Italian Garden 2007: April

Yes, Italians love their gardens, and so do I. I just wish it loved me back. Oh, it’s doing just fine, but it keeps attacking me with nasty pollens, so I’m a sleepy, red-eyed, sneezing, drippy mess. Perhaps I should spend next spring in a desert.

In spite of the confused weather, the garden looks promising this year. While I was away in Colorado we had a cold snap and rain so, after months of unusual warmth and dryness, we are now back to more or less seasonal weather, and the plants seem a bit more certain about what they’re supposed to be doing. The irises are putting up long stalks with lots of buds, the tulips are blooming (though not nearly as many as I thought I had planted), the daffodils are mostly past their prime, and the bush of margherite (daisies) is about to explode in blooms.

As are my beloved roses. One of our purchases a few weeks ago was a hand-pump pressured spray bottle for spraying them with anti-fungal chemicals (which probably goes against my organic gardening claims, but… we don’t plan to eat the roses!). This replaces the little sprayer I’d been using which was clearly inadequate, and the roses have responded with zest. They managed to stay fungus-free for a month, and are growing vigorously with thick red branches. In about a week they will be covered in blossom.

Last year the first to bloom was the yellow rose of Texas – bittersweetly symbolic as we had just returned from Rosie’s funeral. Let’s see who goes first this year.

The pink climbing rose that we planted to twine up our outside stair railing is a year younger and not doing as well yet – it appears that roses need a couple of years to acclimate and really start strutting their stuff.

Yesterday we went to the azienda agricola again. They’re now more prepared for the orto planting season, though this place is small and didn’t have everything I was looking for. I ended up buying six zucchine plants, because they are sold in sets of six – I really only wanted two or three. Six will produce far more zucchine than we can eat, but our neighbor will be happy to take some off our hands. When they get oversized, she slices them thin and grills them on the barbecue, then slathers them in olive oil, minced garlic, and parsley – yum!

I bought cherry tomatoes because they didn’t have the costolute (ribbed) variety I wanted, and the cherries did all right for us in the last couple of years. And I bought celery, just because it was there and I’ve never tried growing that before. Each set of six plants only cost about two euros, so it’s worth experimenting.

We’ll go to the bigger greenhouse one of these weekends to get the other tomatoes and eggplant that I want, and Enrico can choose something to fill the decorative round planters that sit in the corners of the lawn outside our front door, and probably some new geraniums to replenish the big round planter that covers the sewer hole in our back yard. Those are his particular spots to do with as he likes (he could do more with the rest of the garden if he wished, but he prefers to leave that to me, so you’ll frequently see me toiling away while he sits on the balcony, reading).

Here’s what the orto looked like in late April: apricot tree at the far left, rows of tomatoes, the big bushy things are broccoli planted last fall, the small things in the black in front are eggplant, the feathery stuff is fennel that was planted in winter.

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