Saturday, December 14, 2013

Shades of Yellow

Many years ago I read (sadly I don't remember where), that as an 'immature' gardener, yellow would be a favourite colour and as you 'matured' you would forget yellow in your garden scheme.

I can only say I never matured. I love yellow, every shade of it. Lemon, pale, marmalade (lemon of course), deep, vibrant - the old cliché 'it makes me smile' comes to mind - and it does, the colour makes me feel warm, content and happy.

A 'mature' gardening colleague hated my love of yellow, more so the tendency to mix it with pink. That memory leaves me with a grin on my face.

A low hedge of golden-leaved origanum, tumbled across a wood chip path, behind which grew a row of clove pinks. She (above mentioned 'mature' gardening colleague) refused to weed this part of the garden, declaring it vulgar. Hey-Ho.  

I recall her name each every time I see a mix of yellow and pink in the wild, verges alive with the glorious clashes of nature, and think what do you know.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Back to The Haphazard Gardener

This was one of the original borders that had been in place since my childhood. The backing to the border was a line of different shrubs, most of which were still in place when I gave up the garden in 2005. It was north facing, the ever maturing shrubs made some its depth very shady, but this gave many new planing opportunities to me.

The darker 'blob' on the right hand side in the distance is one of two yews that Phil planted in the early 1990s. It was to be 10 years until the two met and joined to form an archway.

This border ran the length of the back lawn, from nearby the garage to the greenhouse in the distance. This greenhouse was the one that Arthur built in the 1930s. The aluminium and glass had been replaced but the brick base and concrete interior was exactly the was my favourite greenhouse.

Again on the right hand side the Yew border is not even dug and the tiny yew trees are lost in the greenness, only the white of the paving slabs used to hold back the soil where the sandstone was taken give me any idea of what beauty was to come.

You can read the story of our transformation in The Haphazard Gardener.

Oh happy days....

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Rosa 'Sympathie'

A stunning pillar rose for those with slightly less space; although if you bend those stems horizontally you will be blessed with many upright stems from their branches. This is not a rampant rose, it is one which is fairly well behaved.

Rosa 'Sympathie' in shade
Glossy dark green foliage compliments the cluster of buds that ensure flowering over several weeks. A delicious fragrance emanates from the deep red flowers. Fully double and cupped in shape this is one rose that will tolerate shade as well as sun. 

Rosa 'Sympathie' grown in full sun
Growing around the trunk of a tall palm in our Italian garden, where the only light was sunlight reflect off the driveway it flowered more prolifically that where it was planted in full sun: in this position we found that heavy rain could spoil the petals.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

More Rosa 'Paul Transon'

Rosa 'Paul Transon'
I wrote about Rosa 'Paul Transon' in my post on the 14th February this year. Now I am reminded once more of the beauty of this rose, as it's light apple fragrance fills the air.

   I believe the colour can be variable...even on my climber there are differences in the fullness and hues of the flowers. The fragrance is described by many as of 'apple' or of 'tea'. It must be fairly strong as I can pick up the scent. 

   It enjoys the full sun of Italy as much as it did the dappled shade of a cherry in my Sussex garden.  The soil here is thin and stony which seems to contain the more rampant growth of a rambler.

   The RHS site lists many 'pests' that could be attracted... with me it is one of the few that doesn't succumb to blackspot, and despite the dryness of the soil does not suffer with mildew.

   I do not know the bug which enjoys the pollen, it is widespread in this part of Italy and becomes almost 'drunk' with pollen.  I believe that they chew the buds before they open. 

   It is a Barbier cross between R. Wichuraiana and L'Ideal. It gives a scatter re-bloom if not pruned too severely.

   Rosa 'Paul Transon' is a rose to consider if you have the space. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The White Hydrangea

The White Hydrangea - well technically it isn’t white, from the tight buds of the early flowers a greenness like jade jewels nestles deep within the dark green leaves.

Hydrangea bud
Developing bud
Further development
Nearly there

Not a true bush, several cuttings growing strongly

   I was surprised to see Hydrangeas growing so well in the north of Italy where I live; large heads (for the most part) of sturdy mops.  A few lace caps can be seen too but the mop heads or hortensia as the Italians call them are the norm, and seen in most gardens and I would guess shared. You only have to stop and admire a garden and the owner, if around will proffer a cutting or ten.

   Shades of blue and pink are most commonly seen. We moved two sad looking blue flowered mop heads to a more shady position to join a pink flowered one already in situ, they reverted quickly to pink, as well. Now I understood that, but for the newly moved and recently divided plant, it reverted to white and two years later has mellowed to a delicate pearly pink.

   The precise instructions for propagation were ignored (this is usual practice for me) – with bottom leaves stripped, the top pinched out and a neat cut beneath a leaf axil the cuttings were pushed into a circle of soil where another plant had failed. Within weeks several had become firm in the ground, several others had not survived.  The pictures show the joy this years’ flowers have brought.

   The only way to control the colour of a hydrangea is to grow it in a pot. The colour of the flower will depend on the soil in which it is grown. Hydrangeas flower blue in acid soil.  Less acidic soil gives pink flowers.

   In Italy the Hydrangea will start to flower as early as April in a warm spring and continue on with their aging hues until autumn.

   Cultivation requirements suggested for the UK are different in the Italian gardens that I have seen them grow, frequently bowing their heavy heads as the warmth of the sun takes its toll. Deep and fertile, is not how you would describe the soil in our garden, well drained yes, but thin and lacking goodness. They also require plenty of water in dry periods. The word hydrangea means water vessel.

