Overpowering Summer

benchIt’s like a fire burning, the heat changes the perception of colours, decreases the speed of every movement, turns away every sound except that repetitive, dry click of some balm cricket hidden God only knows where. Summer is here. Strong, bold, hot and suddenly dry.

gravelgarden1

I am at home and sick, my skin is burning too: I got shingles on my upper leg which is making even walking pretty difficult, since it hits the nerves, other than the rash.

echinaceaIt’s been a while since I had the chance to stop and observe the garden. Where have all my roses gone?! What happened to those echinaceas? Bees are moving from flower to flower, wasps, flies: from a short distance everything looks still, although on a closer look there is frantic movement.

gravelgarden2Good news is Great tits have returned to the old wooden nest box and I reckon they are having a second brood. Ale told me that it was possible, when the season is good they might have more than one litter. I guess it’s the same couple since only a few weeks ago the first chicks were leaving the nest. I’m glad they came back.

hordeumWeeds are taking over, I’m officially worried about it now. The problem is not only weeds but also all those cute seedlings I didn’t have the heart of pulling away at the time: Now they are taking over the gravel garden, there are hordeum and centranthus growing everywhere, and dipsacus taller than 2 meters, and echinacea seedlings chocking their parents…

pergola

 

A Garden Stroll in June

verbascum blattaria alba, rosa Ghislaine de Feligonde, oenothera Sunset Boulevard.

verbascum blattaria alba, rosa Ghislaine de Feligonde, oenothera Sunset Boulevard.

The weather has been very fussy and on the chilly/rainy side but the garden is doing its job no matter what and apparently we’re going to have a nice taste of summer for this weekend. Today I came to work without a jacket for the first time this year: normally I’d come in shorts!

Sally Holmes

Sally Holmes

Ok I tried to disguise this post as a generic one but it is actually just another post about roses, I’m sorry guys, I have a lot of roses and they are all behaving very well this year, the chilly weather is helping to extend the blooming period, although I forecast mildew and blackspot ahead…

Sally Holmes is another hybrid musk, bred by an English who named the rose after his wife, I believe. It’s almost thornless and it has a real perpetual blooming throughout the whole season, flowers are simple but very big and the plant is very healthy and it grows pretty large.

Rosa Mundi

Rosa Mundi

Rosa Gallica Versicolor has a lot of names but I actually prefer its short name Rosa Mundi. It is a variegated sport of the plain rosa gallica officinalis and I guess this is maybe the oldest variegated rose ever, already known before 1581. The plant in totally identical to rosa gallica officinalis except for the flower colour, so it’s short, bushy and thorny. Scent is very good.

Rosa Mundi

Rosa Mundi

Since rosa Mundi is very short (less than 1 mt) I used it under a much taller Zéphirine Drouhin which is trained up a power pole together with Bobbie James, this latter flowering for the first time this year but hopefully growing into some very tall plant. I like this combination because the taller roses echo the color pattern of the small one. I just hope the final effect won’t become a giant marsh mellow… or maybe I do…

Bobbie James and Zéphirine Drouhin

Bobbie James and Zéphirine Drouhin

Jason@Gardeninacity recently made me think I’ve planted some summer pots about a moth ago. They’re grouped against the wall, under the pergola and just on the left of the kitchen door. The whole thing started with the need of having some fresh herbs to pick while I’m cooking (so I don’t burn things while picking some herbs…), basil in particular but also allium tuberosum (which tastes like chives but more on the garlic side) and a good sage that apparently doesn’t like to overwinter in my heavy soil. I also bought a couple of chili peppers and one month ago I could not resist to a small crabapple ‘Evereste’ in full bloom. Then I disguised all with fillers to ‘merge’ the pots: a purple leaved ipomea batatas, a white flowered bidens and a couple of silver helicrysum: one petiolare and one italicum. On the background there are a big clump of white flowered milkweed, I think the variety is ‘Ballerina’, which is very happy about this rainy weather apparently. Looking forward to seeing it in bloom.

POTSWell at the end the basil plants have all dead (because of the rain) and I guess the chili peppers are waiting for some heat to start growing so actually you can’t see everything in the picture…

I believe that milkweed (asclepias) won’t be host for any Monarch caterpillar here in Italy but I like the plant anyway. Indeed, some butterfly I haven’t seen yet this year is the swallowtail, my garden is usually a magnet for them but I guess I just need to wait a little longer and feed the babies: I think they are as fascinating as the butterfly itself.

