Friday, October 7, 2011

Cogitacea lostrallium

Pulley tree, scientific name, "Lostrallium", Greek "losammonon" comes the word.According to descriptions, this herb has been used often in cemeteries, the ancient Greek period, was used to provide communication between the dying gods. In Europe,14th century from the 16th century up to ornamental plants, counted as one of the most valuable and expensive. Anton Fugger in 1530, the famous merchants of the period of Emperor V. Karl's debt securities in a fire which burned his eyes in front of the drumsticks, so you have proved their wealth.
In Italian gardens during the autumn, across the length and breadth of Italy, there is something happening  to all deciduous trees, all at about the same time! In the autumn, an amazing change takes place but it’s one of the most natural process’ that we can enjoy in the natural world.  Autumn and the fall of the leaves is taking place and there are few places better than Italy to witness and even take part in this natural spectacle. From the bright yellow-leaved larix decidua of Northern Italian gardens, the poplars of Piedmonts’ gardens to the chestnuts of Tuscany and Umbrian gardens  – Italian gardens and the landscape surrounding them is changing fast!
The terracotta reds, butter yellows and warm ochre’s  of the Italian autumn herald, not only the arrival of delicacies of the Italian landscape such as truffles and porcini, chestnuts and wine but also a whole host of seasonal dishes that reflect this season in Italy. In the Italian garden everything is preparing to eat seasonal dishes as well, from the dormice under the walnut trees in most city parks to the wild boar of Tuscany. Leaves are falling but also fruit, nuts and all the berries of a summer of hard work from the part of the plant kingdom. All of these, as you all know end up on our lawns or on our flower borders in Italy during the fall. However , no matter how beautiful the leaves of Italian gardens can be they are generally greeted with a touch of contempt from many Italian gardeners.

Scenes of small fires can be seen amongst the chestnut trees at dawn, as the chestnut husks are hurriedly burnt  where they lay in piles. Dustbin lids don’t shut in city streets due to the leaves and other organic debris that is hurriedly shoved in them, in the rush to dispose of all that wonderful compost!  It does hurt, I have to say it, as a garden designer living here in Italy, when I see a total disregard for the principles of making compost in Italy it makes me want to write an article about it, but I won’t. However,  I will write about what one can do with leaves and why we should be thanking them. For leaves, like most organic debris, form the basis of the food chain in the Italian garden and become a key factor regarding saving water in Italian gardens. A healthy, well-made compost heap  or just a carefully placed pile in the shade of a tree, is great for turning a beautiful Italian fall into beautiful Italian compost!
The leaves of certain Italian trees are harmful to lawns, however,  owing to their powerful tannins that the tree uses to kill off any green competition growing under its canopy. Trees, such as walnut, oak and lime (Tiglia) all possess these weed-killing properties and should be instantly raked-up from where they gather on an Italian lawn. However, when the leaves of these trees are composted for 6 months or more the tannins disappear from the compost so it is safe to use as a superb mulch on any shrub border. Care must be taken when making compost from chestnut leaves or other leaves with a highly acidic content (low pH) as these can clearly lower the ph of the compost, affecting certain Mediterranean plants, like lavender for example.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

