Summer 2021 (so far!) at Campiello Maurizio in Portland, Oregon

The plants near the sidewalk are fried from reflective heat. Our record-breaking days of heat were not kind to the plants I’d not watered deeply before the heat spell arrived.

Well, I might as well begin with the news everyone knows about. We lived through a heat dome and at my house it reached 116F, but I only caught our temp here after it had fallen a degree.

Before all of that though, I learned that my blood sugar had spiked and in general I wasn’t doing well overall. With my new gray hairs I had to sit back and take a good, hard, and long look at what I needed to do to make myself feel better. I decided to work less, help my family more by spending time with my elderly dad, and I went on the KETO diet. I am still tired but I did lose weight and I have started to feel better.

Grey hairs are adding up. This is my usual hairdo after a day at work. It’s exhausting to do what I do but I really love it.

We still don’t know if I am any better. Like everyone else, I am trying to get medical help and the system is a bit clogged up because of the pandemic. Luckily I can wait, and I am able to keep myself busy. This doesn’t mean that I do it well though. After a few hours of potting things up last weekend I looked down and realized why my feet felt off. At that moment, I definitely was feeling my age. Next month I turn 47. This may come as a shock to some of you, but I’m feeling it. I am a bit drugged too so that doesn’t help to keep me sharp at all.


I’ve continued to keep at my work and have been gardening too. It still is difficult to bend over and down so I don’t get much done but this summer I am determined to get this place into a more sustainable spot. I have had issues maintaining things so I’m working to simplify things. So far, it’s paying off and I feel so good about that. I hope to really have things in order by November when I begin to bring the last plants indoors. I hope to hire a gardener to help me monthly, and an online acquaintance is volunteering a bit to help me get things in order. With HPSO Open Garden dates in September, she is really giving me a great boost.

Mahonia piperiana ‘Spoonleaf’.

Thanks to random conversations or messages with friends I still learn about new-to-me plants at work all of the time. Not long ago my botanist friend mentioned this plant that we have at Cistus Nursery and I had no idea what he was talking about. Then I looked it up after I located it in the garden.

This is what it says about it in our catalog: “Selected in Oregon’s Northern Rogue valley by plantsman Frank Callahan, growing in dry chaparral country. To 4-6 ft and dense, with leaflets nearly round and very shiny. Late winter and early spring flowers are peach tinted, maturing to yellow followed by attractive masses of powdery blue berries. The plants are burnished red with winter frost or drought. Full sun to dappled shade with good drainage and preferring west coast summer dry conditions. Frost hardy to USDA zone 6.”

Now don’t go calling Cistus Nursery to ask about it! It’s our policy that we employees always mention if a plant is not available, and yes, this one is not yet available again, but thanks to a conversation with my friend, I hope that it will be soon. I am just so smitten with it and I want one too so that means I MUST make more.

Seseli gummiferum, or moon carrot.

Another plant that I’m enjoying is this Seseli gummiferum at work. I walk by it a lot and can’t recall if this is one from Evan’s seeds from his garden, but I think that it is. I have grown a few batches of these and while they were wildly popular a few years ago, I think they fell out of favor a bit due to their floppiness. I adore them and all of their imbalanced-ness. They’re definitely quite attractive to the pollinators.

Begonia listada, grown from seed.

Here at home I continue to care for my houseplants and tropicals. I have been potting up so many plants in my own collection during the last few months. It’s exciting to see things mature.

By staying home more, working a bit less, I have been able to rest more and this is important after the experience of working at two nurseries during the pandemic. I wish I could have stayed home, but it was not possible. Now that the variant is running around, I am still vulnerable. I cannot deal with the common cold or a flu virus. At 40 I started the process to receive both pneumonia vaccines. (There are two and you must take them a year apart.) Physicians don’t ask you to do this usually until you’re 65 but I am very vulnerable to anything that attacks the lungs so they brought it up after I turned 40.

A gift to me from nurseryman Dan Heims.

So I have tried to remain positive while earning less money. I cannot keep at this forever and I need to think about my health. I still love what I do but I need to remain open to what I want to do, and what I dream of being about to do even when I am down. I don’t want to give in and give up. I’m just not that person.

Dan Heims gave me these textbooks on running a nursery. It was an honor to be gifted them. I have no clue if I ever would want to own or run a nursery, but I suspect I could help do so with a team of others. No matter what I do, there is no reason not to learn more. I can’t wait to spend more time with these texts over the winter.

At Cistus, Sean sometimes runs off to get us ice cream treats on hot days. Discovering the Choco Taco has been fun this summer. While I mentioned above that I was becoming more diabetic, I have stuck to the diet, so one of these once every two weeks can be a real treat.

My coworkers and I seriously giggle about it when we bust these open. There can be a playfulness amongst friends while working hard together in crazy hot weather during the summer. Ice cream can bring us together and Sean knows it. We all feel like kids again on a hot summer day.

On a recent trip to the Estancia (near the coast) with Dad I found this stump and rolled it up to his car. While he thought I was a bit nuts, my friends thought otherwise. I’m very proud of this find.

Felix has been having fun where he can find it. As expected, he acted like a King of the Jungle when given the opportunity to ride on our cart at the nursery.


Summer is definitely afoot but it’s far from over. Stay tuned!

