The spring tradition of foraging for dandelions, then chicory is replaced in May and June by the search for ‘asparago selvatico’, wild asparagus. Many of the country roads were lined with asparagus that were wildly sought after by our ancestors. Sadly, as roadsides were developed, most of the secret hot spots have disappeared. This week I was able to find a couple of straggling clumps that gave me a few to add to my dinner. My grandparents, as well as many others, established their own plots of asparagus that were still producing fifty years later. In Northern Italy, ‘bruscandoli’ (wild hops) are also known as wild asparagus. The new shoots look very similar to our asparagus. Broccoli is also known as Italian Asparagus. Broccoli was derived from the Italian word ‘Braccio’, which means arm. Italian Broccoli spears resemble arms or asparagus. Whatever their name, when brought to a boil and drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with pepper and covered with fresh dill, they are another spring favourite.
Gardens, teaming with birds and bees, can also be the home to more than plants. Adding year round interest to our garden, are statuary and pottery. Unlike many Italian gardens, that make use of terracotta pots, our garden is home to many colourful ceramic pots, that are filled with geraniums, some of which are still being propagated from my Nonna’s original plants. In the winter, these pots are filled with Christmas greens. Our “parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme” and basilico, too, are grown in hypertuffa pots that we made. Hypertuffa is a mixture of concrete, peat moss and perlite, that when mixed together, gives concrete a very malleable form. It can be used for sculpturing, forming into pots or making stepping stones, using rhubarb leaves for imprints.
Jane’s numerous hand crafted ceramic art pieces are treasured. Many of them tell stories as well as providing decoration. Some are fossil art, made by embedding plant material from our garden into the clay. One can spend a lot of time studying Jane’s fairy gardens… they tell many stories. Our garden is also home to numerous whimsical garden art items, many of them gifts from fellow gardeners. Of special note are the many hedgehog and porcupine art items hiding among the plants. One night, on a scavenger hunt, we had over forty recorded.
Some garden items involve movement, which adds interest to what sometimes may be an uninteresting spot. Some of these weather vanes, mobiles and whirly-gigs have been made by family and friends. Others are equipped with solar panels and light up as they turn. Fountains and falling water also provide movement. They also provide pleasant sounds erwhich can be used to block out unwanted traffic or air conditioner sounds.
Our most pleasant sounds come from the numerous chimes we have hanging around the house. The front door has welcoming light tinkling chimes, while those by the hot tub are deep and very melodic. Whether they are metal, wood, sea shell, ceramic or glass chimes, they are all very welcome in our garden.
Life-long Gardener Don Rampone shares his tips and advice for gardening