Swallowtail caterpillar with curled head, trying to look sweet

Swallowtail caterpillar with curled head, trying to look sweet

I finally managed to tidy up the crabapple bed, I decided this will be the name of the strip that divides the Grass garden from the Rose garden. It has roses planted, tall grasses and the crabapples, obviously.

I like the different kind of greens and greys and purples and patterns of the leaves and the roses too, that you already have seen in close ups in previous posts.

crabapple bed

crabapple bed

Thanks to the dull sky I’ve been able to snap a proper picture of one to my favorite roses in the crabapple bed: rosa gallica splendens. The color is a rich crimson, the rose is double flowered, once blooming and sets big beautiful pear shaped hips in fall. The scent is intense and taste like spicy fruits.

Rosa Gallica Splendens

Rosa Gallica Splendens

Another rose that I love is Hebe’s Lip. It is a plain white, semi double cross between a damask rose and a rubiginosa rose (the one which has green apple scented leaves) but the particular thing of this rose is that when buds start to open they kind of get burned and when the rose’s fully opened this mark remains like a cherry-red rim all around the rose. Scent is sweet and strong, although this year the too often cloudy weather has resulted in less marked rims on the roses.

Hebe's Lip

Hebe’s Lip

PS: I’ve published a post about a rose seedling I consider very important to me a few days ago but I might have messed up something a couple of weeks before, so that I have the impression my followers didn’t get their notification about it. I don’t care about comments but please let me know if you’d like a cutting of that rose.

Laura Poli, story of a dear friend and a rose

rosa filipes 'Kiftsgate'

rosa filipes ‘Kiftsgate’

Laura was a dear family friend, she was older than my mum but she didn’t have children so she’s always been fond of me and my sister. During summers, when we were children, we used to spend a couple of weeks at her house. She lived in a huge old fashioned country house, part of it was the original flat she restored when she was younger: just a kitchen/living room downstairs, a bedroom and a bathroom upstairs. Later on when she got married for the second time she restored a bigger part of the house, keeping the old restored part as a guest house. We slept there during our stay and there was a unique scent in the old part of the house, something reminiscent of seasoned timber, dust, old books, cooking and Chanel n°5.

rosa filipes 'Kiftsgate'

rosa filipes ‘Kiftsgate’

My sister after the first two days or so usually started to bore but she’s always been so different from me, my sister. Laura woke us up early in the morning and after a good breakfast we went out in the garden. There was a lot of things always to be done, for instance the lawn was so wide she had to buy a tractor mower almost as big as a car, or so I remember it. She had a huge vegetable garden and a big old barrel filled with soil and planted with strawberries: the red fruits were hanging from the sides and we ate them when still warm by the sun.

She spoke very well English and French, and it was her to convince me to learn foreign languages, and it was always her that convinced me to move to England the first time, against my mother will. ‘Go now, do whatever you want until you are young or you’ll regret it for the rest of your life‘ she said and she was right.

rosa filipes 'Laura Poli'

rosa filipes ‘Laura Poli’

She was very fond of roses, especially old roses and she had a huge rose garden with more than 400 roses. When we had our daily walk around the garden she used to pick some rose here and there and tell me stories about that rose, or about the person after whom the rose was named. One day she realized I knew most of her roses by heart, name, position in the garden etc. and this, I think, made her really proud of me: we shared that same passion. I placed my first rose mail order (based on a catalogue), when I was 11, dad paid it for me and that was that year’s Christmas gift.

There was a wide gravel yard in front of the house, at the far end of this yard there were some stone wheels and a tall San Pietro’s pear tree which host an even bigger rosa filipes ‘Kiftsgate’. That afternoon task was pulling weeds off the gravel but I lingered under the tree with the rose for a longer time because it was so hot that day and I enjoyed the shade provided by the pear tree. Amongst the gravel I found a tiny rose seedling, not taller than 10cm but with a bloom on the top of it. The flower was pale yellow and semi-double. So different from the single rose hanging on the pear tree but at the same time very similar. A little further there were another seedling, there were no flowers on that one. Laura was probably used of finding seedlings around her garden so she didn’t bother, for me, instead, it was like having found a treasure.

rosa filipes 'Laura Poli'

rosa filipes ‘Laura Poli’

By the end of my summer week I went home with two little rose seedlings potted up. The yellow flowered died soon after, I might have cut its main root in digging it out of the gravel. The other one was planted under a cherry tree in my parents’ garden and took 5 years to bloom. It now covers a tall cherry tree and it’s as big as its parent rosa filipes ‘Kiftsgate’ at the time.

