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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4 thoughts on “Mid-summer Slump and Thoughts of Italy

  1. Nora Lee

    Hi, Viv, I love that song and that album. I think you are quite right about gardening for decor versus gardening for the love ot it. You can really see the difference. However, some gardens that are very beautiful and done with love are also very much gardening for decor. I also admire people who can show restraint, as you have implied, by having fewer plants, selected for their particular qualities that suit the design and often having 3 or 5 of one kind to make more of an impact. If you go that way, do remember to think ahead about how much room they will take up! Glad you had a nice time in Italy.

    1. Vivian Lee Post author

      HI, Nora, yes, well, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to be the kind of gardener that does swaths of the same thing to make that great visual impact, simply because I don’t have the room, plus I love so many different plants. How do you limit yourself? Some plants will take up all the room, though you only plant one little thing, anyway! Like the bee balm! It would take over the whole garden if I let it, I think. Anyway, thanks for the comment!


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