Monday, 18 March 2013

First Plantings 7

From In A Tuscan Garden, published anonymously 1902
There were several young vines planted between the tea-roses against the walls of the stanzone, and one in particular grew just where I specially wanted to plant a Banksia rose for grafting purposes.  I was pottering about with my own gardener, and said to him cheerfully, “I think this vine had much better come out altogether.”  He was a reasoning human being, and not a machine, and among other gifts, possessed a most beautiful voice, with which, like St.Francis, he used to sing to his   brothers and sisters, the birds. He looked at me a little dubiously and said, with a suspicion of remonstrance in his voice, “Signora, it’s a Salamanna.”  Now, although I had a fair knowledge of Italian, not perhaps quite fit for court circles, of  technical terms I knew little, and I had not the faintest notion of what a Salamanna vine was, and, unfortunately, I was at that time so impressed with the superiority of my British ways that it did not even occur to me to enquire.  So, happy in my ignorance, and feeling quite cocksure of the benefits I was about to confer on the owner’s estate, I said gaily, “Oh never mind, we’ll have it out.” Just then, as ill-luck would have it, old Giuseppe was passing up that avenue, and, though very friendly to us in a general way, he went straight to the secretary and “informed”.  Within a quarter of an hour I received a missive stating that much had been borne in silence, but that the cup of my iniquities had now overflowed, and that if my extirpatory practices were not at once and forever abandoned, it would be his duty to bring them to the notice of the “Commendatore” – with a very large capital C.  After reading this composition, I thought it prudent to go in person an endeavour to put matters to rights.
It was a Muscatel vine that I had uprooted, and the gist of the offence was, that these grapes being the one fruit to which the Commendatore was specially devoted, these young vines had been planted with a view to a small extra provision of this fruit. I offered – so British – to pay for the value of the vine but was waved aside with scorn.  The adversary was a Prussian, and the whole principle of authority was at stake.  Luckily for me, the poor man had been confined to the house by illness during the first weeks of our tenancy, as had he been about, I should probably have been called to order much sooner.  However, we patched up an armed neutrality.  The other vines never did any good, and some years after I got leave to uproot them all.  “Do it quietly, Signora, and say nothing about it,” were my instructions.  Most things come to them who know how to wait, and not to cut down Salamanna grapes in Tuscany, where such a crime is looked upon much as shooting foxes or poisoning hounds would be in “the shires”.
The part of the ground lying between the grass walk and the boundary-wall on the west side was simply like a ploughed field, and the only things growing in it were two old fig trees, which gave us abundance of excellent green figs and considerable shade, which I valued more.  We made a good, wide border on the right of the grass walk, and two similar long borders on the farther side, divided by a gravel walk, which began at the cancellino steps.  A short border ran across, along which we put a wire fence, and planted against it such Bengal roses as Laurette Messimy, EugĂ©nie Resal, Irene Watts and others of that section, as well as some of the strong growing autumn flowering roses Marie Henriette, Madame Metral, etc. An old olive-tree stump had been left near the beginning of this this short border; its trunk was clothed with Jasminium nudiflorum, and the roses found their way into its upper branches.  This little yellow jasmine is much later flowering there than in England, and seldom shows blossom before February.  I think this must come from the want of moisture in the air, for I remember it in the south of Cornwall, flowering in October.  The ground lying between these long borders I laid down in grass, not with any delusive hope of ever having decent English turf, but simply because grass makes a better background for shrubs and colour effects than anything else.  We cut out various beds upon it, between and beyond the two fig-trees.  Later on, a row of small beds were added on the west side, in a fashion that I have no doubt merits the condemnation of being “spotty”.  I daresay they are, but I was so hard up for room to plant things I wanted to have, that it was Hobson’s choice.

No comments:

Post a Comment