Thursday, July 30, 2015

Sunday Lunch and Garden Visit in Umbria

It was a hot spring day in Umbria but in the shade of the stone walled porch of the villa at the house of our hostess Daniela it was very comfortable. James and I had a invitation, along with our friends Elida and Gunter, for Sunday lunch and a garden tour at
the home of Daniela Fe d'Ostiani, a renowned gardener and rosarian.

We were greeted by Daniela and followed her along a path to a garden in the shade of her villa and a few large trees where bottles of chilled process were uncorked. As we have discovered , and happily so, many Italian festas begin with glasses of prosecco and exchanges of "Salute"!
Sunday lunch is Italy is a big deal. Daniela had prepared a feast that began with a pasta course of asparagus lasagna followed by a roast pork with a side of incredibly good beans from her garden. The next course was  a salad of greens and vegetables from the garden. She had been up early harvesting in order to present such a delicious meal. Elida brought a creme caramel for dessert that was a sweet  treat and perfect ending to lunch...oh, and I cannot forget the cookies, an American favorite, chocolate chip cookies! And throughout the meal a local wine was served.

A couple of hours had passed with a great lunch and conversations in both English and Italian between the eleven of us at the table.

Time for the tour of the garden..........

Daniela is a powerhouse, full of wild energy! She is a rosarian and a plant collector and her garden is not like the typical Italian garden most of us imagine. her garden is like her personality, a little wild, energetic and lovely all wrapped into one. Pushing the garden envelope!

The garden is sited on a hillside in Casalini ( outside of Panicale) with views of Lake Trasimeno.
The views of the lake are revealed in a few of the gardens, other gardens are reached by paths in near jungle like setting with roses stretching and climbing into tree tops!

The textures are of great importance here and are stunning.

This apricot rose spiraled its way up through this tree, using the tree as a trellis showing off it's buds and flowers proudly. It is with great abandon that these roses grow, not at all formal in design.

The selection of foliage is remarkable with surprises around every corner. A gate leads into a garden of dahlias ( not in bloom) and another path takes us to a vegetable garden, where much of our lunch was grown.

There is one 'garden room' that is defined by a hedge, making it more formal in feel. The backdrop is a view of Lake Trasimeno and Isola Polvese.

The trees frame the view of Isola Polvese.

There is much to see here, but it is the roses that I was so interested in.  There are roses everywhere, never in a straight neat row, you must look for them and stay close to Daniela so she can point them out. She knows each and every rose in her garden.

This rose is a beauty.....well, I guess it is fair to say they all are.
A very good Sunday.
Grazie Mille Daniela!
( and Elida & Gunter for the introduction)

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


I no longer have a rose garden. How romantic I thought, roses filling vases and scenting the air of the house all summer. A dream of having a garden filled with Gallica roses, English roses, Heirloom roses and rose that would climb to the top of the trellis with their blossoms cascading over, just waiting to be noticed.

It was pure joy for me, and an enormous amount of work, mostly for James, digging the garden beds out of the hard pack and clay in order to bring in real soil and compost all by hand, a shovel, a pick axe and wheelbarrow. It was nothing short of heroic, but by summer's end James had made a garden possible in an area that had once been a driveway.

 We researched and found specialty rose growers in New Hampshire and Maine where we traveled to purchase roses with names like, 'Great Maiden's Blush', 'Apothecary's Rose' and 'Rosa Mundi'.
Discovering the roses was an adventure that was an added pleasure to the creation of this circular formal garden. As it matured the fragrance and beauty especially in June was  all I ever imagined.

Roses were cut and filled vases, sometimes solo other times mixed with perennials from the border garden. James painted the roses. Rosa Mundi was a favorite of his, both because of it's striking color and the story behind the name having to do with King Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry's mistress Fair Rosamund and her demise by Eleanor, poison it is thought.
Roses are the subjects of artists and poets with their  stories told of beauty and thorny darkness. Roses are a  sonnet written by the hand of Shakespeare.

In late May and through June the garden and house were full of roses. I dried the fragrant petals that lightly perfumed closets and drawers and filled small bowls on bedroom nightstands.
But, by the Fourth of July things began to change in the garden. Morning walks were no longer with a cup of coffee in hand, but with a can filled with soapy water.
The Japanese Beetles had arrived.

It took about a decade of the waging the battle of the beetle, but the beetle eventually won.
It was too heartbreaking to watch them chomp away at the lovely young beautiful buds. The clusters of nightmarish gluttons were impossible to keep up with and the only alternative was to use poisons to kill the nasty invaders....but it would also kill the bees.

It was time to bid farewell to the roses. It was a difficult goodbye for me.
That fall we spend removing roses. In the spring the soil was replenished and boxwood were planted at the edge of the beds along with herbs.
The new garden worked and since we love to cook the herbs made sacrificing roses a little easier.The lavender for fragrance and all the culinary herbs for the kitchen.
And, no Japanese Beetles!

We have since moved, yet.....

 I will always remember those early summer morning walks in the garden and the lingering perfume of the roses.

An Invitation to a garden in Umbria.....the gardener's passion....roses.
Our visit there coming up!