Friday 26 September 2014

An autumn afternoon

A Painted Lady on Symphyotrichum novae-angliae 'Primrose Upward'. The warm sunny this week have seen good numbers of butterflies in the garden, after rather a scarcity of them all summer.

Symphyotrichum 'Little Carlow' - invariably outstanding.

Colchicum speciosum 'Atrorubens'. The colchicums have avoided being bashed about by the weather in this rather dry and sunny autumn.

The crinkly segments of the Drakensberg version of Nerine bowdenii are very distinctive.

Kniphofia 'Cool Knip'

Roscoea purpurea 'Cinnamon Stick'. This species flowers for a very long time in late summer. 

Small Tortoiseshell on Argyranthemum 'Levada Cream'.

Billowing masses of Symphyotrichum novae-angliae 'Rosa Sieger': thinning the stems in spring gives them space to develop to maximum effect.

Red Admiral on 'Rosa Sieger'.

Wednesday 10 September 2014

Murabilia di Lucca

An eye-catching display on entering the show from Lumen Plantes Vivaces.
I spent last week in the beautiful Tuscan town of Lucca, having been kindly invited to judge at the Murabilia 2014 flower show, which is held annually on the medieval walls and bastions that form the perimeter of the old part of the town. Known as the 'wooded circle', these  form a broad promenade 4 km long, lined throughout by avenues of trees of varying species, in sections - Tilia here, then perhaps Celtis or Liriodendron, greatly valued by the Lucchesi as a place for recreation and a delight to walk round. Dropping from the walls into the town one finds a fascinating network of alleys, squares, churches and towers to explore, but all very much part of a living place, with busy shopping streets and laundry hanging from residences, though there are very few cars. And excellent restaurants and gelateria...

Part of the centre of Lucca, seen from the medieval Torre dei Guinigi, which bears a grove of Quercus ilex 44 m above the street.

The Murabilia was opened with some pomp, including a posse of drummers in traditional clothing.

The Murabilia show is, like many English flower shows, a mix of nursery displays of plants, interspersed with crafts and local products, edibles and machinery demonstrations (the John Deere self-propelled, laser-guided lawnmower was a great hit). Nurseries had come from all over Italy and southern France, with a few from further afield, including German cactus growers and Crug Farm Nursery from Wales, with the result that there was a huge diversity of material on display. Unlike one of the big English shows, however, the display was also the sales stock, so it diminished over time and one saw the stall holders rearranging their plants to remain attractive. We judged on Friday morning, before sales commenced, in panels formed of a couple of overseas guests and a couple of Italians. I was on the woody plant judging group with my Belgian friend Abraham Rammeloo, Guido Piacenza and Alberto Grossi, and we had an enjoyable morning assessing all the stands exhibiting shrubs or trees. We were looking for the best three displays on the basis of the best assortment on display, the quality of the plants, with their rarity given a consideration too, with a secondary assignment to locate the single best Acer specimen in the show. As there weren't very many this was not too onerous and it was an easy decision to give it to one of Crug Farm's Acer sikkimense, looking lovely with its shiny green and red foliage. The first place in the woody section went to the French nursery Botanique des Vaugines, with a fascinating display of all sorts of choice shrubs from Mediterranean climates - inexplicably I omitted to take a picture.

Busy trade under the trees on one of the bastions on Saturday.
This year the theme of the show, which is held over three days, was edible plants from around the world, so there was a particular emphasis on this, with stalls highlighting anything even remotely edible. With 240 exhibitors, on the walls and in the adjacent botanic garden, there was a lot to see and a lot to buy! Perhaps a limited luggage allowance on the plane was a good thing after all...

Not a 'Brown Turkey' in sight: a wonderful display of different figs and grapes from Belfiore Vivai Azienda Agricola, which specialises in heritage fruit cultivars.

There were several stands with diverse assortments of cucurbits in all shapes and sizes

...and the same was true of chillies. This is 'Avata', also labelled "Viagra 2" and said to be of piccantezza alta.

I resisted the temptation to buy 2 kg of Borlotti beans for €5

It was lovely to see an old East African friend, Crotalaria agatiflora, among many unusual things on Pellizario Dino's stand.

The uniquely orange flowers of Sesbania punicea.

Also with unusual flower colour is Nymphaea ' Green Smoke' - alas it is a tender tropical variety.
A highlight for me was the very comprehensive assortment of Salvia and Phlomis species from Le Essenze di Lea.

More salvias featured in a nicely arranged display from Ratto Angelo Paulo Vivaio.

The arrangement of repeat-flowering Dianthus in wooden tubs by Val Roya Floricola was very attractive, but not many were scented.

The end of a successful day - a family going home with their acquisitions along the broad tree-lined walls of Lucca.