My Diary


I have a bit of a problem. My worms. I buy them regularly at the garden exhibitions I go to and they reward me with a wonderful soft friable soil. I must admit that the first time I bought FIVE EUROS of worms and the man said: “Remember to feed them” I was shocked. “I’ve never fed my worms!”

“Well you should”. So I crept out in the dead of night so the neighbours didn’t see me and think I was a cranky old lady, dug a hole for the household waste ,and another for my wrigglers….and I’ve never looked back!

Until recently. A couple of rather cheeky blackbirds and their missuses have taken up reisidence. They swoop down anywhere I move the earth and steal my precious “soil improvers”.They ignore the bird seed I bought for them! But they are so beautiful, so shiny black and glossy with their bright yellow beaks and their song. The thieves at least serenade me! Unfortunately I have a recurring problem with slugs in the garden but I’m frightened to put down slug pellets in case the birds eat them .If there are any gardeners out there….please help what shall I do?

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?

Music, My Diary

Obstacle race to Beethoven

I really don’t mean to grumble all the time but needs must! This year my season ticket to the auditorium gave me the possibility to hear Beethoven’s ninth on New Year’s Eve. Lovely, until…I caught a glimpse out of the speeding train of the magic stop Duomo but we sped by! Where was the train going then? Where would it stop?and why? Well it stopped at the next stop Cordusio and I got off only to find that piazza Duomo had been cordoned off for security reasons as they were holding the New Year’s Eve concert there. Unfortunately not just the metro was out of bounds but so was the tram I needed and heaven knows where the taxis were hiding. I asked an official -looking person how to get to the auditorium and he told me go to piazza Missouri, “just tag along behind those 4 people because they’re going too”. No not clairvoyant, they had just asked him for the same I scurried along in their wake ,caught up with them and agreed that it was too far and too late to walk so they called a taxi. Of course when it eventually arrived it couldn’t take us all and although they kindly offered me a seat in it I could not decently accept to break up their group. So off I charged. Short legs, cold air, haste all combined to make things difficult. If only I had had more time! Anyway I trotted along thinking about what to do if I arrived late. Not very far before getting there there I caught up with a man who had overtaken me, he seemed some kind of official, to direct people to their destinations. Anyway, caution to the winds, trusting in my very un- frightening looks and in his not being a serial killer, I tapped on his car window and asked plaintively, if he could please take me to the autorium? No hesitation! He could, would and did. The difficult part was: what does one say? In the end a handshake sufficed. I was already reconciled with the world even before Claus Peter Flor’s wonderful rendering of the ninth! Happy New Year!

Music, My Diary

Special Sunday.

There was the possibility to listen to some music this afternoon in Brugherio. I think it’s really interesting when they offer free music, even though I’m not sure who “they” are. It was an organ recital held in San Bartholomew’s a church standing on a site used for worship since the 13th century but much modified since then. Once with a Greek cross plan, the new buiding was commenced in 1854, but it was elongated and given a new facade in 1939. Above the entrance is the great organ built in 1859 by Livio Tornaghi and boasting over 1700 pipes. Its most recent restoration was finished in 2013 and it was on this wonderful instrument that Irene De Ruvo played today.

The concert started with J.S.Bach’s pastorella, the second movement of this has an andante with an imitation of flutes by the organ. Then a Ciaccona by Pachebel, a delightful sonata by Giovanni Battista Pescetti ending up with Claude Balbastre’s Suite. As the organ is at the back of the church on high, someone had had the idea of sending it to a big screen at the front of the church which was very interesting as we saw the musician’s hands, feet and the music itself. The programmes are always quite short which is just as well as these huge churches are so cold. People came pottering in to admire the Christmas crib which I imagine will be dismantled tomorrow as it’s Epiphany.

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!


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!


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.