Monthly Archives: July 2014

Mid-summer Slump and Thoughts of Italy

This is the house at Podere Prasiano, taken from a distance, through the orchard.

This is the house at Podere Prasiano, taken through the orchard.

I got back from Italy two days ago and with all the house organizing I have to do after a trip, I didn’t really get into the garden to do any work.  Of course, I took a couple of tours around it to see what was going on, and I noticed that the usual mid-season malaise has set in.  Of course, without me there to dead-head the bee balm, lilies, hostas and roses, etc, things are looking a little ratty, and that can be easily rectified, but there’s a distinct lack of bloom in the garden right now.  I complained about this last year and I thought I’d improved things, but apparently not enough!

What are growing nicely are the day lilies, the bee balm (about ready to burst forth with a second round of blooms- they don’t really stop going until late in the summer), the Jackmanii clematis, the potentilla, and  the astilbe is still providing some colour.  Also keeping their end up are most of my deck planters.  Thanks to some attention by my wonderful neighbour, they hardly suffered at all by my absence.  As far as the garden goes, one problem is that I tend to plant one of everything, then I’m surprised it doesn’t make a great ‘show’ of colour.  It’s a bit of a disappointment, and I really have to learn my lesson.

In Italy we stayed at two Agriturismos, one in the Valpolicella area and one in Emilia Romagna,

These roses, which start out almost black, smell divine!

These roses, which start out almost black, smell divine!

not far from Vignola, right in the middle of nowhere.  The latter, called Podere Prasiano, is a place we’ve been to twice before, which tells you how much we like it.  There are many similarities between these places: both were established in the last few years, the buildings are old, but beautifully renovated, they each have a pool and a garden and they each provide excellent breakfasts.  However, what makes our favourite place stand out are rather subtle but important points.  Our host and hostess at Podere are committed to creating an oasis of peace and beauty that goes beyond merely drawing customers.  Emanuela loves to garden.  She plants with love; great big beautiful roses, lots of lavender, butterfly bush, figs, tons of cherry  and apple trees, etc, etc.  She provides a lot of the food from her own place, but if she can’t provide it, she finds local people who have sound farming practices. She’s also a fabulous chef, and cooks dinner most nights for whoever wants to pay a little extra for a four course meal that is so delicious, yet fresh and simple,  that driving elsewhere tends to look very unappealing. I can’t say enough good things about Podere Prasiano!

The pool, with roses in the foreground and the mountains in the background.

The pool, with roses in the foreground and the mountains in the background.

I have a theory that there are two types of gardening, and I believe the two gardens of these agriturismos fit neatly into the two categories (which I’ve just now made up, by the way!).  There is what I call “Decorator Gardening”, which is what the first Agriturismo practices, and there is “Gardening with Passion”, (can also be shortened to plain “Gardening”) which is what Emanuela does.  It’s not that the Decorator’s  garden isn’t lovely, it’s just that with more freedom, abundance and imagination, Emanuela created a garden that is somewhere you want to be and never tire of, whereas the other is just, “Meh”, despite the beautiful flowers contained in it. I could be wrong, but I imagine that the Valpolicella place’s owners realized they needed flowers to make the place appealing, so they did some research, bought a bunch of stuff that would bloom continuously, and put them in.  It’s done tastefully, but without passion.  Garden Decorating.  You see it all over the city here in Montreal, and elsewhere.  People have a feeling that their place would look better with flowers and that’s why they plant some. It tends to look artificial and/or awkward, and is done mostly with annuals in my part of the world.  With a trained eye and/or good sense it can still look very pleasing; but those of us who garden because we love plants and want to be around them plant things that make us excited, and our gardens show that.  It’s love that creates the magic in a garden.

Due to the sad loss of some of my photos from Italy, (my phone got wet and didn’t survive) and that I’m having trouble downloading the ones I took on my camera, I don’t have photos from this year’s trip yet.  The photos in this post are from other years, but are still a good reflection of the garden at Podere Prasiano.

Enjoy this little song by Bruce Cockburn, from an album I listened to a lot as a teen, “Salt, Sun and Time”.  This one is called, “All the Diamonds in the World”.

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Roses, and why I grow them

Peach roses planted last year

Peach rose planted last year

As some of you may remember, I planted three new rose bushes last year.  I already had five other roses in the Tranquil Garden, most of which are very hardy and only cause me a small amount of heartache every year.  The ones I planted last year are Canadian-bred hardy roses, too, and I’m grateful for that;  I can’t imagine how particular they’d be if they weren’t!   As it is, I worried over them a lot last year because they suffered terribly from black spot, that scourge of roses.  They flowered for awhile and were beautiful, but then they dropped most of their leaves and looked pathetic for the rest of the season.  I tried to pick up the dead leaves and pick off the yellowing leaves to minimize the spread of the disease, but it’s hard to get it all.

