The Silence of the Grasses

I’ve been joking lately with Linniew about her way of pruning roses… I said it was a bit of a massacre instead of pruning but now here I am, with my old dusty hedge trimmer exhumed from the darkest part of the stable, ready to play a mad killer, running up and down the grass garden with a sadistic grin in my face and cutting whatever passes by. This is the grass and perennial massacre, or the silence of the lambs grasses.

I didn’t feel a real killer though, because I’ve cut already dead plants indeed. But the part of running around with the saw in hand was funny, shame I’m using an old wired trimmer and I almost killed myself when I stumbled on the rope!

The one above and the one below have been taken last week, before we have this strong, freezing, dry wind from Russia blowing insistently for more than a week, moving things, shutting shutters, plucking my feathery grasses and above all this wind made this little Italy shake cold and covered in snow.

Fortunately it didn’t snow in the Venice  area, we only experienced cold and very dry wind.

This morning the mercury marked -9° C and it was a very cold and bright morning. I was a little worried about my garden, exposed for more than one week to very low temperatures and this dry wind. I decided I should cut the perennials and grasses back and see what was left of them. I must admit I still found a little life at ground level and I felt relieved.

The water on the pond is now an at least 10 cm thick sheet of hard ice, I hope my gold fishes and gambusias are fine… (and the lotus as well…)

I started cutting back the tall perennials, like eupatoriums and I mulched the dried stems, then I proceeded trimming the grasses horizontally, slicing every 20 cm or so, at the end I moved the mulch over what remained of the plants to eventually protect them from further cold.

The result is rather sad but it is a necessary stage of the circle of life. Or so they say… I think it’s pretty ugly. I just hope it is going to rain now, so that nice mulch will settle and soon the plants will grow green over it.

Meanwhile I am sketching maps and plans for the new parts of the garden that we are going to make this year. I need to re think the large bed of the yucca (pictured above) because all the deschampsias there didn’t perform as they should, too wet in winter (the past one!) and too dry and hot in summer for that particular grass, shame. I need to plant something tougher and possibly improve the soil.

Then we are going to lie the gravel on the gravel garden, finally, but I need to move some plants before, and last but not least I’m planning a new bed that I call the squared bed (which is actually rectangular) featuring 6 1mt topiary cubes (osmanthus x burkwoodii) and an old fashioned italian pear, small, sweet and ripen the 29th of June, San Pietro’s day, in fact this pear is called San Pietro’s Pear. I’ll keep you posted on future work in progress…


32 thoughts on “The Silence of the Grasses

  1. Being massacred by a hedge trimmer is part of the circle of life ? You’ve definitely been spending too much time with Linnie.

    Your grasses look lovely by the way.

    • Hi BAG you really made me laugh with your comment! You are probably right I should see other people too… In fact tonight I have some friends for dinner….

  2. Well Alberto it was high time you admitted to taking after your grasses with a power saw. I suppose it would sound more civilized to pretend you clipped them with nail scissors but they would still be whacked off short. I see you sort of sneak up on them, inch by inch. I know you are making mulch, but I do wonder if the motivation goes deeper…I guess you could mow them if you had a tractor with a mower– and maybe you could get a baler too and make feed for…something. A cow? (Just trying to be helpful here.)

    What is really exciting to me is the new “6 1mt topiary cubes” and I don’t know if that says 6 cubes or 61 cubes. Or is that 61 mountain cubes? Oh it’s probably 6 one meter cubes? Whichever one, I can’t wait. As you know I will be shaping up some boxwoods in my garden this year, which I am to do at the time when the forsythia blooms fade–I read that someplace. So I wait. And I will be watching for your photos of 6 or 61 cubes for instruction. In the meantime don’t trip on any more cords.

    And b-a-g, I SAW what you wrote.

    • Actually I think I’m going to plant 61 mountain shaped bushes. I wonder where though… Anyway it’s not my fault, it is English that sometimes could be very inaccurate with adjectives… or maybe it’s my fault… or maybe you need a pair of new glasses to see the space between 6 and 1…

      As for the forage thing I tried to mulch it and mix the hay with some meat but the dogs didn’t appreciate it, they can’t understand what big chefs call fusion food.
      And about the nail scissors… well, I assume you get rid of aphids with tweezers for eyebrows in your civilized garden… I wonder if I am supposed to paint the house with a nail polish brush, because in that case I should give a call to Maison Dior and place my order…

  3. What a difference to your garden, we have just cut all our Miscanthus down, also with a hedge trimmer, easiest way to do it, isn’t it?!
    Can’t help being concerned about your goldfish under the ice on your pond, over here we get told to melt a hole in the ice each day so that they have oxygen, just fill a pan with boiling water and sit it on the ice, soon you will have a nice round hole for them to breathe through!

    • Pauline, did you have a sadistic grin in your face while trimming the miscanthus? Because BAG made me worry about myself…

      As for the gold fishes I think they’re just fine, the pond is 1 meter deep, I know they go at the bottom of the pond and stay there in a kind of dormant state. I’ve been told that breaking the ice layer (or making holes) makes the water underneath even cooler and this is not good… Indeed gambusias are more delicate little fishes that could be dead with this cold, we’ll see.

