" To plant trees is to give body and life to one's dreams of a better world " Russell Page

Friday, December 28, 2012

Incredible Nature

Some absolutely incredible bugs I found on Pinterest. (http://pinterest.com/voicaioana/cats-co/)
The pictures are not mine ( I wish I could do that...) but these jewel like insects are just as beautiful as can be!!!
Makes me want to include a "be good to all bugs" clause on my new year's resolutions list...

We will see when time comes and the first sawflies, caterpillars, aphids show up...

 gold beetle
 European oil beetle - Meloe proscarabaeus

Death’s Head caterpillars, Acherontia atropos

Dagger Moth
Jewel Beetle ? New Guinea

Metallic Mechanitis butterfly chrysalis,

You can follow more about plants and nature on my pinterest boards:
Chlorophyll & Co. :http://pinterest.com/voicaioana/chlorophyll-co/
Garden Design: http://pinterest.com/voicaioana/garden-design/
My Plant Library: http://pinterest.com/voicaioana/my-plant-library/

Monday, December 10, 2012

Plant Profiles: Ilex Verticillata

A shrub for many Merry Christmas decorations and for feeding the feathery friends through the long winter month.

Counting the days till Christmas, one is thinking about all lovely, bright red winter berries which make all the lovely wreath and garlands.
Besides other better known Ilex types there is a rather less known ( at least in Europe) Winterberry called Ilex Verticillata.

Ilex Verticillata,

Ilex verticillata is a 1–5 metres (3.3–16 ft) tall shrub. It is one of a number of hollies which are losing their leaves in the fall. In wet sites, it will spread to form a dense thicket, while in dry soil it remains a tight shrub. The leaves are glossy green, 3.5–9 cm long, 1.5–3.5 cm broad, with a serrated margin and an acute apex. The flowers are small, 5 mm diameter, with five to eight white petals.
The fruit is a globose red drupe 6–8 mm diameter, which often persists on the branches long into the winter, giving the plant its English name.

 Ilex Verticillata " Red Sprite"

Hollies are dioecious plants – male and female flowers grow on separate plants. It is necessary hence to have a male plant nearby for the female plants to produce the highly desirable fruit.
It is a tough plant which is easy to grow, with very few diseases or pests. Although wet acidic soils are optimal, the winterberry will grow well in the average garden. Numerous cultivars are available, differing in size and shape of the plant and color of the berry. At least one male plant must be planted in proximity to one or more females for them to bear fruit.

Concerning the growing conditions the American Winterberry requires sun to partial shade and a range of soil types (dry, wet) but prefers moist, organic soil.
It is hardy in zones 3 - 9. 

Besides being a gorgeous plant for winter decoration purposes, this Ilex is a wonderful food source for bees during the flowering period and later for birds , with its copious load of fruit.


Check this link for a list of cultivars, described acurately: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/factsheets/trees-new/cultivars/ilex_verticillata-table.html

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Peonies to die for!

Not later than yesterday I stated that most garden work is done by now. Little did I know that on the wast sea of internet I would just stumble over some of the most beautiful peonies I have seen.

Ok, I admit that I have an unconditional love for big, lush peonies - I just can't resist their silky opulence and their perfume in spite of the short blooming period.

Klem's Song Sparrow Farm and Nurseries from US has the most incredible choice of this plants - both the herbaceous and the tree ones. 
It is a real torture to pick just a couple, since if you are into big, opulent blooms - there is no such thing as an ugly peony. To me they are all just very close to perfection, but three of them caught my sight for the unusual colour.

The first one is Green Halo - very unusual with its lime green shading on the outer petals.

The second one is Golden Angel - a vision of purity with simple, cupped flowers, but the stunning  fact is the golden colouring of the leaves. The shots turn from the usual red shade when very young,  to an light golden green.

Hot Chocolate has the classical anemone shape, while the colour is  velvety red with a brownish undertone - reminding of  old Bordeaux vine.

I will not bother you with any details about planting and growing peonies - if you are prepared to dig a generous hole  in a suny spot and fill it with good, rich leaf mould the plant will do almost all the rest by itself. And if it should like your garden you might become friends for a very long time - since a peony plant can live for 100 years!
For all the rest about peonies , Henry Mitchell has written some of the most beautiful and funny pages. You can find the book references in my book list at the end.
Be warned before you start looking at the page - the prices are as hot as their peonies... But as the French say: "quand on aime on ne compte pas!"


Monday, December 3, 2012

First Advent Sunday

Now that the most autumn planting is done - the tips of my Tazzetta and Thalia daffodils are already pointing out of their cosy earth blanket ( well, I know that whereas most of you gardening friends head towards some long snowy month - here in Barcelona, winter is a very light affair...), I can dedicate some time to Christmas decoration.

