Gardening, My Diary

BAD NEWS TURNS TO GOOD

Well, the first time I went out to inspect my garden this morning I found to my irritation, no, much more than irritation actually, I was angry and disgusted because I found the kitchen waste buried deeply after much heavy spade work huffing and puffing yesterday, had been unearthed! I bury the kitchen scraps in the garden because in these times of the “plague”, I don’t want my daughter who comes once a week to fill my fridge for me, to have to take my disgusting smelly bags of kitchen scraps down to the bin. Apart from that, if you bury them, after a time they will have turned into wonderful rich friable COMPOST. I remember when the kids were young and we had no baby -sitter my husband said to me, “let’s go out tonight”! Great,so where are we going, thinking of a nice restaurant or maybe a grown -up film, I was so fed up with cartoons for the kids, in those pre-Netflix days! Where did he take me? What was the special treat? The first of a series of lessons on composting!

Marital bliss in a nutshell! We went and I was flabbergasted to find it extremely interesting so we started doing it ourselves, and I still do. Not in the maniacal way of watering, covering up to keep warm, turning over regularly, following a recipe and testing with a thermometer, but a much simpler way with just a sprinkle of accelerator every now and then! But where was I? ah yes, the destruction wreaked by mice. BUT……..the next time I went into the garden I looked round the corner and found to my surprise and joy, that the “pest” was Mrs. Blackbird, rooting around in search of worms I presume, so of course this is wonderful news because there are no rats and because one of my goals for the garden is, first to have something flowering every day of the year (done) and second to attract as much wild life as I possibly can!

Gardening, Music, My Diary

The Best of times, the Worst of times…

I’m quoting Dickens from memory so I might be wrong. I believe they are the first few lines of “A Tale of Two Cities”. So,in this period, I guess we’re learning a lot, I think we’ll have lost some of our fascination with social media by the time this is all over. Honestly, just how much crap can you read? I’m tired of the inane comments and the way people rush onto social mediia to comment on some evidently misunderstood headlines instead of reading the whole article;maybe after this we shall have all become more discerning and more cautious in its use. Having said that, the possibility to video call must be a lifeline to those who are alone, friendless and family-less, and I just dread to think of people dying alone without being able to see their loved ones because they have no devices. There is too the wonderful work being done by LaVerdi who are still trying to get music to us; tiny groups of 2,3,4 musicians get together to play for us, what a treat! It looks as if La Scala will soon be doing the same thing

Modern technology has been a godsend to people isolated in their homes. There is just so much reading, listening to Youtube, watching old DVDs and Netflix that a human being can stomach! Walking the dog seems to have become an obsession as does jogging and running! Me, I take a brief walk along the railway lines right at the bottom of the garden, no one is ever there. I realize that I must stick to the straight and narrow path of virtue from now on, I could not possibly be locked up! So a bit more attention to red light traffic lights Anne!

Personally, this difficult time has sparked my creativity. Look at the hat! I have to stay still when I wear it because if I don’t the flowers fall off the brim! Apart from doing a lot of reading, (no, I haven’t dared to re-read “La Peste” yet! I’m also looking at old DVDs and films but I’m careful to choose the feel-good type. Last week I watched “Schindler’s list” and plunged myself into deepest despair. I’m listening to a lot of classical music and the silence, both without and within has led to a more profound appreciation, we’re just not too hurried to listen to the greats. Now I’m going gardening. That is one of the most cheering things you can do. As you walk the grasshoppers jump ahead of you, the bees buzz, ignoring you but impollinating the fruit trees and there’s sometimes a rare butterfly.I’ve noticed that there seems to be more birdsong than usual too. I’ll bet you wish you’d spent your hard-earned money on a smaller appartment and a garden or at least a bigger balcony now don’t you?

Gardening, My Diary

Come rain or shine

Let’s start with the rain. A really cold, heavy rain driven by a blustery wind, managed to invade the usually safe haven of my patio and wet all my precious seed packets! I’d got stuff in envelopes saved from my own garden, little brown paper packets from the RHS gardens (these contained the more unusual plants) as well as all the brightly coloured packets bought in England and endowed with great hope! Now what to do? I know, I just know they’ll germinate so it’s asbsolutely necessary to get them in the ground, sharp! But I’ll need so many pots, so much soil, so much space and lastly, so much patience…. Gardening has taught me patience, but it’s of the long-term ,waiting-for-bulbs type of patience, not the short-term quickie patience needed for seeds!

The next day it was warm. A wonderful sunny day. With a little help from my friends I eventually found out how to prune Lantana .Pretty easy actually, but maybe I ought to wait for results before saying that.It was also a suitable day to exploit my grandchildren! I love being Head Gardener! I even bought myself a mug once in a garden centre saying just that! You’ve got to make things clear to people right from the start! The job was to dig up the Iris foetida and transplant it outside the garden in the “orchard”. Done. We were then able to plant a Hydrangea “Hopcorn” in its place. I bought this at the Chelsea Flower Show 2/3 years ago and it has been lovingly cared for in a pot since then. An oleander plant which was given to me was transplanted easily because it is still small, next to the one already outside.