    • In fact certain grasses (in particular the american natives) should be burned, and some seeds only sprout after being exposed to high temperatures. This is because in nature, prairies often burned down at the end of the hot, dry season, and the plants evolved to protect themselves from fire and even get advantage from it.
      Are you suggesting me to turn the Hannibal who lives in me into a pyromaniac?
      Don’t play with fire, Bridget…

  4. It seems early to eme to be cutting down the grasses, also the top growth will protect them from this severe cold. you’re very brave going outside anyway. Here in viterbo there’s been quite a bit of snow but so much freezing wind I feel very afraid for my plants. Christina

    • I know what you mean and yeah, I am a little worried for my leucophyllum frutescens and for my only phormium, but I worry for the spring bulbs too, the ground is so dry that snowdrops sprout and die thirsty but how can I water them with this cold?

  5. Alberto I heard it snowed in Rome…glad to hear not near you. We have the same cold dry wind many days from Canada. I have not cut anything down yet. I cannot wait to see the gardens especially that pear!!

    • A dear friend of mine (who taught me everything about old roses) have this big San Pietro pear tree in her yard, with a huge rosa fillips ‘Kiftsgate’ climbing (covering) it. I remember picking those delicious little pears in june and the rose and all the memories of me and my sister spending a few weeks in her house when we were children… So yeah, I’m looking forward to see that pear again which will bring some sweet memories along.

  6. I’m laughing to myself reading this because I was drawn into the blog post by the photo of feathery grass which my husband is a fan of but I cannot justify planting and sacrificing precious space for vegetables. I read your “About” page and learned that the author is you, Alberto, grand critic of dear LinnieW pruning methods! The hedge trimmer looks as though it could be a murderous weapon if put in the wrong hands.

    • Well, Roberta, first of all welcome to my blog, it’s a pleasure for me to have you commenting here. So your husband likes feathers and you prefer chickens… well… ok, I’m better no comment on this. I bet Freud wouldn’t kept his mouth shout though.

      I’ll spend some more time on your blog, let’s see if I’ll convince you with some grasses or you’ll make me get rid of them for some more tomatoes… 😉

  7. Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment. I know your garden is not in its summer glory, but I can see how beautiful it is. And I love the pond! I don’t grow any grasses (yet), but I do have a hedge trimmer and I love to use it! Your new bed with the topiary cubes sounds so interesting. Good luck with it. I look forward to the big reveal!

    • I liked the (yet) part 🙂
      Grasses are so used in public gardens and nevertheless private gardeners seem to be so afraid of them. I would not give up with my grasses, they’re 100% satisfaction.

    • It has been so cold around here too, that day I give up because of cold and didn’t finish the job. I don’t find this job back breaking though, I think it’s amusing, well… until you see the result by the way…

  8. Haha…love it! Yes…it’s just about time to cut down my grasses as well. It always makes me a little sad, the garden looks so completely bare and empty…even though I know it will soon be up and growing. I agree…the goldfish should be fine…I had an Aunt in Nebraska who had them overwinter every year…they do just go dormant…and as long as the water doesn’t freeze solid to the bottom, they are fine 🙂

    • Hi Scott!
      Nebraska sounds way colder that Venice so I think my fishes are just fine. Thanks for reassuring me. The pool is one meter deep in the ground, I think it will never ice until the bottom!
      Hopefully we’re going to see some green stuff sprouting in the garden asap, when I thought the winter was over, it just started!

  9. Tesco has a special offer on a very nice chianti, I may pop round with a couple of bottles and we can put our brains together, see what we come up with. Linnie, b-a-g, you coming too?

    • Please don’t bring Tesco’s wine, we have enough around here! It would be nice to have some bloggers coming over though, I’d really like to meet some of you in person…

      (…violins playing in the background…)

    • Hi Jack! Thanks for dropping me a line! I took a look at your blog, I love your garden, especially the meadow-like part. You live in such a beautiful place too, that view of the lake is breath-taking!

  10. Hello. Alberto! First, thanks for stopping by my own blog and for your kind comment. The subtle yellow river is actually my moss path, which has a yellow green color this time of year. It is so soft and a wonder to walk on!

    I enjoyed seeing your own garden, still gripped by winter but showing good bones and promise for the season to come! I will be back to see how your garden grows in that part of the world. One thing is the same here as there. Men go a little crazy with power tools. I have to watch my husband when he is playing with the electric hedge trimmer or who knows what will get its head trimmed off!

    • So I assume those beautifully trimmed spheres on your garden used to be peacocks in the past and there is only the body part left… 🙂
      I watched that picture of yours again and I noticed that the yellow stream I’ve seen yesterday (on the left part) could be a shrub, but I couldn’t see the branches. On the right hand you have the stream of moss you are talking about right? (please tell me yes or I need a pair of glasses…)

      • Hi Alberto, yes it is a shrub. It is forsythia, also called yellow bell, a very common, old mainstay in my part of the country. The same kind of shrub is also seen a couple of times in the photos of my front garden, and you can easily see its structure there. It is one of the first shrubs to bloom in late winter/early spring.

  11. Pingback: 2012.02.29 End of Month View – Pruning and new life | Creating my own garden of the Hesperides

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