Colour in the garden

A semi organized visit yesterday, in that the guys had sent an SMS, stating that they were planning to call in on their way back to Holland in the afternoon, but having sent the SMS to my fixed line it resulted in my not receiving the message and being horribly unprepared when they showed up at Bellaugello Gay Guest House, here in the beautiful Umbrian countryside.

I was expecting them, at the end of this week, the day had not been precisely fixed, the visit had been arranged, but stupidly I did not contact them, instead left it to them to contact me, hence the misunderstanding.  I planned to cook a batch of my lavender cup cakes for them to take for the journey home.  Instead they caught me dressed in ‘workie’ clothes busy putting a coat of wood preservative on the outdoor woodwork.  I was scruff personified, not expecting visitors, I was taking the opportunity of sunshine and a deserted house to get on with maintenance work, how embarrassing!

I swiftly took them up to my kitchen and set about making Scotch pancakes, those easy and quick but delicious cakes, thinking they were passing through today not yesterday I had nothing prepared.  We sat at the table in my kitchen overlooking the vast panorama to the Apennines and Monte Subasio, the hill that hides Assisi from my view, and whilst the coffee brewed and pancakes were cooked, three packages were revealed.

I am the lucky recipient of a very large quantity of Tulip bulbs from Holland, such a generous gift.  Today I went to the agricultural supplier in Gubbio and bought two sacks of compost and am now off into the garden, once again it is a beautiful sunny day, and will plant lots and lots of pots of Tulip bulbs.

The gardens at Bellaugello Gay Guesthouse will be a riot of colour next spring.  A big “Thank You” to the guys from Almere

On trees, geometry and kindness

I finally made it….  yes, I got to the majestic oak tree that sits like a sentinel in the middle of the enormous field in the Chiascio valley that we overlook from Bellaugello Gay Guesthouse.  A delightful walk in the late afternoon, dappled shade, birdsong, and the hedgerows heavy with blossom and the first still ripening fruits.  To my delight I discover that the field has been sown with sunflowers, at the moment they are still real small plants, but come late July the field will be a mass of yellow dominating the valley below Bellaugello Gay B&B

The tree is enormous.  Why it is there I have not yet found out, but as a focal point it is superb.  Back home I need to trim the laurel hedges that are now growing nicely and forming the geometry of the garden whilst at the same time providing screening.

My walk to the big oak tree and the geometric rows of sunflowers put me in mind of something I have been meaning to realise for a very long time.

Coming from the south of Scotland I am fortunate to have visited Charles Jencks wonderful gardens at Portrack House near Dumfries.  Charles, the widdower of Maggie Keswick is the man behind ‘Maggie’s Centres’ those bastions of warmth and kindness housed in sensational architectural masterpieces, that provide support and respite for families of people with terminal cancer.  The first Maggie’s Centre opened some time ago in Edinburgh, Scotland, now they are also building in England, each centre an architectural gem, warm, welcoming, and inspirational, for those interested here is the link: Maggie’s Centres

But I digress, back to Portrack gardens – Charles Jenck’s Garden of Cosmic Speculation.

The garden covers several hectares and has evolved over many years, is largely comprised of large earth sculptures and geometric shapes all covered in grass, interspersed with water, sculptures, installations and geometric patterns.  Check it out online: Scotland’s Gardens Scheme, Portrack Gardens, Dumfriesshire.

I remember many years ago a clipped hedge running along the roadside by the potting sheds at Portrack.  This hedge was clipped in wave form, as if flowing downhill, utterly superb.  Well for years I have wanted to make my own ‘wave hedge’ and now the laurel here at Bellaugello has grown it is time to get clipping.  The hedge is question is that one running to our infinity pool, I thought waves would be fun. But alas! can I find a picture of the hedge… no, I am just going to have to go out and chop!

Pruning Roses in the sunshine

A really delightful sunny spring day here at Bellaugello Gay B&B in Umbria and I am out making the most of the warm weather and tidying in the garden and pruning my roses.