More adventures are coming soon! Be sure to check back since I’m traveling 3 out of 4 weekends this month!!! Yes, this seems dumb considering how vulnerable I am but that’s what masks are for, and I for sure am calculating my risk. I still need to live my life, and so long as I feel like I am being safe, and that others are safe, I can proceed. I just wish that others felt this way too.

Be careful out there friends!! We’re not out of this yet!!

My First HPSO (Hardy Plant Society of Oregon) Open Garden


It’s been 2 months since my garden was open to a limited number of gardeners I didn’t know from Adam. I think I’ve almost recovered from the experience, but to be honest, I’m not completely sure. 2017 has been the year of renovation around here and we’re far from done.


The front yard as it was that weekend. Hopefully next year the master plan for the Hell Strip from Hell will have been masterfully completed.

The whole endeavor is not for the faint of heart. Yet for me, it had to be done. If I don’t have a goal to achieve, I don’t get things done. This Virgo child may be down to earth, but I sure do get distracted by shiny/beautiful and/or delicious things quite easily. So yes, this garden and home have been so wrapped up in my emotional and physical lives for so long I just wanted to be rid of that extra baggage.


The first renovation to take place was of the front garden. We widened the parking space and hired John Crain of Opal Gardens to build a custom fence. Made of Oregon juniper, you’ll find many fences that look like it in the far reaches of Northern Italy.

I learned a lot during the process and I continue to discover new things about myself as I rid the property of both objects and memories. If gardening is life (and it is for some of us), and if life is about adapting to change and problem solving, then my garden and I had not really been alive or even living for quite some time. There had been no big changes for too long and I still had a lot of spots with unresolved problems. Not so much now thank-you-very-much!


To add to the more laid back feel a bored, sleepy lion was added to my concrete garden menagerie.

Last spring both my garden and I began a bit of transformation, and while my garden no longer looks and feels like the hot mess that it once was, I’m still waiting for my makeover. Sigh. I suppose it too is on its way.


My garden throne. This hammock was found dumped by the side of the road years ago and I am so grateful for the comfort it’s given to my aching back over the years. To reward it, I finally gave it its own space.

Last winter my back went out, and while I was in physical therapy strengthening the damaged and weakened area of my lower spine I decided to think about happier things. I couldn’t bend over or lift much so why not force myself to improve? What else was going on while I was resting? Not much. I figured that opening my garden would mean that I’d be sure to follow through with my daily PT exercises—and it did! It worked!!!


One of my favorite spots in the garden to rest my eyes. I’m happy with how it looked this year and with the new items. I think next year it will finally go over the top.

It was my coming out party as a gardener. After over a decade it was finally time for me to put my best foot forward. This meant facing unrealistic goals, dreaming up things I never could get finished (or afford) in time, and then accepting help from others when I really needed it, but hey, this is me we’re talking about now! Yes, of course I needed help. (Thank you Paul, Gail, Vanessa, Mary, Mi Yong, Evan, Kate, and John. If I forgot someone, please kick me and tell me to edit this ASAP. Oops. I have to kick myself. Alex and Elizabeth helped me with the lights and Julie and Bob let me borrow their orchard ladder. Thank you!)


Grandpa Sam’s chair was given a new look and I purchased two more vintage chairs to give it company. Vanessa Gardner Nagel came up with this fancy use of a planter I’d purchased and never used. I love how it all came together.

Overall, the experience was outstanding and I recommend it to everyone mostly because of the comradely. Sure, we all have friends with amazingly perfect gardens who’ve earned national horticultural and design acclaim and they tell you it’s ok to open up your place before you’re all finished. Yeah. Uh-huh. I’m sure no one will criticize this or that since we all know we’ve been there at some point. Have we not?  Don’t listen to them and just plug along and do your best. In my case that meant staying up until 1am under lights on a warm summer evening making kokedama arrangements but by then I was both slightly relieved and more delirious than usual. It was almost over and it felt so good.

The forest fire smoke was finally lifting too so that was a relief. That smoke really slowed down progress this past summer.


The living willow arbor where I spread some of Maurice the cat’s ashes. The garden is named after him: Campiello Maurizio.

Luckily for those of us who find this flavor of stress hilarious and just need to laugh it all off or else we’d explode there are these fancy things called cocktails that can help us relax. Since I can’t drink wine or beer any more they’re kind of my new thing. (My personal favorite is an Amaretto Sour if you’re wondering. Please hand me one if you ever meet me at an event. I’ll need it. Trust me. Ms. Nerves over here.)

Until you’ve opened up your garden to a group of discerning visitors, let me tell you, you won’t quite know what you’re in for—but the pain and suffering is all worth it.


Ah yes… Let’s all thank that young man again for setting the Columbia River Gorge on fire just before I opened my garden. Talk about a hurdle. My severe asthma was incredibly uncomfortable.


The smoke was so bad this summer that for many days I couldn’t leave the house.

I’ll try to post more anecdotes later about my experience. Clearly I’m a plantswoman and I wish that I’d been able to better highlight some of the rare and unusual plants I care about around here but many are still small, others don’t look great, and a few more have yet to germinate.

More on that soon too… I’m finally organized enough after all of this to begin selling more online again and to expand my business. I’m always looking for more seeds so please look at the page here on my blog of things that I’m looking for currently. If you have something for me I can trade seeds with you or send you some homemade Italian cookies of your choice.

CIAO for now!