Back in Business – part two

Ca' Rossa seen trough schizachyrium scoparium

Ca’ Rossa seen trough schizachyrium scoparium

I promised to be back earlier than two months… and here I am! I can’t say I had a tough time again so let’s skip the apologies and go straight to the good news!

Fall is definitely here even though I have seen no sign of yellow leaves yet. Asters, dahlias and grasses are much more reliable than trees, apparently. There are roses, flowers and new growth everywhere and the garden looks good thanks to the rain we had in september and in october and the still warm days (in 2011 I had the heating on since the first week of october while this year it’s still off).

Rudbekia triloba

Rudbekia triloba

I haven’t done that much in the garden this month but I spent a lot of time enjoying it and watching flowers and bugs and birds and taking pictures. I wish I ordered more narcissus and spring bulbs but in several times, while I was on the verge of clicking the ‘confirm order’ button, I thought of the wet soil in the garden and changed my mind.

Single Cherry rose-hips are almost black and echo the eupatorium Chocolate leaves

Single Cherry rose-hips are almost black and echo the eupatorium Chocolate leaves

I spent a lot of time tidying up and fulfilling those unfinished tasks that every garden and house have. Maybe I needed to clear my mind and I started from the space I live in. It worked. I worked too.

We burned a big stack of wooden pieces accumulated at the far end of the garden, there were old window frames, door frames, old shelves, rotten timber beams, stumps and many more wood you can’t burn for barbecue because it’s full of paint and poisonous stuff and nails. We set this big bonfire one evening, flames got so high and warm and it’s been very charming to watch. I like fire, I always did. Mum used to call me pyromaniac when I was a child.

It took us three evenings to burn down all the stack and every day we started the fire from the day before’s still hot embers. I hated that stack.

I went on painting some rooms inside (this time it was the stairwell round) and I’m painting the B-side of Ca’ Rossa. Then it rained and I got a little melancholic so I went to my parents’ for a couple of days and I started tidying up their house and I found a lot of interesting stuff to reuse in my house: some of my cousin’s old canvases (he’s a good painter) that my aunt put in the cellar to rotten and a very expensive Castiglioni lamp that my parents bought in the early 70’s without even knowing what Design is. I may put some pictures of the house rooms in a specific post soon.

But hey! Let’s get back to the garden, I have a lot of pics to show you!

Rosa gallica 'Violacea' hips and salvia 'Vanilla' with schizachyrium scoparium

Rosa gallica ‘Violacea’ hips and salvia ‘Vanilla’ with schizachyrium scoparium

Helianthus 'Lemon Queen', I love it and I want more for next year!

Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’, I love it and I want more for next year!

Pennisetum orientalis 'Tall Tails'

Pennisetum orientalis ‘Tall Tails’

The place in the garden I now love most is the square bed. All the echinacea seedlings I transplanted last May are in full bloom now together with salvia ‘Vanilla’, which has been flowering like mad all summer, the white fine textured aster ‘Montecassino’, some pennisetum seedlings (from ‘Magic’ and ‘Hameln’ parents), schizachyrium scoparium, verbena bonariensis and other little things…

the square bed

All the asters I planted in 2011 are thriving and I’m very happy with them. I also planted a crab apple with burgundy leaves called Coccinella (ladybug) next to a big silver artemisia and some colorful asters and dahlias: A little messy corner but I like it (see picture below).

Speaking about dahlias, I’ve changed my mind about them! They are some great drinkers and this is a problem to me and they are very late but now they’re finally giving their best! There’s more colour in the garden now than in Spring.


Clockwise from top left: orange dahlia ‘Sylvia’, pink dahlia ‘Sandra’, dark red cactus type ‘Chat noir’ (I love this one!) and dark leaved ‘Bishop of Dover’, probably the best one for foliage interest and habit and it’s very free flowering.

But not only flowers grow and thrive in this garden: it seems 2012 is the year of mantis. I don’t know if they have ‘the year of the mantis’ in chinese calendars but I’m sure I’ve never seen so many before in my life. You should know how much I hate them, even though I know they probably are very useful insects but: 1) their females bite to death the male’s neck during sex so he can ejaculate (or whatever a bug does); 2) they often pray (but I guess only the males do it, in the hope of not being found by a female…); 3) they have alien like faces and they blink eyes in a human way which gives me the creeps; 4) they hide in the grass and they make me scream like a girl; 5) they are too big to be just a bug.

Another weird thing I’ve found was a strange cocoon with golden spots. The one pictured here was in my level which I tried not to use for a while… until my father did and the cocoon got lost. I did some research on the internet because I’ve never seen a cocoon with golden spots before. It seems they are from a ‘new’ moth that attacks grapevines (and there are loads around here) with severe damages to the plant. It comes from North America and its name is Antispila oinophylla: just a mangy american moth with a queen’s cocoon… Thank you, dad.

What else? Oh, yes, the vegetable garden is living its second life! Zucchini are now flowering and producing like mad and this upsets me as I didn’t have any zucchini when it was time! Anyway I got rid of the tomatoes and planted brand new stuff: cauliflowers, chicory, escarole, leeks, lettuce, cabbages, fennel and all of them are doing rather well. I’ve also started a full bed of cuttings from roses and hydrangeas and other things just in the middle of the vegetable garden, where you see those tomato plants in the picture. I hope they are going to root for next spring so I can pot them and plant new tomatoes. If this is going to work I’ll do it every year, it is theoretically smart. (the picture was taken a few weeks ago, now everything is much bigger!)

