Sunday, November 18, 2012

Veggie Garden In Umbria

  Against all odds, I am trying a veg garden at home again this year. I like the fall vegetables, the carrots, beets, onions, chard, lettuces of all's a mild climate here, so we can go for it. 
  Against all odds, because every couple of years I try, and every time I am bummed when the raccoons, or birds or cats mess it all up. 
  Oh, and those f-ing earwigs try my last nerve. 
  We have gorgeous produce everywhere, but I still like the idea of going into my own little garden to pick a few things for the dinner table. What can I say... I grew up next to both sets of grandparents, and both grandpas were into it big time. 
  So I try again.
  Things were going really well, too...we made an awesome "cage" thingy to fit over the main raised bed, I put in loads of my good compost, and the gentle rains have been fabulous. We go out every day to see the beauty of the seedlings raising up out of the soil, so trim and happy. I like making rows, so the geometry speaks to my sense of order, as well. Then...wahhhh.
  I think it's the sweet neighborhood cat, Grace-Eva, that did the main damage. She must have jumped up onto the netting and busted through the top of the cage. So of course the lovely birds had their way with the seedlings. They just pluck them out like candy.
  What can I say, I'm a masochist, I guess. Every freaking time. I'll get over it, and Johnny is putting wire where the netting was, which we should have known to do from the start. Sigh. It may be too cold to start fresh, but there are still some survivors, so.....

  Anyhoo, it got me to thinking about my little veg garden at Villa Adriana this past spring. It was sure nice to have, since the place came with the garden already well on it's way, and I could add whatever I wanted. Sweet. One of the first things I did was to get some seeds to plant with Loreen, our pal that came to stay early in the trip. She is a wonderful gardener, so I thought it would be fun.

Entry path to the veggie garden, just past the grape arbor and plum tree!

An early shot, with the arugula bed in front, nothing coming up yet.
There are peas, lava beans, chard, potatoes and artichokes, too.

  It was great watching as everything thrived in the sun and rain, growing super fast. In just a few short weeks we were enjoying chard in soups, or with roasted potatoes, and we had arugula salads all the time....

Peas on left, fave on right, arugula and chard in the fore ground. 

This patch of arugula was the gift that just kept giving....

Simple salad with our favorite onion/sage "pizza" from the Panicle bakery.


A small section of the massive potato patch.

 It's a trip that I never saw any critters or bugs going after these delicacies...I know that the gardener wasn't spraying or setting nastiness around...he was mostly interested in the olive grove, anyway. I think he liked that I was doing my own thing, even weeding and watering, when needed. It was a lovely way to relax, and with that view, I mean why not?

Picking leaves from a rouge chard plant that kept coming up in the "lawn".
If I waited too long, it would get mowed by dear Renato, the gardener.

  As time went by, we were excited to realize that we would be able to enjoy the fava and peas, if not the stone fruits. The peas were heaven on a plate just warmed in a pan with a little olive oil and salt...

Oh, man.

So pretty with the sun behind them...

We even had a couple of these lovely artichokes, which we art raw, like the locals do.
The leaves are tender enough, just dip in good olive oil, sprinkle with a bit of salt.

  I've mentioned a few times here in the blog about the tradition of eating fresh, young fava beans with fresh pecorino. We stuffed ourselves, really. Our favorite place for pecorino, Fontemanna, is already in our dreams for the next trip, especially since we know we will be there again in the perfect season.

Pretty, pretty.

There were red poppies coming along all through the garden,
along with other beautiful "weeds".

The lunch we dream about.

  I don't know if we will ever be in Panicale during stone fruit season, but if we are, I know it will be an outrageously tasty time. There were several cherry, apricot, peach and plum trees on this property...all just getting ready to explode. At least we were able to see them all in full, glorious bloom...

Cherry tree from heaven...

Apricots, I do believe....

  I'm going to just keep on trying to get things going in my garden, I don't care what trys to stop me. After writing this, I'm very determined to see it through. And you'll see photos of my beets and carrots,  roasted and glistening...I really can not wait.
  Sometimes it takes a little reminding to my own self just how special it is to even have a garden...

