I is for irises

-bearded ones used en masse as ground cover as you can see them here in the garden of Villa Cetinale, Tuscany.   The flowers are fleeting but the leaves are pretty much evergreen.

Feast on your greens: winter gardening

December weather lays  bare the bones of the landscape and reminds keen gardeners of the delights of monochrome gardening.  Knock out  colour – except greens –   and think texture, movement, leaf contrast – all those things that design tutors at college chant as a mantra. Last  autumn,  a group of us visited The Laskett…

G is for ghastly

In  1458 Piccolomini set about the construction of a small  town but he was  called to Rome to become Pius II and the job never got finished.  Nethertheless Pienza is an absolute gem of a  Renaissance town. Perched on a hill top and garlanded with churches and piazzettas.

F is for Ian Hamilton Finlay

If you read a review of “Letters from IHF to to Stephen Bann”  which appeared in December 4th’s London Review of Books, you will learn that he was agrophobic, foul-mouthed and one to raise a mallet to his friendships, notably his best man Hugh MacDiarmid (described as the poineer of synthetic Scots).

D is for Don’t be stupid and Dahlias

At a Dahlia Show you will see the  the bionic boob and tippety heels of this type of plant.   Go and and wow at a Dolly Parton of a dahlia but do not expect to find inspiration for your borders here.  Tune it down and call instead on a mate who grows them.  Below,…

C is for coleus

(equally S is for Solenostemon scutellarioides)  – plants that come from India and Thailand and get called the ‘painted nettle’.  You will either love them or hate them – seen in droves when I visited the trial grounds of Ball and Colegrave in the summer.  Run your eye down this lot, if you like them…

B is for Brian

Garden guides can be brilliant or so annoying that you want to rattle your teeth and burst into tears.  Brian,  I am happy to tell you, is my nominee for guide of the year award.  Tucked away up a remote valley in Umbria due south of Lake Trasimeno is the weird and wonderful architectural fantasy…