The Italian love of flowers extends back before the time of ancient Rome. Today the country boasts more than 30 botanical gardens. The first botanical garden was inside the Vatican in the 13th century. Italian gardeners grow flowers, vegetables and herbs from every available space. Within the cities and towns, look up to the window and balcony gardens, which offer a brilliant cacophony of flowers in every conceivable color and combination.
One of the most popular flowers for the balconies and terraces of Italian homes, the geranium is the flower most commonly associated with Italy. A reliable flower, geraniums continue to bloom until frost arrives. In southern Italy, the plant continues to thrive and bloom year-round. Able to grow in most soil types, geraniums have few problems and prosper by trimming spent blooms and keeping the plant fertilized.
When April arrives, the walls of Tuscany are covered with blue irises. The Florentine iris has long been a symbol of the struggle to overcome the wars of the Renaissance. A perennial, the iris has a large flower with a range of color from white to lilac to mauve and a yellow beard. Native to Italy, the plant grows in gardens and in the wild on hilly slopes.
The Tuscan poppy originated in North Africa, where it was prized for it beauty, as a food source and for its medicinal value. Able to grow in most soils and a profuse self-seeder, the Tuscan poppy has thrived for thousands of years throughout Italy and the Mediterranean region. The plant loves the sun and is most comfortable in heavy alkaline soils such as those found around Tuscany.
A vibrant garden flower that grows in just about every color in the spectrum, the dahlia is often the most striking flower in an Italian garden. A challenge to grow, the dahlia requires a free-draining, fertile soil and full sun. Flower stems should be pinched when they reach a foot in height, which will allow for a bushy growth. Dahlias are summer bloomers and must be planted each spring and then cut back and dug each fall after a killing frost. A transplant from the Americas, dahlias were displayed in Renaissance Italian homes as a symbol of the New World.
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