Now that filipes rose is dead, it was very old for a rose. My dear friend Laura died of cancer some years ago too. As a grown up I think of her as the person who inspired me in most of my choices both in gardening and in actual life. I’m glad I take after her, although she’s not my mother and she never wanted to be, she was just friend of a 10 year old boy.

A cutting of that seedling is know growing nicely on a plum tree in my woodland garden, this rose could grow up to 10-12 mt. It is sweetly scented, something reminiscent of nutmeg, lemon and sugar. I try and give away as much cuttings of that rose seedling as I can, I tell people that it’s named r. filipes ‘Laura Poli’, like somebody I used to know.

rosa filipes 'Laura Poli'

rosa filipes ‘Laura Poli’

Kew Gardens and other roses

David Austin's rose Kew Gardens

David Austin’s rose Kew Gardens

Retract your fangs, keep calm, I didn’t visit the Kew Gardens in London recently, I wish I could go back there some day, I just love that place but this post is just about some David Austin’s rose. Sunday we went to my parents’ for my sister’s birthday party (lunch actually) and after lunch we paid a visit to some small rose nursery in the neighborhood which has got bigger and bigger lately. They have a nice selection of modern roses as well as old roses and David Austin’s roses. Now I know I may seem banal with these single flowered hybrid musk roses I continue to bring home but everyone looks slightly different from the other and I can’t help but buy it. This rose has a lemon yellow tinge at the centre and a purple-gray (glaucous) matte shade in the leaves and branches, it is said to be in bloom from spring until frost, could I leave it there? I’ve already planted it at the back of the square bed, just before the pole with rosa Purezza (but the picture above has been taken looking from the path towards the gravel garden).

Rosa Sancta and rosa Tuscany

Rosa Sancta and rosa Tuscany

There are still a lot of roses that I’d like to show you though. In the bed between the grass garden and the rose garden there are a  bunch of roses planted rather close to each other that are mingling nicely. Rosa gallica Tuscany is one of my favorite, its intense colour and scent makes it irresistible. It’s a very tough rose considering I almost murdered it last winter… I happened to have the central heating cleaned (it burns wooden pellet) and I was wandering around the garden with this large bucket of ash. I’ve always used ash to fertilize roses, they just love it so I poured this ash from the bucket onto the roses I like best, as to give them a treat. The ash formed a kind of little mountain at the base of the rose but I thought all the rain we had would have washed it away. Indeed the ash became a kind of hard plaster with the rain and kind of choked my beloved roses. I realized it just in time but I had to remove quite a lot of dead branches.

Rosa Sancta and rosa Tuscany

Rosa Sancta and rosa Tuscany

It doesn’t seem to be mad at me though and the survived branches are blooming profusely.

Clockwise from top left: rosa Tuscany and Celsiana, a view to the pergola including rosa Celsiana underplanted with rosa Angel Wings, a close up of rosa Sancta

Clockwise from top left: rosa Tuscany and Celsiana, a view to the pergola including rosa Celsiana underplanted with rosa Angel Wings, a close up of rosa Sancta

The ‘proper’ rose garden is also behaving very well this year and this cool and wet weather, although it is also spoiling a big part of the flowers, is extending the blooming season. They forecast the beginning of summer by  10th June, let’s wait and see. And I’m not done weeding yet…

Ombrèe Parfaite with a young pennisetum and salvia

Ombrèe Parfaite with a young pennisetum and salvia

The one pictured above is a rose i received as a cutting from a dear friend of mine who is now dead and unfortunately I can’t have this rose recognized. Maybe someone could help…

rosa Trigintipetala (Kazanlik)

rosa Trigintipetala (Kazanlik)

Rosa Trigintipetala, aka Kazanlik, from the name of the region in Bulgaria where this rose is largely cultivated to extract rose perfume, I let you imagine how scented this rose could be.

rosa glauca and phlomis russelliana

rosa glauca and phlomis russelliana

rosa Claire Jacquier on the willow

rosa Claire Jacquier on the willow

 

More roses and a Brit weather

Rival de Paestum

Rival de Paestum

OK so it’s official: I won’t complain about drought anymore. This spring is going to be the wettest and coldest ever: we are towards the end of May and yet i’m sleeping with a thick cover, I’ve got a terrible cold with running nose and I can’t smell the roses. Or at least what rain left of the roses.

