Il Orto Botanico dell’UniversitĂ  di Genova

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Today we ventured out to find a garden—and although what we thought would be a 14 minute walk turned into a hilltop adventure, well, we’re in Italy, so it was all fine. 

Established in 1803, the collection is not as historic or as grand at the one in Padova, but it’s a bucolic place, not well cared after, and overall, still a lot of fun. Since this university is also the owner of a large botanical garden at an estate along the Italian Riviera I will cut them plenty of slack. I cannot imagine the expense of maintaining both this property as well as the other. It alone is 44 acres so kudos to them. 

Along our walk there was much to see.

  

“Love greetings”

  

Random Graptopetalum growing out of a wall.

  

Several levels of gardens. A common sight in many areas in Italy.

  

Fig tree growing out of a wall. Just random fruit.

  

Strelitzia (bird of paradise) grow well here.

  

Citrus aurantium ssp. Aurantium var. Myrtifolia (bitter orange).

  

  

Colletia spinosa.

  

Street trees—literally.

    
 

Tecomaria capensis (cape honeysuckle).

  

Dahlia imperialis (tree dahlia).

  

Unknown little yuccas.

 
   

Fremontodendron californium a long way from home.

  

Iris japonica.

  

Pinus nigra.

  

Pittosporum.

  

Not sure.

  

Wisteria.

  
  

White rose with Colletia cruciata.

  

Amorphophallus ‘Konjac’.

    

Arbutus andrachne (Greek strawberry tree).

    

Unknown Rhododendron.

  

Unknown Magnolia.

  
  

My favorite bulb: Leopoldia comosa aka Muscari comosum.

  

Magnolia tulipiflora.

  

Araucaria bidwillii (Bunya pine).

  

Weedy Oxalis.

  

Where they catalog and keep their plants. Many here are historically medicinal ones.

  

Tamarix gallica (French tamarix) with a bad haircut.

  

Vitis vinifera with a little green lizard. Can you see it?

  

Cercis siliquastrum (Judad tree).

 
  

Cycas revoluta (female).

  

Scilla peruviana.

 

Myrtus communis subsp. Tarentina.

  

Myrtus communis subsp. Tarentina.

  
  

Water plant collection.

  
   

And then we wandered back downhill to our apartment, encountering this lovely grotto in the courtyard of a palazzo along our way. 

Wordless Wednesday: Green Peeks from Sicily, Italy (Sicilia, Italia)

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Tassel Hyacinth aka Muscari comosa or Leopoldia comosa. (Photo taken at Villa Romana del Casale.)
Possibly date palm—let me know if you can identify it. (Photo taken at Villa Romana del Casale.)
One of many Cercis siliquastrum seen blooming in Sicily in April. (Photo taken in the Valle dei Templi in Agrigento at the garden wall of Alexander Hardcastle’s home.)
Lovely Bougainvillea.  (Photo taken in the Valle dei Templi in Agrigento at Alexander Hardcastle’s home.)
Please don’t prune your Asparagus to look like this. (Photo taken in the Valle dei Templi in Agrigento at Alexander Hardcastle’s home.)
Unknown tree. (Photo taken at the cimitero in Termini Imerese.)
More palm trees and lovely handmade pebble paving from the streets of Termini Imerese. (This was the home of my great-grandparents.)
Trees in the city park in Termini Imerese.
Lovely large Lantana along the street in Termini Imerese.
Caster bean (Ricinus communis) plants grow wild along the roads in Sicily.
Artichokes (Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus) growing along the road.)
Borage (Borago officinalis) growing wild along the side of the road in Sicily.
Wild Sedum growing along the roadside near Termini Imerese.
Wild snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus) growing in its native environs. My husband told me that in Italian they’re called  “mouth of the lion”. He played a lot with these flowers as a boy.
Not exactly sure of the plant, but I do recognize Sicilian ingenuity. If Dad gardened, this is how he’d stake his plants.
Convolvulus tricolor growing wild in Sicily.

Greetings from an Amateur Botanist in CA

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Leading up to this trip I didn’t say much. I’ve had a lot on my mind, and additionally, my broken finger recovering took a slide due to my swelling disease. Coaxing them both back into splints was all we could do and it really slowed me down again.
The Rogue River in Southern Oregon.

Just a few days ago I drove down to California alone, to see my husband and to witness the wine harvest and crush for the first time. It’s the least I could do as his wife and it was my birthday gift to him. I had to be brave to drive I-5 alone and to stay in a yurt right off the highway when virtually few others were doing so. Driving the whole 10 hours in a day—by myself—was just not possible. The two-day drive was amazing!

Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis, in a rest stop near Lake Shasta.
Arctostaphylos in a rest stop near Mt. Shasta.

As for botanizing, my main goal during this trip is to more deeply familiarize myself with the native flora in the chaparral of California. I will be doing some coastal exploration too, but most of my activities will be centered around Lake County where my husband is during the growing season.

While stopping in Redding to visit McConnell Arboretum & Botanical Garden I caught some folks fishing for salmon in the Sacramento River. The flyfisherman who’d waded all the way out in the riffles was fun to watch but I was disappointed that he didn’t know how to cast. (Sometime I will have my husband take a picture of me casting. It’s the only fishing skill I retained from my upbringing.)

After Redding I drove south toward Sacramento and San Francisco before heading west on Hwy 20 into Lake County, CA. From the point on, I was far happier with the gorgeous scenery.

When I arrived, he hopped up the ladder and began to punch down the fermenting grapes in the tank. I have to say, it was impressive and the smell was incredible. It was both good and bad at the same time!

I looked at the color of the grapes, took the picture, and then as I was on the ladder I laughed when I noticed the labels on the tank.

When he finished we walked through the olive orchard.

We were both surprised that the pomegranate tree had actually produced this year despite the funny weather.

Then he showed me what the weather had done to some of the grapes. With the heavy rains and low temperatures we’ve had this season all along the West Coast, you’re going to get some rotten grapes. This is what they can look like and you just have to let them go.

And this is what grapes in a vineyard look like when they’re not pruned. This row was going to be grafted with something else but when the time to do so passed because the weather wasn’t right, they just let the grapes go. It’s only one row, but it really shows you how much pruning is necessary to make all the vineyards look so pretty. They really prune to improve the air and sun exposure for the grapes and to ensure that they have consistency in overall quality and quantity. The whole process is really interesting to me.

While we perambulated, we were being watched. I shot this picture and admired Mt Konocti behind the mighty raptor. That’s because at that moment, I had not yet climbed to its top. Tomorrow, I’ll let you know how that went because right now, I’m off to collect some more plant materials just north of here…

Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden (Portland, Oregon)

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Ever since I can remember I’ve been visiting what my family always referred to as The Rhododendron Garden, though nowadays, I’ve finally started calling it by a name others actually recognize: Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden.
The garden was started back in 1950, when my dad was a boy, and not long after my Grandfather Salvatore, aka Sam, had returned home from World War II. Situated at the southeastern edge of Portland, it sits right in the middle of my Portland universe.
For about a decade or so I didn’t visit the garden at all. Instead I was spending more time with friends, and less and less with family, and now that I have been gardening for about 10 years, I love to visit there more.
With over 2,500 Rhododendrons, azaleas, and other plants, the setting is idyllic.
The garden is great if you need planting ideas.
Fringe Cup. Tellima grandiflora.
Wood Anemone. Anemone nemorosa ‘Flore Pleno’.
It is also a great place for some color after all the grey rain.

Not long ago this retaining wall with ferns was added. I have enjoyed watching it grow and change but part of me really wants them to add a stumpery just so I can say that we have one here in Portland. (I know they are all over the place in the woods, but to have an official one would seriously crack me up.)

I have one of these in our garden but it’s barely alive. Ours has been broken, stepped on, and tripped over, and it’s alive, but it doesn’t look this nice.
Spider Azalea. Rhododendron stenopetalum Linearifolium.

To see a Rhododendron tree in bloom in the middle of the woods is a sight to behold.

Nearby, the carpet of primroses was breathtaking and it was great to see an art class painting en plein air. I want to draw again so badly but I simply have too much to do. Maybe that will be added to my long list of things.

Primula pulverulenta.
Then there are those azaleas!
There are a lot of reds in the Crystal Springs garden, and I know that not everyone loves red, but I am fond of the color.
Rhododendron ibex.
These colors work too.
There was no tag on this one, but I found the lighter green foliage rather interesting with the pale violet blooms. It must be an early bloomer since it’s already beginning to fade.
Here is a Cercis in bloom with an accompaniment of Rhododendron.
Have you ever seen a purple like this reaching for the sky? Neither have I.
I added these two reds because I grew up with them. The big bloom in the middle is the hybrid Rhododendron ‘Jean Marie de Montagu’ and the smaller bloom in the back is most likely a Hino-Crimson azalea. The only other classic crimson combinations would be a Rhododendron ‘Vulcan’ and a Wards Ruby azalea. I only know these because my mom stuffed her acre sized garden with them and I loved red so I was kind of all about those blooms each spring.
(As a kid, I would sit on my thick fuzzy red blanket in an ocean of lawn at my parents’ house for hours and hours at a time. My mom didn’t need to put me in a playpen since I wouldn’t touch the grass. I know. I was a weird kid.)
Here is another bank of azalea blooms.
This is my favorite yellow Rhododendron.

