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, 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, 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!

wp-1578089252646.jpg

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!

wp-1578089333198.jpg

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.

My Diary

Nordic Walking

My friend Catherine in a valiant but probably doomed attempt to keep us both fit invited me to go to try nordic walking. Luckily the day we were supposed to try, it rained so we had a week’s grace, Unfortunately the next Sunday we woke up bright and early because we had put the clocks back an hour the night before and woke up to a glorious day.So, there was no avoiding the effort,

We arrived at the gate to find our instructor waiting eagerly for this new batch of enthusiasts. We found a relatively sheltered place to practice. First: walk with your eyes and head straight, look straight ahead of you. Phwew that was easy enough! Round and round in an elliptical circle, I’m not sure a circle can be elliptical but that was the shape.

Second: back straight slightly longer paces and roll your feet. Heel to toe. Well thats not too bad either, do-able.

Next on the rounds again, swing your arms only up to your belly button in front same extension at the back (Yes I know the back swing is difficult for you he says) I ‘m beginning to feel more like a convict in his hour of air by, the minute,do you remember the Van Gogh painting? Well that’s us!

Now he hands out the terrible sticks after adjusting them to our height. This is it, the full monty. We have now abandoned the circle and are walking backwards and forwards in a ragged line.The surrounding broken down buildings are a n eminently suitable backdrop , at least for my broken down attempts. It’s impossible. Everything together, he’s crazy. It’s so hard to co-ordinate all the movements! (I forgot totell you, you have to breathe too)

Then dulcis in fundo, we go for a walk in the park. This “look straight ahead” lark means Isee absolutely nothing, especially the dog poo.! When I do,take an illegal peek round me I see that the park is really beautiful this morning, pristine. It does smell rather strongly of mushrooms though!

Then it was over and the most amazing thing happened.I felt absolutely full of energy, overflowing with energy which lasted all day. And the feeling was so good that the price suddenly didn’t seem too high.

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.