VERONA, ITALY: GIARDINO GIUSTI (PART TWO)

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A few weeks ago I introduced the Giardino Giusti and began to describe our visit there. It’s been just a few months since we left Italy, but it feels like ages right now. As I said before, the garden is simply incredible and the plants found there are all part of what I’d consider the traditional Italian garden. Maybe the photo collage is too small, but above on the far left you’ll see Acanthus mollis, some jasmine, and a hellebore with an Italian terra-cotta planter on a classical Roman-style pedestal. In the middle image you’ll notice the Italian cypresses flanking the perfectly painted Italian building. These trees are used to the extreme in this garden, oh, and that last pic on the far right, the boxwood! Oh, the boxwood! There’s architectural remnants too—but course.

Up the stairs in the lower garden there is an orangerie, although I cannot remember what to call it in Italian. Beyond it there’s an area dedicated to Brugmansia, but they were only just beginning to grow again after having been planted out. (I assume they’re protected over the winter.) Above this area, you can see a lovely structure which you’re able to walk up to in order the sit and enjoy the view below of the garden and town itself.

The flowers in this area were mostly Iris. The many citrus plants were blooming and the scent of their blooms was intoxicating. Along a wall, for the second time during an Italian vacation, I saw caper plants growing.

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Looking back towards the entrance to the garden, I noted this row of statuary lined up above a roof’s edge. My husband recognized the style of dress and the symbols each held and they essentially represent the classes. There’s nobility, military, clergy, and a peasant.  What’s missing is the piece that was up above the other 4. If I had to guess, it may have been religious, but I’m not certain. (My guess at the 4 statues representing the classes is a guess as well, but it’s and educated one.)

Protected in this area is the lovely Citron fruit. These lovely structures are so simple. The fruits were so happy and snug growing against their wall.

Sadly I cannot remember right now what this area had been, but I do remember the little pockets in the walls.

Before heading up the lovely path I had a lesson in Italian. I made the mistake of goofily pronouncing belvedere as we would in English, as I had learned as a kid from watching Mr. Belvedere. My husband lost it. When he lost it, I lost it cracking up at him. Then I had to laugh at how to correctly pronounce the word in Italian—bell-va-dare-aye. I felt so stylish. Of course this led to me talking about Signore Bell-va-dare-aye! It doesn’t take much for me to have fun, now does it? Turns out that to my husband “Belvedere” is somehow sacred. Yes, it means “viewpoint” if you hadn’t figured that out already.

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I guess when you have a view like this, you might want to take it seriously.

Next post, you’ll be seeing a bit more of it.

 

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.

Il Orto Botanico dell’Università 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. 

My 9 Silly Things I Couldn’t Garden Without

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1.) Lemonade. But it must be sweetened with honey and I insist that it have a splash of rose water (or orange blossom water). This is not for everyone, but for this gardener, it’s key to my overall happiness. (Oh, and if you’re wondering, yes, it might smell like to soap.)

2.) Gluten-free snack with Oregon marionberry seedless preserves. It is a type of blackberry but it tastes about 1000x better.

3.) Inexpensive headphones and my loud Indie music. This is so that I don’t have to listen to the sounds of the city: public buses, barking dogs, ambulances, police flying by on their way to some other part of Portland, and the random drunk walking down Burnside. (I live one house in from this very busy street and it is sadly still quite loud.)

4.) Heart. Yes, I like to garden with heart. (Since my mother is going to read this, yes, “Happy Mother’s Day Mom,” I am just going to remind her that I garden with a lot of heart. (It’s not intended to be an inside joke, but I guess it might be…)

5.) A place to crash. For years I’d avoided using this amazing vintage chaise but as a converted chronically ill gardener—who is currently in much better health—I plan to use it more now than ever because I’d like to continue being happy and healthy.

6.) Bling. This goes in my hair so that if no one hears from me for a day or two they’ll find me in the garden more easily. (I suppose the same goes too if I’m just ignoring your phone calls or email messages.)

7.) Nail polish. I simply cannot say enough about how much better I feel when I’m a complete and total dirtball, with crisp and dry hands, and then I look down and I think, “Damn, those look nice at least.”

8.) Furry companions. For Mother’s Day they posed for this group picture. Trust me, this is not something they like to do everyday.