I get exasperated by roses because they are so susceptible to various problems.  Black spot is a big one, but also powdery mildew, leaf-cutter worms and bud-worms.  In the spring, in order to keep things from getting out of hand, it’s important to make a daily (or almost) check of your garden to see whether you have any new unwanted visitors.  I don’t use pesticides so the most effective tool I have is constant vigilance.  The worms and other bugs tend to show themselves subtly at first so it’s easy to miss the signs. If you see leaves that are slightly rolled up, check to see whether there is a cocoon or some other larvae under there.  Either wash off what you see or remove the leaf.  Better safe than sorry! Bud worms establish themselves in the bud very early in its development, so if you see some brown stuff or the tiny bud looks deformed, cut it off. Be ruthless;  sacrifice a few blooms for the overall health of the plant.

There are plants other than roses that get powdery mildew; for instance, bachelor’s buttons, forget-me-nots, and phlox.  There are homemade concoctions you can mix up and spray on the leaves, but I have yet to bother with them.  Powdery mildew doesn’t seem to kill the plant, so that’s my excuse for my laissez-faire attitude.  I feel sorry for my purple-leafed rose this year, though, it’s looking pretty decrepit.  It always seems that I miss my window of opportunity for doing the spraying.  By the time I start thinking about it, the stuff is all over the plant and it seems hopeless.  (What happened to constant vigilance, you ask?)

So, why do I still plant roses, worry and fuss over them all the time and accept a high level of aggravation in the process?  As soon as a flower bud overcomes the obstacles and opens up in its full perfection, it’s all worth it. IMG_20140702_134124283_HDR

Back from Huge Plant Country

Here's the enormous fuchsia bush growing beside the cottage we rented.

The enormous fuchsia bush growing beside the cottage we rented. The hummingbirds loved it!

I’ve been back from B.C. for several days now and haven’t written a blog post.  My excuses are many; my daughter moved back in with us and needed my help; I messed up my arm and neck a bit (too much computer, or moving heavy furniture, not sure which); I’m distracted by all the chores demanded by my house now that I’m back; plain old procrastination.  Can’t forget that last one.

Enough self-recriminations, I’m happy to report that our trip to B.C. was wonderful.  We enjoyed seeing our relatives and a friend in the Vancouver area; then we travelled over to Tofino by car and ferry to experience the beauty there.  I’ve been to Vancouver a couple of times, as well as Sechelt and Abbotsford, but this is the first time in the month of June, when nature has been going strong (after the winter pause) for several months.  Plants get very big there, and grow very fast!  My nephew, his wife and their two children have a wonderful cottage on Gambier Island (between Vancouver and the Sunshine Coast), and my niece-in-law was telling me that she really notices how aggressively things bounce back after cutting, especially since they can only get there on the weekends. The forest is just outside their property, although it’s a bit hard to tell exactly where the property line is. (Dang vegetation! It grows wherever it pleases!)  The forest is old-growth and absolutely wonderful.  I’ve never been to a tropical rain forest, but I felt like I was experiencing it on Gambier Island and in Tofino.  Trees are huge and covered in moss with plants and vines hanging all over them.  Enormous dead trees crisscross the forest floor with other enormous trees growing out of them.  It’s fascinating.

The cottage we rented in Tofino had a gorgeous bush hanging over the deck with bright pink flowers on it.  On closer inspection I realized it was fuchsia!  I’ve always liked the extravagant flowers of the hanging baskets of fuchsia that we find here in the east, but it never occurred to me to wonder what they’d be like in a mild climate.  Well, it was really something. Check out the picture above! The hummingbirds and bees were very busy enjoying the nectar.

We visited the Tofino Botanical Gardens just up the road from where we were staying, as well as the Hot Springs about 90 minutes by boat away from Tofino. I loved the Gardens, and so did my husband, which is saying something; he’s not much of an aficionado.  The goal of the Gardens was to highlight the local flora, the rain forest and the history of the First nations people of the area.  It was well worth the cost of admission, though it was not a large garden compared to most.  We both admired the art installations, the ponds and the path through the forest. 

I have to stop this for now, though I have much more to add.  I’m definitely experiencing a flare-up of something in my neck and elbow.  No fun!  I’ll try to remember how to add a photo album so you can enjoy our trip vicariously.

Well, I did it, I guess!  Click below to check out the photos.