Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Racing Away

April showers always remind people of England not of Italy...all the sunny pictures that tempt you to the sultry beauty of Lake Como are not the reality of many seasons.  When we first arrived here in 2005 I would have told you that it rained only occasionally and when it did, it was often over very quickly. The same would have been said for the winds that could blow up across the lake and the dramatic lightning storms.

This hasn't been so for several years. Just over two weeks ago the warmth of the sun fooled us all...many friends (as did I) put away our winter clothes and freshened up the summer ones...silly people. Within a day or two the temperature dropped and rain set it.  Fires were lit and people complained. Trust me, it isn't only the British who talk about the weather all the time; Italians do exactly the is either too hot, too cold, too wet or too dry...they, like the English are rarely satisfied.

Scilla messsenaica
But what about the plants...well they seemed to carry on what may...their rate of growth, initially accelerated by the warmth of the sun, hastened further with the copious amounts of rain. When I look back at my notes and pictures from last year, this season is at least two weeks later.  But still for me it comes with a rush.

The placing of Scilla messenaica is much more difficult here because the intentness of the sun in summer is difficult to escape.  The growth is much more lax, the flowers a paler blue. At Orchards the compact plants pushed up tight buds in the dappled shade in which they grew. The only direct summer sun they had was as the sun set and then it was a very brief moment that the rays bathed the plants.

A yellow bearded Iris given to me by a Sussex friend romps away, making its way under the lavender, away from the front of the border. 

Rosa 'Sympathie'
Rosa 'Sympathie' a pillar rose of a deep bright red and a heady fragrance was moved from the small border near the house and wound around one of the palm trees. Two quite different light situations. The palm gets no direct sun (at the level of the rose's growth), yet it's bud are at the same stage as the piece left in by mistake in full sun.

Geranium renardii 'Zetterlund'
Several of the hardy geraniums that I brought with me have failed but the two G.renardii that I have thrive in the thin sandy soil. G.r. 'Zetterlund' has flowered happily for a fortnight or more and spread more than G.r. 'Sarah Louisa'.  Both are firm favourites.

Lily of the Valley - Convallaria majalis came from the peaty soil of the lower woodland at Orchards where Gay had planted them in the 1930s. They are happy beneath the canopy of the Acer the leaves and flowers appearing just as the tree comes into leaf. They receive only the briefest amount of sun in the morning. Leucojum aestivum - Summer Snowflake - is happy growing on the other side of the Acer where it receives no sun at all. It is grown in many gardens in the town.

Leucojum aestivum
Convallaria majalis

Monday, April 1, 2013

A Month of Confusion

The plants push on through the soil, regardless of the weather: buds develop, halt and fatten again once the sun is warm.  Birds continue - when they can finding suitable nest material - to build their nests. Even for them the month must be confusing.  We had several days of glorious warmth, sunny days, maybe a little more windy than usual but nevertheless a huge improvement to the weather our UK family was enduring. 

18 March 
Snow ended this unseasonal weather; with equally unusual temperatures...the coldest March in Northern Italy for thirty years, so we were told. On the 18th of March, we woke to a snowy landscape which deepened unrelentingly throughout the day. 

The snowdrop flowers were lost beneath all the whiteness and the crocus flowers were over all too soon. Only the hellebore were resilient against the cold.  The ones I brought from my Sussex gardened have dwindled in the size of their clumps each year. Difficult to place in an unfamiliar garden, I think their roots - if the ground is cold - have been damaged. My deepest plum-flowered plant has only one flowering stem this years. Nearby are some interesting Italian born seedlings but the mother plant isn't happy. I am going to move them later in the year to a slightly sunnier position to see if they fare any better.

The white seedling is a cross - I believe - between the pure white plant given to me by the late Rosemary Verey and a green-flowered plant. The double that I purchased from Marchants nursery is another that is losing its vigour every year. I will leave the seedlings in situ but move the parent plants, which once enjoyed more leaf mould and a lighter shady situation previously.

The single dark stem is to the right of the picture
A white seedling

Double form
Copyright to all text and photographs belongs to Penelope S Hellyer

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Vagaries of the Weather

One or two warm days saw us working in the garden. The Zebra grass Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’ was cut back, care already needed to avoid the new growth, so was the Trachelospermum jasmanoides, the milky sap already rising. One or two of their fascinating seed heads remained, hanging like twin-beans from one stalk. As they change from green to brown, the seedpods open to reveal hundreds of parasol-like seeds packed neatly inside; their fluffy heads silky to the touch. 

