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Roses, an unirrigated garden, and long term drought

The roses aren't looking good. I've been blaming myself for this, neglect, etc, but have recently been reconsidering. I read a report on the weather yesterday in Repubblica which said that, of the five driest years since 1961, two were 2021 and 2022. And it's been historically warm. So far, this year isn't looking like it's going to be wetter, though of course it's early. The reservoirs are low, water tables are low, there's no snowpack on the Apennines. Normally, if one can still use that word, by this time of the year the world is drenched, sodden, dripping. No more. It's damp, but it's not wet.

We had an awful drought in 2016-2017, too, lasting a year, and the roses came through that without difficulty. I suspect, though, that this time we've hit the limit of what roses can take and still thrive. I'm hardly looking at them, by the way, this fall, a combination of how depressing they are and having other projects on my mind, mainly the terracing of paths and general cleanup; plus, I've been sick since the start of the year and have little energy (trip to see the doctor tomorrow, to see what the illness is; it's not Covid). The roses are hanging on, let me say, and some look fine, but this is definitely not their finest hour.

Some plants are happy. To restate our conditions: Zone 8, chilly mild winters and hot summers, which used to be drier but we seem to be experiencing higher summer humidity than we used to. Heavy gray clay soil on a southwest-facing steep slope, some areas of sedimentary rock close to the surface, neutral to alkaline Ph. What's growing well. Trees: Italian cypresses; native downy oaks (deciduous) are seeding freely where shrubs have been in place for a while, while holm oaks, evergreen oaks native to further south in Italy, are good; flowering ash is a champion; laburnums are very tough: I have to see whether the slightly rooted suckers we planted will take; hazelnuts grow well if they have clay and are near water, i.e. a drainage ditch or in a low spot. I have hopes for some young checker trees (Sorbus torminalis), suckers of which we dug up in the woods, and Chinese fan palms, seedlings from our trees at the house. I'd love to plant the Mediterranean palm, Chaemerops humilis, but it's not so easy to find. We have a flourishing wicked (it's a spiny beast) plant of it at the house. Figs.

I've been concentrating this winter on a part of the garden that we began in 2005, so eighteen years ago. Plants have come and gone--roses in particular have gone--but what has lasted are mostly evergreen trees, shrubs, and subshrubs: a Mediterranean look, an appearance more typical of central and southern Italy than of the north. Well....I say that. In fact, locally, olives, Italian cypresses, Italian pines, holm oaks, oleanders, bay laurel, are common, along with the deciduous wild flora and the temperate climate plants that are part of the garden repertoire around here. Bay laurel is decidedly invasive.

Ooof. I've run out of steam. And it's time to go out in the garden, cough and all. To be continued later.

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