More of the Garden Makeover and, well, Reduction Mammaplasty


Damask Rose aka Rosa x damascena.

Last time I didn’t mention why I was rushing. I’m not even sure that I said I was trying to hurry through a pile of mulch, but I was and I’ll get to that in a bit. I can’t believe I chose to have another surgery at this time of the year, but I did, and I’m glad that’s over now.

Next year I’ll be able to harvest the Damask roses for edible purposes. This year, they had to fade and their petals were sadly trampled by rain but at least I smelled them frequently as the clock ticked on my impending procedure last week.

IMG_2630 IMG_2635Just in time we cleaned up the front area but there is much left to do. I finally was able to move the Aucuba ‘Gold Dust’ and I hope that it’s happier beside its companion next to the fence.



Lord Quincy between scenes of the Bug Ballet. He’s quite a dancer.

The day after my surgery was glorious. After resting and before returning to the surgeon to be checked out I wandered around the garden high on pain pills and the miracle of sudden weightlessness from my chest. (Don’t fret. Mom was driving me  back downtown.)


I walked around the garden rejoicing too that this recovering would not be nearly as bad as back surgery. I was already up and walking and was even able to pull out a few weeds here and there.


Yes, there was still a lot to do, but I thought about the victories we’d achieved before the surgery.


I had just moved this Aucuba on the right.


Rosa ‘Julia Childs’.

Last week I spent wandering outside for a bit each morning with my coffee before I returned to bed for a long nap. IMG_2706

Each day was full of surprises like discovering vine weevils in my  Dranunculus vulgaris.


Although they might look a bit crooked in this photo I can assure you they’re not. It has something to do with how I was holding the iPhone.

Then there’s the whole getting to know my body in a new light kind of thing. Since this is a gardening blog I won’t go into my reasons for wanting this done, but I can assure you that they were medical, physical, as well as emotional. I wish I’d done this sooner, and if you’ve thought about doing it, do it. It really is life changing.

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After a few days of rest I ventured over to an elderly neighbor friend’s house last weekend. (Yes, it’s ok I did this. Walking is encouraged after this kind of surgery.) We talked, I admired plants along the way, took note of an arrangement she’d made in the house, and we both noted that this tiny broom she’d had for ages had finally bloomed. Of course neither one of us remembers where it came from but she bought it years ago with me.

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I also ventured out that night to attend a talk and potluck with some other hort-heads at Sean Hogan’s house. There is plenty more to tell you about that fun evening but I really wanted to show these photos of the Abutilon megapotamican. With some protection it’s hardy and I think it’s just lovely.

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With some improved weather the cats and I have been regularly going outside. Maurice only goes if it’s really warm, and well Quincy, he goes no matter what and we find him passed out in Maine coon mode in the hall on a daily basis now.

IMG_2809Just today I went out for an hour, and I saw that my Chilean guava (Ugni molinae) was blooming.

IMG_2812Before I came in to cook dinner I admired my Fuchsia splendens too.

There have been a lot of changes around here during the last few weeks and I’ve been feeling so much better. I still need time to rest though and to clear the pain. Tomorrow I leave for a weekend in the coastal woods and I’ll return to share some moments from that trip too. I’m really excited to get back to the Estancia.

(Next time I’ll also tell you a bit about having a garden acquaintance come over to help me in the garden. Oh, what a boost that gave me!)

City People’s Garden Store, Seattle (Washington)

During the Seattle Garden Bloggers Fling last month I was unable to sneak over to City People’s Garden Store to go shopping. I really wanted to, but once I was told I’d be coming back in a few weeks with the husband for a wine pouring, I relaxed and vowed to return then—and I did!

I’ve only been here twice before and both of those visits took place during the wintertime when I was looking for houseplants. This time I shopped inside AND outside.

Reiger Begonias are a hybrid cross between tuberous and wax Begonias.

There were so many things I wanted to buy, but since our garden is currently unkempt, and with the impending threat of the serial casting process for two injured fingers on my right hand being planned, I was just looking and not shopping.

I would buy one of these for every girl who came through my door if I could because ever the cynical foster teens melt when anyone mentions fairies. It is nice to see that a door can still open to their inner child sometimes.

I don’t grow Kangaroo Paw plants, but the green blooms on this one were so tempting.

