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

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Autumn is here, get ready for planting...

Officially Autumn is here! But we are far away from taking a rest.
On the contrary, lists and plans - sometimes over enthusiastic ones, for autumn planting begins. 

I for one have started to check out for Crocuses and Freesias ( rigorously white ones, since they proved to be a fool proof supply for cut flowers) and Muscary and maybe some dwarf Daffodils, and, and, and...
Meanwhile my gardening helpers  - Pepe & Miele (Pepper and Honey in Italian) are taking a rest.

 Miele squeezing in a box...


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Black and a Dash of Bronze Gold

When it comes to fashion, black lit up by a dash of gold is always a winner. 
So what about it in the garden?

I rather guess that one has to carefully balance out the proportions, since too big a splash of very dark flowers could result gloomy or simply dull, since most black blooms are sumptuous when looked up close but tend to fade in a border.

So here is an possible planting list:

 Eremurus Cleopatra

 Hakonecloa Macro Nicholas

 Hakonechloa Gold

 Petunia Black Cat

 Sedum Linda Windsor

 Chrysanthemum Mum Homecoming ( fairly strange name for such a subtle Chrysanthemum)

 Hollyhock Black Magic

Dahlia Arabian Nights and Black Jack (above)

The selected plants are available at Thompson & Morgan and Blue Stone Nurseries.
www.thompson-morgan.com , www.bluestoneperennials.com

Monday, September 17, 2012

What's Blooming Now - September II

Thanks to the fabulous "Vivaio la Campanella" Nursery I identified the blooming rose I have posted this morning. 
It is a Aimeé Vibert a Noisette climber, introduced by Vibert in 1828.
Everything matches, the type of blooms and the fact that it is a late bloomer in June followed by a second flush in September.

Sweet scent and a fairly resistant rose.
Some say it grows up to 3 m but I think it can do much more than that, since mine is grown in a pot and is already that high.

Alternative names:  Bouquet de la Mariée, Nivea, Unique

For fabulous old roses and lots of clematis check this site:  http://vivaiolacampanella.com/
They are real pros!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

What's Blooming Now - September

Not much is going on right now among my plants...
The blasting heat of August  turned all activity down and I am quite confident that the gentle Indian summer will infuse some new energy!
Miss Julia Correvon, a lovely and very reliable clematis is preparing herself - or so at least I hope, for a new cloud of curly deep bordeaux flowers... though right now she looks a bit ragged.

The only bloomer on duty is a white climbing rose with a huge growing habit, which I rooted from a cutting and I do not remember what it actually is?!
Rosarians out there do you have an idea???

It blooms with bunches of 4 cm small ruffled flowers of a milky white hue. Some buds are infused with a very pale shade of pink which disappears when they open.

The flowers open completely , revealing the golden stamen. They are sweetly scented reminding apple blossoms which result quite attractive to all sorts of bees, tiny wasps and flies of all kinds.

The leaves are quite pointed and mate, light green.

Unfortunately this rose was the only one to suffer a massive sawfly attack ( of which I have written in a previous post) which will necessarily lead to pretty severe pruning in order to get rid of the branches which got scorched by the fly larvae.

Though far away from any blooming intentions (!!!) my Plumerias produced an impressive bunch of glossy, healthy leaves and even branched out! OK, it took them basically all summer to do so, but since the result is farely pleasing... so be it!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Plant Profiles: Brownea

It always strikes me that lots of people still buy and grow relatively common plants when the vegetal kingdom literally  bursts with beauty beyond realm!
There is an enormous variety of "drop dead gorgeous" plants that pass quite neglected by lots of nurseries and gardeners and the mere fact that quite a few of theese plants come from tropical regions and hence demand special growing conditions, is not enough to explain the lack of popularity. We take enormous efforts to grow ( or better say slowly torture) orchids but ignore other creatures which are far more easy to grow.

Brownea  is one of these creature worth knowing!
It is a species in the subfamily Caesalpinioideae of the family Fabaceae. Common names include Scarlet Flame Bean, Mountain Rose, Rose of Venezuela . The species is native to Brazil, Venezuela, Guyana and Trinidad. It is also commonly cultivated in other countries including  Africa and the Seychelles.
The family counts some 30 different species all of them varying from small trees up to 20 m ones.
Leaves are evergreen, pinnate and quite big - depending on the species, and when young present a distinct pink - bronze colouring.  
The tree is relatively slow growing and tends to form a dense umbrella shaped canopy.

Brownea Grandiceps, Lemaire 1850

The huge terminal heads of bright pink or scarlet flowers though make this tree absolutely unique.
 From spring into summer, tightly closed, claw-like flower buds emerge in the vicinity of branch tips. The buds open up, from the cluster's outside inward, to create a bright orange-red flower head ball. The flower cluster looks like a scarlet pincushion with lots of golden-red stamens. Individually, a blossom is bell-shaped and releases huge amounts of nectar to attract pollinating hummingbirds. 
They bear a slight resemblance to some Rhododendrons, maybe because the flower heads are round and some species have elongated, oval leaves.
The plant is likely to bloom after 3 or 4 years.

It produces large seed pods with flat bean like seeds ( after all it belongs to the pea Family)

 Brownea Coccinea

 Brownea Macrophylla

They may be grown outdoors in mild and subtropical areas. 

