Verona, Italy: Giardino Giusti (Part One)

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After our photo storage debacle—and the loss of almost all of my images of the Giardini Botanici Hanbury—I was determined to go to another of Italy’s great gardens so as to provide at least one great series of photos on this blog. Little did I know that I would soon be seeing one of Italy’s greatest gardens, and one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen in my life. IMG_1144

By this point in our trip I was not feeling well. My chronic health issues were causing a great deal of distress but I was determined to drive there. (I should add here that my husband doesn’t drive in Italy and cannot drive a manual shift car.) Luckily, we still had a FIAT Abarth, so getting to where we needed to go was not an issue.

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Note the heavy wood ceiling. Veneto is full of thick heavy wood. This is very different from many of the other regions of Italy. 

The garden is considered one of the finest examples of an Italian garden.IMG_1153 Created in the sixteenth-century, this is an Italian Renaissance garden. There are many styles of gardens in Europe—and I’m still far from an expert on this subject—but seeing this garden really inspired me to learn more. (I think my next trip will most certainly be a more in-depth exploration of great gardens.)

As a life-long tree hugger, I had to hug this “trunk of an old existing cypress in the garden in the fifteenth century.” It’s not quite a Californian redwood, but I was impressed and had nothing more than thoughts of the many people who’d been here before me.

The traditional plant palette of an Italian garden is quite limited and involves a lot of mass plantings of evergreen plants for an astonishing effect that simply must be seen in person.

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A Parthenocissus vine covers the wall and makes a fine green drape. 

Like any great garden, it transports you to another place, another level of existence, and it leaves you in awe. It also left me wanting to never leave. IMG_1159

For me, what started as a spiritual feeling left me that day with a sense of splendor and ecstatic sensation.

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If you look closely at the top of the hill you’ll see Il mascherone or a gargoyle. It is a man’s face and was originally designed to have flames coming out of his mouth. The entryway you see is an entrance to a grotto but sadly there is no more water inside. (You will see a photo of it in an upcoming post.) By the way, all the classical elements are represented in the garden. 

As I told my husband, any great garden should leave you with a feeling of hysteric pleasure—for some this might be a restrained thing, but for me, a girl raised on the Left Coast of the United States, I just wanted to party. (I will leave you with that without going into further detail.) IMG_1171

The garden is known for its terraces and its labyrinth. A traditional Italian garden is very green. This is in such sharp opposition to the usual colors of towns, and you’ll see this in upcoming images. IMG_1172It truly is a feast for your eyes and why not send your husband off into the labyrinth? I was fairly certain that Minos was still in Greece and that John would not encounter a minotaur here although I thought about it. That’s what these gardens were intended for, and so I let my mind be transported back to the ancient classical stories of Italy and Greece. (I should also add that all references to Catholicism have been removed. I will get to that in later posts as well.)IMG_1175It should come as no great surprise to you that food is important in Italy and all great Italian gardens will have citrus. The lemon is known to have arrived in Italy during the time of classical Rome.IMG_1177In the next two posts we’ll walk to the top of the garden. This is a garden seen in layers, with so many beautifully designed angles. Everywhere you look, you see beauty.

Behold! An Artist’s Studio has Grown in the Garden

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For the last month I’ve been working very hard to make this studio possible for a good friend of mine. Years ago when I first moved into this house I’d wanted this space very badly to be a writing studio. After I went through that phase, I’d hoped to clean it out and use it for my Etsy businesses, but like many things in life, it just didn’t quite work out as I’d hoped.

I can say now (with complete certainty) that cleaning out that space taught me a great deal about myself and my divorce. In each and every object I could see and feel a memory or two and I’d find myself taking mental steps backwards, revisiting these memories, going deeper into my former life, and this allowed me to review repeatedly both my own unhappiness and the many arguments which had occurred.
This was an incredible experience to say the least, and in a strange way, I’m very happy it took place.
Mona—the youngest of the 3 black cats—trying her hardest to remain as feral as possible until she can no longer take the wet cold. At that point she’ll move into the basement to remain toasty warm all winter.
The garage/studio is now free of all of those objects and I’m free of their bad memories. The process truly had me working through some intense emotions and for weeks I was physically exhausted by that process. I’m finished with that for now—except for some ongoing trash removal—but otherwise, I’ve found a great deal of closure.

Begonia hemsleyana from Cistus Nursery.

For the first time in months, I finally feel like I’m getting closer to my new life and this is an exciting time for me. I’ve turned the corner and have finally moved past the chaos and am back outside again in the garden.

Rhododendron sinogrande amongst little friends.
I enter there and find that my garden sanctuary is now covered in mysterious autumn mists with a sprinkling of yellow and red leaves that are lifted and spun around by the crisp, sharp winds that punctuate the rays of tilted October sunbeams.

.Aspidistra elatior.

Often these brisk breezes take me completely by surprise—especially when I am somewhere in the shade.

Great creeping Coleus that I hope to overwinter indoors as a houseplant. Why not!