So here I wish you a lovely Advent time!

This year's wreath is done with painted pine cones, I used light gray and silver glitter, and decorated with dried hydrangeas and pink erica.
The silver candles add a bit of frosted shimmer, since we have little chance to see the real snow and ice.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Vegitecture - Green Wall Project in Barcelona

After the last post about the absurd tree chopping I can bring some really nice novelties from Barcelona too!
I don't know you, but I'm getting a bit bored with the current green walls frenzy... I still think that Patrick Blanc has done some incredible work, but there are more and more not so great "clone projects" around the world which frankly do not have the same result.
Some seem just plain and forced copies - I mean, Blanc is a true botanist and the plant choice he uses is very fine tuned to the specific growing conditions. In many other cases I see a lot of virtuosism but no real "mini ecosystems" - just plain vertical planting...
Besides that I suspect that the real and true maintenance costs are in both cases quite high...

But recently I came across a different kind of green wall project which I found extremely interesting.
The project dates from 2011 and is the work of Barcelona based studio Capella Garcia Arquitectura S.L.P.

More than a green wall of tiny little plants stuck in a supporting felt structure, this is a real construction that consists of a self-supporting galvanised steel structure, fixed parallel to the existing blind wall of an urban building. The structure is a nine stories construction, accessible via a staircase which enables the maintenance of the plants.

 More than a green wall, we are talking about a sort of green vertical garden. An example of "vegitecture" a hybrid between architecture and employment of living and diversified plant material.
The project has been promoted by the Barcelona City Council, in order to offer an aesthetic solution to an area affected by demolition of a building at the confluence of two trafficked streets.

From the first to the eighth level,  flower-trough modules are arranged perimetrally, on two distinct levels on metal platforms. These can be reached, with restricted access, from the ground floor by way of interior steps. This convenience of access is precisely what differentiates this structure from other vertical greenery, maintenance and replanting of which always has to be done from the exterior using elevating platforms, making the process a difficult and expensive one requiring specialised labour.

Besides the aesthetic results, which I find to be very urban and pleasant, this type of green wall treatment, offers an effective environmental benefit.
It works as a noise and dust particle absorber, it contributes to micro climate regulation and offers a valid shelter to a diversified choice of insects (good bugs) and birds, contributing though to promoting biodiversity inside the urban areas. As a matter of fact, nesting boxes are also integrated.

Water consumption is minimised by means of an automatic programmed drop-by-drop irrigation system with controlled drainage and automatic dosing of fertiliser.

The project still being relatively recent, I am very curious to see how it will develop in time and if the plants will succeed in colonising successfully the whole structure. On the whole I think that it is a very smart way of dealing with urban green spaces and I would love to see it applied and declined in many other versions.


Friday, November 16, 2012

The Shamefull Tree Mutilation

This morning I intended to write about trees, but I thought about Quince trees - those lovely grandma trees I'm particularly fond of...
But a horrid chainsaw noise diverted my attention! And what I saw out of the window, was the periodical show of tree massacre. 
For incomprehensible reasons (at least for sensitive and nature caring beings)  every year the local municipality sends out a hoard of workers who systematically mutilate all urban trees.
The lacking of criteria in doing so is quite appalling - there is no checking for old, sick or fragilised branches - there is a systematical chopping off of all vital branches. What they leave behind is a mutilated stump, sad and gruelling to look at.

But the most important thing - at least to me, is that by doing so, far from regenerating or cleaning the trees, they irremediably weaken them to the point of shortening their life.

Urban trees have a pretty difficult life anyway. They are true survivors in a hostile environment, poor to almost non existing soil, scarce water and loads of contamination. Yet their benefits are enormous, let aside the aesthetical side, those trees filter the air, retain particles and dust, regulate air humidity, cool down the temperature, offer shade and sight protection, create effective noise barriers and provide a shelter for birds and insects. Yet, in order to reward them for these services, we regularly mutilate them in this way...

It should be said that by eliminating the entire crown, the tree is forced to balance out the crown-root proportion by killing back a considerable part of the roots. Thus the whole structure is enormously fragilised and becomes a true danger in case of heavy storms and winds - which alas are more and more frequent.
This treatment is inflicted especially to big trees - the ones pictured are plane trees, whereas the Celtis australis next to them, have escaped so far...

One could object that in spring those trees will thrive again and rebuild their lost branches...
Well, yes, those poor amputated stomps will sprout again, but the result will be quite poor. The quality of the new wood will be much poorer than the previous, slowly built one, since the tree will force itself to regenerate as quickly as possible. It will desperately need new leaves in order to feed itself so the new - hastily build branches will be long and weak, with wood much less compact and healthy.
Furthermore, a weak tree will be prone to pathogens which afflict especially our street trees, like fungus and insects, causing them further damages.
In economical terms we face not only the costs of the barbaric chopping but on longer terms the cost of removing irremediably sick and dead trees and replacing them with others which will receive the same treatment.
So I ask myself where the benefits of such mutilations are? 

