Gunnel from Sweden

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Growing peonies is my dream since I have been moving to Chianti from Florence down town. Peonies grow in shrubs and they are delicate and elegant. Colours range from white, cream or yellow, to pink, rose and brilliant scarlet. Peonie are perfect for flower arrangements. Only one problem: they love water!! Too much water for Chianti.
Unfortunately I did not realized that in the beginning and… all my attempts of growing grow peonies miserably failed. That’s what I admitted to Gunnel last time we met at Ancora del Chianti and she said: “We can share mine!!” 

As promised, she sent us her beautiful peonies as soon as they bloomed with a lovely letter. She spent holidays at her summer house by the lake and had fun painting and taking care of the garden with her 3 year old niece, Wilma. As soon as peonie bloomed she took a picture and sent me the card. What a marvelous flower!!

Besides gardening, she is also very found of art and she went visiting a nice exhibition of Emil Nolde in Skarhamm by the Nordiska Akvarellmuseet.  So, thank you Gunnel for the useful suggestions about a regenerating summer holiday at home…thinking of next travel in Tuscany!!

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Winter at Ancora del Chianti

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Most of our guests ask: “What do you do in winter?”

This is Filippo’s answer: “I take care of the vineyard and olive trees“.

Winter is a quite moment in the fields: pruning and maitenance is the main job to do. Fixing wires and supports is important to make sure that the plant has the proper heat, light and space in order to grow, develop and have the best grapes. Sometimes Filippo is obliged to replace poles alone and so he designed a new (heavy) tool that enables him to stick pole with no help. It is a clever idea we found during our last trip in Cote du Rhone (France).

Usually we do maintenance after/during pruning as it is important to act in accordance with the shape we want to give to the plants. Depending on shape, you can get different results:  what is the best is a big topic of winter discussion with our friends passionate of wine making.

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Grape Harvest at Ancora

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In early October we had our 2010 grape harvest. This is a big event at Ancora because this is the crucial moment when the hard work of one year must give the best result. Every year Filippo chooses a different date: he has to decide when the grape has enough sugar for becoming a good wine. Usually he used to eat and taste the grape and if it was sweet enough it was time for harvesting. But technology arrived at Ancora del Chianti in September when he was proud to show to the family a new tool: a spectometer. It is fabolous: you put it in a juice of a grape that you consider rapresentative of all the vineyard and it gives the approximate grade of the wine at the level of sugar that it can detect in the juice.

On harvest day we start early in the morning as soon as the soil is dry and there is no water in the grapes otherwise…..it will go in the wine! We start cutting the grapes and we collect them in big red buckets. Friends and family come from the city to help: from 2 y.o. up to 84 y.o. Then the grapes are delivered at the cellar where we have a machine for separating stalk from juice and put the juice in a steel barrel. The wine is done!!

Usually by lunch time most of the work on the field is done and an inviting  lunch is ready for everybody under the pergola. The menu is different every year but the is a must: beans and sausages with tomato sauce and sage. Nobody can resist!

Will you be with us next year? We are waiting for you!

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Lavender & Butterfly

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Lavender is a blue explosion in the garden of Ancora del Chianti.

Lavender is a very strong plant ideal for Mediterranean climate. It need little water or none and can bear the wind very well. It loves dry and hot weather. It prefers a sunny place in the garden: sounth – west exposition is perfect.  It can be prune in different shapes: round shape is usually the most popular and scenic. Lines of lavender is also a very good option for an empty edge in the garden like a blue scented ocean.

The smell is also amazing and is long lasting. It is an evocative pleasure to smell of lavander in winter time when opening a drawer: it reminds you of summer and hot weather. The smell is so relaxing for me that I smell a sachet of lavender when lying in bed reading, just before falling asleep.

Once you cut lavender you can prepare nice bouquet with a decorative ribbon. On my opinion for such a simple and a country flowers semplicity is a winning strategy: follow the same range of natural colours and natural materials. You will be delighted. Here an example of hanging bouquet, perfect for outdoor or indoor. Typical to put them in a line on a cane in the livingroom or bathroom.

For a simpler and more discrete use, you can prepare lavander sachets. I love to recycle old piece of textile and ribbons. I keep on preparing all year round and then in summer I can fill them all. I also prepare little origami boxes with nice left over of wrapping paper. Just match the box with the right colour of sachets and you have a perfect little home made gift to offer.

Lavender attracts a lot os insects: butterflies, bees, wasps, and many others. In the morning and late afternoon is a ” Bzzing” blue universe. They move from a flower to the other very frenetically. They seem charmed by the colour and captivated by the smell. So do we.

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Iris Triumph

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This year a miracle happened at Ancora del Chianti.

At last, we had our irises flowered and we could see their colour after a crested porcupine ate the roots a few years ago in one winter night.

Irises are a very slow growing flowers. They are very easy to multiply (just plant a piece of broken root) but they will grow as a proper plant in about 3 years and a full group of flowers in about 3-5 years depending on the variety.

Usually friends give us. Most of the time what friends give us is a mix of roots and it is hard to tell what colour exactly they are. This is why I was so curious to discover…..and when the plants were ready for flowers the crested porcupine ate (and mixed) them so……other 3 more years before we could admire the irises!!

But this year no porcupine in winter time: irises had their long and strong stalk late May and in mid- June they started to flower. It is impressive to see the gentle development of the flower afterwards. The flower has a very geometrical and rigid shape in contrast with the end of the petals that are are so delicate and smooth that the wind can move the terminal part. And last but not least the smell is amazing…..expecially for the white ones.

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