Saturday, November 18, 2017

Paper Polka

Paper Polka
Even with their petals in a dry and brittle state, the Polka roses did add a touch of color to the yard.

Remember ‘Paper Roses’ by Marie Osmond? These instantly reminded me of that song as I snipped them off the bush. Yard cleanup all DONE, but there's still a bit of work in the garden before I can call it quits for the year. The weather has been surprisingly good, only 3 days of rain, some overcast days, and now sunshine for the next 2 weeks. Lucky us.

Today's high: 18°C / 64°F

Monday, October 2, 2017

FruttaWeb for fruits and vegs

Ordering fresh produce online is still a gamble (you just never know what to expect and delivery services like SDA are unpredictable), but I'm convinced that after a recent purchase from this relatively new company, buying our 5-a-day is best done... by ourselves. I hesitated on giving FruttaWeb a try but when I saw that they had pawpaw grown right here in Italy and that deliveries were now done by refrigerated truck, I had to give them a go.

FruttaWeb home delivery
A positive: very secure packaging. Layers of plastic wrap holding 2 boxes together.

FruttaWeb order
Another positive: individually packed produce, with heavier items on the bottom, but the enoki from the UK was not fresh (slimy feel), so that's a negative.

Pawpaw grown in Italy
3rd positive and the best of all: perfect pawpaws grown in Italy! Azienda Montanari in Faenza cultivates fruit (variety not stated) of impressive size and quality. Excellent packaging. We will skip the middle guy and buy directly from them next year.

Now, on to the negatives (and some GoT giggles).

If Daenerys saw these she would say send them back

Mother of Dragons in the flesh

Moriche palm fruit from Peru
Looking a lot like undersized dragon eggs, the 'scales' on these aguaje/moriche palm fruit were already falling off. A huge disappointment.

Aguaje from FruttaWeb
Some had mold or that "off" smell of fruit past its time, and they were a bit dry, even after soaking (to facilitate peeling). 8 aguaje and 10€ down the drain.

FruttaWeb prides itself on customer service and I'm sure they would've reimbursed me, but the fact remains that the product was of poor quality and should never have been sent out. There is a risk when buying imported produce. Also, my negative aguaje review was not added to their site, so I won't be doing business with them again. As for the pawpaws, the Montanari farm is a bit of a drive but they're worth it.

Today's high: 18°C / 64°F

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Nashi pear crop 2017

Nashi crop 2017

One for me and one for the husband. Weighing in at just under 1 pound (15 ounces of pear goodness), they were perfectly sweet and delicious. This year wasn't big on fruit or vegetables due to the excessive heat, but I think we did okay considering the drought-like conditions that affected much of central and southern Italy. With any luck, 2018 won't be a repeat of this very hot summer.

Today's high: 17°C / 63°F

Monday, August 28, 2017

Summer 2017 garden notes

As we go through what seems to be the umpteenth round of record-breaking high temps, my focus is on prepping the garden beds for next spring. The soil needs to be turned and manure worked in. Crop rotation definitely has to be done, especially for the areas where the tomatoes grew. The harvest this year was okay despite the heat, and what few Cherokee Purples I got were beautiful and delicious as always. And like last summer, we were inundated with cucumbers!

Burrata, cucumber and Cherokee Purple
Burrata, cukes and Cherokee Purple

As for the fruit harvest...a handful of grapes, some mirabelle plums and the 'nashi twins' that should be ready in a couple of weeks. Once again, the persimmon put out lots of flowers yet all but one of the developing green orbs remained on the tree. No visible problems with pest or disease, but for some reason the tree won't or can't keep from dropping young fruit.

Nashi twins 8.28.2017
Nashi twins

I grew several (not from seed) types of hot peppers this year but the aji amarillo was my pet project. Ever since I saw them as an ingredient in Peruvian cuisine, I wanted to grow and harvest some to use in cooking and for saving seed. The peppers are thick-walled, 4-5 inches long, and around 5/8-inch in diameter. An update is in the works when I get around to working with them.

Aji amarillo
Aji Amarillo

Today's high: 31°C / 88°F (yesterday almost 34°C!)

Friday, August 4, 2017

The garden in August

Hot, hot, hot. So very glad we don't live in the lower plains or in southern Italy where the heat has been just awful. I think the heat has affected production in my garden somewhat - I should've been rolling in the large tomatoes by now - but instead I'm harvesting enough cherry tomatoes, cukes and zukes to keep the fridge filled with a continuous supply and nothing going to waste.

