Italy's Amalfi Coast: The Miniature Village in the Cliff

 

 

 

 

Here's how to grow tree tobacco:

 

 

Latin Name

Nicotiana glauca

Common Name

Tree tobacco

Family

Solanaceae, the nightshade family

What kind of plant is it?

A tall and almost tree-like annual.  In mild-Winter climates, a returning perennial.  Milder still?  A rangy evergreen shrub or even small tree.

Hardiness

Zone 7: A returning perennial.  Zones 8 - 9, an evergreen shrub or even small tree.

Habit

Multi-trunked, coarse.

Rate of Growth

Very fast: To twelve feet and more as an annual

Size in ten years

16 - 18 feet tall, 10 feet wide

Texture

Striking, rangy, coarse.

Grown for

Large flat smooth-edged blue leaves (similar to those of Rudbeckia maxima).  Nodding sprays of small tubular yellow flowers are modestly interesting, until hummingbirds discover them, and then they are fantastic.  Startling fast growth as an annual or returning perennial.  Stump-the-neighbors oddity.  Tropicalismo appeal. 

Flowering season

Mid-Summer through frost.

Culture

Rich well-drained soil (although will grow in just about anything where native).  Full sun and all possible heat.

How to handle it

An an annual, start seeds indoors, transplanting seedlings out after the soil is nicely warmed.  Water and fertilize lavishly:  Tobaccos are all heavy feeders. 

Downsides

The striking foliage and immense growth don't outweigh that this is a gawky and almost weedy plant.  (In milder climates, where the plant lives from year to year, you can pinch it for much fuller growth.)  Self-seeds so successfully in mild climates that it's now classified as invasive in California.

Variants

A reputedly hardier (into Zone 7) cultivar, 'Salta Blues'.

Availability

At better retail garden centers, and on-line.

Propagation

Seeds as well as softwood cuttings.

Native of

Argentina.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here's how to grow pittosporum:

 

 

Latin Name

Pittosporum tobira

Common Name

Japanese mock-orange

Family

Pittosporaceae

What kind of plant is it?

Broad-leaved evergreen shrub

Hardiness

Zones 8 - 11

Habit

Dense and broad, often broader than tall.  Mounding and even ground-covering.  Similar to mid-sized rhododendrons in look.

Rate of Growth

Moderate

Size in ten years

Full grown: 6 - 8 feet tall and wide.

Texture

Solid and potentially heavy.  Unless pruned, the dense foliage usually hides most of the branches.  Potential as a groundcover if planted en masse.

Grown for

Fragrant Spring flowers.  Groundcover or, with taller varieties, clipped or free-range hedge.  Foundation plantings.

Flowering season

Spring.

Culture

Sun or part shade.  Almost any reasonably-fertile and well-drained soil.

How to handle it

Universally popular where hardy, with many different uses, from bonsai or specimen shrub or tree to hedges, seashore windbreaks, and groundcovers. 

Downsides

Susceptible to scale, aphids, and sooty mold.  Sticky seeds are messy when they fall onto pavement.

Variants

Many, some with variegated foliage, others of dwarfer or even much taller, even tree-like, stature.  Many related species.  'Tall 'n Tough' is hardy even down into Zone 7.

Availability

At retail garden centers, and on-line.

Propagation

Seeds and cuttings.

Native of

Japan, China, Australia, South Africa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here's how to grow giant fennel:

 

 

Latin Name

Ferula communis

Common Name

Giant fennel

Family

Apiaceae, the Carrot family

What kind of plant is it?

Very large biennial

Hardiness

Zones 8 - 10

Habit

Many thick rhubarb-like stalks with clouds of delicately ferny foliage, in mild climates making huge mounds four to six feet tall and wide.  Flower stems soar many feet higher, to ten or even twelve feet.

Rate of Growth

Fast

Size in two years

This is a short-lived perennial, or a biennial.  Full grown: a clump six feet wide, with flowering stalks to twelve feet high.

Texture

Despite the almost structural and architectural size, delicate and ferny. 

Grown for

Massive size, delicate foliage, and the sky-scraping stalks with round heads of innumerable small yellow flowers. 

Flowering season

Early Summer.

Culture

Full sun, and almost any well-drained soil, from dry and sandy to rich and "ideal."  Smaller and denser in drier and hotter climates.

How to handle it

Full sun and excellent drainage.  Overwintering at the lower limits of hardiness is a matter of protective shelter from Winter rain.  Usually biennial, or a short-lived perennial.  Self-seeding can be rampant, so be prepared to yank seedlings.  On the plus side, it's deer- and snail-proof.

Downsides

A marvelous oddity, instead of a reliable year-to-year component of your garden.  Self-seeding can sometimes fail, and other times be wildly over-abundant. 

Variants

None

Availability

At better retail garden centers, and on-line.

Propagation

Seeds

Native of

Mediterranean, and east to Ccentral Asia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here's how to get started on planning your trip to Praiano:

 

What’s the idea?

Praiano is a gorgeous little hillside town snuggled into Italy’s Amalfi Coast between Positano and Amalfi.  In our opinion it’s the the least touristy of the three, maintaining an identity as a real and living town rather than a tourist destination.

 

Where is it?

The Amalfi Coast is a stretch of coastline on the southern side of the Sorrentine Peninsula of Italy (Salerno is the province), extending from Positano in the west to Vietri sul Mare in the east.  Its fantasyland towns include Positano, Ravello, Amalfi, and our favorite, Praiano.  The whole shebang is within spitting distance of the justly legendary Isle of Capri, with its lagoons, grottos, and fabulous shopping.

 

How do I get there? 

Alitalia can tell you all.  We went with friends from New York City to Rome (Alitalia), then by train to Naples, and were lucky enough to charter a van from there to Praiano.  If you start in Naples, be sure to stop in Sorrento and Pompeii on the way.

So, any famous gardens in Praiano?

Nope.  But the step-centric architecture of the town combined with the bonanza of naturally-growing Mediterranean plants to be seen everywhere one looks (awesome cacti and grape arbors-of-your-dreams) makes it a paradise for lovers of casual horticulture.  The town is also full of pergolas, which the Italians get so right.  That blinding Mediterranean sun, the blue, blue sea and its breeze, fresh tomatoes and living, growing things everywhere.  And it’s the Amalfi Coast, let's not forget.  Every bit of it is astounding.

 

Is there at least one major garden?

Nope.  But there is one of the world’s most awesome “miniatures.”  Michel Castellano a local artist has created a reproduction of the entire town of Praiano, complete with living horticulture, albeit scaled to match the size of the mini-buildings and micro water features.  It’s a true delight, and fills a natural cliff grotto right on the coast road.  See our one-minute video: “Italy’s Amalfi Coast: The Miniature Village in the Cliff.”

Where to stay?

Rent one of the town’s available villas or cottages; that’s what we did.  And loved cooking and eating there: our local grocery, Tutto per Tutti, on piazza Moressa at the top end of the via Umberto, provided beautiful vegetables, meats, cheeses, you name it.  Also a great selection of wines.  But if a luxury hotel is your thing, Casa Angelina sure seemed swell, with prices to match.

We like people to cook for us!

Truth be told, we ate in most of the time.  We didn’t have the restaurant experience much, although when we had lunch one day at Il Pirata, the location on a ledge not much above the water and the white-tablecloths under a series of pergolas made everything taste great.  We remember freshness.  If you go the site, click the UK flag in the upper-right hand corner for the version in English.

 

 
 
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