Tag Archives: roses

Botanical Garden of Rome (Orto Botanico)

29 Sep

Sometimes, after a week spent dealing with the logistical and bureaucratic aspects of moving to a new country (opening a bank account in Italy and accessing online banking are not for the faint-hearted, for example), all you want is a tiny bit of peace. That can be hard to find anywhere near the usual sights of Rome. But there are two spots where it is possible if you get to each when they open: the walled-in ‘Non-Catholic” Cemetery in Testaccio (burial place of Keats, Shelley, and other luminaries), which I will write about later, and the Botanical Garden of Rome in Trastevere, which is featured in this post. Despite having lived in Rome before, we had never been to this lovely spot; beyond the horticultural appeal, it would have been a fantastic, open place to take our (then young) children and let them run around. That is why you should get there right when it opens, especially on weekends–Roman families start arriving later in the morning.

Entrance sign; View of fountain

Hybrid Tea Rose ‘Altesse;’ White Gossypium (cotton) flower

White water lily and its reflection; Ferocactus pilosus (cactus)

View from Medicinal Garden; Tropical Greenhouse

Giant Water Lily pad; a young pad unfurling

–More photos from the Botanical Garden of Rome here.

Double, Double, Toil and Shovel

14 Apr

One good thing about gardening is that while certain things need to be done throughout the year, I believe (hope) there is significant flexibility in when those things can be done (otherwise, I’m in trouble). There is one big exception to this philosophy: Easter. It is our one and only gardening deadline–an immutable date by which the garden must receive a serious makeover in order to present its best (or at least, not its worst) side to the guests who will come to our house for Easter. It helps that this excuse forces us to give the garden a really good start to the season, in compensation for any benign neglect that may be headed its way later.

This spring-cleaning mania also applies to Schnauzer 1 and Schnauzer 2–without fail, they get nice new haircuts so that our guests do not mistakenly assume we have taken to rearing sheep. After four hours of on-and-off grooming yesterday that neither they nor I appreciated very much, they now look like leaner and more refined versions of their former selves. They also look naked, but we are all getting used to it.

The garden, too, looks simultaneously neater and more naked. The protective fall leaves have now been replaced with a tidier layer of mulch. The emerging plants are still maintaining their distance from their neighbors; at at this time of year there is only a foreshadowing of the lushness of summer. But the garden’s current low-key appearance is deceptive. I planted or transplanted more than 130 plants during the past two weekends.

This is admittedly a bit nuts. I have a tendency to move plants around before they are in their fully active growth mode,  if I can still move them easily. Sometimes it is for altruistic reasons (to save plants  in danger of being overtaken by their neighbors) and sometimes for aesthetic ones (something else may look better there, or vice versa). But in recent days, I also replaced plants that did not survive our rough winter; filled in a new, long and narrow flower bed alongside our new-ish patio (populated entirely by some of the aforementioned transplanted plants: Montauk Daisy, roses, and Switchgrass); decommissioned the rose garden and turned it into a vegetable garden; covered a sloped area with ground cover; and installed a bird bath.

The stage is now set; time for the actors to arrive.

New (transplanted) flower bed                           Robin enjoying new bird bath

Aphids before the Storm

9 May

At the moment, the main insects on my radar are the 17-year cicadas that will crawl out of the ground any day now, cover everything in sight, deafen us with their mating songs, lay eggs, and then drop dead. They have yet to emerge from hibernation, at least in my neighborhood. I’m happy to delay the moment as long as possible, even if it is an historic event. Raking a blanket of cicada carcasses off the lawn isn’t among my favorite gardening activities.

Capitalizing on this lull before the storm, however, another insect group took up residence in the rose garden — aphids.  I am a welcoming sort, but not when it comes to critters trying to suck the life out of my newly planted roses, which are just beginning to bud.

So I squirted them. As carefully and naturally as possible. I added 2 tbsp. dishwashing liquid and 2 tbsp. vegetable oil to 32 oz. of water in a spray bottle and then sprayed each of the roses — buds and foliage together, sliding off as many aphids as I could with my fingers (that’s where the oil comes in handy).

Victory! The aphids are all gone (for now), but success came at a price: the soap slightly burned the foliage.

Should the aphids put in another appearance, I may need to reduce the amount of soap in the solution — and/or rinse the roses afterward. I didn’t rinse this time because I knew it would rain later that day and it did, but obviously not before the damage was done. On the plus side, the roses are pest free, though some of the leaves are a bit speckled. Safe to say, gardening is a never-ending learning process, and I have a lot to learn….

Next task: watching for the aphids’ cousins to emerge — yes, cicadas are related to aphids.