Growing On

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Japanese maple (Acer japonica) in my backyard.

I’m still feeling a lot like this seemingly vulnerable leaf on one of my Japanese maples, but as days have passed, and the leaves have all opened up, the leaf no longer sticks out. I’m taking this as a sign. As it lifted up its head to the sun it was enveloped by the support of other leaves around it.

In the garden I am comforted.

Salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis) growing above the Pacific Ocean.

My trip the the Pacific a few weeks ago also had me viewing an understory of nearly nothing by salmonberry bushes and their blooms. I tried for far too long to get a nice shot of their hot pink blossoms but the wind was simply too much. Instead, I did capture this berry.

Morning glory vine (Ipomoea) on a tombstone in Oysterville, WA.

In my photos I also found this lovely rendition of a morning glory vine on a gravestone. I don’t believe I’ve shared it yet. Eternal blooms fascinate me more and more as I age. What flower would I want on my headstone? Why? I am such a plant nerd it’s impossible to choose just one. Besides, in the technological world we live in I’m much more likely to desire something akin to a slideshow. Oh! I am so ashamed at times to be so spoiled by the world around me. We’re lucky I think.

Dudlyea brittonii seedlings.

Many of the seeds I was unable to plant last year made it into production this year. Above you’ll see one of my favorites. I cannot wait to see these grow up. They are such beautiful plants.

Unknown Agave I grew from seed.
I guess these little “friends” area telling me that it’s time for the plant to be moved to a larger pot.

It is time to repot older plants I’ve grown from seed. This is a plant that really spoke volumes to me when I looked closely at what it was saying to me. “Plant me. I need more space. If you don’t, I promise to break this planter. It is weak. I am not.” Ok, maybe I’m totally exaggerating.

Me last month pruning the willow arbor while waiting to be picked up to go out for the evening. I can prune in a linen dress. Wow, the things we learn when we wait impatiently…

Being able to climb up onto a ladder to prune was a huge undertaking for me. In the past I would have been too dizzy to do this but not anymore!

Hellebore plant (Helleborus orientalis) pregnant with seeds.

Collecting seeds for my Etsy shop Milton’s Garden Menagerie has started all over too. Even though I am still not 100% about where I’ll be going next in my life, I do know with complete certainty that I want seeds to remain—and plants too!

Cuttings from my Begonia boliviensis I grew from seed. The propagation goes on and on…

To Chelsea on Her 21st Birthday

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Chelsea is my eldest niece and she loves nature.
Me, well, I love this kid—and the other two girls too.
Before I had a garden to help me bury the pains caused by a rare illness, I found a lot of happiness and joy in these three beautiful creatures.
These 3 are a creative triple threat, but most of the time, they just “are”.
We’ve seen many of the wonders of the Pacific Northwest together, and as a child, she and her younger sister Lindsey and their best friend Emily went all over the place with me—looking at plants, and other stuff.
You know, just normal nature stuff like this.
If I never have a child, it’s ok since I’ve always had Chelsea.
And she likes to think she’s my only child.
 And when I see pictures like this I know we are related to one another.
 We’ve always got Emily too.
 Chelsea has taken our relationship quite seriously for many years.
 Sometimes, she reminds me a lot of my dad.
I guess that’s where our quirks originated.
My brother (her dad) is pretty goofy too.
 She likes animation. I used to watch a lot of it with her. I guess I taught her to value certain things in life too.
 I think she’s a bit more colorful than I am at times, but that’s not an issue. She is her own garden.
At heart she loves animals and nature.
When I graduated from college I was so proud she was there to see me succeed.
My friend Brendan, the guy with his eyes shut, well he later acted as college art instructor to the young woman who became Chelsea’s high school art instructor.
I am happy she grew up around art. I sure wish I had! Although I wish Chelsea was making more art right now. She is a very talented artist.
She grew up around plants too and this image is from a Seattle trip to attend the Northwest Flower & Garden Show. (Sorry about the quality of this photo. It was rescued.)
Here first tattoo was of the much more common orange California poppy.
Taking the girls on road trips to CA was a great deal of fun for me.
And here we have Emily and Chelsea again. They were helping me to load pavers into the wagon after a friend our family had passed away. We wanted to use the pavers in my garden.
So often when I see the beauty in the small details of flowers I think of Chelsea. She sees even more beauty in the world than I. Too often my brain and words get in my way.

As girls, both Chelsea and her sister Lindsey liked to be a bit different.

Of course I encouraged this kind of thing.