It has always amazed me how differently I feel about the shade at this time of the year. Whereas it was my friend just a few weeks ago, now it’s become the dark alley I don’t want to be caught in for fear of some unknown impending danger. (OK, for me that might just be some foot cramps and purple fingers but those can be at least a tiny bit irritating.)

Hardy Cylamen.

During the last few weeks of summer I allowed myself to fully enjoy my back garden with many friends—both new and old. I’d never done this before and will always remember the late night conversations drinking wine beneath the stars. Like many other gardeners I’d made the space to be lived in, to be enjoyed, to laugh in, and to grow in—that finally happened for me, so now, as I move on (and possibly away from here), I can do so knowing I grew in this place.

That is what is important to me. I grew. They grew. My friends and I all grew together. It may take a village to raise a child, but I think that growing together as a group of individuals makes something much more vibrant and alive—much like a natural ecosystem. We all have our part to play and are necessary to one another.
I grew as a woman and as a person in my garden this year and it’s thanks to the plants I planted which supported us all as people searching out in the dark for meaning and substance.

Lithops. 

Soon I will be posting more about the houseplants as they move indoors again.

As always, I’m returning more and more to my peacock sense of fashion.

Virginia Creeper, (Parthenocissus quinquefolia).

And this peacock gardener is enjoying the riot of autumn colors before they’re gone. Sure, not everyone is a huge fan of Virginia Creeper but it does provide the most amazing fireworks-like finale in the garden.

I often sit out in the cold now with the little cat and she takes it all in with me.

The hummingbirds talk to us, and I am happy to have them since they also look at me through the back window in my music/plant/writing room on the mornings when I sit down to write.

More on my own creative indoor studio next time…

(And yes, more to come on indoor plant labor-i-tories soon!)

Wow! An Early Spring? Let’s Get Moving!!!

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This past week I purchased a few more houseplants to add to the other 100 or so. I wanted some foliage shock for some of the pictures I post with my vintage planters I sell online in my Etsy store. I think these two are perfect for that job. Don’t you? No one has asked me yet what they are, but I am sure someone will eventually. I am happy to promote houseplants in my store since so many people seem to be rediscovering what fun they can be!
Fittonia argyroneura ‘Red Vein’.
Begonia rex












Last fall when I attended one of the African Violet Society plant sales I bought some leaves too. The first time I bought some, I felt rather silly just purchasing a leaf in a baggie, but now that I have seen how easily they can take root and grow, I feel far less goofy about it. (They do take some time to grow though. This is about 3 or 4 months old.) I plugged in a light with a timer in the basement the the heater has kept them warm all winter. Doing this in a windowsill might not have been as successful in a 100-year-old house.
African Violet ‘Emerald Love’.
Episcia ‘La Soledad Bronze’.

Here is one of the terrarium plants I purchased last fall too. I used a large apple juice glass jug since it seems really difficult to find a big terrarium anywhere that can withstand an accident. With the foster kids running around I needed for it to be as safe as possible. This is an affordable terrarium too. I like it when I can show the kids things they can do with plants that don’t cost a lot.

Begonia partita.
Outside the garden is beginning to grow. I am afraid that if I don’t pay attention right now though, my house will be overrun. Last year I never got around to pruning what needed to be pruned and by the time I did, it was too late to do so. This year, I am going to get on it quickly, nipping it in the bud, so that our house will not be eaten. Since I plan to have more parties this summer, and I’d like to watch some movies out back, I will prune responsibly. Oh, how I cannot wait for warm summer nights!
Dianthus amurensis ‘Siberian Blues’.

This is my precious evergreen Himalayan maidenhair fern. They are difficult to find because they can only be reproduced through division. In zone 8 the make an amazing evergreen ground cover. I cannot wait for the plants I have to spread more.

Adiantum venustum.

A buttercup relative, this springtime harlot will be bursting forth with some waxy yellow blooms soon. After it blooms, all of the plant dies back until next spring but it is really quite shocking while it is up.

Ranunculus ficaria ‘Brazen Hussy’.

Oh, what would I do without my Hellebores! They cheer everyone up at this time of the year.

Helleborus with Sword Fern Volunteer.
Helleborus.

This is the absolute best Sedum I have ever found for shade. It is great for covering up bulb foliage too as it dies back just so long as it is not Narcissus foliage.

Sedum makinoi ‘Ogon’.
Helleborus.
Yellow Helleborus.

Maurice the Cat says it all. Currently we have three cats in crisis. They think it is spring because of all of the sunshine we’ve had, and yet the cold outside is telling them otherwise. Having three cats nipping at your heels to go outside with them—like dogs!!—sounds strange, but so it is at this time of the year during a year like this. I am glad that I have them around to nudge me out though since I still am not feeling great.

Red-twigged alpine maple with Camellia ‘Yuletide’ bloom, Maurice the Cat in ecstasy believing spring is springing, and a great clump of Aspidistra.