Unfortunately I had to say good bay to aubergines and peppers, soon I must harvest the last chilies and get rid of the plants too.

The Grass Garden is getting ready for the first frost, I like the textures and the shades of colours and light of autumn, I just hope the trees are going to show some fall foliage soon!


28 thoughts on “Back in Business – part two

  1. Hi Alberto–What is that, summer still? Or better than summer? Such color and bloom– the fall leaves are about the only color in my garden these days. I put some rose cuttings in the ground outside too this fall, the first time I’ve done that. (Also some of the same in the greenhouse: Extreme Science.) Your house through the grass looks so grand! I do look forward to the interior images. LOVE the bonfire. I don’t have much experience with the mantis but it sounds like they have relationship issues.

    • Relationship issues?! I think they need a good advocate indeed! Many mantis full of baby mantis ( you can see them because they have a huge body) tried to come in the house for some overnight warming: I found one crushing on my sofa while I was watching telly… Did I mentioned I hate them?
      This weekend the cold arrived here as well, I now have the heating on and a stronger hope to see some yellow leaf on some tree…

  2. My goodness look at your garden…I have nothing left in bloom, but I did have Lemon Queen. I just posted about helianthus as I love it too. Fascinating about the mantis. And more zukes…wow your garden is amazing. Looking forward to seeing the work you have been doing on the house.

    • It took me quite a long to figure that zukes are probably zucchini right? I looked up in every dictionary and translator and at the end I googled it but I only found images of some dog treats! 🙂
      Yes lemon queen is a lovely variety, shame its shade of yellow doesn’t come as it should in pictures…

  3. Your garden looks quite beautiful. It’s hard to summarize so much, but you did a good job. I especially enjoyed hearing your thoughts on the praying mantis. I like them – but they do look a bit alien!

    • I am organizing a little spaceship full of mantis (only pregnant females because they’ve already done their job with males…) and I’m going to send it to you. I’m sure they are going to eat all you aphids, water your beautiful roses and they can even prepare you a coffee when you ask politely. I trained them.

  4. Your garden, like mine, has really come back to life! Beautiful! Glad you’re been enjoying your garden and not just working in it. Looking forward to more posts while its looking this good. Chrisitna

  5. Welcome back! It’s so good to read your post and see your photos. Your autumn still looks like summer! I will look at your garden as I watch Hurricane Sandy wreak havoc in mine.

    • You had me looking up on the dictionary about wreak havoc, we don’t even have a literal translation for those words and you can’t imagine how happy I feel about that!
      I’ll keep my finger crossed watching sandy on Tv! Good luck!

  6. Welcome back, Alberto! I just now finished reading this and your previous post. I hope all works out well regarding job, as well as house and garden and life in general. It is good to have time to enjoy being in the garden, not just to work in it. I had to laugh about your feelings regarding the Praying Mantis, as they echo my own. Creepy alien creatures, and they do eat the bad guys but also the good guys, too!

    • I gathered some more infos about mantis and now I hate them even more: did you know that mantis in (ancient?) Greek means prophet? And crossing sight with a mantis was believed to be a bad omen…

  7. Phew, so much to show us Alberto. I would be in my element to still have all these blooms at this time of year, well to be honest, at any time! Loved the Rudbeckia and the Echinacea, going to find room for these next year in our garden. I am not sure if I would be overjoyed to have the Praying Mantis land on me, but I like your picture of it.

    • Mantis came from Africa about 200 years ago in southern Europe, I don’t think they would land on you very easily until you stay safe in the north! 🙂
      Rudbeckia triloba is like foxglove: it takes one year to grow, blooms on the second year and then dies but it produces a lot of new plants around the garden. I would not recommend it to you though as in your climate I guess it’s going to grow too much and fall over. In my garden they could be almost as tall as me without water…

    • Dear Elizabeth you shouldn’t be so negative about your garden, which always looks like a paradise to me. And to be honest I started following your blog because of the very nice pics! So please keep on going!

  8. I can’t wait for your photographs of the grasses in the frost – that’s the only time I’m really tempted by them. I’ll be honest with you Alberto – thanks to you, I bought a miscanthus, and guess what, it has sat in its pot all year, because I don’t know where to put it, and I’m a bit frightened of it.

    • Good. At least you bought it! 🙂 considering you were the most skeptic about grasses I consider it a great goal. My next post will be entirely about miscanthus, in the hope of giving you some inspiration.

  9. Hi Alberto,

    Sorry I’m so late – hadn’t seen your blog post come up!

    Lovely photos, and your garden still looks very nice. I wish things were still so colourful here; I doubt many of the plants that stayed over winter last year will die back (ferns didn’t die back last year, for example).

    • You are right, we had a rather warm winter too last year. And dry, so dry that all my grasses stood up until february! Today rain and wind are already flattening my garden…

  10. I am so jealous of your rudbeckias.
    I’ve never met a mantis and I know that I am supposed to judge things for myself rather than trust other people’s opinions … but you have successfully managed to put me of them. Crushing on the sofa – that’s really disgusting.

    • I could send you plenty of rudbeckia’s seeds if you like, just let me know. I could even wrap and deliver a living mantis, always if you like, so you can judge for yourself…

    • Thanks a lot! maybe because this was the last part to be planned and maybe I got a little wiser in planning and planting, maybe it was just a lucky shot!

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