When I worked at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Gordon House it was wonderful to see them all during visits. They were just kids and they enjoyed the house and absorbed its design.
I am not so sure they liked his Marin County building as much, but they saw it.
Chelsea loves her little sister Lindsey and I think this is one of my favorite pictures I’ve ever taken of her.
Emily is a bird of a different feather. That’s why we love her so much.
Like any aunt I prefer to think of them like this—tiptoeing through the tulips.
Of course Chelsea had to shock us all a bit—especially her little sister.

Not having had sisters it was a blessing to watch these little women grow.

They opened up a whole new world to me and I needed it.

Chelsea will always be “so metal” when she rakes.
She will always be a garden design sceptic.
Happy Birthday Chelsea.
Happy Birthday.

Happy. Happy.
Birthday.

Someday all three of you will be gardeners and I know it. It is in your blood on both sides. So get out there and keep doing what you do until you land and dig deeper to set down your own roots. Whatever you do, it will be beautiful like you.

Happy Blogoversary! Amateur Bot-ann-ist Turns 5 and Ficurinia Celebrates with Some Prickly Pears

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Usually I’d post a Wordless Wednesday post here but today is special so I will forgo that formality.

Today my blog turns 5 and I wanted to celebrate. The cheesecake is not yet complete, but the prickly pear sauce for it is, and now you can all hear about my relationship with the prickly pear…

First off, that’s not Pepto-Bismol pink. This is no shy fruit color. It will stain you and stain you well. It’s Barbie pink, hot pink, not understated pink, and it’s loud and proud.

Tasting of apple and watermelon, it’s really a strange fruit. Not sure if these were unripe or older fruits though since they happened to taste more of Aloe vera to me, but they tasted of prickly pear and that’s all that matters. Tasting subtly of prickly pear is the way to go. (Yes, I eat Aloe vera too.)

I will have pics of the chèvre cheesecake that will be drizzled with this stuff up here tomorrow and I’ll include a recipe with it.

So for now, just enjoy the warmth your computer screen is giving off because you’ve stopped to look at my blog. I am happy you’re here and grateful too.

Here’s to the next 5 years!!!

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Ficurinia is Sicilian dialect for prickly pear and I chose it as an online name years ago because of a story my father used to tell me about my Sicilian-American grandfather.
As a boy, his family had driven to CA to visit my Grandma Virginia’s brothers. Once over the Oregon/California border my grandfather was looking for every opportunity to stop and eat prickly pear cactus fruits. My father told me that as he sat in the car, pulled over next to the highway, he watched as his dad chowed down and other cars passed them. It embarrassed him that his father was acting like such an “immigrant” and he was ashamed. Later in life, after he’d lost his father, he regretted having felt that way.
I never knew my grandfather since I was born after he died. This story about him always fascinated me though and I wanted to eat the fruit myself to see what it was that drew him to it. During my 20s when I had the opportunity I fell in love with them too. Though I don’t eat them often, when I do, I think of my Grandpa. I think of him eating them while stationed in Italy during WWII and I imagine him eating them along the highways of CA whenever I go in search of seeds.
Through the prickly pear I am firmly connected to what I can only call the most mysterious and special part of myself. I am a gardener and I love plants and it is a gift that comes from somewhere deep inside of me. When I close my eyes to look into the still darkness it is the prickly pear I see and it is the image connected to the tie that binds me to the earth. I should add that it connects me to the kitchen too. But more on those activities later…
Salvatore Amato, soldier (October 31, 1944).
My Sicilian great-grandfather Frank Amato, my Grandma Virginia, my father as a baby, my Grandpa Sam. (Looks to me like someone might have been working in his garden that day.

"Go Seed Hunting!" said that little voice inside of me…

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Just over a year ago, it was at this place (and nearly to the moment), when I knew my life was going to change in a big way. It was as if there was such beauty during that precise moment, in that place and time, that something opened up deep inside of me and I heard that little voice screeching loud and clear as it went in for the kill.

The Bloedel Reserve.
I see now that for many of us—especially for those who design landscapes and even our own gardens—these are the sacred moments we want to experience. We live and breathe to hear these little things inside of ourselves, to feel out gut instincts. We use them to help guide us forward whether we’re ready to go or not.
Two Deer Ferns (Blechnum spicant) at The Blodel Reserve in Washington.

I want my next garden to have soul and at this point I will stop at nothing less. But until then, there is still a lot yet to do in my current situation.

This is a Red Cedar (Thuja plicata) woven pillow by artist Sue Skelly that was for sale at The Blodel Reserve gift shop last summer.

Some of these photos here are ones that I’ve not yet posted. Then again, maybe I have but I just don’t remember. I have a lot that was swept up into my iPhoto box during the past year. I hope to finally start to break these out now. Let’s all just pretend and ignore that they’re so “last season”.

