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

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?

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Right Shade of Pink

This week we have a good reason to think pink!
It's the  Pink Ribbon Fight Against Breast Cancer Week...

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Chrysanthemum delight

November is almost on the door step and there is an overflow of Chrysanthemums everywhere. Sad enough the noble plant - so dear to the Japanese, is destined to embellish our cemeteries and this is it...
Especially in the Mediterranean area, this versatile plant is so deeply associated with graveyards that it is an offence to bring someone a bunch of the un-nameable creature...

But if you happen not to be superstitious and you dare take a closer look at the Chrysanthemum family you will discover that there are plenty of interesting shapes and colours which look pretty sophisticated.
Look out for the very elegant cactus shape, with fine and elongated petals. I particularly fancy the anise green ones, but there are amazing double face ones too, like the bronze and yellow or pink and yellow ones.
Then there are the huge cabbage shaped mums which I find lush and sumptuous and the globe shaped ones too...

Before consumerism hit the horticole production and Chrysanthemums hit the florist shops just in time for All saints, mums where at home in each and every peasant garden, cheering up those sad November days with their bright colours and puffy blooms - gay as a broad child's smile. They are brave and sturdy plants, sometimes a bit prone to mildew, but otherwise they will brighten up the garden for years on and on...

The only advice is to pinch the young shots quite mercilessly in order to encourage side shots and give the plant a bushy shape. Otherwise they tend to grow quite leggy and need stalking in order not to flop over with the first autumn rain.

I don't know you, but I think the Japanese are right to call it the Imperial flower!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Let's play it wild: Ammi Visnaga

October is a busy month in the garden. We are planting bulbs, thinking roses and peonies and God knows what shrubs and bushes that will need the cold month to install in their new home. Mostly we think about noble and pedigree provided plants but what if we allowed a true wilding in our garden?
I'm thinking about Ammi Visnaga, a wild parent of carrots and celery, but with a certain allure...

 Ammi visnaga is a species of flowering plant in the carrot family, known by many common names, including bisnaga, toothpickweed, and khella. It is native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa, but it can be found throughout the world . This is an annual or biennial herb growing from a taproot, erect to a maximum height near 1 m.. Leaves are up to 20 centimeters long and generally oval to triangular in shape but dissected into many small linear to lance-shaped segments. The inflorescence is a compound umbel of pale green turning to white flowers similar to those of other Apiaceae species. Sap can be irritating. Otherwise Ammi V. is used as a medicinal plant for its many properties.
So much about the botanical facts.
In the garden,  our White Lace flower ( a much nicer and more appropriate name than bisnaga...) ads a feathery and light touch. The foliage reminds me of fennel but without the giant growth of this last one - personally I adore fennel, but one has to have plenty of space which I do not...
The flower heads are frothy and light, changing from pale green to a somewhat matte shade of white. 

The blooming period is reasonably long (June to August) not one of this fleeting bloomers that make you fume because they just happen to put on a magnificent show the only day you could not be in the garden!
Think of it as a perfect filler for gaps in the flower bed and as a plant that can add a light and feathery touch among plants with a much more compact growth.

Concerning the growing conditions, Ammi is a pretty easy bet. Its wild nature makes it a true non fuzz plant, provided you can give it a sunny and moist spot. Actually you can see it growing like mad on plenty of road and field borders  through the Mediterranean area. Some say to sow it in march but I think you can try and sow it directly in your border right now... After all this is what it does in nature and this way the plants have more time to prepare themselves.

Ammi makes beautiful cut flowers and the dried flower heads are pretty if left on the plant in the cold season. 
If this is not enough, like all umbellifere, it appeals to all sorts of nice insects and butterflies and the seeds are a good food source for birds in winter.

Be aware though that if she should like herself in your garden it will freely and generously seed itself allover, since it might look prim and proper but deep down it stays a wild thing!

Marry it with other annuals like Cosmos Bipinnatus Purity, Papaver Snowhead, Lupinus, Astrantias,  Nicotina "Green Lime", Larkspurs of any type 
(there is no such thing as an gross Larkspur, but it can be quite a challenge to grow it)  to play down the stiffness of certain roses and hide the bare, thorny foot. I could imagine it next to some delicate English Roses but there again, any of us has his own Rose fetishes.

Russel Lupine
 Cosmos Bipinnatus Purity

 Papaver Snowhead

Nicotiana Lime Green

Hemerocallis Dusky Trug

Iris Lousiana

Thursday, October 4, 2012

ORTICOLARIO - Garden show

Tomorrow opens the ORTICOLARIO Garden Show on the beautiful Como Lake in Italy.

At its fourth edition, the fair takes place in the magnificent Villa Erba at Cernobbio, the ancient mansion of Lucchino Visconti.
To add a bit more glamour, if necessary, this year the show is dedicated to Orchids, both hybridised and botanical.

 A snapshot of the exhibition

Among other novelties, two brand new plants will be presented to the public. The first one is the Vivienne Westwood Rose obtained by Rose Barn. The second one will be the "Villa Erba" Iris produced by the famous French Iris Cayeux. The picture is not yet available, but a stroll on their web catalogue will make anyone weak...

the Vivienne Westwood Rose

For those near Milan or on a trip in Italy, the fair will last from the 5th to the 7th of October.
More information on: www.orticolario.com

Rose Barni: www.rosebarni.it
Iris Cayeux: www.iris-cayeux.com/