Otherwise these plants can be grown in large pots or tubs filled with equal parts of peat and loam with sand added. The required, minimum temperature is 55 degrees F. Repotting should be done in March. For a few weeks after repotting, water sparingly. During the winter, very little water is needed. The Brownea does not like repoting though, so you should better grow it in large pots and avoid manipulating it too much.
As all tropical plants it needs high air humidity.

As with many other tropical creatures, it might not withstand frosts but it is worth trying to acclimatize it in Mediterranean areas where Jacarandas and Plumerias perform quite well once the tender "childhood" years are over. Otherwise we take great trouble in moving trogs and pots indoors for winter and we could try doing it for such a special lady as well. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Pests & Beasts

Dear folks! this post is more a help request than a proper post.
Actually it will also open a chapter dedicated to pests and diseases that affect plants in general and especially the ones I grow and care for...

I guess all of us have their own horror stories about that fungus or that type of bug that has wretched (I dare say with an incredible time planning) a crop or a plant just a couple of days before it reached perfection or it opened that first bud we were so eager to see. I guess this is part of the game and since I took the firm resolution to reduce to an absolute minimum all toxic treatments, well the war is bitter and sometimes the losses are sensible!

The past winter has been particularly mild and the result was, against my expectations, a proliferation of nasty little buggers. A pretty severe attack of red spider mites was just one of them. 
But what really annoyed me was a massive presence of sawflyes!

The rose sawfly - Arge Pagana with its quite poetic Latin name, is I am told, a plant eating wasp that deposits its eggs in the tender shots of roses. From there, little (so tiny you can barely see them until it's late!) larvae  develop and in no time devoure the leafs of your healthy rose.
Most books and experts tend to say that the Arge is no serious threat to your rose and that you should eliminate the hungry caterpillars by hand - well and that's all!

The Arge has a saw like cutter on its abdomen with which it stiches the eggs into the tender branches. It leaves a mark on the branch that looks very much like a machine stitching... very neat and regular.

 Sawfly larvae devouring leaves and the ugly scorch the emerging larvae have left behind.

Quite unsightly leaf damage after the larvae have left...

Well, the problem is that all young branches which are supposed to bear blooms, have been attacked by sawflies... The damage is not killing the plant but obviously the blooms are heavily compromised and the rose looks ratty! Furthermore the left scars grow and open as the branch ripens and I suspect that it can fragilise the plant on long term since it can facilitate other fungus or insects...
Now the hamletic quest is - there possibly any type of deterrent capable to prevent the sawfly infestation? Relying on birds and the like has so far, had no impact!  It might work on larger scale in a proper garden in the country, but in the urban environment the results are rather scarce.

No reasonable pest bible gives a clue in how to prevent the sawfly from visiting the roses. I do not mind loosing a couple of leaves, or cutting off one or two affected branches but if I have to chop down an entire plant on the expenses of the flowers, well I get quite mad....

Rosarians out there, do you have any experiences with this bug? I would be glad to get your advice and share your experiences...

Monday, September 3, 2012

From Basil to Pesto

Nothing can please a gardener more than to harvest the fruit of his labour. Be it fruit or bloom, the pleasure is such to make all sorrows and past failures fade and compense the year's hard work.

This anticipated autumn has brought a copious load of basil - the fat, sweet smelling Italian one, which after generous pickings of leaves for salads and sauces during all summer, now gave a whole load for homemade pesto.

Pesto is best made with Genovese Basil, any sweet Italian one is fine though . I'd rather not choose the tiny leafed Greek Basil, because it tends to be more pungent and has a slight  taste of incense.

Pesto requires grated parmesan, pine kernels (not an optional), garlic to your taste - pesonally I do not abuse of it, salt and good Extra Virgin olive oil. It takes 5 minutes to go from the picture above to the one below.... once you get the blender going.

 The result is wonderfully fragrant Pesto that compares in no way to any store bought version!

This is what is left of my truly giant bush I had before I decided to make pesto this morning... With a bit of care and love I might be able to repeat in a couple of weeks...

Actually I planted this basil in a big pot that is home to my beloved Kafir Lime which almost died this spring ( in spite of intense and loving cares !???!). The Kafir did slowly recover ( the reason for its sudden illness is still a mystery - maybe it got too cold over winter) but meanwhile I had planted the basil next to it. Apparently they liked the mutual company because both grew like mad. I think I will continue to plant them together given the results...

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Hi everyone! 
September is here - the light is softer and the temperature has sensibly cooled down... and all plants seem to enjoy it! I really hope for a late wave of September blooms on roses and clematis which gave up any activity during the blasting August heat. 
So far nothing really impressive goes on among my chlorophyll darlings so I will wait and post new pics when I will register some activity...

Instead I will share some pictures I took at the Barcelona Botanical Garden a couple of weeks ago. 
Not much was going there either, besides the ferocious Encephalartos - a beautiful and spiny South African Cycad species.

Much more than the Cyca Revoluta (to which I ow some terrific scratches and some painful memories), the Encephalartos is a fierce thing - whith its huge leaves that seem cut out of metal sheets. It is a very sculptural plant provided you can give it the blasting heat it loves and a lot of space in order not to get in too close a contact. As you can see below, it is well armed with dented leaves.... ready to dissuade anybody from coming too near.

This relative of the better known Sago Palm or Cycas Revoluta, was bursting with bright orange red fruit for the joy of all birds and Cotorra parrots.

The size of each seed is impressive - weren't they kind of fleshy - they would make incredible beads in an exotic necklace... alas they will make only a copious feast for the parrots.

The huge fruits are perfectly arranged in rows which burst and spread on the ground when ripe.