Just before it rains

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.

the former vegetable garden

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…

View from the house to the squared bed

View from the house to the squared bed

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).

nuphar luteum

nuphar luteum

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.


30 thoughts on “Just before it rains

  1. If an area isn’t working for you, it makes sense to change it, says she who has a border that isn’t working! I find it much easier to plant up a new bed if it has a name or a theme. The blue of your Salvia is absolutely stunning and will look beautiful with your roses.

    • I once found a salvia with same intense blue flowers (but it wasn’t a greggii I think), it had small grey leaves and was stunning. Not very hardy though. I bet everything on this one indeed, being a greggii should be a secure mark of hardiness in my garden, particularly with all that gravel I mixed into the clay!!! I don’t want to make too many plans on this planting scheme because usually I end up running out of space, I guess I will improvise this theme…
      (which border doesn’t work in your garden?? I don’t remember any…!!!)

  2. Vegetables are high maintenance; I think it is very difficult for anyone who works full time to be able to grow vegetables successfully, that said it is one of the areas of my garden that gives me huge satisfaction.

    • Oh I know, and believe me I am very envious when I see those perfectly managed veggie gardens with luscious fruits and I am even more envious when I see them working the whole year, not only in summer with some basil and some tomatoes… Said that, I have mentioned the fox and the grapes for a reason: I just despise what I can’t have.

  3. That’s a huge amount of work, but the results are great! The roses you have are splendid and that blue salvia is really spectacular. It’s a great choice – I’ll have to keep my eye out for one in my own garden 🙂

    • Thank you Matt, that was a real deal! Found it without even looking out for it. The world is full of beautiful blue salvias, the only problem is that 90% of them aren’t hardy enough in my climate and heavy soil. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for this one since I have other s. greggii doing good in my garden (of other colours: the worse the colour the more the plant thrives, that’s actually the rule…-despite to hardiness-).

    • Yeah, it’s bizarre actually because we have warmer days, but you have longer ones (days…) so there are plant that here flowers in June already in bloom at yours and vice versa. It depends on what the plant cycle is based on

  4. I love the salvia too! I could get quite addicted to salvias even though the most exciting ones all need winter protection here too. I am a bit easier on my roses though! I would not call a rose with no perfume a sinner! While I love scented roses I think that your China roses, which keep on blooming all summer, can be let off having little scent just for their looks! I planted a rose garden here and although I did choose mostly those that have good perfume I did allow a few ‘sinners’ if they had other good qualities! Love the trough too 🙂

    • Scent is a must for me when I choose a garden plant, particularly a rose. I used to be a purist on this matter. Only recently I have introduced chinas and modern roses and I love all of them for different reasons. This salvia is very scented by the way, leaves more than flowers. Oh, and by the way, I don’t like saints, sinner are funnier! 😉

  5. Hello Alberto, it’s Angela from Capodistria!
    I really enjoy reading you. Concerning the vegetable garden I think I understand you and I definitely agree with your decision. I also did the same long time ago: too much time & space consuming for a bunch of tomatoes! And it shouldn’t be this vegetable mess in an area that you can directly see from the kitchen! Do what you love. F@]#k the tomatoes, welcome new flower beds! 😀

    • Ciao Angy! I had sex with a variety of vegetables but never f@]#ked a tomato. I’ll try!!! 🙂
      Penso che sarà una parte dedicata a piante da secco. Forse sui toni del blu azzurro e arancione, mitigati dal verde delle graminacee… Verrà bene spero. A presto, un bacio!

  6. I’m really intrigued by ‘Edward Hyams’, I love the color and form. Its very different from our wild North American roses. And I am most impressed by your concrete water tank, it is quite rustic and handsome.

    • I guess you can have finally some sleep now that you’ve seen my tank, uh? :-))) Edward hyams has been found in Iraq (Iran?) as a seedling of probably the Burberry rose (rosa hulthemia). Look it up on http://www.helpmefind.com/roses it’s a very curious rose. Now that all the buds have all opened the little plant is all yellow. Wow!

  7. Personally I like the idea of having space to put in plants as you find them. I’ve been stymied the last couple of years, trying to create a garden in my head first. I threw that idea out and have returned to visiting garden centers to discover what is in bloom and rebuilding my borders. It’s much more satisfying this spring to garden.

    • Lol! Welcome to my world!!! Anyway at the same time if you know you are buying a plant for a certain place in your garden then you’ll probably buy a suitable one, rather than compulsive buying and then going around the garden with pot and shovel not knowing exactly what you are doing…

  8. All very exciting, Alberto. I love that tank and look out for similar when I visit architectural reclamation yards (which I do quite often). They’re very expensive now.

  9. I love the blue salvia! And the water tank and your persicaria next to the wisteria and all your roses! Did you prune the persicaria to get it to make such a nice round shape? Mine is sprawling a bit and I was thinking of cutting it back.

    • Thank you Deb! The persicaria dies back in winter and I cut to the ground, that’s the only care it gets. It is in full sun and planted in the gravel. I guess you shall make yours suffer a little bit more. Last summer it grew quite tall by August because it has been very rainy: a branch that touched the water even managed to root!

      • Thank you, Alberto! And thanks for your kind comment on my latest post. You asked about my stone steps. They were built in August, 2015. They are directly across from the house and provide a convenient entrance to the woodland garden. Prior to that I had to walk down a steep hill to get to the woodland garden, or else walk all the way down our drive to what I call the upper lawn, where there is a level entrance to the woodland garden.

  10. I want the tank. Just so you know.

    Your beautiful roses are flowering earlier than mine, and also you are the only person I know who has had sex with vegetables. Do you think it affected the roses?

    And just to skip back a post, now I know about the sweet scent of confetti– whatever confetti might be. I guess it isn’t little bits of colored paper? (Don’t do that silent scream thing again, it might scare the puppy.)

    • Maybe I thought that confetti were like pizza: some Italian delicatessen that kept their original name. It’s a toasted almond covered in sugar ice and candy. Confetti are used in every important happening in churches from baptism till marriage. Look it up on google!
      And just to skip back to vegetables I may be the only person you know who actually admit it. Roses never saw me by the way…

      • Why would I look it up on google when I can ask a real Italian? Got it now. If I ever wander into a church and there are candied almonds I will know what to call them.

        Glad you are protecting the innocent roses.

    • No it is true indeed! In full season you can get vegetables from local farms at cheaper price than the plants and soil you would buy in spring, there’s no point in having a vegetable garden, particularly for a single man like me, maybe a large family will think it differently…

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