Herbaceous growth of last year, left to protect the basal growth from frost and cold was removed, early signs of growth was evident, once down amongst the plants. Buds swell on the Cornus florida, and the Liquidambar. So much from Sussex is late. Twitter friends are posting envious pictures of their hellebores and snowdrops, standing tall and flowering well. Here they still sulked for most of February. The positioning of my hellebores in Sussex was always beneath deciduous shrubs, so that foliage was gradually decomposing, as we never removed the leaves from the borders. In fact we added to the depth when we raked the paths. Mushroom compost was also added to these borders.

The placement of the hellebores here is very difficult. They are in shade, though maybe too much and in the winter if the soil is cold it remains so. Now Philip has raised the canopy of the established Acer I might move them. Here at least they would have a little more light and very little direct sun even in the height of summer along with the added bonus of the leaf mould from the Acer. I’ll have to make a decision because every year my clumps brought from Sussex get smaller and smaller. I do not have many but what I do have a very special.

Within days of this flurry in the garden the temperatures dropped to minus two or more and we had snow. Today as I write on the 1st March, the weather is warm once more. Oh the vagaries of the weather.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Little to Report

Influenza has made this post late (I always seem to have an excuse!). Flu jab this autumn.

January in the garden has seen little movement. The hellebores are still sulking, as are the snowdrops. It has also been exceptionally dry. Lots of very lovely sunny days, one or two warm enough to encourage me outside. A single flower on the witch hazel, remained for a couple of weeks before the others cared to join it. 

I am glad now that I left the Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’, the numerous small sparrows are enjoying the flower heads. I feel quite envious of my UK friends who, despite much heavier falls of snow report all manner of tiny gems showing. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Christmas Cheer

We returned from a trip to the UK to snow. How the garden changes with a covering of snow. The Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’ was flattened to the ground. I felt guilty now to have left it so tall.  To my surprise when the snow thawed nearly every stem managed to stand upright once again.

It halted the growth of the Helleborus x hybridus and the tiny buds of snowdrops just showing. The garden is far behind many of my twitter friends in the UK. I picked the last of the roses and took them indoors to enjoy. 

The buds of the ‘inherited’ camellia are particularly beautiful this year. I made my own wreaths again from the large leaved ivy that I brought from Sussex. Long stems had been left for just this purpose. Along with any available greenery from the garden.

It is something that so many people on twitter seamed to be doing for the first time…I’ve been doing it for years…I would have preferred some conifer and could have picked up no end of Stone pine from the promenade where they had be pruned but I didn’t. I was pleased enough with the results. 

The wealth of material available at Orchards has made me very spoilt, the choice just isn’t here. 

Happy New Year to you all

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Tentative Signs of Spring

There were few things of interest happening in the garden. The Magnolia grandiflora had made several fat seedpods which burst showing their scarlet-pink seeds. 

Cornus florida buds fattened for the following spring and if you bent closely enough to the ground, the very early signs of Helleborus x hybridus seedlings are showing. 

One or two flowers of  Geranium ‘Rozanne’ remain and the hydrangea’s are showing beautiful shades of pink and green. Very little gardening could be done, for despite being mostly dry the wind was bitterly cold. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Gusty Winds and Random Leaves

As difficult as September was – October proved to be too. Too cold and very wet, with extremely high winds; depositing not only another several thousand dead pine needles from the Stone pine we decided to retain. (I think Philip regretted this decision about 25 or 30 bags ago), but also after a night of severe gusty winds alien leaves that didn’t belong to any plant that we had in the garden, littered the garden and the lawn. Yet despite the cold we were still being annoyed by mosquitoes in the garden.

Several cyclamen (sold every year in the market, none named, just variable seedlings) have returned as well as the white seedlings that came from a white corm of Arthur’s that was possibly 17/18 years old. The hellebores are making new leaves; but I’m waiting a few more days (hopefully mozi free) before I cut the old ones away.

The Stipa is still looking pretty as is Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’, especially on the days when the sky is azure blue.

Rosa ‘Aloha’ is giving random flowers, R. ‘Sympathie’ is making one more bud; but everything else is looking quite sad except the Salvia which this year is more than 6 feet tall. A delight although very untidy, with the most beautiful soft velvety texture and loved by bees and the humming bird moth.

My most wonderful experience this month was a robin that after a lot of squawking outside flew in the open door, very agitated.  After a couple of attempts to catch it and several ‘messages’ left for me on the windowsill it stayed first on Philip’s hand and then on mine. We managed to get some great shots of it close up although it did look as if it'd had a couple of drinks too many. What a privilege.