9.) iPhone. I love it because it plays music while I Google plants. Need I say more? (Note the MacBook in the reflection. I love it too but I did hate bringing it outside so often.)

Hanging on the Peninsula (Oh, the plants!)

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After my husband left, asking initially for a separation, and then weeks later for a divorce, I really have to admit now, that at that time, I wanted nothing more than to go away too but I really wasn’t able to do so since when you live with a chronic illness, saving money is far from easy.
I think the yellow bloom is an Acacia, but let me know if you can ID it. Its companions are some lovely Agave americana or century plants.

So just in case this kind of situation ever arises in your life, I suggest you stash money away for just this kind of thing. Then again, you’re probably not at all like me, and you wouldn’t have gotten yourself into this kind of mess in the first place.

I love this pine tree. Not sure which one it is but the needles are really long and beautiful.

So, as a present to myself I did eventually purchase a plane ticket to stay with my high school friend and her family down in California.

I think this is Oxalis valdiviensis.
She recently lost her father, so in a sense we’re mourning simultaneously, but in very different ways.

Nice little planter with some kind of Aloe.
Being down in CA again, just south of San Francisco, has been relaxing and I’m glad I’m here.

This is a planting in front of an apartment complex with possibly Aloe arborescens and some form of the common ice plant Delosperma cooperi.
I have some big plans to visit some large gardens but today started off slowly and I just enjoyed a walk to and from the Trader Joe’s.

Here’s some more of that amazing tangle of Aloe.
Everything you’re seeing here was shot with my lovely new iPhone as I walked the 1.7 miles to and from the store. I wore a sun hat (since I burned my face last week), and the sun on my arms felt so nice.

I think this is a kangaroo apple hedge but I am not sure—Solanum laciniatum. Thoughts? (I mean other than, “Wow, that’s in the deadly nightshade family and it’s a hedge!)
Looking at such a lovely landscape did lift my worries a bit, and I cannot believe how much I enjoyed such a simple walk. (I guess I am still in awe of my body’s ability to function again.)

You know, this is part of the world where you can have your flowering cacti out on your patio. I know mine would love to life here too it only the could…

The walk helped me to think a lot, and to think about my blog, and where I was going with things and why I’m even here so often.

I really liked this gate.
I took this to text to my niece. She has a California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) tattoo.

I like being here, and I like it when I am able to write more complicated posts about interesting topics and things. Something inside of me—namely mental and physical exhaustion—has been making those deep and meaningful posts impossible right now though and I’m hoping California will help me to recover.

Jade Tree hedge. Yes, the houseplant. Crassula ovata.
The first day seems to have gotten me off to a great start, and that’s not bad considering I read a book about technical botanical terms on the plane. That stuff is dry and reading it during the flight was a huge hurdle for me to lurch over—but I did it.

This Echium was part of a really pretty planting at a small office complex near downtown San Carlos.

Coming to terms with being such a highly sensitive person has not been easy for me, and if you know me, you probably know that I hide it well, and like many gardeners, I hide it there in the mass of plants best of all.

This quirky garden was hard to miss: Agave americana, Agapanthus, Canna.
You see, only recently I discovered that I absorb and learn so much more of what I know through my senses than through my mind. I am not as intellectual or as cerebral as even I’d thought and that’s a relief because for years I was beginning to think that I was not smart at all. I simply didn’t understand my skill set the way I do now.

More of the quirky house. This place was great!

For so long I’ve wondered why as a child I did some pretty absent-minded things. Somehow I took drowning to new level, and it was as if I sought out the sensation over and over. I liked how if felt, but I knew nothing of the consequences—something about the panic thrilled me too.

Not sure I have ever seen a Dusty Miller (Jacobaea maritima) used as a hedge. This was a first and it was pretty fun.
This has all come back to me as I feel that same feeling, but now in an impending divorce and failed relationship, that rush and thrill of near death and the dramatic panic that comes with it. Yes, it’s like that rush any addict feels to help them to feel alive.
You settle into the mess that you’ve somehow emotionally sought out—just for the pure experience of it. Sensation seeking doesn’t have to be so self-destructive though, or so harmful to the individual. I just didn’t know this—but you may have felt it before too.
You’re here looking at garden blogs and plant pictures so you must want to drown a bit too and sense something, desiring the plant, craving the climate maybe, absorbing a sensation deep inside of yourself that resonates and feels warmly and it’s called beauty.
It’s dangerous. I know. But is is mostly safe, that’s the good part, and if you want it to be unsafe, that’s always an option too. Some of us walk the line of sobriety, but for others like myself, there are the other lines in this funny composition we call life.

