden designer in Italy; he’s a gardener and knows everything about roses. The course was very interesting, I knew most of the theory about pruning but actually never tried it on a plant. It gave me the self-confidence to start pruning.
It’s been sunny and rather warm outside, although all the mornings we still have frost. But it’s actually the seasonal standard. I took my leather gloves, my secateurs and some rope, an extra-large amount of energy and time was needed as well but the result fully satisfied my expectations.
The crabapple bed is a rather large island between the grass garden and the rose garden. It includes obviously three young, but rather large, crabapple trees indeed (malus ‘Red Sentinel’) and a smaller purple-leaved one (malus ‘Coccinella’), a couple of tall miscanthus, a few other medium sized grass clumps, some perennials and roses. Roses here have been planted rather close to each other, because I wanted the effect of a large cushion of them and because actually I didn’t expect them to grow so fast and so big…
I have pruned the roses like I’ve never done before (of course, because I had never actually pruned them before!), starting with the dead canes, then the old canes and then shortening the big strong new branches to an imaginary shape level. I might have chopped more, maybe, but I didn’t feel that confident yet; let’s see how they react to this pruning and then I’ll have more confidence about how to proceed next year. Pruning roses is rather easy if you learn how to observe the rose’s growth: the plant suggests itself how to proceed.
To give you an example, Adam Messerich is a bourbon rose that sends exuberant branches straight up to the sky. If you leave it that way you will see some flowers on the top of those branches… and not much else. After cleaning the plant from dead, weak and old branches, I took the young canes and tied them to a reversed ‘U’ I obtained from a willow branch. The result is a shorter plant with waving branches that will, hopefully, pruduce new branches from every bud and new blooms from every one of those new branches. I’ve been told not to peg down for more than a couple of years on any rose because it’s supposed to weaken the plant (but this is not really an issue with some plants, is it?).
Rudy and the cats liked the job I did and reckon it could become a nice pergola for them in the summer. Somehow I share the same feelings as my pets.
At the far corner of the crabapple bed there is the compost leap. As such, the path that leads there makes an ‘S’ with the crabapple bed on the right (sector won: Alberto-1, garden-0), and two large rose beds on the left. The first one was really bothering me. Last Spring it looked really good, although already a little messy and out of control – but at least bursting with blooms.
There are various roses here, mainly shrubs (there are Ombree Parfaite, the dark purple gallica I have posted lately) that lies all around a power pole on which a beautiful Zephirine Drouhin on one side, and a young, but exuberant Bobbie James on the other, climb and cover it up.
There is still a lot of work to do – but I guess the hardest part is the kick-start, then I will become more confident – plant after plant – and bed after bed. Now I have a big rose to train on the walnut tree… See you soon!
Do you remember that Shelley Long’s late 80’s comedy “Hello again”? Well, I do: she died in a very stupid way and after a year or so her sister had the opportunity to bring her back to life thanks to a spell under the right moon. God, how can I remember a movie like that? I was only a child!!
I didn’t die lately but let’s just say I went through a lot and let’s pretend that a spell under the right moon brought me back to blogging life. Then whether the spell was black magic or white magic, it is up to you.
Not only you have been neglected, my dear blogging mates and readers, my garden has too! Although by the pictures posted here you can see an exuberant rose garden, please note that pictures have been shooted in May 2014 (a garden never look bad in May, does it?) and, on top of that, all the images have been conveniently cropped so that only the good remains…
I read in some friends’ blogs that the latter summer must have been very hot and dry in US. Here in Italy, on the contrary, we had an early warm start in spring and then temperatures remained under average and rainfall rather important all summer long.
My roses grew and bloomed like hell and for a very long time, altough rainy days didn’t give me the chance to appreciate my garden the way I wanted, so I often kept a selection of roses floating on a water bowl inside the house. This way I could at least apreciate their precious scent.
Under a continous rain everything grew and grew: taller, thicker and pricklier… I don’t remember the exact moment when I’ve lost control completely but I guess it happened rather early, like someday in June. By September the only thing I could do was preparing me a drink and pretend that nothing never actually happened.
Then I’ve been plotting of a comeback all winter. Which is not over yet, I know well, but I’ve already made my first move. The plan is conquering my garden back this year. Obviously it (the garden) doesn’t know yet, I’m really counting a lot on the surprise factor. For a start I took a very interesting rose pruning course last week and now I’m looking forward for a hands-on. My roses have never been pruned yet and it’s going to be a bit of a challenge for me. I’ll keep you posted.