Acapulco Salmon & Pink Hyssop (Agastache) at Dragonfly Farms Nursery. 
Fantastic garden structure at Dragonfly Farms Nursery.

There will be more and more of these in the coming weeks and I will try my best to recall what was going on at the time. A lot changed for me though at the Garden Bloggers Fling up in Seattle last summer and I regret not having posted many posts but I was going numb in preparation for the marital amputation.

That’s something which has become clear now, and there’s no turning back…

Random chance encounter I found between a plant and some pavement while walking home from the grocery store not long ago.

Then there are those beautiful moments I’m having now,

My precious Hollyhock (Alcea) grown from seed from seeds purchased at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House in Los Angeles, CA.

as I mix them in with my past,

I love the color of Alpine strawberries (Fragaria vesca) almost as much as I love their taste.

and I remember the simple pleasures too.

Coastal Goldenrod (Solidago simplex ssp. simplex var. spathulata).

Recently I began to think about my precious seeds, and the seed hunting, and the plant IDing.

This summer I’ve not yet had a road trip to look for seeds. Planning one for later has been in the back of my mind, on that perpetual back burner with the pile of other things, back behind all of the practical things I need to do right now—or else I should have done months ago.

The lovely annual Alternanthera.

This week I will begin collecting some seeds around here at home. I’m working again too on adding items to my Etsy store and am thinking about what kind of job will potentially work for me—though deep down I just want to play with plants and write. This should probably come as no big surprise to anyone who knows me! I have some options now though and am working on scenarios that will help me to live with the dignity I’d like as someone with a chronic illness.

“Somewhere” in Mendocino County, CA.

So I’m mentally ready to prepare for such a journey back out into the woods and wherever else I land and I hope to hit the road this October. These trips are fun for me to plan.

Yes there is the ocean to see too as I go into California, but there are also friends in San Francisco, Los Angeles (I’ve not yet seen Lotusland) and (fingers crossed) the Garden Writers Association Annual Symposium in Tucson, AZ. (Come to think of it, I’ve never been to one of those either.) The drive home from there could be all new to me and that would be nice to venture more into the Rockies a bit.
Something says to me that arriving in Tucson by car might be just what I need.
And somewhere out in the desert I hope to hear from somewhere deep inside of myself, “Thank you for listening. Thank you.”

Filoli (Woodside, CA): Part I, Arrangements, Doors & Gates

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Located in Woodside, CA the Filioli Estate was built between 1915-1917 by Willliam Bowers Bourn II and his wife Agnes Moody Bourn. The estate has a total of 654 acres, 16 of which are formal gardens.
Filoli was first on my list of gardens to visit during this trip to California.
Floral arrangement in Visitor’s Center.
In the newly constructed visitor center I was stuck by this massive floral arrangement and noted that the materials used were garden materials instead of stark and showy exotics so I was thrilled when I discovered that the arrangements throughout the interiors were made with flowers from the cutting garden on the estate.
When you enter the main house, you will see this orchid planter. It’s massive size does nothing to dwarf the beauty of its contents.
In another room nearby an arrangement is seen on a table with Delphinium and Dutch Iris (Iris x hollandica) from the garden. As a matter of fact, all of the rooms in the house had amazing arrangements in them—though the ikebana-inspired piece was truly my least favorite since it really disappointed me.
Of coures there are a few houseplants too like this Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)—a classic for any dark interior.
A pair of Boston ferns (Nephrolenpis) on two of the largest plant stands I’ve ever seen.
Out back, past the larger formal gardens you’ll find the cutting garden. It’s in two parts with one being protected, while the other is out in the open.
Then there are the many garden doors and gateways at Filoli…

Hope you enjoyed the brief tour of these few pieces and parts.

Stay tuned for more…

Official Website: Filoli
Wikipedia: Filoli Estate

Wordless Wednesday: With Spring in My Step

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Muscari armeniacum. 

Tulipa tarda.
Tulipa humilis.
Tulipa (cannot recall the name).
Primula veris.
Primula veris ‘Sunset Shades’.
Narcissus.
Muscari album.
Viola glabella.
Bergenia cordifolia.
Spoils from one of my many road trips to CA.
Narcissus. 
Fritillaria meleagris.
Helleborus.
Clematis alpina ‘Stolwijk Gold’.
Clematis alpina ‘Stolwijk Gold’.
Camellia japonica ‘Black Magic’.
Acer palmatum ‘Red Spider Web’.
Maurice the cat.
Two types of Dudleya.