This week I’m joined by Angela Petch who has written a series of books set in Tuscany for Bookouture. Her latest release is The Tuscan House. Angela is talking to us today about her garden in Tuscany which looks absolutely gorgeous. Over to Angela …
Our Tuscan garden started from a field. And most of the top soil had been washed away by the river gushing over its banks in a freak flood from the river Marecchia that runs alongside our land. Over the past twenty years we have slowly created a (wild) garden from what we were left with.
There are advantages: part of our garden is a meadow and now wild flowers and orchids bloom on bed rock where once there was a flourishing vegetable garden. Our local Italian friends cannot understand why we do not restore all this, but we love the flowers. One edge of the meadow was safe from the waters and we do grow our aubergines, tomatoes, peppers and other scrumptious veg in that area – aided with plenty of manure from our friendly farmer.
I liken the process our garden has gone through to writing on a blank page. In fact, there are many similarities between gardening and writing. Particularly when the planting and writing are finished and you stand back and realise that there is a gap here, an overload of a particular plant there and that at the end of the season (the end of the first draft), much pruning and removing needs to be carried out to give the best overall effect.
“Probably… the larger part of the labour of an author in composing his work is critical labour; the labour of sifting, combining, constructing, expunging, correcting, testing: this frightful toil is as much critical as creative.” (From Reading Yourself by David Lodge. The Creative Writing Coursebook from the University of East Anglia).
Our garden in Tuscany is a challenge as the temperatures have been known to soar to 40 degrees and plummet to minus 15 degrees. So, plant selection is important. I look around the area to see what thrives. Roses and lilies do well and I mix in wild flowers that I love, collecting seeds and scattering them in my beds in autumn before we leave to return to England for the winter. Field scabious is a favourite and I love the way it sways in the breeze and attracts birds to gather its seeds.
Lavender is another hardy favourite. I love it for its scent and I use it in my laundry cupboard. The bees, butterflies and moths adore it too. It’s a background for wild life study.
All our life we have lived to a strict budget – I think our parents who endured World War Two instilled this need to be careful in both of us. I have friends with whom I swap plants and cuttings. We found a vine on our land growing in a ditch and this, plus a friend’s cutting of a flame-coloured bignogna (campsis radicans) now adorns our pergola, providing us with much needed shade.
I’m an inveterate seed collector when I am out and about. And we recycle a lot and it’s fun to create something out of nothing: an old basket found by the local bins is planted with French marigolds, my daughter’s discarded walking boots house begonias, a wire egg basket from a charity shop is planted with geraniums, an old ladder riddled with woodworm serves as a rose support, the remains of an old chicken house is left as an arch for a rose to clamber over – a rose cutting that my best friend gave me before she died. This pink rose is called perpetue and when I look at it, I think of her.
Our garden is a special place for us. It needs to fend for itself as we are away for six months each winter and it is like discovering it all over again when we return. (A bit like revisiting a favourite book, we find something new each time). We probably would not win any garden design prizes, but we love it.
About Angela Petch
Published by Bookouture, Angela Petch is an award winning writer of fiction – and the occasional poem.
Every summer she moves to Tuscany for six months where she and her husband own a renovated watermill which they let out. When not exploring their unspoilt corner of the Apennines, she disappears to her writing desk at the top of a converted stable. In her Italian handbag or hiking rucksack she always makes sure to store notebook and pen to jot down ideas.
The winter months are spent in Sussex where most of her family live. When Angela’s not helping out with grandchildren, she catches up with writer friends.
Angela’s gripping, WWII, Tuscan novels are published by Bookouture. While her novel, Mavis and Dot, was self-published and tells of the frolics and foibles of two best-friends who live by the seaside. Angela also writes short stories published in Prima and People’s Friend.
To keep in touch with Angela you can use the following links:
About The Tuscan House
Corbello, Italy, 1947. A woman and a little boy stagger into the ruins of an old house deep in the forest, wild roses overwhelming the crumbling terracotta walls. Since the war, nowhere has been safe. But they both freeze in shock when a voice calls out from the shadows…
For young mother Fosca Sentino, accepting refuge from reluctant British war hero Richard – in Tuscany to escape his tragic past – is the only way to keep her little family safe. She once risked everything to spy on Nazi commanders and pass secret information to the resistenza. But after a heartbreaking betrayal, Fosca’s best friend Simonetta disappeared without trace. The whole community was torn apart, and now Fosca and her son are outcasts.
Wary of this handsome stranger at first, Fosca slowly starts to feel safe as she watches him play with her son in the overgrown orchard. But her fragile peace is shattered the moment a silver brooch is found in the garden, and she recognises it as Simonetta’s…
Fosca has always suspected that another member of the resistenza betrayed her. With Richard by her side, she must find out if Simonetta is still alive, and clear her own name. But how did the brooch end up at the house? And with a traitor hiding in the village, willing to do anything to keep this secret buried, has Fosca put herself and her young son in terrible danger?
An absolutely gripping and heartbreaking standalone historical read that explores the incredible courage of ordinary people in extraordinary times. Perfect for fans of Rhys Bowen, The Nightingale, and anyone longing to lose themselves in the mountain landscapes and olive groves of rural Tuscany.
Buying Link here
Buying link for books:
A Tuscan Memory: https://amzn.to/2ZVOQ5B
The Tuscan Secret: https://geni.us/B07Q38YX7XCover
The Tuscan Girl: https://geni.us/B083P5XHHRCover
Mavis and Dot: https://mybook.to/MDot
I haven’t yet read Angela‘s Tuscan series, but I have read Mavis and Dot, so I’m giving my review below:-
5 Stars – Refreshingly different
I loved Mavis and Dot! A refreshingly different book with older characters who are believable and full of life. I hope that we get to read more about these two ladies.
Thank you for joining me this week Angela. Mx