Now I love my garden, my aim has always been to have a fragrant informal garden, a mix of English and Italian styles and to that end along with the rosemary, sage and lavender I have a selection of roses.  I must admit to being surprised as to just how many plants I know and love from my native Scotland manage to thrive here on my south facing Umbrian hillside.

Now I usually prune as takes my fancy, but this year I consulted the Royal Horticultural Society’s website and am pruning to their recommendation, four buds maximum, It does seem a bit drastic, we will see what the summer brings….

Spring and Summer Work opportunities at Bellaugello

An  initial post to whet appetites!

Currently we are looking at our staffing for the upcoming season and are seeking to recruit enthusastic, personable guys who enjoy working with the public and giving just that bit extra in service to join us at Bellaugello gay guest house b&b.  Responsiblities include help in our bio-ecological kitchen, serving at table, and cleaning of suites and Yurts.  There is also work opportunity in the garden, vegetable garden and on estate maintenance.

There are three posts available all with accommodation provided, one starting in April, and two later in May so the latter may well suit students looking for summer work experience.

For further information just drop us an email at;


Great news, Tom a son of a friend of a friend has confirmed to be coming out here for a month, arriving next week to help with clearing the garden and general maintenance.

The great wall – more exposed

Yet another few pictures as the great west wall becomes exposed.  The foreground will be the dining terrace leading into the dining room.  A wonderful warm backdrop for summer evening dining…….

Great wall west endgreat wall looking west

A Terrace on the west

Francesco came yesterday and levelled the ground above the great wall, thus creating the upper west terrace.  It has transformed this side of the house.  The terrace will be planted with grass (this will have to wait until the autumn) and then give access to the Duca, Diva and Mirror suites, through three separate paved entrances.

Upper west terraceIMGP6306

Istrice and Irises

A month ago I was very fortunate to meet a lady from Perugia who was thinning plants her garden.  She has a small garden just on the outskirts of the centro storico of Perugia, indeed part of the city wall forms a boundary to her terraced garden.

I was very kindly gifted fifty Iris corms.  I adore Irises and have done for many years.  They grow well in Italy.  In Scotland I always planted the corm with the upper third sitting on top of the soil, for I understand they rot if buried.

Here in Umbria they are best buried, the weather is dryer and they prefer a slightly cooler temperature.  I thought these were the only reasons but no.

I had this crazy idea to start an iris walk on the path leading down to the site of the saunas.  There is a slight raised bank on the right and I fully imagined in a few years when the irises has multiplied a colourful array of delicate spring flowers bobbing under the fig trees

Oh what a fool!  Last year I planted a few irises in the bed near the front door, only to find they had been systematically dug up, but by whom?  This year my friend assured me that her corms would survive…

Well they did for six weeks or so.  Every evening I meticulously watered the planting spots, and talked encouragingly to the corms, and sure enough they began to grow.  The iris walk showed promise, ok only fifty plants but a positive beginning.  Then four mornings ago I saw one uprooted, the one furthest from the house.

Three mornings ago, a further three plants dug up, annoyingly, the corms are only half eaten, but the foliage ripped off.  Someone or something is working its way towards the house up my iris walk.

The culprit, an Istrice.  What is an istrice?  In english, a porcupine.  A rodent about 50 cm long with quills that detach when the porcupine shakes or comes into contact with another animal.  Indeed one of the dogs returned home last year with three porcupine quills sticking out of her muzzle.  The quills have barbs making them difficult to extract.  Porcupines seem to love any form of bulb, corm, potato or bean.  I guess they are working their way up to the orto where the potatoes are in full bloom.  Honestly it is not my intention to garden to feed the wildlife!

Maybe I should collect up the rejected quills and place them round the remaining irises, it’s either that or resorting to chicken wire fencing round every plant. Suggestions welcome for iris preservation.