I am also plotting about getting rid of the gravel garden. It started very well a couple of years ago but then plants started thriving too much and took over the gravel and are now heading to the house… As things stand now, I can’t see farther than 5 metres watching from the kitchen door. But I do have a plan though… Did I tell you that?
During our trip to Berlin, we managed to pay a visit to Karl Foerster’s gardens and nursery in Potsdam, a very nice historical place, just out of Berlin, where you can also visit the Sanssouci Palace and gardens, once house for Frederik the Great, King of Prussia (unless you find some posh concert scheduled, like I did, and there’s the Palace completely shut down and guarded, with all people in some Armani dress looking at your shorts and trainers, lifting their upper lip and showing a little of their rabbit-like incisors in dislike, but this is another story).
But let’s get back to Mr. Foerster, he was a nurseryman and a garden designer and a breeder, born towards the end of 1800, he’s been the forefather of the so-called ‘Dutch Wave’ or ‘New Perennial Wave’, now led by designers like Piet Oudolf, Tom Stuart Smith and so on. In fact Karl Foerster, totally ‘out of time’, started planting and selecting tough perennials that looked sturdy planted in masses, he wanted something with a more natural feeling to the planting so he soon started using and selecting grasses too. If you consider that all this was happening more than a century ago I’d rather say he’s been a pioneer for modern gardening.
The place could be divided in 4 sectors: the nursery, still up and running, the back garden, the sunken garden (front garden) and the house with a part of private garden. The house is actually owned and inhabited by Karl Foerster’s daughter, if I got it right, although I did the math and I guess she ain’t a kid anymore. We found the garden very easily, you can find directions clicking here if needed, we parked the car and started our visit from the back garden. All the venue is surrounded by a thick hedge of large, botanic roses and scattered with rather old trees such as Cedars and other conifers as much as bushy evergreens. Although there are also a disappointing rock garden, the best part of the back garden is made of two large, rectangular beds planted with perennials and grasses and a bunch of lollipop shaped acer pseudoplatanus.
All is framed by a clipped hedge and another linear border that runs all along. I gladly found various kinds of asters, miscanthus, heleniums, anemone japonica, sedum and some clumps of the tall rudbeckia laciniata ‘Herbstsonne’.
Every plant had its tin label carved with the name of the variety, all was very tidy and well tended. I liked this cloud of calamintha nepetoides under anemone ‘Bressingham Glow’, I shall try some calamintha in my garden too, although this garden was planted in sandy soil, while I work with heavy clay here.
Some things let me kind of disappointed, like a bunch of badly pruned rosa ‘Maigold’ planted in a row, like soldiers deployed in front of the house but the garden is very nice. Then you can reach the sunken garden through some steps and a narrow passage behind the house. The sunken garden was a real revelation.
Here too everything’s very well tended, healthy, exuberant but not at all floppy. At the centre of the garden, at a lowered level there are a geometrical, almost rectangular pool with waterlilies and loads of frogs and gold fishes.
There are paths forming concentrical shapes all around the garden, starting from the pond but the thing I liked was that from most points of view you have the idea of a united big planting. Tall perennials and grasses such as eupatorium and molinia hide and show different perspectives, screen partially something that otherwise could seem obvious and create a sense of embrace.
What really impressed me was a sense that anybody could make a garden like that. I don’t say this as an offense to Mr. Foerster, he did all this a hundred years ago and I admire him for this but nowadays I can see a very accessible ‘design’ to this garden, something that inspires you and makes you believe you can do it too.
At the end we visited the nursery: all was tidy and clearly labelled and priced despite the sale season was in low peak. You could find a good selection of perennials and grasses at very reasonable rates but unfortunately we didn’t buy anything because I was afraid of loosing the poor plants during our trip back home and at the end of the day I have so neglected the garden in these past months that buying new plants before tidying up a little would be a shame.
Hello, hello! I’m back, safe and alive and I got proof:
Although some of you might have even think I succumbed over shingles, well keep in mind that I’m like bindweed: I never die.
