The beginning of Summer

Stipa tenuissima and plantago major atropurpurea

I know that when stipa tenuissima comes into flower is a sign: summer is beginning. As you probably remember the stipa bed in the grass garden has been stolen to the gravel yard, so the soil here is very rich but mostly made of gavel. There are plants that love growing in well drained soil, one of them is certainly stipa tenuissima. I like the contrast with a large, dark leaved perennial like the plantago. It is almost incredible how easily it withstands full sun and drought. This part of the garden, indeed, is never watered artificially. This helps me holding off stipa, plantago but also nepeta, gaura and some alcea by self seeding too much so the plants thrive but don’t take over the entire yard.

Stipa tenuissima is a perfect backdrop for plants with a neat form like gaura lindheimeri or nigella damascena

I love the way this plant captures light and emphasizes other plants. Tigre (the cat) loves stipa too. I discovered a little nest amongst the clumps, where she likes to have a nap during hot lazy afternoons.

Stipa tenuissima, plantago major atropurpurea and nepeta fassenii, stipa with nigella damascena, rosa Single Cherry hips with rubus thibetanus

Nepeta fassenii is oversize this year due to all the recent rain. Spikes are thinner and tend to flop, I need to cut it back and see what happens. Rosa Single Cherry lasted so long (3 full weeks!) for a single flowered rose and it is setting hips at last, hundreds. They’re supposed to turn very dark once ripened. I like the contrast with the ghost bramble behind (rubus thibetanus), yet it is worrying me a little this year producing some thick shoots even 1 mt far from the original plant… this is more a bramble than a ghost, I wonder if I’d need a Medium, a priest or a shovel!

Phlomis tuberosa and salvia verticillata 'Purple Rain'

In another part of the Grass garden bees are very busy around salvia verticillata ‘Purple Rain’. Verticillata means that the spikes of flowers look like a ladder. I love ‘verticillata’ flowers! This salvia starts very early and last until the end of summer, then the dried seed heads remain until winter. I bought another salvia verticillata lately: ‘Smoldering torches’ which is supposed to reach 70-80cm in height but so far it is looking very very (very!) similar to ‘Purple rain’. Well I love this salvia and it is performing well in heavy soil with just a few drainage below, another taller one won’t be a disappointment! (Look at those bees, filling their furry boots with nectar! Slow down darlings you are fat enough!)

The yellow of phlomis tuberosa is a good counterpoint to the purple salvia. I’d like the taaaaaaall pink phlomis ‘Amazone’ but so far I only found very expensive yet small plants around so I never bought it. Indeed I found a very nice pink phlomis tuberosa at a good price, so I got 3 plants, they are starting to flower now in the Gravel garden, I’m going to take some pics as soon as they are in full flower because they really look good.

Clockwise: rosa Celsiana with rosa chinensis Angel Wings, rosa Sancta, rosa gallica Lord Scarman

All the roses are now in full bloom, most of them have been planted last winter so they are very small plants but it’s impressive seeing them so covered in flowers! Above you can see rosa Celsiana in the foreground with the small flowered rosa chinensis Angel Wings and Zéphirine Drouhin in the background. The single white is rosa Sancta (aka rosa x Richardii) is an ancient cross of rosa gallica, often planted very close to churches or other places of worship, so it’s known as rosa Sancta (holy rose). The last rose is a rather recent hybr. gallica Lord Scarman, very scented and with a paler reverse of the petals that gives a brighter shade in the centre. I hope these roses are growing as fast as last year’s ones so next year I can take a bird’s view picture of the rose garden instead of close-ups.

Next Saturday it’s bank holiday here in Italy, so I’m going to have a long weekend (as I normally work on saturdays too) to spend weeding and tidying up the garden, finally summer is here and I caught up all the spring jobs: no more new plants to place for a while, no more plants to move and weeds are slowing down because of the drought now… I might take some time for myself, lay back and enjoy… Really?!


36 thoughts on “The beginning of Summer

  1. You really do have a beautiful garden. I love Stipa……I have to use if as an annual, as my clay soil is far too heavy for it. Yours look magnificent, a really stunning planting scheme.

    You have frightened me a little as I have just planted the ghost bramble. What to do
    I shall leave it and hope it behaves itself 🙂

    • It absolutely worths leaving (and living!), I love this bramble and until it won’t lay a leaf on my Single Cherry I won’t hurt it. Last year many friends loved it when they came and visit my garden. I hope they are coming back this year so I can give away plenty of suckers!
      Believe me, my soil is very heavy clay too! I used to love stipa but couldn’t grow it because of my soil, like you. You may mix a lot of gravel with the ground in some part of your garden and you’ll see how stipa will thrive! It just ask for drainage. I call myself lucky, this ex- gravel yard bed is a real benefit for some plants!

      PS: quite often I tried to leave comments on your blog but couldn’t, or it seemed published and then it disappeared… tricks of blogspot for wordpress users maybe?

  2. Lovely summer in your garden Alberto. Here the gaura is just peeking up and the roses haven’t opened blooms yet. I read about ghost bramble, sounds interesting and really how silly of you to be frightened of one of your plants. Still, you have the (so pretty) holy rose so you are likely safe…

    • Ha! How silly of me… to be frightened… by a plant… in my garden… It sounds familiar, doesn’t it? 🙂
      I didn’t think about the holy rose, she could be of some help maybe or I could try voodoo on a bramble cutting…

  3. Lovely contrasts in your garden Alberto, you’re right, summer has arrived! Will look forward to all your photos of grasses now, to make us all envious!! Stunning contrast of your Stipa and plantago which will last for months.

    • Yes they last for a long time really! It is a little early for all other grasses now, only the cool season growers are in flower, for the others I need to wait until late july. Anyway the prime time of the grass garden has started.