   In our town they prune the flower once it has faded.  I was horrified when I saw this, and although we rarely suffer frosts in the way the UK may, there can still be extreme cold.  They rarely remove inner branches, just a random deadheading, leaving long stems that heighten the shrub each year.  However their method of pruning does nothing to lessen the number or size of the flowers.

   I still prune mine as I would in the UK, not removing any flower heads until the spring except if they are top heavy and weighed down.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Diamonds drip...

An except from The Haphazard Gardener reads - 'Dew laden spiders' webs glistened in the early morning sun. Minute diamonds dripped from open panicles of Panicum and Miscanthus.'

Grasses became a passion of mine, adding another dimension to an already interesting selection available at the nursery. For the first couple of years many of them were kept in pots on either side of the steps which lead from the back patio - so I could observe them more closely and learn their needs.

In Arthur's day there were only three different grasses in the garden - 'The Blue Oat' grass - Helictotrichon sempervirens, 'Gardener's garters' - Phalaris arundinacea 'Picta' and a couple of different Pampas grasses, some more attractive in flower than others. Gardener's garters was considered a nuisance by many in the garden...the Pampas untidy, with wickedly sharp leaves and a nightmare to keep tidy. Only the Blue Oat grass behaved in a gentile manner, sending long flowering stems from neat basal growth.

But once I began to buy grasses many more became firm favourites...I grew Briza maxima in the square pots on the top of the front terrace steps. Viewed closer, the sweet heart-shaped flowers bounced and rattled gentle in the breeze: the open panicles of the Panicum species too...the photograph below taken on a grey day when the rain stopped for just a moment, but the diamonds dripped...

Panicum virgatum

Monday, April 22, 2013

Springtime at Orchards

A view from the bottom gate

It is racing towards ten years since I gave up my Sussex garden but the memories of its beauty and tranquility do not lessen. I still miss it but no longer pine, knowing that another family enjoy the garden as much as we did: and now when I look back at the projects that we undertook I marvel at the energy we both had.  Life is so much different now...less stressful and more tranquil as many may think befits our age but I long for the English countryside and all the wonderful garden plants that grow so much easier there than in Italy. The vista was awash with different varieties of daffodils, the majority planted in the late 1930s/40s when Arthur and Gay were planning to run the garden as a smallholding, many clumps were lost beneath the every maturing conifers which flanked the edge of the front vista. Many more were planted in the 'back' garden where the ground levelled out. These were picked, boxed and sold to local nurseries and taken by rail to London.  Once retired Gay had a passion for the more unusual introductions of the late 1960s/70s when the peachy trumpets and larger fully double daffodils were for sale.

The Camellia Grove
The Camellia Grove was created by Arthur and myself in the late 1970s moving large camellia plants from their crowded situation to create a wide curve around the Styrax japonica. Like most gardeners, no matter how experienced, we didn't allow enough space and by the 1990s these camellias were congested once more: now much too large for me to deal with. On the woodland edge of this group was a Camellia williamsonii which was at least 12 feet in height by that time...always the first to flower, it became a traditional part of the indoor Christmas decorations. The first camellias were planted on the west side of the property beneath the goat sheds but these never fared as well as the ones planted in the top arboretum. 

Rhododendron 'Seta'
Rhododendron 'Seta' was the first rhododendron to flower and it was often frosted. We flung fleece over it each winter to protect it from the worst weather but I think in maturity and increased height Jack Frost always managed to damage the flowers. There were  dozens of different rhododendron's planted at Orchards, many whose names were lost over the years. Gay loved the new small azaleas sporting purple and lilac flowers. 

Daffodils beneath Gay's Oak
Scilla messeniaca followed the snowdrops that were planted on this shady border (above) where both spilled over the narrow sandstone wall. A large yellow tree peony is the stick-like growth springing from their midst. I moved the scilla to other places around the garden where it performed differently in more light shade. I brought it with me to Italy where it behaves differently once again. Planted in Italy beneath an inherited acer, it becomes leggy and paler blue. But I am glad to have it nonetheless.

There were many, many other spring gems at Orchards, but these pictures bring back some happy memories.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A Good Reason Not To Have a Lawn

When we arrived in Italy in 2005, the lawn, which the sellers had promised to cut, was several inches high. The grass was like an alpine meadow...if I'd had my way it would have remained long all summer. Scabious, Ajuga, Star of Bethlehem, Buttercup, Large clover, white clover, ragged robin, daisy, speedwell, diminutive Geranium pyrenaicum (I think), Calamintha, in a mix of different flowering grasses were just a few of the gems that I recognised. But our daughter had a wedding reception planned in the garden of our new home so cut it was and to the uneducated eye it looked neat and tidy. Only I seemed to notice the scent of crushed mint beneath our feet. A multitude of bedding plants (shudders) was purchased from the local nursery to brighten up the pathways and steps...

Copyright Penelope S Hellyer

It took a few years to persuade OH to allow the Ajuga to flow...and it may well have been the fact that we were away from the garden and came back to this glorious meadow. The bees - both honey and bumble were enjoying the Ajuga: however it was the day a swallowtail butterfly came and stayed within the garden long enough for us both to take photographs that sealed the fate of the lawn forever. Now the grass is still cut but the swathes of Ajuga remain, as are the larger clumps of Star of Bethlehem and is a delight.

This is a good enough reason for us not to worry about a lawn...