30 Jul 2013

Swallowtail butterfly

During our time in Italy one of the delights was to see butterflies in our garden and this zebra swallowtail butterfly was one that became a familiar sight.  It seemed to sail around in the air and was particularly attracted to the jasmine as well as the wild flowers in the meadow. It returned time and time again to the sweet-smelling flowers.

Swallowtail butterflies are much rarer in the UK and so I was pleased to have seen this particular variety feeding on the nectar from the Summer flowers in the Italian garden.

28 Jul 2013

Our English garden: July

We arrived back in England to sunshine, blue skies and a different colour combination in the garden as there were white daisies, philadelphus, white pelargoniums and cornflowers, purple and mauve sweetpeas and clematis.
The roses were also in full bloom and now it's the turn of the lavender bushes.
There are splashes of red and yellow here and there from the antirrhinums, pansies and pelargoniums in pots, but the overall impression is a garden containing borders along the cedar hedge of blooms in paler shades of colour.
However, the candy pink flowers of  the phlox are beginning to open and it's not my favourite shade of pink.  The plant is now too big for the raised flower bed and needs to be split up and/or planted elsewhere when it dies down later in the year. Now if it had been mauve or white, which I've seen in the local garden nursery....but at least it's next to the mauve night-scented stocks that are still going strong and some pink pelargoniums.

On the whole I'm pleased with the colour combination this year having added to the already existing plants with those grown from seed or produced from cuttings. Having a small garden means that the raised bed looks rather full at this time of the year, especially as there are some shrubs, vegetables and herbs growing in between the flowering plants.
The covered yard looks like a jungle, but it's good to see the different types of tomato, the beans, peppers and other vegetables developing and ripening slowly.  Some of the tomatoes in the greenhouse at the allotment are ripening up and are ready to gather and enjoy.  There's always the watering to be done in this hot weather, but having a shared allotment lessens the load and having other vegetables growing in the yard and garden is handy.
(Since writing this in draft form we've had a deluge of heavy rain which has flooded the garage because it's on a slight slope, but nothing is damaged and it's just a matter of sweeping the water away. Some of the daisies and cornflowers are going over and looking bedraggled, but there's the benefit of a good watering from Above). I wonder what the weather is like where you are?

26 Jul 2013

Italy: A hill town in the evening

Boville Ernica is one of the local hill towns in our region so we often go there when we're in Italy. During this last time in Italy we went there several times in the evenings with my husband's sister and husband.  Being so high up there are spectacular views and beautiful sunsets.

The traditional Abruzzese copper water container has now become an iconic regional item that can be seen in many public places.  Artwork in different metals is well known in the area. The only one I have is a pottery ornament as it's a popular gift that reminds us of former times when a woman obtained water from a local spring and would transport the container full of water on her head.

This is the local public washing area where the townsfolk would gather to wash their clothes in the water tanks of running water.

The town has very strong fortifications and there are three rows of surrounding walls and eighteen watch towers.  The entrance gate to one of the palaces opens up into a small courtyard and this leads to other, well-lit, narrow streets and the main square.

There are cafes and little rustic-style eating places many with small garden courtyards. and one of these has become a favourite with a very friendly owner and staff.  Il frantoio is an olive oil press and there was one inside the cave-like restaurant with its thick stone walls.

There was a selection of little dishes of breads, olives, salads, cheeses, fish and cooked meats to start with, then home made pasta or pizza followed by fruit and traditional local biscuits (ciambelline) - chocolate flavoured and very crispy.  Afterwards we went for an espresso coffee in a nearby cafe.

This gelateria (cafe/ice cream shop) is set in the outer walls of the town and there are views of the surrounding countryside from the top road and terraced areas around the outer wall.

24 Jul 2013

Italy: higher up the mountain: Certosa di Trisulti (3)

view from the church and palazzo courtyard.

