Useless gardener needs help

06/10/2009 - 05:36

I have to admit that I have never been interested in gardening and hence have little or no knowledge.  Fortunately mother nature is excellent at producing the most wonderful array of wild flowers in our small olive grove but of couse by late June they are gone.  We are nearing the end of the first stage of restoring the building so it would be nice to add some colour around it.  However it will be a couple of years before we make any sort of permanent moveand only visit every other month, so plant care is a problem.So my question is, are there and drought resistant plants that will add colour during summer or should I wait until we are there more permanently?




that's a very nice idea to add some colour in your garden!

From my experience I can say that the most indicated plants are:






It depends also on the geographical area. I'm talking about plants that would like to be exposed to sun and mild temperatures. Anyway it would be better to get advice from a garden centre (vivaio) of the area.

In bocca al lupo!

 Lantana grows very well almost unattended. It comes in beautiful colours: orange, yellow, mauve, pink and white. In some countries, it is considered a weed, so you can imagine how strong it is. There are many varieties for sale in Italy.Careful with oleander if you have children and pets around, The leaves are toxic.

Succulents are great for arrid conditions, but also happy with rain when it arrives. They have great ability to retain mosture and come in a huge array of types with very colourful flowers. Spreading succulents would be ideal for old walls and perhaps larger ones fo ground cover. Many can be found growing wild, so you could take cuttings (don't pull them up) or many varieties produce "babies" which you can take and cultivate your own for free. I really like Mesembryanthemaceae, as they spread,make great ground and wall cover and come in so many different varieties, flower shape and colour. Depending on your position though, they are not especially hardy.We have a rockery full of succulents and the variety of flowers are amazing.This web site will give you all you need to know about succulents. luck and post some pics when they're in full bloom.Russ   

When you settle in Italy, have a good look around at your neighbour's gardens and you will soon see what thrives locally - go do thou likewise! Some beautiful plants like the bougainvillea are magnificent in summer but do need protection in winter and some provision must be made for this. Good luck!

 Great idea Russ, succulents need very little attention and they look great in a rock garden. Kalanchoes are easy to find in Italy (I've bought some) and they come in a great variety of colours. Other plants worth exploring will be the Australian natives which are becoming increasingly popular throughout Europe. They are very tough and provide variety and colour. Grevilleas, Leptospermum, Banksias, Callistemons.... are just some names to look for.

Sorry I have been meaning to reply to your post: I am very busy in the garden at the moment!  Anyway, here is the link for Vivai Margheriti catalogue  It is free and contains 304 pages of invaluable information in Italian and English.  You can download it in PDF format. On pages 291/292 there is a list of some 200 plants that are drought resistant. I still have my 2004 catalogue when I was building my villa and coming to Italy at regular intervals.  I updated mine recently.   Although I had been doing a lot of gardening in the tropics as a young kid and in the UK as an adult, tackling a hillside in Tuscany was a daunting prospect.  I read a few books on garden design, marked out on paper the functionalities I wanted out of my garden: area for kids, area for dining, kitchen garden, olive trees etc.   Once I had decided on these I used my time in Italy to get them done and then back to the UK.  For example, once the lanscaping was done it was important to prevent soil erosion during the rain in the winter months, so planting the main trees and seeding the lawn were important tasks.  Even seeding the lawn took some time: I had to let the brought in top soil fallow to get rid of imported weeds.  If you have an existing garden the approach is the same: except you would have much less work to do.The planting of the shrubs and flowers came some 3 years later when I started spending more time in Italy than in the UK.  This was for one good reason: even drought resistant plants need watering in their first year to give them a good start and help them establish themselves.As regards your olive grove I would look at the website of seeds merchants or failing that even the seeds stand of your supermarket both in Italy and the UK.  They have an array meadow flowers.  Just throw them around and wait and see what happens, they may come or they may not, but it is a very cheap way of creating interest all year round.  You could experiment with all sorts of bulbs, particularly those that are easy to naturalise and like a good baking during the summer months.  Broadleigh gardens in Sommerset have an excellent website and a good catalogue: I have been getting my bulbs from them during the last four years.  Some of beautiful orchards in Dorset, Sommerset and other parts of the UK can inspire with different plants from the Margheriti catalogue.   I hope the above helps, if not forgive me for going on a bit!Good luck with your garden!