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The Journal of a Gardener in Tuscany - June 2004

The Journal of a Gardener in ... 23rd 2004The wild flowers are dying back already, just days after their ... display peaked. The grass is ... and in a week, maybe less, all the gre

The Journal of a Gardener in Tuscany

June 23rd 2004

The wild flowers are dying back already, just days after their fantastic display peaked. The grass is yellowing and in a week, maybe less, all the green lush flowers will be a distant memory.

But elsewhere, the fruit trees, and in particular the cherry trees, are flourishing. Already they are producing plenty of tasty cherries. They are ready to eat now but we’ll wait a few more days and harvest them for cherry jam. The cherries like a few more days on the tree to make tasty jam, so they are a little over ripe. The olives are busy flowering like never before, again, most likely preparing for a good year after such a bad year last year. My Agronomo assured me earlier that on average just 2% of the flowers will become olives. As this is the first year we have started to prune them, and it takes three years to restore an abandoned tree, I suppose we’ll have to accept what we can, which is much more than last year anyhow.

A surprise appearance of aphids in the Rose garden required some action. I say surprise as usually the friendly bugs come and lift off any aphids well before they can cause any trouble. This year the bugs are a little slow and so we will use the only form of chemical we use at La Doccia, which is warm soapy water sprayed onto the buds of the affected roses. The aphids take a disliking to warm soapy water, and soon stop their nasty sap-sucking activity. Meanwhile I’m watching them carefully, and hoping to see some friendly ladybirds and hoverflies soon.

Other than this we use no other chemical pesticides at La Doccia, there has not been any form of intensive farming here and we don’t plan to change that. Also, a surprising amount of the chemicals available for sale at garden centres, in the UK, are now illegal to use in agriculture. The last place to use them, in my opinion, is your own garden one uses as an outdoor room; anyhow, I’ll rant no more on this subject for now.

The helicopter came as planned, when planned, and the garden was ready, as planned. Pity about all the bodies in the swimming pool, these will just have to airbrushed out. What is worse is that our already small swimming pool was made smaller by a large man of 6’7’’swimming in it at the time. Once the software scalpel work takes place, postcards will be on their way soon, coming to a letter box near you.

June 12th 2004

The first wedding, and ‘garden perfection’, seemed to go well together. With the lilies bursting out of the flowerbeds, the roses oozing colour while and fresh growth now is a good time for colour at La Doccia.

The geraniums we planted have taken root and are providing colour and succulence across all the terraces. Elsewhere the laylandii I planted to cover the water tanks are settling down well, in maybe 10 years they will grow enough to cover it up well, but then again from what I hear of Laylandii growing speed, it could be next week. Also, the box hedges planted last summer are growing fast. This is their first year alone and they are all producing thick growth. Hopefully by the autumn they will be ‘joined up’ and then they won’t require nearly the amount of wedding they need now.

The roses we transplanted from next to the lavenderia are in new sunnier positions and look much happier too. Many are producing white and yellow roses trailing all over the new flower beds. The lavender hedges are settling well, with a fair number of bees buzzing round, while I cleared away all the weeds around the rosemary I planted at the lawn at Francesca. It looks clear again and I am tending my rosemary cuttings, some of which look well and some which don’t. I will plant them all in September when the ground won’t dry up. All I need to do is simply remember to head down Pig Lane and water them every couple of days – every two days for the next three months in fact.

The weather has settled down and the only chance of rain seems a long way away. Looking into the clear blue sky it is hard even to imagine rain, but the English in me always makes sure I leave the house with an umbrella.

June 5th 2004

Writing in a thunder storm after a damp week of what is already being called ‘mad weather’ makes me wonder if I am in Italy after all, for the mild cloudy weather all this week has led to accusations that I brought this weather over from England. Working in an olive grove earlier this week resulted in a healthy soaking once a thunderstorm came to say hello, and sent me scurrying the 20 minute run to the house, and three hours watching another incessant rainfall

Of course, being a gardener I am delighted at the rain after having mown our Italian lawn on the shortest cut this year in the morning it was ideal timing. The trouble is, having a rainstorm and walking round the house gleefully rubbing my hands together and grinning out of the window is in direct contrast to the guests who visit La Doccia in search of the Tuscan sun. But I manage to avoid slapping my hands together at every new thunder clap. So far no one has blamed me directly for ruining their holiday, but my glee is in direct contrast to their gloom, as I suggest yet another museum in Florence to avoid the rain.

When the sun is out, which is often enough, our guests are soon out enjoying themselves and plenty are complementing the roses. Some even entered the woods, which along with the Olive Grove is covered in a blue haze of tufted vetch. These and other wildflowers and clovers are making the most of warm weather and plenty of rain.

I strimmed and cleared the lowest of the walls below la Doccia, the first is the herbaceous border and the second is directly below, and part of the lawn, the third, above the olive grove, qv, is hopelessly overgrown. Exposing this from the grasses and brambles will add some order to the view of La Doccia when viewed from a helicopter 200 feet high. The reason it has never been cleared before is that neither we nor our guests ever see La Doccia from this angle – until after, the glorious occasion of the helicopter’s coming, from then everyone will see it on every brochure and even our website, Assuming the photos come out well, we’ll also have some postcards, if you want one let me know (with an address) and I’ll hasten one towards you.

The Hostas have recovered from the severe battering during an unseasonal hail storm at the beginning of May, and are again enjoying their role of greeting people at the bottom of the stone staircase. The lemon tree, exposed in the car park, is in the corner of the terrace surrounded by geraniums, and the box and rosemary hedges are thriving nearby.

One area which has seen out spring is the azalea flowerbed, along with the Rhododendrons and the Camellia. These have all past their bright peak and are now into hibernation before they flower again in September lighting up the entrance to La Doccia for early autumn. They are shaded by an apricot tree which I pruned last week. It is a good idea to remove dead twigs off fruit trees such as Apricots in early summer, they direct the tree’s energy away from the living part of the treeComputer Technology Articles, it looks better and they also make excellent kindling for the barbeque.

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Rupert Mayhew recently moved to Tuscany, Italy, from a career in IT in London. He works in and runs an expanding agriturismo and this new role includes the task of creating a garden out of what is now mountainside.

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