Even though the Charterhouse of Trisulti is located in a remote, wooded location it has been possible for many years to visit it on foot because of the mountain tracks across the area.  In fact, the name 'trisulti' derives from three nearby mountain passes in the region. A castle belonging to the noble Colonna family also stood near the monastery.
Today, many visitors come to see the frescoes and other artwork in the old pharmacy, but as well as being a retreat house for seminarians the monastery serves the local people of the Collepardo area and there are services in the adjoining church.  On the day we were there a baptism was taking place. There's also an ancient ecclesiastical palace, a library of antiquarian books and a collection of the types of herbs used in medicinal remedies and alpine plants that can be found in the Abruzzi mountains. The monastery shop sells liqueurs, herbal preparations, honey, chocolate, literature and souvenirs similar to those at the sister Casamari Abbey.

Visitors enter the monastery through the towered Tuscan-style portico with its marble plaque in relief of St. Bartholomew, the patron saint of the Certosa.

Many of the frescoes in the monastery were painted by Filippo Balbi (1806-1890). The one over the inner door of the entrance portico depicts the Virgin and Child giving the bread of providence to a monk and others hand provisions to children.

Mr. P. rested on the steps of the pharmacy and I went inside.  The light was variable so the results of my photographic efforts are mixed.

The top frescoes are the more well known ones.  On the top left is a painted door depicting, I believe, F. Balbi's serving boy and the other is a caricature of 'poverty' and 'egotism'.

In the salon/waiting room every wall is covered in paintings and over the two arched doors are those depicting events in the life of Balbi.

There are other paintings in the hall decorated with 3D artificial tropical trees, poetic sayings and a long cased clock with a face that has eyes that must have moved from side to side when it was working. I remember years ago there was a huge stuffed eagle at the end of the corridor and a live one in a cage in the grounds, but probably something that the community wouldn't want to display or keep these days.

This is the pharmacy with its original cases of medicine jars and bottles.  Even the doors and window shutters are beautifully painted. 

As you can imagine, the collages represent only some of the details in the old pharmacy and there are other areas of the monastery complex also of interest.  Finally, we visited the monastery shop to buy some gifts for my husband's family such as this herbal digestive drink.

23 Jul 2013

A sense of history

A member of the National Association of Toastmasters did his bit to announce the happy news of the Royal Birth yesterday evening and crowds started to arrive at Buckingham Palace for the official public notice to be placed near the gates of the courtyard.

                                                           Photos:  courtesy BBC News

I couldn't miss the opportunity to post about the event and congratulate the happy couple on the safe arrival of their baby.
We had our own personal reason to be pleased as down in Berkshire, not far from the village of Bucklebury where the Duchess of Cambridge's family must have been celebrating their own good news, our first born daughter was enjoying a birthday party in the garden with her children and friends! We couldn't be with DD, but we could be in touch by phone on this special day to wish her a very happy birthday!

Here's our elder daughter at her chiristening with my maternal grandmother, my mother, grandmother and great aunts. What do you think of the hats and handbags? I wonder what the Royals will be wearing when the newest member of the family is christened? No doubt there will be some fashionable outfits!

21 Jul 2013

Italy: higher up the mountains: Certosa di Trisulti (2)

Set in the wooded mountains of the Ciociaria region, at an altitude of 800m, the Charterhouse of Trisulti is a huge monastic complex that has now become a national monument. Its fame is partly due to the old pharmacy decorated with many frescoes that have fantastical themes and beyond the high walls that enclose this part of the monastery there's a beautiful garden.

When I'm looking around a garden I'm always interested in how the garden is tended.  The plentiful supply of water that has been channelled from the nearby mountain streams into the monastery must be of benefit in keeping the gardens well watered.

Next to the formal gardens is an area of land with outbuildings and store rooms which is used for growing fruit, vegetables and herbs.

A view of the enclosed gardens from one of the windows in the pharmacy.  More about the frescoes that decorate the pharmacy and adjoining rooms next time.