Rhododendron lutescens.
Beside the lake, after you cross the bridge to the island, you’ll see a weeping cherry tree.
On the return trip back, this is the same bridge. Even when packed with folks during the springtime, it is enchanting.
The other bridge is back at the entrance. This is the Moon Bridge as seen from above. It was also at the beginning of this post, but from below.

Before I go though, I should mention the birds. There are a lot of birds, but most of all, there are water birds because the garden is both surrounded by, and is full of, water.

Pair of Mallard ducks sleeping in a tree.
Geese and a gosling.

The garden sits across the street from Reed College—a fine institution of higher learning. Though I never attended the school as a student, I did spend a lot of time on the campus with two of my best friends during their years as undergraduates. That was a long time ago though.

Due to the busy season at the garden, and because the small lot was reserved for a film crew, I had to park in the school’s parking lot. So, on my way back to the car, I noticed these gorgeous Ceanothuses in bloom and the short walk was worth it!

Back at home I worked on my pile of plants this afternoon. Funny I hadn’t noticed that a Candelabra Primrose was beginning to bloom, but I sure noticed it today! How rewarding to see this after having cared for it for a year or two. It is another primrose I’ve grown from seed and I cannot wait for it to give me more babies.

Primula pulverulenta.
My native Rhododendron occidentale has not yet burst open, but I am watching it closely. This is one of those plants that your nose may notice much sooner than your eyes.

Lastly, if you made it this far, the American Rhododendron Society will be in Vancouver, Washington this week for their convention. So if you have the time, you should check it out:
American Rhododendron Society Presents The World in Your Garden May 11-15, 2011
Heathman Lodge, Vancouver, WA

How a Gardener Sees the Wine Grape

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Introductory Thoughts:
During my most recent trip to California I was asked by a friend what my relationship to the grape was and I didn’t really have an answer for him. At the time Quarryhill Botanical Garden was all around me and for some reason I just wasn’t thinking clearly. A few days later we were at the vineyard, just before I was about to leave to travel north alone, and this is how I saw it but I still really don’t know how I see the grape. I think I should have said that I see everything around the grape, but not the grape. Deep down in my heart, I know I don’t have to think about the grapes since people are paid to worry about their needs already, and I am just not part of that process. It is funny though that I do not see them as I see all of the other parts. I see the vines, I note the pruning, and I care about the winemaking process, so I am not a complete tourist, but I truly do ignore the grapes. Since I cannot drink alcohol without getting terribly sick, this is part of it, but I hope that isn’t simply an excuse. I guess this year I should get to know the grape better.
Unknown Arctostaphlos.
Vineyard Walk with Mr B
On the way out to deliver my bags to the car, we both saw this tree and were drawn to it. I have a thing for what we call manzanita, madrone and/or Arctostaphlos. So far, this is the only one at my father-in-law’s house we’ve found and both my husband and I stared lovingly at it for sometime together as we began our walk around the 10 acres before I left for home a few days ago. The deeper the color of the bark, the more we’re drawn to it for some reason. There is a skin-like leathery-ness and the quality is really kind of mesmerizing. Whenever we go on garden tours or for drives in CA, we always seem to look for it.
Unknown Arctostaphlos.

Here is that same tree as it reaches for the sky. I will need to figure out which tree it is though and then attempt to propagate it. Plant junkies may not be able to take plant material into California, but you can take your plant matter out when you cross the border back into Oregon. I forgot to mention that makes plant shopping in California a lot easier, and I understand why they want to monitor those of us crossing the border.

The vineyard is located in Lake County, CA, an area that essentially surrounds Clear Lake, the largest natural freshwater lake in California. Sadly, the lake itself is heavily contaminated with mercury from an old closed mine that is now a Superfund site, but that fact certainly does not ruin all of the natural beauty surrounding the area. If anything, the beauty should encourage a quicker cleanup of the area.