Nashi pears in August
Nashis looking good!

Cherry tomatoes 2017
If all (especially the big varieties) else fails, cherry tomatoes will always put out a decent crop.

Sublima grapes 2017
Sublima grape vine - only a handful this year but they are tasty and very sweet.

Not quiite Cafe Au Lait

I give up. Either the people responsible for packing dahlia tubers are going to work stoned, or dahlias like to masquerade as another variety once they get buried in the ground. I'm not complaining too much, but this does not look like the coffee cream hue of Cafe Au Lait!

Today's high: 35°C / 95°F

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The sacrificial pears

Sacrificial pears
1 month ago, 2 weeks ago, 3 days ago

I dread having to thin fruit but this year the nashi decided to take a break from last year's abundance of blossoms and produced only one cluster of flowers. That cluster turned out 5 perfectly shaped pears and from past experience we knew that either a few go, or we end up with puny fruit or nothing at all.

Well, the nashi must've done a happy dance every time we cut one off. From left to right: a month ago, 2 weeks ago, and 3 days ago. I just checked the tree and the remaining 2 are TWICE the size of the third one.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Sunday outing at a lotus and water lily fair

Vivaio Hydrophyllum no. 9

Apparently all things to do with gardening are never quite over and done with (the last transplant went into the ground weeks ago) as long as there are events out there to catch your fancy. I had this one in Cittadella (in the province of Veneto and 2 and 1/2 hours away by car) highlighted because my first thought was "Water plants? Why not!"

Vivaio Hydrophyllum no. 3

Of course that was my garden-obsessed self speaking, because no matter what crazy ideas ran through my head, the MotH was not going to have a pond, however small, installed in an area known to attract frogs, toads, water snakes (harmless), and God-knows-what-else the dogs might kill and drag into the house.

Vivaio Hydrophyllum no. 6

Our neighbor had a fish pond within earshot of our bedroom; the toad that inhabited it would croak all night long. I'm sure my husband was ready to remind me of that if I had tried to argue the aesthetics of ninfea floating in a limpid man-made pool. To his credit, he was more than happy to mind the dogs while I occupied myself with taking photos. And we did come away with a few plants for cooking and eating.

Thymus longicaulis
Mediterranean Creeping Thyme

Purple-leaf korean shiso
Large-leaf shiso

Hemerocallis 'Frans-Hals'
‘Frans Hal’ daylily

Today's high: 31°C / 88°F

Monday, June 19, 2017

Bonjour from Provence!

We'll be hanging out at our bungalow by the pool with a bottle of crisp rosé.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Last of the seedlings in place - now we just hope and wait

Garden in early June

Garden update - I took advantage of today's hazy skies to transplant the last of the seedlings: padron peppers and rat tail radishes. We've been lucky on the weather with no late frosts or heavy storms, so now we just wait and hope for more beautiful days throughout summer. This year's plantings are not a lot of things but here's what I have doing nicely in the beds:
7 kinds of small pepper plants
Paul Robeson tomatoes
Cherokee Purple tomatoes
Orange-colored cherry tomatoes
Apero tiny cherry tomatoes
Burpless cucumbers
Striped zucchini
Rat tail radish

On the fruit production, it looks like we'll have some mirabelle plums and Sublima and Black Magic grapes. When we're in Provence, I'll pick up whatever is in season that'll survive the ride back home. Looking forward to posting some lavender images too!

Todays high: 24°C / 75°F

Thursday, May 18, 2017

April May showers bring May flowers

The weather is gradually shifting to early summer conditions but I'm still hesitant to put anything into the ground until the forecast stabilizes. That doesn't mean any less work in the yard though. On the contrary, the lawn needs to be mowed twice a week, there is constant weed control (manually, no chemicals!), and a battle with aphids that I'm proud to say I'm winning. While all that is going on, I count the days when we'll set up the irrigation system and hail protection. Whew!

When I'm done and satisfied, I make a nice cup of hibiscus tea and admire the flowers. My husband actually thanked me one day when he came home to a perfectly manicured yard. Gardening is such a boost for the soul!