Having been the black sheep oftentimes during Lenten activities at my Catholic school makes some place deep inside of me want a black sheep for my garden. This one is not quite black, but it’s close!

The salmon was interesting in its rusticity. I liked that the artist got the hooked snout just right.

It was so pretty that day but I was so sad it was already August. With my birthday looming, I knew that fall was near. The nursery was already stocking mums, so that made the inevitability of the changing season that much clearer.

I am sure that others around me would have understood how I felt that day if they’d known so I continued to take in as much as I could along with the rest of them. Oh the lies we tell ourselves to justify the things that satisfy us!

Sometimes you really need to gawk.

The colors are like Valium for your eyes—at least in my case they are.

And even though I have seen these blooms many times before, I still always want to see them again.

Digitalis obscura.
Delphinium hybid.
Gentiana acaulis hybrid ‘Holzmann’.
Silene ‘Jack Flash’.
The native plant corner was where I rested my eyes for a minute or two.

When I turned around I saw the Aucuba on the right with the solid green leaf. I’ve wanted one of these for awhile, but I passed on it. Sometimes it is sooooo hard to say “No” though.

This year my Fuchsia plants do not look quite this happy.

I wanted to crawl into this seat to rest a spell because my finger injuries were really making my tired. Sometimes it is such hard work looking at plants but somebody has to do it.

Entertaining from the Garden (and the Heart) with the Hands and the Head


Whenever my husband drives up from California, I make plans with as many people as I can because when he was a cook—and then a chef—this was entirely impossible. Now that we care for foster children, and he works out of state at a vineyard in California, this becomes even more of a challenge at times. It seems we are getting a feel for it though and yesterday we had a smashing success when I invited over an old Italian friend from college who I hadn’t seen in years!

The most difficult part for me is often just letting go of the menu completely. I want to do this, and I need to do this, and I can trust my husband completely, but it can be a difficult dance because it begins and ends quickly. This time, it went something like this, “Italian brunch to me means: frittata, leftover pasta from the night before, fruit and lots of veggies.” We planned to go to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday and that was the end of it. I turned to crafting with the foster respite and cleaning the house while additionally getting ready for our impending trip to California.

The Farmer’s Market was amazing and I just pointed at a few green items and I honestly had no idea what the plan was and I didn’t ask. The chef likes some mystery.

Yesterday, before our guest arrived, I looked around in the garden for some flowers to harvest for the table. I knew we had what I refer to as “bread and butter” Dutch irises in the Hell Strip by the street so I picked one of them first. It went swimmingly from there: long-spurred Aquilegia, Aucuba Gold Dust, and then some orange Buddleja globosa for some umph!

Then our foster respite asked me if I was going to use the other cool black Japanese vase and I thought about what to add to it. The Green Rose Rosa viridiflora immediately dove into the vase with a low wrap of Coleus and I didn’t even have to think about it.
Our guest arrived, and with his help, our table was lovingly set reminding me in so many ways of the rituals done almost without thought but with great reverence during the Mass. Again, I am not a seriously devout Catholic nowadays, but I will always be Catholic by culture and I am proud of that as an Italian-American.

We brunched upon a spring beet salad with fresh greens and a horseradish and walnut oil dressing, a spring asparagus frittata with a splash of white truffle oil, dragonfruit, honeydew melon, and mango, and lastly, there was a peanut soup with spring peas and a splash of whipped coconut cream. (This last course was added due to gluten and dairy intolerances and it was a perfect surprise!)

In addition to the fruit, our guest also brought carnations and I immediately thought of something I had read last week about the American singer Katy Perry. How could she demand that there be no carnations in her trailer? Sure we all have issues with some kind of flower for some kind of personal reason, but these little dolls were just so cute yesterday I just adored them. (These are for you Katy Perry XOXO.)
In less than a day, we will be departing for another whirlwind plant and garden tour from Portland, to the Bay Area of San Francisco, and then back again along the southern Oregon Coast. This time there will be more gardens, more plants, and who knows what kind of shenanigans!
Hopefully I will not be soaking wet and shivering like I was last time when I did this about two months ago. Our rain totals so far this year are seriously off the charts. ¡Gracias La Niña! Now pleeeeaaaaase go away!

Marin County Open Gardens 2011