A "last day of the trip" shot of the garden. I hope whoever came next enjoyed it as
much as we did. I think they did. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A Little Variegation In The Morning

  This morning it was just so lovely in the garden...the fall light is too beautiful. Most of the garden is heading south for the winter, but the variegated plants I love so much are still rocking' right along. 
  Johnny had asked me to take some pictures of a couple of new paintings over in his studio, but I was severely sidetracked by the pretty day...with just a few minutes to go before heading off to work, I managed to get some tasty little snapshots of a few of my favorites... the theme is most definitely variegation!

New to the garden, I picked up two of these ferns in Santa Cruz. Sadly, I don't know their names..Anyone?

Another recent addition, Carex "Sparkler". I just had to get three.... I'm underplaying with
a variegated plectranthus, of course.

Starting to die back for the season, this is a fantastic "hardy geranium" that tolerates shade. I just
got it for the foliage, but it has sweet magenta colored flowers.

Another one that is dying back for winter, this is a favorite of mine, variegated Fallopia.
It has gorgeous pink-tinged new growth in spring, too.

  Since I'm a notoriously frugal, I love having plants that I can take cuttings from, and spread all over the garden. These beauties below are three of my current faves to tuck in here and there. They work well in most of the garden, and play well with each other, too.

My good buddy Tasha passed along a cutting of this ivy geranium to me, and it has just thrived everywhere.
I don't care if it blooms or not, but when it does, it's bubblegum pink.

I've written about this plectranthus before in the blog, and for good reason.
This fellow is awesome, and doesn't seem to mind shade. A real workhorse. 

I usually keep this one in pots, because it does better with regular watering. I love it.
Arrhenatherum, or Tuber Oat has little bulblettes, so easy to propagate!

Another new addition, found in 4" pots (yes!), this is a variegated Pteris fern.
Had to get a couple of these, and am waiting for some growth....

  I love the plants I can easily propagate, but have had no luck with this Coprosma "Marble Queen", below. It really chaps my hide, because I want it everywhere in the garden. Must try harder, I suppose....Anyway, below you will see a nice shot of the normal coloration, and then a weird freakish mutation. A large chunk of one of my shrubs is showing this mutation, so I'll just let it go, and see what happens. I like to think I have my own zombie plant going on here....


Zombie's that pesky plectranthus again. But I love it here among the fallen leaves of my Cersis 'Forest Pansy".

Just a regular old garden geranium, but I like it. I don't care for it's flowers, though.
Lipstick red...(shudder). Seems to be fine in partial shade, which adds points.

  As we here on the central coast of California are becoming only too aware of, water is getting very tight. We are always on restrictions, and I'm totally down with that. It's one reason why when I find a real garden trooper, I take cuttings and spread it all over the place. 
  I'm going back to my gardening youth these days, it seems, as I am adding more and more succulents to my once thirsty garden. They have made a major fashion come-back over the past several years, so why not join in the fun? Plus, as we all know, you can start with one, and like little bunnies, you'll have dozens before you know it. Speaks volumes to the cheapskate in me!

Of course, I favor the variegated types, but have many varieties through out my garden.
 Thankfully, we rarely have frost this close to the ocean...

  These final shots are of a geranium "Phaeum", not certain which. I had just about given up on it but decided to dig it out of the garden bed and baby it a little. I took the best of what was left of the original, and now very sad plant and just cut it way back. There were about 6 or 7 pieces I could see that might come back, and just look! I put the little viable root pieces in some good, fresh soil with compost and they are really thriving. I'll probable keep them in containers for awhile, until I figure out where to put them. They like water, it seems, so maybe they will stay in pots until they need to be split again.
  Can't you just see these underplanted with that plectrantus? Hmmm...or interplanted with the variegated grass from up the page aways...Hmmm...This one does have the most beautifully delicate little flower, sort of a light magenta color. Yum.

  I just had a most profound thought..well, maybe not profound... but at least sort of interesting. I I am getting older, and I can't do as much in the garden physically, and my eye site is beginning to truly suck, maybe it's this. Maybe I love my variegated plants because I have to just get right on top of them to see and really appreciate them, and they take no real care, for the most least the ones I have don't. They give back so much real pleasure just being there. 
  I can get so overwhelmed by my garden, and all the work it needs and takes...but these little fellows just sit there, being all variegated. So simple.