A Garden in Umbria

Design - The garden is in full bloom, come what may - April 2020

Easter is a time for renewal, hope and a fresh start: it is no coincidence then that Easter occurs in springtime.

No matter what is causing us anxiety, pain or grief at the moment, the surge of new growth in the garden and the show of spring blooms is relentless: the garden is pushing forward to its glory and there nothing anyone can do to stop it.

In Easter traditions it is the egg that symbolises this rebirth: in the garden, for me at least, it is the bulb. A tiny package that contains all the future life of the plant curled up and dormant waiting for that moment when it will be called into growth. Planted in the cold earth when the days were growing dark, ignored all winter and perhaps even forgotten about, now the bulbs are with us and brightening up our spring days, dancing with colour in the sunshine.

Which spring bulbs are your favourites?

Narcissus ‘Cheerfulness’

It is no coincidence that my favourite daffodil is ‘Cheerfulness’. I chose it for the name alone but now discover that it enjoys our hot dry climate. In bloom right now, it has a lovely double form in subtle shades of creamy white and a perfume that fills the garden on a calm day. Why not try planting Cheerfulness or any others of the Tazetta group of daffodils in your garden next autumn? They are native to the Mediterranean.

Narcissus Tête à Tête

Another good choice for our growing conditions are the miniature daffodils. Blooming a little earlier in spring, these are also native to the Mediterranean and can be seen in the wild in Sicily.

Anemone blanda

Starting into bloom a little earlier in the season but still flowering now, Anemone blanda likes to be shaded and so is happy under trees or - like these in the photo - behind a garden bench. Such a delight to see the little blue and white starry flowers smiling up at me. These little Anemone are native to the Eastern Mediterranean.

Anemone hortensis

Also native to Italy is the Anemone hortensis which I have never seen for sale but it grows on roadside banks around Panicale. If you are lucky enough to find this self-seeded in your garden then do encourage it to stay.

Anemone coronaria

Just coming into bloom now is another anemone native to our area, Anemone coronaria. With its strong colours and poppy-like flowers this anemone self-seeds readily and has formed great carpets in some areas of the garden.

Tulipa clusiana ‘Berlioz’

Botanical tulips - These small tulips are perennial and do not need to be lifted and replanted or replaced each year, unlike their taller Dutch hybrid relatives. For those of you yearning for those showy tulips and cannot get out to see any try listening here.

Tulip ‘Irene Parrot’

‘Normal’ tulips I prefer to plant in pots so that it is easier to change them each year. My favourite are the Parrot type which have wavy edges and streaky colouration.

Muscari armenicum

But we must not forget the early blooming crocus, muscari (grape hyacinth, native to Italy) and iris reticulata, so valuable for bees as they emerge from hibernation.

Lilium Candidum - Madonna Lily

And following late in spring will be the glory of the lilies. The Madonna lily (Lilium candidum) is naturalised in Italy and features very often in renaissance art, the symbol of purity.

Triteleia ‘Queen Fabiola’

And a not widely known little bulb, Triteleia, which is native to California does well in the rising temperatures of early summer.

So many bulbs to choose from; so little time.

The photo at the top of the page shows a mixture of botanical tulips including Saxatilis and Clusiana

Many of these articles first appeared in the Castiglione del Lago monthly newsletter “Qua e là” edited by Priscilla Worsley

All text and photographs © Yvonne Barton unless stated otherwise

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