And when I’m not in the garden? Well I fill in my 5-year gardener’s record book, look up pruning in the RHS handbook, and NEVER lounge on the sofa in the patio. But at least I’m still relatively sane.There are gardeners who are so enthusiastic that they use miners’ headlights to garden at night. Did you know?

Gardening, My Diary, Seasons

An almost perfect day (or the art of making the most of what you’ve got)

wp-1578089233403.jpgI overslept, not you would think the best way to start a day but there it is. I decided to do something I’d been neglecting but which fills me with happiness, take a stroll around the garden and take photos. I started off in the far corner to admire my handiwork on the winter jasmin (J.nudiflorum) and as any gardener will know, plans don’t always come to fruition. But I wanted to pull all the straggly shoots up, wire them in then let them cascade down in an unruly golden waterfall. At the moment it’s more of an unruly stream, but I’m getting there!

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Next the big surprise. I found a “vagabond” self -sown raspberry fruiting among my budding Edgeworthia (E.crysantha). That’s certainly worth a picture. And the shrub is going to be spectacular this year, it’s covered in buds. It’s one of the most failsafe plants in the garden.

Then there are the lovely winter clematis (probably C.napaulensis),which taught me a fundamental lesson. Patience. The sterling virtue of the good gardener. It took them 3/4 years fromwp-1578095471597.jpg planting to the first rare and timid flowers but it’s doing well now. I should have remembered patience because when I used to go home to see my mother she always had rows of pots on her sunny kitchen windowsill. Full of sticks and dead leaves. “Why don’t you simply throw them out?” ” Oh no, let’s give them a chance” and to my chagrin, the next time I went home they would be blossoming as if they’d just been bought! She was the best gardener ever. I swear she could raise plants from the dead!

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Next stop the chimonanthus. (C.praecox) In my 5-year gardener’s diary I noted on 26th January” bought my dreamed-of chimonanthus at last”. About this time of the year you can smell them even if you can’t see them. They flood whole neighbourhoods with their tantalising perfume. It was and is a beautifully shaped treelet which is quite unusual for a wintersweet (lovely English name for the tree) as it is very often straggly and misshapen. Mine no. I remember trying to bring it home lying over the passemger seat of my Smart worrying about how many buds would get broken off.   Moved to the most important position just outside the patio so I can go and smell it to my heart’s content. One of the most wonderful perfumes in the garden! and in full winter!

When it got too cold to click, I came back inside to read “the Bronze Horseman” Pushkin. Oh how wonderful to have the time to really read and study this incredible poem. It is just so rich. I can’t even begin to imagine what its like in the original Russian.

Gardening, My Diary, Trip

Grazzano Visconti

Last Sunday, Monza Garden Club went to Grazzano Visconti for a plant show. It was held in the grounds of the castle, a medieval structure built by Giovanni Anguissola in 1395 for his wife Beatrice Visconti and it is still in the hands of the Visconti family . It looks very much as you would imagine a castle to look , square ground plan ,four towers (two square ones and two round ones), crenellated walls ,a moat that is still visible, grassed but not filled with water and even the traces of a drawbridge . We were able to go in although it’s usually closed to the public, visiting being allowed in the surrounding postiche medieval village, that was built in the early nineteen hundreds, more Harry Potter than Disneyland but a great crowd -pleaser just the same. It’s a really busy place with all sorts of events going on as well as the usual food and drinks services; I suppose you could do worse,

snob that I am! The interest lay in the castle grounds with its belvedere, and tiny maze,all very neatly manicured and barbered.

The show counted a select few exhibitors, really competent people and so willing to share their knowledge. It’s always a pleasure to pick their brains. I’ve been faffing about a problem for well over a year because my beloved hydrangea quercifolia is hidden behind a H. paniculata which has outgrown it and has hidden it from view. What to do? At every show, nursery, garden centre I’ve been to in the last year I’ve almost begged someone to say” yes, go on move it . It’s got a pretty good chance of surviving”….but no,from 50% I’m now up to an 80% probability of it dying. But the nurseryman from Viterbo with the beautiful stand of unusual hydrangeas , had the perfect, unthought-of-by-me answer…move the paniculata! Would you believe it? I can’t believe that the idea had never entered my head! So that is probably what will happen. The quercifolia will remain in its place the other will be moved and take its chance…one problem solved.

The other interesting event was a conference given by Umberto Pasti,

a writer on botanical subjects who divides his time between Marocco and Italy .In Marocco at Rohuna he has revitalised a village with the passion of an evangelist in his attemps to salvage autochthonous plants endangered by uncontrolled building and cementification. He is also interested in preserving the local culture as far as possible. Although I was not always in agreement it’s impossible not to recognise the profound love of nature and the farseeing fear of what wild modernisation does to both the culture and the countryside. A very interesting talk indeed.

So all in all it was a really happy day,and I managed to curb my spending(!) I came home with just 4 little pots of the sweetest smelling carnations as well as a rather crumpled pulmonaria which I’m told will prosper in the deep shade under the trees.