lavender in italian gardens

lavender and its uses in italy
we are all aware that lavender in Italy is beautiful and that it has a pleasant aroma however there is far more to learn about this sensational plant!
Lavandula is a genus of flowering plants of around 25 species, which curiously come from the mint family (Lamiaceae), the most commonly used are the angustifolia and intermedia species. Lavender can be found throughout the Mediterranean region, where the species is native, down into Africa and even into southern reaches of India. Thriving in hot climates and dry, well-drained soils lavender has come to symbolise the Mediterranean for many people and rightly so!
In reality, from a garden design perspective, lavender is a superb plant for Mediterranean gardens, given its ability to withstand extremely arrid conditions. Its wonderful metallic silver foliage and the way that its purple flowers attract and display every butterfly in the vicinity also renders it a visually breathtaking addition to the eco garden in Italy.
On warm summer evenings the resinous foliage can emanate its heady scent for long distances and moths, such as the hummingbird moth, just can't resist it! This amazing moth will appear, as if by magic, to feast on the rich nectar in the lavender flowers from when the sun goes down and throughout the night.
Medicinal Properties:
The name Lavender was derived from the Italian word lavarsi, meaning simply to wash oneself, as the plant was crushed, added to olive oil and then used as a primitive soap in Roman times to improve the suppleness of the skin. The plant's strong scented resin has strong antibiotic properties and was even used to disinfect hospital floors during World war II. When the plants oil is burned in aromatherapy it will actually repel moths from the house and induce a positive effect on human respiration. Lavender's anti-inflammatory properties can relieve skin burns and when mixed with rose water can even cure acne. The plant was used during the years of the plague to repel the fleas that carried the disease.
The Romans highly prized the cleansing qualities of this plant and knew that it restored and soothed the skin. The Romans loved the plant and a pound of lavender flowers would have cost around a months wages for a farm laborer So intrinsic was this plant to Roman culture, it was transported everywhere throughout they were in fact responsible for introducing lavender to England and other far reaches of their vast empire.
Culinary uses
In France and Italy lavender is used as a flavoring for meat dishes and sauces and this is a recipe that I adore, using lavender flowers to flavor chicken
Lavender Chicken Escalopes with Caramelized Peaches
2 chicken breasts
4 large peaches or nectarines
3 whole lavender flowers, without stems
300g dried breadcrumbs
2 organic chicken eggs
- Beat the chicken breasts well with a rolling pin or large, blunt vessel on a solid workbench. Lightly dust the flattened breasts with some seasoned flour and set aside.
- Finely chop the lavender flowers and mix with the breadcrumbs.
- Immerse the breasts in the beaten eggs and then coat in the breadcrumb and lavender mixture, set aside in the fridge to rest.
- In the meantime slice the peaches or nectarines into thin slices, heat a knob of unsalted in a non-stick pan
- When the butter foams, add the peach slices and pan-fry until golden brown and caramelized then place them in a warm serving dish and cover.
- Heat a generous amount of olive oil in a non-stick pan to a medium heat and fry the chicken breasts until cooked through and golden.
- Drain on absorbent kitchen paper, sprinkle with a pinch of fine sea salt and serve.Propagation.
Here in Tuscany there is a saying that a Lavender plant dies after 7 years and this indeed true if that same plant receives absolutely no pruning during those 7 years. To maintain the vigor of your lavender it needs to be trimmed, with garden shears, in early spring (around March in Italy). Shoots should never be pruned below vegetative growth as there arent any dormant/active buds below this point. This should always be followed by a generous application of compound fertilizer and a good watering- to help it recover from the prune.
The best time of the day to collect the flower spikes, is at sunrise, as they tend to preserve longer than those collected at other times of the day.
Happy gardening!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Our vegetable garden here in tuscany

creating an organic vegetable garden in italy
This is our vegetable garden in Italy. It was an abandoned area and, as you will note, was completely infested with perennial weeds. This series of photos will show how you can eliminate the weeds, without using herbicides. By using a layer of leaves, straw or even black plastic, you can block off the sunlight, improve the quality if the soil and end up with perfectly manageable and healthy soil. We have used chestnut leaves and they are particularly good for many reasons. They take a long time to break down thus providing a complete sunlight block for a long time. They also possess strong leaf tannins that render the soil slightly acidic (low pH) but the pH soon settles down after the initial stage is over.
I will be putting more pictures up as the vegetable garden develops.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

the use of succulents in the ecological italian garden
In this new world of suspected climate change where humans are told to feel responsible for just about everything that occurs on our planet we are witnessing new styles of living in just about every aspect of human life and garden design is certainly no exception.
New garden design styles are emerging that demonstrate an almost religious respect for natural species, water consumption and ecological philosophies in general. Whether or not we are the primary cause of this climate change remains extremely dubious, however, most of us are glad to improve and re-think the way that we regard our green spaces. New ways of saving water are being sought through intelligent garden design and many innovations are taking place.
Garden designers in Italy are slowly becoming more conscious of the types of plants  that they  use in their gardens and we at ecologica garden design are proud to support this new garden design innovation by suggesting great plants that do not require water in order to survive. We believe that by studying the local environment and by using native plants that are already present around your garden space we can save masses of water and the succulent species are a great example of such plants.

Plants like Sedum rupestre, Sedum acre and Sempervivum tectorum can be found growing on old dry walls, rocky slopes and gritty soils in full sun yet without the need for regular rainfall. These particular plants have several varieties and they all form small clumps of neat,  mat-forming,  ground-covering foliage that remains evergreen throughout the year. They can occupy the most inhospitable of situations and are quite happy growing in the driest of soils and even in the cracks between  rocks- forming pleasing cushions of cactus like vegetation that suggest a Mediterranean garden style.
They require nothing more than a good watering upon planting and a sunny position and they will flourish for years creeping along in the harshest of garden environments.
A group of plants most definitely to be investigated for any Italian garden!