Is it a lack of forestall and botanical knowledge to be blamed? A lack of environmental awareness in the municipal offices paired with hard driven beliefs that this type of action will give the citizens the feeling that they do their jobs? I frankly don't know...

The only thing I'm sure of, is my sense of frustration and shame when I look at those poor mutilated trees. I feel like asking them for forgiveness for such stupid and blind behaviour of fellow humans.

Can we hope in future for a respectful treatment of those majestic living beings called trees which are so much more than a pole to attach one's bicycle and an instant loo for our dog?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Open that bag!

Since quite a few of us are still toying around with bulbs and seeds, here are some absolutely delicious bulb packaging ideas I found on Pinterest...
If the plant shop next corner would carry those sachets I would probably buy anything - even fire engine red tulips (which do really not fit into my planting scheme) by the load...





Such adorable tags - even if the laser cut probably makes them quite pricey! But the font is gorgeous and they would look great for just divided roots and perennials.


This DIY template is great for making lovely seed and bulbs sachets to store for next season or more to the point, give away as presents for gardener friends!

The shown pictures are not mine and the credits are those that I found on Pinterest.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Rosa Hemispherica

Folks it's rose planting time again - you certainly do not belong to those who buy their roses in spring when they get tempted by forced blooms and mainly week shots (God forbid) you see at dubious plant stores! Oh no! Rose buying is a very serious matter that should happen after long and deep pondering, miles long lists that get revised each time we open yet another catalogue. 
Those who have a deep passion for roses go directly to the High Rose Olympus - the Beals/Austin/Lens/Delbard breeders without missing a beat... Then there are quite a few exquisite nurseries which offer the above cited Roses plus a respectable lot of ancient beauties.
Since making a choice is inevitable ( oh we would love to grow them all, but alas, even those blessed with a huge playing ground have to make choices!), I would like to talk about one of my favourite roses. Its name is not at all poetic - Rosa Hemispherica Persiana, a close offspring of the Rosa Foetida Persiana ( stinky - can you believe that!!) 

Rosa Hemispherica is a pure sulphur yellow rose. It is in fact one of the parents of all modern yellow roses we grow today! But in my opinion the shade is deeper and brighter than all modern ones. No burning or fading out in bright sun and at the same time a soft and solar colour that does not scream of modern neon!
In fact R. Hemispherica was one of Redouté's pet roses, one he painted like no one else.
The blooms. as the name indicates, are fully double and right out half ball shaped. Round, cupped silky balls of petals bloom en masse on fine, very thorny stems and small gray green leaflets.

When in full bloom, R Hemispherica is a real show and even if fragrance is not one of its features, it certainly does not stink in any way!
Alas as most ancient Roses it does bloom only once and quite early in season. But for true rosarians this is no handicap. After all peonies also bloom for two weeks - if lucky, and I would not be without them for any reason in this world.
I would plant it among masses of silver gray foliage - lavender (I know this one is quite obvious, but still a lovely combination), Artemisias, Stachis and Santoline, Festuca Glauca and a dash of deep blue of your choice...

Rosa Foetida - the less cupped parent of R. Hemispherica.

Both roses are not very easy to find, since they are not extremely hardy and get quite upset if grown in wet and rainy climates. Since the petals resemble more to light chiffon they tend to get soaked and miserable under pouring rain - after all they long for the hot climate of their ancient home - Persia!

I would like to close with this amazing picture of a R. Foetida, taken by Roger Roses. It is a hundred year old specimen, or better said WAS since as he indicates, this marvelous rose has been killed, weeded out, by truly insensitive people!
Apart this truly sad note, it gives us the idea though of how tough this rose can be - even if left completely alone.

If you should fell under the spell of Rosa Hemispherica, here are a couple of nurseries where you can get it:

Museo delle Rose Antiche, www.museoroseantiche.it/ 
Vivaio La Campanella,  http://www.vivaiolacampanella.com

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Desert Landscapes - Mini

Sorting out old pictures, I stumbled across some pictures of mini cacti and succulents "landscapes" we used to have in our old house.

 The Lithops desert
 Mixed Haworthias

 Sedum Rock garden

One of the most fierce Cereus' I have ever had! Re potting it was a real challenge, but the blooms where a real reward! It uses to make huge bunches of up to 10 blooms.

Can you believe that underneath is a cactus smaller than a tennis ball?