The iris patch from last year finally established itself

Iceland poppy - salmon color

Oriental poppy

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Summer should be hot and spicy

Well I'm hoping for the hot part, because heat and lots of sunny days will determine how spicy these peppers will turn out. I bought them at a garden nursery when we were in Tuscany: Hot Lemon (hot), Cajamarca (medium), Fatalli Yellow (very hot).

But 3 varieties can't be enough if you're into food with some kick, so a few days later, I get another 2 from a nearby garden center: Multicolore Chiara (medium-hot) and Aji Amarillo (medium). I've been looking for the latter ever since I saw it mentioned being used in peruvian cuisine. It's an ingredient in a special sauce that goes on yummy arepas and I want to try making that!

I haven't decided exactly where I'm going to plant all of these, but this year the focus will be on producing a lot from only a few things, namely tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini and hot peppers. Last year I had such a gross problem with black aphids on my pole beans but nothing touched the cukes. And we love cukes!

If the weather warms up in the next few weeks, these young tomatoes are going in the ground. The smaller seedlings to the left are padron peppers that I heard were similiar in taste to shishito peppers.

Dahlia and iris bulbs in the ground and waiting to bloom in a few months. At least I hope they'll bloom. We're always several weeks/months behind in respect to the average growing zone, and what doesn't come up this year more than often makes an appearance the next.

Today's high: 18°C / 64°F

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Egg-cellent Easter weekend

Easter Sunday brunch
Easter brunch

A lot of good food, some garden work, and my face stuck in the book 'Tracks' by Robyn Davidson. I liked the film better. Easter weekend brought an end to the early summer-like weather with a sudden drop in temperature and cold wind gusts that sucked the moisture out of everything. The dry air is a nuisance for my eyeballs, but it's the static that irks me most - I get zapped all the time.

Easter weekend work
Hail protection for the nashi

Easter Monday bbq picnic
Easter Monday picnic bbq

We're heading out to Tuscany for a few days and the first thing I'm going to do is check out a garden shop to see what different plants I might find (and take home).

Tuesday, April 4, 2017


So little time, so much to do... With occasional rain showers and early summer-like temps (77°F yesterday!) we've had lately, there has been more than enough to keep ourselves busy. Mowing the lawn, transplanting herbs and flowers, potting up seeds, and the neverending weeding - it's crazy! By ourselves I'm referring to my husband and myself, but a lot of the time the dachshund shows great interest in whatever I'm doing in the yard. He cracks me up.

The "yellows" (daffodil and forsythia) are on their way out which is why I've titled this post White. The wild cherry trees at the front of the property and all over the chestnut forest are in full bloom, but we've got some of that white in the yard too. One of which has four legs and likes to hang out next to the tulips.

Lots of wild cherries this year, but they're sour.

If there be no hail or late frost...
Mirabelle plum blossoms

I just love their scent
Double narcissus

Still fairly clean 1 day after her bath

Today's high: 21°C / 70°F

Delivery today or tomorrow: dahlia and iris bulbs for summer

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Looks like spring, feels like spring, tastes like spring?

Lately we've been experiencing such warm, sunny, and gorgeous days but I won't declare that it's spring just yet in case it might jinx this great weather. The Proud Garden is back in growth mode, and the new season has begun. The daffodils are in full bloom, the perennials shooting straight up out of the ground, and the roses are beginning to put out tiny new leaves.

Bleeding Heart

My poor yuzu (left) did survive the winter but is currently looking a little stressed, so I started the fertilizing process. On the other hand, the kaffir lime (right) is doing great as it was kept indoors after purchasing it last October. I've already used some of the leaves in thai cooking.

This past weekend we attended an art and nature fair at Villa Corvini in Parabiago to see if there might be something worth adding to the garden. The fair had all kinds of potted plants, flowers, herbs, and both food and craft stands.

It was also interesting to find a vendor selling kokedama, the ornamental hanging plant with a moss-covered root ball. Prices were prohibitive, so this might be a project to look into. Moss grows fairly often in shaded areas in the yard, and I always rip it out. To think that all this time I could've put the moss to good use.

We came away with a couple of herbs: bergamot mint and vietnamese coriander. They both have an amazing smell when you ruffle the leaves. I'm not quite sure how to use the mint, but I'm looking forward to using the coriander in some asian dishes.

Vietnamese coriander

Last but not least, Mister B the daffodil eater. I was trying to snap a photo of him sniffing the flower, but he had it in his head to take the bloom in his mouth. That dog will taste anything!