Anyway the garden has never been so luxuriant and healthy, weeds in particular are growing like never before and snails left a thanksgiving card under my rug. Slugs haven’t sent me anything yet although I bet a basket full of fruit must be on its way…

artichokes and rosa banksiae 'purezza'

artichokes and rosa banksiae ‘purezza’

Since we came home from Malta we stopped hearing the usual chirping from the finches nest box and also the frantic coming and going of mummy and daddy finch stopped. We had some hard winds and rains lately and I thought the worst had happened to the finch family but I didn’t want to know, so I didn’t check the nest closely. As soon as the rain stops, though, a choir of birds populate the garden and around the compost leap I spotted a baby finch spying on me from a willow branch. Bold and proud it looked at me, sure to be far enough to feel safe. Will it ever knows I built its birth-house? I only care about it staying around and looking at me warily from time to time.

But hey there are artichokes to take care of now… When I spotted the first 2-3 popping up from the plants I thought I shall let them flower, they look so beautiful and at the end of the day whom hunger am I supposed to appease with 3 little artichokes? But after Malta, and all that rain and wind and chilly days I finally stepped out in the garden and found a lot more than 3 little artichokes standing near rosa Purezza. So I’m now thinking how to cook them. I’ll let you know.

Clockwise from top left: Single Cherry, Rote Hannover, Unknown, Jacques Cartier, Admiration (Zwerg), rosa sancta

Clockwise from top left: Single Cherry, Rote Hannover, Unknown, Jacques Cartier, Admiration (Zwerg), rosa sancta

But this post’s title promised you more roses, didn’t it? So here we go with a gust of roses, I’m so sorry I can’t tell you about how scented they are because my running nose doesn’t allow me to smell but they are a real joy for the ayes anyway. So glad they are such tough plants and not everything’s been ruined by the bad weather.

celestial-boh

The Rose garden is finally starting to perform as I intended it, I’m glad of the combinations I have long thought of during cold days in winter, like the one pictured before, two roses of the same colour, flowering together with very different shape and size. The big one  is Celestial and the small one is supposedly a china rose labelled as ‘Angel’s Wings’ but I found out that a rose with that name is totally different. It’s a little beauty though and it sets billions of tiny little red hips.

Ombrèe Parfaite

Ombrèe Parfaite

I am even more pleased with some random combination that I made with some seedlings of a totally unknown salvia received as a gift, a pennisetum volunteer and this dark coloured gallica rose named ‘Obrèe Parfaite’. I love that salvia and I’ll talk again of it later, maybe some of you could recognize it.

Chloris

Chloris

Some roses don’t need company though, they know they are the queens. Chloris is planted on the crabapple bed, between the grass garden and the proper rose garden. here there are a bunch of roses planted together that mingle nicely with each other. There are also Omar Kahyyám, a damask rose with a nice story about the origin of its name, please see helpmefind.com for reference. I like the long and curled tepals of this rose, resembling some kind of old-fashioned handwriting.

Omar Khayyám

Omar Khayyám

I am also trying a new kind of white stuff to mulch my roses… I’ll let you know how it works…

minellaI can see youuuuuu, Mina??! Come on, the mulch thing was only a joke!

Plaisanterie

Plaisanterie

You might have noticed I have a few old-fashioned power poles in my garden but I’m glad I’ve been able to turn a bad feature of the garden to my advantage. The power poles are now ‘trellies’ for big roses like Purezza and Zéphirine Drouhin and we liked it so much that we trained Plaisanterie the same way, adding some small timber poles. This rose was bred by Lens crossing ‘trier’ (the rose mother of all the hybrids musk) with rosa chinensis mutabilis. Apparently he obtained three commercially valuable seedlings, one is Plaisanterie, with all the main features of a hybrid musk but with the unstable colour of r.c. mutabilis, blooming creamy yellow in the morning to fade deep pink. Flowers only last for one glorious day but are produced in drifts. I’ve recently bought another of those seedlings, called ‘Souvenir de Louis Lens’ which looks thinner and paler than Plaisanterie, I’ll let you know.