  4. Hi Alberto, Summer really has arrived in your part of the world everything is looking so good. Nigella is an amazing colour of blue, do you just scatter the seeds? The ornamental grasses is what I remember most of all from your blog last year. I see you also use wordpress, I am having an issue with text size and style, have you ever had a go at making the text larger.

    • Hi Alistair, as far as I got you can’t change the font size or type on free themes, unless you buy a font bundle which allows you to modify all font settings on a free theme. Go to Dashboard/Appearance/Custom Design/Fonts they charge you 30 bucks for playing with fonts…
      I’ve always grown that cyan blue double nigella from seeds (coming from my mother-in-law), I scattered the seeds around the first time, after that I let nature do and I just pull the unwanted.

  5. My stipa is also looking at its best at the moment, I love the way it shows off all the other plants to advantage. Your garden is looking wonderful Alberto, do sit back and enjoy it a bit, with a nice glass of Prosecco perhaps! Christina

    • I know you have a lot of stipa and you also have lots of euphorbias along with it, which create a beautiful contrast. I need to try harder with euphorbias, they seem to dislike my soil. Next weekend will be the last hard work one, then I really need a whole bottle of Prosecco! 😉

  6. Hi Alberto,

    Beautiful photos and I’m loving seeing your garden. My Tennuissima isn’t as large as yours yet but I’m looking forward to such lovely, fluffy clouds once they mature!

    The garden is looking amazing at the moment – and so is mine. I’m loving the late evening sun on my blooms; they seem to glow magically in the light!

    • TeNuissima is the superlative of tenue (tenuous/slender), appropriate, isn’t it? As far as you keep them dry and well drained they will grow very fast, you’ll see! I start this bed from 4 very little plants (bought) and a bigger one (from a pot I had in my previous garden), in summer 2010 they looked like this:

      The year after they already looked like now.
      I also love the evening sun, and now that days are longer and longer I can finally enjoy it when I come home from work!

      • Hi Alberto,

        Thanks for the tip; mine are in a hot, dry border but I’m now concerned that all the rain we had in April and early May will upset them and perhaps is why they haven’t really grown since I planted them in March.

          • Actually it was April when I bought them! 😛

            Looks like I might be waiting a while before I see them do much… Oh well, good thing I’m generally patient.

    • Hi Donna, I thought you took a pause from posting but I have problems with RSS notifications about new posts indeed! I realised it only now, sorry! I normally don’t follow any meme anymore, but I will link to yours this Friday, I hope I’ll make up for my absence!

  7. Your garden is beautiful and your photography really wonderful. I envy you the roses that are not available in the US but I am glad you take pictures so I can admire them on your blog.

    • Dear Masha, I feel the same about your only US available roses! (or at least not-in-Italy available roses!)
      I’m glad my blog inspires you a little, as your blog really inspires me a lot about roses!!

  8. Lovely to see the Roses flowering. I remember when they arrived and were planted. Great Summer colour. Summer has arrived in Ireland too…the weather has been fab since we returned from holiday.

    • Yes! They were only skinny sticks with dry roots when they arrived! 🙂 Roses are such tough plants!
      I’d like to come and visit Ireland on holiday, it must be amazing now!

  9. Your Stipa Tenuissima is unbelievable! Mine is finally growing, but what an effort!
    Your Geranium is fabulous, too, never seen such a colour!

  10. Looking brilliant, Alberto. I thought my gaura had perished but it is only just now emerging – a while before any flowers. You’ve certainly raced ahead of me now in terms of what is flowering. D

    • Thanks Dave. Actually the one blooming is a seedling of the ‘mother’ gaura, the latter is in fact just emerging now. Then they start flowering all in a sudden as soon as the air heats up. I just hope some fox won’t come and savage your gaura…

    • Thank you Kevin, even though it’s not true, I should work a little more on winter flowering plants rather that winter looking pretty good even dead plants.

  11. Alberto – you are correct to be afriad of the ghost bramble. It’s not quite as bad as the ordinary bramble, but you do need to control it. The suckers will root easily once you have dug them up, so you can put it elsewhere in the garden. It’s such a wonderful winter plant though, it’s worth the effort.

  12. I am so impressed with your stipa! Your gravel garden looks fabulous. As for the ghost bramble, I think you need the shovel to dig it out the suckers and a priest to pray it won’t strangle you in your sleep!

    • Hi Deb, this is the grass garden, I’m going to post some pics of the gravel garden next time. I have gravel almost evreywhere though, no wonder people get confused… That stipa in that spot is also particularly good in pictures

  13. I love that salvia verticulata and the contrast with the phlomis. Really beautiful. I am developing a bit of a thing for salvias and that one had better go on the list!
    The whole garden is looking fabulous.

    • Hello Elizabeth! I really have a soft spot for salvias too! But I need to pay attention to their hardiness, as winter here could hit very hard. salvia verticillata is fully hardy, and so far I’m happy also with salvia x jamensis and salvia microphylla, they die back in winter but always sprout in spring again. This year I’m trying salvia guaranitica as an annual but I’ve been told it forms a kind of tuber you can dig up in fall and store, just like a dahlia… Let’s see if it’s true!

  14. Again…can’t believe I missed these last few posts! I love the Stipa…and can’t figure out why I’ve never planted any…maybe this next year I’ll find room for some 😉 I’m a huge fan of Salvia ‘Purple Rain’…love those whorled flowers…and that sultry, smoky purple color is amazing. I’ll have to keep an eye out for ‘Smoldering Torches’, I’ve never heard of it. Then again, if it’s as similar to ‘Purple Rain’ as you say, I can probably just be happy with what I have 🙂

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