Today the sun is shining, it is warm and skies are laced with the wispiest of high alto strato clouds, and I am to be busy in the garden at Bellaugello Gay Guest house. Despite the cold winter days the garden has been sneakily growing and it needs taming.
The garden at Bellaugello is large, full of plants all bursting into bud and new growth. The lavender pruned back in the autumn is now requiring a second trim, Rosemary is flowering, I am always in a quandary whether or not to prune now, cutting off the blue flowers seems cruel, or to wait until the growth has gone mad and the plants are untidy. I have the same indecision with the roses. Autumn was mild, there were blooms as late as early December, and new growth in the first months of this year. I hate to prune back when the flowers give such joy in cold gloomy days, and now the buds are in leaf, I am unsure whether it is kind or unkind to the plants to cut them back hard.
I speak to my plants, and they seem to respond well. The garden was started from zero less than ten years ago and has grown into a place of fragrant beauty and peace. However the roses do not reply to my question as to when is the best time to prune them. I research the RHS website, it is a great resource, but I dither wondering if their advice is correct for the climate here in central Italy. Yesterday I was bold and some of the roses were cut back hard, but others I am unsure of, I don’t want to damage them.
Meanwhile the infinity swimming pool is sparkling. Cyril the robot has been in overnight and has gobbled up the red sand that seems to land in huge quantities every time the Sirocco blows, bringing up Sahara dust that smudges the water. The water is still cold, and though it will be some time before I take my first dip I do like to keep the pool well maintained as it gives me pleasure to look out over the crystalline waters. The pool is treated with salt to make natural chlorine, the system works throughout the year, gentler on your skin and kinder to the environment. No, the salt level is nothing like that of sea water, it is barely noticeable except it does mean you can swim with your eyes open and when you exit the pool your body does not have that horrible chlorine smell and your skin is not dried out.
Most of the trees shed their leaves in the autumn, and decide to dump them in huge quantities in the pool. The large oak tree by the house on the way to the pool is still clinging on to its leaves. Through gales and torrential rain some trees seem to manage to hold on tightly to their leaves, there is no logic. To me they are the same variety of tree, but obviously not. The leaves are brown and crisp and I know they will fall into every nook and cranny later this month. It is as if to say my raking and sweeping up leaves is a task that keeps me fit all year round, we are thinking of you.
Gardening to me is a joy. I am passionate about it and the south facing site at Bellaugello gay guest house is a superb environment in which to garden. I have been able to plant a huge variety of plants, and through time have learnt which like full sun and which are thankful for shade. The one thing I do not have is a damp northerly corner, so no rhubarb and the hydrangeas are not happy, but that is small price to pay in my sun drenched garden.
The house is on four levels, it hangs on the hillside looking over the valley, so we designed terraces on each level to give horizontal spaces. One enters the bedroom suites directly from the gardens. Each suite has its own private outdoor space with table and chairs, dining outdoors is such a joy, be it on your private terrace or together with other gay guests at one of our evenings under the stars. Two of the private terraces have outdoor showers. What gay man does not want to be caressed by hot water in the world’s largest bathroom, and in this gay guest house you can! sheer bliss!
When planning the garden for my gay guest house I found an empty palette and set about creating spaces and quiet corners. Hedging in laurel and bay feature, lots of fragrant lavender and rosemary flow onto the paths and attract insects, such a delight to brush past. Escape to the four poster bed hidden at the far end of the swimming pool, or swing gently in a hammock hung in the dappled share of our majestic fig tree, or doze in a chair under an oak tree, enjoy a relaxing massage, it is all here, and now I must return to work to keep it and myself in trim.