Plaisanterie

Plaisanterie

The rose garden is now in full bloom but more rain and a drop of temperatures are forecast from tomorrow… Will I ever be able of pulling some weeds? The basil refuses to grow and I couldn’t manage to plant some zuchini yet, which is crazy.

Rosa gallica Violacea

Rosa gallica Violacea

Malta – diving into the Mediterranean Sea

The blue cave and a close up of euphoria melitensis, a beautiful endemic plant

The blue cave and a close up of euphoria melitensis, a beautiful endemic plant

We really needed a break lately so when I peered the chance of jumping on a plane and going somewhere else I instantly took it! I have a dear friend living there, we met in London ages ago and we’re still in touch, thanks to the very hated Facebook. He’s got a sister working in Venice and he came to visit her a couple of months ago, he also spend a couple of days with us before leaving and he made us promise to go and pay him a visit back very soon.

Well, I’m sorry folks but I really need to make you sigh with some postcard-like pictures I took during our trip. I won’t be long with words because I can’t even remember the name of the places we’ve been, Maltese is very difficult for me to hear since it sounds arab (although when I read it I can see many words resembling Italian). Pictured above there is this bay, with a narrow walking path that lead to a pebble beach. The slopes are filled with acanthus mollis (which I didn’t know could be so drought resistant!) and a beautiful white umbel which I couldn’t identify but I brought some seeds home with the hope they will sprout. At first sight you think Malta is a rather bare little island, indeed looking closely you realize how amazing nature could be, transforming limestone and dry clay in an open garden.

Above you can see the umbel I was talking about and the narrow path with that led us down the bay.

Malta has been inhabited for more than 4.000 years over history, history that is now literally layered above stones and sand, the island is in fact so packed with evidence of every single Age that it seems built of it, as though someone had emptied the Museum of Louvre on the sea and the result is a beautiful place full of surprises.

There was this swirling pattern engraved in a bunch of variations on prehistoric sites scattered around Malta. The link between every single age is the use of the maltese soft stone and limestone. The soft stone in particular has an amber colour that can reflect and amplify the already strong natural light giving it a very warm tinge that makes you feel like in a dream.

Medina

Medina

Medina was one of the old capital of Malta and I always enjoy visiting this place. Maybe because there are barely no cars around, the place almost look abandoned but not ages ago, as though all the people just left a few hours earlier than our arrive. Or maybe they were just hiding behind the billions of windows…

Everything in Malta has a different pace and measure, the place is very small and packed with beauties and rather weird people, they drive like mads and on the wrong side of the road! The food is fantastic, we had a lot of fish; seaside is breathtaking, you can bath (although you really need to be brave sometimes jumping from tall rocks into a pure, chilly water), you can get a suntan and you can watch undisturbed nature at the same time (yes, that’s a geko!).

The place is literally covered with: prickly pears cacti, maltese spurge (euphorbia melitensis), capers and some kind of unidentified grass. There are barely any trees though.

Unfortunately 4 days passed in a moment and we had to leave Malta and our friends in La Valletta with the promise to meet sooner than 10 years next time. I’m glad to keep in touch with people around the World that after years still think of me as much as I think of them.

Twilight upon La Valletta, seen from my friend's flat where we were hosted

Twilight upon La Valletta, seen from my friend’s flat where we were hosted

Sunset at Golden Bay

Sunset at Golden Bay

 

Rose Boom

Thérèse Bugnet

Thérèse Bugnet

It’s time for roses! Finally the season has started and my 2 year old roses are stating their presence in the garden. Last year plants were still to small to be showy and some of them didn’t bloom at all since they need some old wood to set flowers. In the picture above you can see Thérèse Bugnet, a once blooming hybrid rugosa, the scent is very strong, reminiscent of clover and sweet lemonade, quite typical of the rugosa type.

