Tuesday, 25 September 2012

No Bison Yet

Our 'Prairie Garden' really has been a tale of the unexpected.

First came its birth from a weed-infested terrace - thistles with shocking roots almost as thick as my wrist; to the sudden discovery that the soil varied from clay so tough a potter might struggle with it - to almost pure sand. Not to mention the long delay caused by a snowstorm felling a huge Quercus ilex and changing the landscape of the garden forever (see last post).

Every cloud has a silver lining, and just as the huge crater left by the fallen tree has now become a lush garden full of exotic salvias with a spectacular, previously unseen 100m limestone cliff as a backdrop; my panic about planting so many hundreds of pounds' worth of plants in already-dry soil in May, just before the heat really gets turned up here has been spectacularly rewarded:

NB for further photos click here



Thursday, 20 September 2012

The last official day of summer bought the sudden arrival of a gang of swallows; wheeling and screaming over the pool and olive trees. At first their darting shadows alarmed me as I cut the lawn, then melancholy set in as I realised what it signified. They’re gorging all the insects they can for their long flight over the Mediterranean to warmer winter climes.

On the ground there are real signs of the changing seasons too. First one, then two, then dozens of orchids revealed themselves. Autumn Lady’s Tresses - probably the last* orchid of the year, a demure little thing barely six inches high with spirals of greeny-white flowers. Subtle. Possibly too subtle to be of much interest to anyone but the confirmed plant geek...

However, there’s still plenty of colour in the garden. The sages - salvias - are really coming into the fore at the moment on the Arena (the new garden created in response to a huge oak tree felled by snow in February. Pictures here

I’ve planted a couple of dozen varieties of this amazingly varied genus. There are over 900 species of almost every colour under the rainbow. And they Just Keep On Flowering. How glad I am..

Salvia 'Wendy's Wish' and Stipa tenuissima.

More images on flickr 

*although the wild flora here has been full of surprises for me, not least the strange and sinister 4ft spikes of the dark purple saprophytic orchid Violet Limodore (sounds like a Victorian detective heroine or a drag queen) Limodorum abortivum that appeared overnight in the forest above the garden in May.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Planting starfish

Lively storms mark the end of summer - strobe-like lightning and long rain that seems ceaseless. The visible relief on peoples’ faces as the everyone takes a deep, joyous breath and enjoys the last days of the great summer carnival. The last week of August is a week of limbo, nothing has geared up but everyone’s slowly preparing for the start of real life again in September.

So it seemed appropriate to be doing that least showy of garden tasks, bulb planting. It’s the only gardening job that actually makes the garden look worse immediately after you’ve done it.

It’s still too early for most things, but there are several to get in quick at this time of year. Not least the massive Foxtail lilies -  Eremurus robustus and the strangely pungent Fritilaria persica that look more like grenades than flowers at the moment. Not to mention 1000 autumn-flowering Crocus speciosus...

The Foxtails are bonkers plants; huge starfish-like roots and 9ft flower spikes. 

If you believe in Creationism, God must’ve got really bored one day making nice little ferns and mosses, had a big drink and said “Right then...”

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Edible Heaven

M said to me the other day "Do you think we've enough tomatoes?" To which I replied "errr" (knowing full well it was a rhetorical question and we have more than it's possible to eat).  33 puny little seedlings back in March have become a veritable forest of plants that regularly need re-staking because of the weight of the fruit.

And what tomatoes they are! Of the eight varieties we've grown, the undoubted showstopper has been 'Black Krim' (top left)- a huge tomato of indeterminate colour that's utterly impossible to buy as it's the savoury equivalent of a really ripe peach. Absolutely un-transportable, they're squashy, soft and so flavourful they literally stopped me in my tracks the first time I ate one. They can get to the size of a small grapefruit and are never regularly shaped.

Trusty 'Sungold' (top centre) are the other end of the spectrum - tiny; extremely sweet, yet a little tart at the same time.  Fantastic on a pizza with lashings of our own olive oil. Bon app├ętit!