Saturday, February 24, 2018

Spring in Umbria

First sunny day in a couple of weeks here. I should have realised it was going to be nice when I heard the wind that has blown away all the clouds.

I've got some deadlines to chase today, but thought I'd share some pics of the garden, and a few ideas I'm working on for the spring. (That is apparently happening right the heck now!)

I've become enamoured of the idea of creating a medieval herb and flower garden in what I can really no longer call The Big Dry Patch. Building beds is rough work though.

Annamaria has pruned her olive grove and there's a small mountain of olive cuttings that aren't doing anything. I've already started wattle fence experiments.

Gathering data for a series of articles - haven't decided where I'm going to flog them - on the concept in medieval mysticism of the "Hortus Conclusus" - the "garden enclosed". It shows up starting in the mid-14th century in the manuscripts, where Mary is often depicted sitting (frequently on a "turf bench") in a lovely garden, surrounded by all manner of flowers and animals, and often accompanied by ladies in waiting like a courtly medieval queen, entertained by minstrels. There's a lot to unpack.

Also gathering garden ideas. I'd like everything to be documentable from primary sources. Fortunately, there's a LOT of stuff uploaded, and the medievals seemed to really love painting their gardens into the manuscripts.

The turf bench shows up again and again in the manuscripts, most often set in front of a trellis with red or red and white roses. Apparently one was supposed to put on one's best clothes and go out in the summer and weave little bonnets with the roses. All very symbolic. I'm working out how to do a turf bench with the materials at hand.

Here's my first trellis, taken a few weeks ago. The side supports are an old wooden ladder that's lost its rungs. The space behind it is just the right size for a melon and squash patch. I'm planning another trellis, made of much sturdier materials, that will be an a-frame for the viney plants to climb. This will create some shade for things that like a bit of shade like lettuces.

New beds, lots of mulch to treat the clay soil and keep the water in when it gets hot; in the background are rows of brassicas in the orto (and Henry, guarding his territory from the farm cats). I got about 25 nice Romanesco broccolis - now all packed away in the freezer for summer - and still have some cauliflower and red cabbage to go. I've planted lots and lots of garlic too, as well as red onions and a few white ones. 

Everything looking a bit grim and grey this time of year, of course, but it's perfect weather for getting out and digging and building. Couldn't do it in the heat. 

Unfortunately, after the very bad drought and unusually hot summer, the loquat tree decided that autumn was spring, and produced all its flowers in November, which were subsequently killed by the frost. A few of the flowers that were a bit sheltered survived and there will be a little fruit. But droughts are bad for so many reasons. 

New beds to protect the beginning grape vines, all planted around with garlics. I'm only about half way done. You can see the big stack of tufa stones in the background along the base of the jasmine hedge. Got plans for all that. In front is my first go at making an obelisk trellis out of bamboo uprights and olive branch twists. It's for sweet peas.

 Here it is in the bed, and the sweet peas are all planted.

That beautiful black soil all comes bucket-by-bucket from Annamaria's family compost heap. It's got to be at least a hundred years old, and covers an area the size of three parking spaces. She's said I can help myself to as much as I like.

Pippy loves to help in the garden.

The apricot in blossom.

My neighbour Franco's almond tree blossoming as it towers above my still-bare fig tree.

Magnificent botanical accuracy in a detail from one tiny corner of the great Ghent Altarpiece by Jan Van Eyck. You can clearly identify every species. So much research to do.


tubbs said...

Do almond blossoms have any scent? Is it pleasant?
Seasons can be so capricious - but I once remember a lilac bush, in Delaware, tricked into blooming in November. The lilac still can back in full force the following April.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

I have no idea. They're about 30 feet above my head, so I won't be able to tell.

tubbs said...

Roman de la Rose - A Chick Lit Bodice Ripper from the 13th century. The illustrations/illuminations inspired me to build a garden in my little city back yard. Once Candlemas is over, I start dreaming about it.