Seasons

Weather

We British are obsessed with the weather. Of course. It’s exciting, variable from minute-to- minute because it’s an ever-changing kaleidoscope. I remember calling my cousin and asking if predictions were good for my summer holiday in England. “Well”, he said ” we had summer last week on Wednesday afternoon”. Here in Italy we don’t actually have weather; just two “seasons”, hot, cold. You can’t squeeze much cover from that can you? but along with no seasons there are no skies. And we all know how delightful cloud -watching is! Ask any baby! They’ll watch the sky and the changing cloud formations for hours! In fact it’s so absorbing that Gavin Pretor-Pinney founded The Cloud Appreciation Society with over 50,000 paid-up members in 2005.

I remember my first Smart car had a glass roof and I had many a near escape because I was cloud watching. Far more interesting than a trafficked road actually! And who has not played the game with kids about cloud shapes? Hands up! I once toyed with the idea of joining the Cloud Appreciation Society but I was a bit put off by the fact that I could see ’em without actually paying! And what do you say of that stupid business jargon term “Blue sky thinking”?

Tell it to the people who live in desert regions. Most importantly (perhaps) is the wealth of skyscapes and cloudscapes that this love has given rise to. Some of our greatest painters have devoted their canvasses to the sky. And in England I lived in the Fens, a particularly flat area with BIG skies.

J.M.W.Turner The Slave shipJ

Gardening, Seasons

But I always thought we ENGLISH invented roses….

Yes, well along with everything else worthwhile: cricket, all dressed in white on the village green, bucolic!; afternoon tea with cucumber sandwiches (no crusts) and scones with raspberry jam and whipped cream; a proper breakfast with cholesterol-busting bacon, eggs beans, hash browns, fried bread; the weather with information on the best places to experience it published in magazines; messin’about in boats; beer warm and flat, not this continental joke of lager; gin and tonic which kept Elizabeth the Queen Mum alive well into her 100’s; my goodness I could go on forever , the list is endless. But I’ve just had the most terrible shock! I wanted to write about my glorious golden yellow rose and I find that it was bred ….in Germany! So after this dramatic wakeup call I decided to research the origins of my other roses. You won’t believe this! I nearly didn’t ….and they’re mine, in my garden, loved under the illusion that they are all English roses! Loved and pampered under false pretences! One is German, two are French, one is Spanish and only two are English roses! We could’ve stayed in the European Union! And I am always so careful, trying to re-create my little bit of home in my backyard! I drive the poor bulb man from Rome crazy insisting on only English bluebells, I order Spring daffodils from England, and clematis England’s second favourite flower? That too.

You never,ever know enough do you? Because the information is all there at a tap on your phone. MAIGOLD (Kordes 1953) The Kordes family is based in Schleswig-Holstein (I thought that the Grimm brothers invented this name for a fairy tale!) and is an innovative breeder responsible for early flowering roses.

FELIPE KIFTSGATE (Murrel 1964) This one was developed by Hilda Murrel, a rose grower and campaigner against nuclear energy. Her rose was popularised by being grown in Vita Sackville-West’s famous Sissinghurst gardens.

SOMBREUIL (Robert 1850) but unfortunately I can find nothing about him though he sounds French.

GHISLAINE DE FELIGONDE ( Eugene Turbat 1916 )Another mysterious Frenchman, but Ghislaine was a nurse in the great war who married a wounded soldier the Count of Feligonde.

MME:GREGOIRE STAECHELIN (Dot 1927) a breeder who put Spanish rose growers on the map famous for his shrub variety.He has been likened to Gaudi as a kind of expressionist because he “consistently chose roses with a wilder and more extreme character than their parents.”

MALVERN HILLS (Austin 2000) breeder of English style roses and one of the fathers of the modern English rose.

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, Seasons

Lighten up!

After my last post, I really think we need to lighten up, what say you? There’s lightness in the night air here in Lesmo. After maybe 3/4 years’ wait, one of my Brugmanias has flowered. Champagne occasion! I bought 3 of them from Hayloft’s remembering the 3 beautiful trees (then called Datura in my old allotment). The offer was a set of three all different colours although I only wanted the white one. They were sent in plastic test tubes and have been lovingly nurtured for the last 3 years. (I’m probaby a better mum to my plants than I ever was to my kids!) Anyway, it decided to flower… creamy, no it’s going to be yellow! Wait til the evening though until it releases that delicate ethereal scent! It’s white! so I loll on my patio and contemplate it…if a double white Brugmansia doesn’t take you to nirvana ….nothing will. Just contemplate, just breathe…

Gardening, My Diary, Seasons

Cold cold January

What a weird month. Freezing cold, sunny and warm, fog, a whole year’s weather in a week! But it’s rather exciting, never quite knowing what you’ll get.

I’m still struggling with my greenhouse problem. I’m finding it really difficult to keep above zero on the very cold nights. I’m keeping my fingers crossed in the hope that the worst has not happened. It’s pretty small so every year it becomes more difficult to fit the plants in. Gardeners’ worries are the only ones you welcome!