Mt. Konocti as seen from the vineyard. Small olive tree block is made up of Arbequina olive trees.

The area is volcanic and there are small faults nearby. The largest of the old volcanoes that encircle the lake is Mount Konocti and at 4,305 ft it can be seen from all over the area. Coming from the Northwestern Region of the United States I am very familiar with our volcanoes, but I find that I laugh at myself whenever I realize how easily interested I am in other peoples’ volcanoes. I think it is the ecologist in me, trying to figure out how the nature of that ecosystem figures into the landscape, the plants, and in the case of what my husband is doing, growing wine grapes.

Since they are continuing to rip out the last vestiges of the old walnut orchard by having the massive trees taken out, it allows us to look into the soil quite a bit. Some of this actually helps to determine what kind of irrigation techniques they may want to play with and it gives them a much clearer idea of what to expect in terms of drainage. Without going into too much detail concerning the grapes and their grafting, the grape vine stock chosen has a two part methodology to it. Pick the wine grape you want to grow, and then pick the root stock to grow it on. Root stock is chosen by determining what you’re growing the grapes in. In this case, we have heavy clay volcanic soil.
The great side-effect of all of this geological exploration is that it allows the gardener an opportunity to pick up some cool rocks. In this case, I am highlighting the obsidian that I picked up to bring home. It doesn’t look sharp, but it is. It will get a special place in the garden and it will come with a safety warning for the foster kids. I really had a difficult time keeping them in the garden last year, so this year I have changed my angle. A dangerous rock made of volcanic glass seemed like something some of the kids would really like. It might even get a special box so that it will look that much more special.

After looking through the rocks at one end of the property, we headed back to the plantings nearest the house so that Mr B could show my the gabion he’d made to accompany their sign by the highway. Before we arrived at that site, we had a lot of other stops and things to see.

Oldest block of grapes. 10 year old planting of Barbara or Sangiovese.
Gorgeous stand of Miner’s Lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata). It is an edible Western native plant the name of which comes from the fact miners ate it for its Vitamin C in order to prevent scurvy. Back then, the citrus trees were not yet what they are today! That is so hard for me to fathom because it wasn’t that long ago.
Western Redbud buds (Cercis occidentalis). Native to California and the American Southwest Lake County is full of them but they were not yet in full bloom as the ones near Sacramento were. I regret not having been able to snap a photo of one of them.
This is Squids the official Winery Cat. She is the least feral of the cats running around the house and she is a happy outdoor cat who eats snakes, mice and lizards during the summertime while following my husband around from task to task.
I fell behind while hanging with the cat and this is Mr B waiting for his two ladies to join him. We both followed him around during that brief walk around the vineyard. It was nice to spend quality time with his other cat because I haven’t been able to much before. I think he has domesticated her much more over the last few years.
Really nice big old vine. The outer pealing is normal. I was curious about that. The irrigation you see is part of a drip system. Growing in a fairly arid region, they have to limp the vines along with water from above not only due to expense, but due to the fact the vines must be encouraged to grow deeper and deeper tap roots. This helps over time to help the grapes to develop deep and richer taste, enriching their terroir.
Unknown Eucalypus and bloom. Any thoughts?
Unknown Eucalypus and bloom. Any thoughts?
Mr B and Squids.
New Lake County Wine Tour Signage.
Gabion being made by my husband. So proud of his incorporation of native stones into this signage. If working around Frank Lloyd Wright ever taught me anything, it was the importance of including things from the surrounding native environment and culture into your new construction.

So as you can, none of the grapes were out to discuss, but I suspect that during my next trip to California in the coming months there will be more to say on their behalf.

Hallelujah! We have Western Redbuds from Seed

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After three tries, I have finally germinated Cercis occidentalis. As luck would have it, my father-in-law has a tree at his home in California so I have had an ongoing seed supply just so long as I remember to ask in time for seed collection. Last year, I was able to to collect the seeds myself when I went down to visit my husband who’s been working there at the vineyard for part of the year.

I am so excited to see these sprout up. Since the picture was taken last week, two more have appeared and they are all growing well now that our temperatures are going up around here. I love springtime in Oregon when we have rain, then sun, then rain, then sun again. It makes seed starting go so well.

Will keep one of these around for many years if I am able to do so. From here on out, this will all be new to me, but this isn’t my first Cercis from seed, nor will it be my last. Luckily, these warm-weather western native shrub/trees can grow here in Oregon too.