It’s been a very, very, very hot and dry summer. It didn’t last long, thank God, but it heated enough to burn a good part of my garden, I’ve lost some plants to drought and moles and the great part of my summer glories lasted too short, erased by a merciless sun. Add to the picture that I couldn’t stay ahead with weeding and you obtain a rough idea of the mess my garden looks like. Result: a massive loss of interest in gardening and a total closure about the blogging thing. I’ve been missing you, though, I guess I’ll have a bit of a catch up to do now.
We just spend a week in Berlin, climate there is definitely cooler than Italy, barely chilly I’d say, but fortunately as soon as we came back home the weather had changed here too and the hot summer seems to have left space to some rainfall and some reasonable temps. Living in the garden seems possible again and despite the weeds and other issues I feel I can still make some projects.
But I’ll tell you about my garden in further posts, I’d like to tell you something about Berlin today. It’s been on my wish-list for a long time and I’m very happy I could finally pay it a visit. It’s a big city, bigger than I’d expected but very easy to walk around and with good public transport (underground stations look rather shabby and bare, though) , a great number of places to eat (worryingly too much, I’d say), great museums, great modern architecture mixed up with what remained of the German neoclassic after the War. I liked living the city and hanging around wondering whether I was on the East or West side of the Wall. Nowadays, after more than 20 years the ex-GDR looks even more modern than the West Side, yet the presence of the Wall is very strong, not as a boundary anymore but as a deep wound that is difficult to heal. I don’t want to talk about politics here, I’m not the right person and I’m not even in the right place for such topics, I’d just like to share with you what I felt during this trip.
Visiting the German Parliament didn’t leave me indifferent either. A fence made with laser-carved transparent panels read the German Constitution, consonant rich words floating and glistening in the air, over those powerful buildings.
The Jewish Museum is a place everybody should pay a visit to. The building is a masterpiece itself, with empty spaces (called Voids) capable of provoking strong feelings to the visitors.
The East Side Gallery and the Checkpoint Charlie are other two spots that impressed me a lot. The Wall thing, as I wrote above, but also all those Graffiti, ‘unrolled’ over cold plaster panels, just like a camera roll, recording history. And Hope. The first two pictures of this post have been taken at the East Side Gallery, an open air museum made of some Kilometers of still existing Wall. The trabant was a car produced on the GDR, its breaking through the Wall is an iconic image. Another image that I enjoyed was the famous kiss between Breznev and Honecker, a fraternal kiss, normal in Russia but reporting the quote both in Russian and German: My God, help me to survive this deadly love, that gives to the whole thing an ironic and kind of queer accent. The bear is the symbol of Berlin and we found these big bears coloured like some expensive fancy cows you can find everywhere lately. I liked the idea though. Ah-hum, speaking of queers, in the picture I was just checking if it growls. It doesn’t.
Berlin is also a very green city, full of parks and trees, and although I couldn’t find anything really interesting under a gardening point of view, I’ve been pleasantly surprised in finding an open border with perennials and grasses and some drought tolerant bushes (although you can’t really talk about ‘drought’ in north Germany…) all in the middle of Tiergarten, the wide green heart of Berlin.
A central stream of silver leaved artemisia made a kind of diagonal line through heleniums in various hot hues, asters, and many other perennials and grasses such as stipa tenuissima and various molinias and miscanthus. There were also eupatorium scattered here and there and silver leaved bushes like sea buckthorn and eleagnus. All surrounded by deep green, tall trees.
The white buttons I guess it’s a white form of knautia, or scabiosa or some of those things by the way. I liked it paired with deep red heleniums. The border was set in a slightly rounded slope, making it look like a big embrace and giving a little sense of dizziness to the observer. The ‘fish eye’ effect is not given by the camera settings, it was real.
Ok I’m keeping the treat for the end… Did you think I wished ‘welcome home’ to myself? Although after a trip and a long absence from blogging I feel kind of come home, in many senses, but we have some new entries on the family! Please meet the kittens:
They’re 2 month old brother and sister and they don’t have a name yet. I can only snap a picture while they’re asleep but I promise I’ll try my best to post a better one in the future. The red haired is a devil, fortunately the female is more calm and sweet. So far they have been welcomed very happily by Mina that against any expectation is always playing with them. Rudy is always a little scared of kids of any kind but I count on him to get over it. Tigre is not very happy with the newbies but at least she didn’t pack and disappear as I was afraid of. Any name suggestion for the kittens will be welcomed. I have Ginger in mind for the female, what do you reckon?