Rival de Paestum

Rival de Paestum

Rival de Paestum is at one corner of the gravel garden, not far from the pergola and the plaster water tank, the bush is still rather small because she is putting all her strength in flowering. In fact this rose is always blooming and the hottest it gets the happiest she is. Flowers are white blend, nodding, elegant in bud and kind of disheveled when in full bloom but this is so typical of the china/tea roses. Scent in china roses is not really a strong feature, they all smell the same and the scent is usually described as ‘tea fragrance‘ but to me they smell of greenery, and the scent isn’t even strong; this is the reason why I have neglected china roses for ages: scent is so important to me in a rose. However in this garden I needed something that could really bear strong heat and drought and that could possibly bloom more than once and china roses are the best choice. I now love them.

Parks' Yellow Tea-scented China

Parks’ Yellow Tea-scented China

Another china rose in bloom now is Parks’ Yellow Tea-scented China, or should I say in commerce as, since the original one (aka rosa indica ochroleuca, more info here) is considered extinct before the end of 1800. So the one you see pictured above is actually a hoax introduces by Peter Beales some 30 years ago. However the original one is believed to be one of the ancestors of the modern roses. Mine is leaning gracefully against the walnut tree, in the hope it will cover the wretched tree soon. In the background you can also have a glance of rosa banksiae Purezza, which had already covered the first 3 meters of the old fashioned (thank God!) electricity pole. Pole in which is nailed my first attempt to make a bird nest box, do you remember? Well I am so proud to announce that a couple of great tits had nested there and they are very busy hunting bugs for their babies.

rosa banksiae Purezza and a big tit  bringing food to the nest.

rosa banksiae Purezza and a big tit bringing food to the nest.

The nest box has been there for more than one year, the rose has grown a lot creating more privacy around the nest but I also guess the birds also needed the nest to be somehow seasoned and reliable. Newer and prettier nest boxes installed on the birch trees a few months ago are still empty.

Anyway there are birds hunting bugs and bugs hunting other bugs too, can you see the white spider on the bee amongst the thyme flowers? Crazy, I was waiting for that bee to strike a pose for me on the thyme and suddenly she’s been captured by the spider: kind of disappointing, ok more for her than for me but she paid the price for celebrity!

Ormiston Roy on the left part and Agnes on the right

Ormiston Roy on the left part and Agnes on the right

At this point you may start thinking that I might have a soft spot for white and yellow blended roses… Well you may be right but also know that for some reason white and yellow roses are the early flowerer. Ormiston Roy is a hybrid spinosissima, the Scots rose, only once blooming but with a good smell and later it sets big black fat hips. The other one is Agnes, a hybrid rugosa with a strong and very peculiar scent, even the fresh leaves are scented of something like clover and incense. I love this rose.

Old Blush

Old Blush

Ok, let’s break this yellow spell with a pink rose, another china rose, another reliable bloomer, she’s so pretty but I can’t love her. Sorry. Maybe it’s because of that red tinge on the buds, maybe it’s because of that ham pink of the flowers… Hey, darling, you can’t assume everyone likes you.

There’s also something more, other than roses in bloom now. When we bought the house there was very little interesting in the garden, apart for nettles and some wild clematis, there was also an old clump of iris pallida. Iris pallida rhizomes were once used dried and powdered as an important ingredient to make perfumes (especially in Tuscany), so people thinks they are particularly scented, indeed they were used not for the scent but as a fixative. I like their scent though, they smell like rubber toys (the ones for children) (…I’ve never smelled the ones for grown-ups!). I divided that tight original clump and made 3 new big clumps that are at their top now.

iris pallida

iris pallida

One is near the crab apple trees, planted with miscanthus Cabaret, some allium Purple Sensation (that you can maybe see a little in the background) and there are also the chartreuse green foliage of a gallica rose Aimable Rouge, a deep pink coloured rose, I hope it’s going to bloom soon to complete the picture.

Another clump is near the kitchen door, planted with centranthus ruber. I love this pale blue/lilac iris paired with some deep pink/purple.

The third clump is still in a bed with knee high weeds and I won’t show you any pictures…

iris pallida and centranthus ruber

iris pallida and centranthus ruber

But let’s get back to yellow roses and to spinosissima roses too, here are two rather recent introductions:

Maigold

Maigold

Maigold, with a very odd sunset colour.

And Fruehlingsgold, a pale yellow one, very graceful and wild looking. Both have been bred in Germany by Kordes in the early ’50s.

Fruehlingsgold

Fruehlingsgold

Fruehlingsgold, again.

Fruehlingsgold, again.

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