This week is the start of summer and that means more outdoor living.
Make this the week when you fully prepare for living on the patio or deck by providing citronella candles and ivy geraniums to repel insects; comfy furniture, including a table to set down drinks; and, of course, furnish your outdoor space with plenty of plants.
Hanging basket tip: Deal with the drips from watering hanging baskets by placing a container garden below each hanging basket. Not only will the second container catch the drips you also will be recycling the drainage water and plant food from the overhead basket.
La dolce vita — inspirations from the sweet life in Tuscany
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On a recent trip to Tuscany, we enjoyed visiting a few gardens and a graveyard. (It took the help of the whole group but we found the ancestral graves of my relatives!) There also was plenty of sunshine and great food.
Here are the top four inspirational ideas from Italy:
Balance is important in everything.
At the table, the texture of the pasta must be balanced — not too hard and not too soggy. Life and dinner must have a balance of sweet and salty. In the garden, the balance means the amount of foliage and evergreens must be in balance with just an accent of flowers.
The summer heat and scarcity of water has something to do with gardens full of cypress and olive trees over American-style flowering shrubs and perennials, but life balance also counts. Like most Europeans the Italians believe in a work/play balance — they don’t skip vacations, family dinners or free time.
Symmetry creates a classic garden.
What happens on one side of the main garden path must happen on the other.
We visited a villa garden within the walled city of Lucca and the classic design of a water feature in the center with paths radiating outward is a design repeated throughout Europe. This formal garden used statuary over tall evergreens to balance the space with vertical lines.
Lawn? What lawn …
Even in large country gardens, the typical Italian garden does not include a lush green lawn. Gravel paths, gravel courtyards, pavers and grassy fields dotted with wild flowers provide the groundscape.
One Italian landscaper told me that lawns are an American obsession — inherited from the Brits, who are obviously a bit passionate about their greenery.
Wisteria – no hysteria …
We visited Italy in April, when wisteria was seen dangling from castle walls, escaped into trees and (how very daring) hanging from overhead in the outdoor eating courtyards of fine restaurants.
Back home we are warned that the strong and virile wisteria vine should be kept away from buildings as the fast-growing limbs can destroy structures. I asked at the hotel where we stayed why the ancient wisteria had not damaged anything.
“We prune it” was the answer. It seems the extra work of controlling a wisteria vine is worth the heavenly scent and artful flower clusters in this country.
“Anything for beauty” is the motto here.
Travel tip: Red poppies as well as wisteria bloom all over the countryside in Tuscany each April. Forget April in rainy Paris, put April in Tuscany on your bucket list.
Marianne Binetti will be among the speakers at a master gardener workshop, "From the Ground Up,” on Saturday (June 23) at Franklin Pierce High School, 11002 18th Ave. E., in Tacoma. The full-day workshop will includes lunch, free plants, classes and hands-on horticulture techniques. Open to the public. Register at bit.ly/2ybNYOD.