You can plant a Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia) here in your hell strip—no problem!
I’ve vowed to no longer drown, and to not seek out that sensation. My swimming lessons have not necessarily started yet, but I am drifting and treading water this time, and I keep telling myself how much I want to live.

You can grow your own Citrus tree too.
Yes, somehow my love of nature and plants figures into this, but it is an ephemeral thing, something I feel and it has very little to do with anything I know.

This little pocket on the walk back still had its native trees intact.
When it is around me, I feel it, and it feels good and I am happy. Much of what all of this is comes out of some kind of happiness inside of me, and from the comfortable place I seek, where I can sit calmly finally and rest. It’s been years since I’ve been able to do so. When my body was very swollen and reactive I lost my compass and I was out of touch with the outside world. For years I was truly adrift.
Probably one of the best under-tree plantings I’ve seen in awhile.

People drift apart and so do plants. Sometimes plants grow too in places where they shouldn’t be able to do so. I think the same goes for people.

Poor old Sequoia who had the burbs grow all around ‘um.
I’m not sure which succulent this is growing in the English ivy but it looked nice in bloom.
When I was a girl, I did not yet understand or appreciate that a woman must have a room of her own. Right now, I want nothing more than a garden room of my own. (If only Virginia Woolf had willed it so…)

This house really screams of springtime (left to right): Leptospermum, Wisteria, Blooming Cherry (Prunus) and a pink climbing rose (Rosa).
These thoughts and many more floated in and out of my mind as I walked through the beautiful streets of San Carlos today. I tried to remember all of the many sensations I’ve felt from this area over the years, and I was reminded just how many times I’ve come here to this part of California to be healed of something in my life. Oddly enough, the most difficult transitions I’ve ever faced started here and that amazed me to remember today as I walked.

Hedge of Darwin Berberry, Berberis darwinii.

This has nothing to do with plants, but years ago my heart was healed with laugher while staying with another dear girlfriend from high school and we were laughing so hard we missed an earthquake. When we awoke from the hilarity, we notice the lights were all swinging. The sensation of that moment will last forever for me.

I don’t think this is the place to grow an Azalea (Rhododendron).

Whenever I walk, or work with plants, I do tend to feel a great deal, and now that I am no longer swollen, the sensations are far more real and tangible to me. To have been cut off from how I “see” things for so long made me blind in a way that we never speak of, in a way that few of us probably even understand.

Golden Clock Vine, Thunbergia gregorii.
I am a sensation seeker and I know how to spot others like myself. Often, we’re the ones petting and pawing at plants as we walk past them. We need to not only see the textures, but we must touch them too.

Where I hang my sun hat when I’m staying on the Peninsula. (Thank you SO MUCH friends for putting me up and for putting up with me.)
So my life is hanging on, as am I, and this will pass as did the other moments in my life when I needed to seek a kind of refuge here. I think that for the first time though it has become clear to me that this area—including the city of San Francisco—offers me the many sensations I seek, and this involves the pleasure of plants, as well as the many other beautiful things this little corner on the planet has to offer.

Neighbor’s beautiful Bougainvillea.

Thank you for taking this little walk with me.

PS: If you’d like to read the amazing post my hostess wrote to me on her blog about what I am going through, please check it out: Jess Out West: An Open Letter.
I have to admit that I really liked what she wrote and am honored and lucky to have her as a friend.

My First Citrus Lesson—and a bunch of other stuff from California

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Wintersweet aka Chimonanthus in bloom.
Yesterday our friend—and host during a portion of our trip—took me to visit his friend’s tree nursery in the city of Napa: Main Street Trees. One of the first things we saw was this amazing Wintersweet shrub in bloom and immediately I knew I wanted to use some of it for an ikebana arrangement.
Even on the dashboard I loved its angularity.

Later, after driving north to the vineyard in Kelseyville, I assembled this ikebana with some pine and pretty dried out roses that had overwintered near the winery.

But I’d mentioned in the title of this post that I’d had my first Citrus lesson, right?

The candied pieces at the bottom of this image are from a Buddha’s Hand.
It was amazing to try so many fruits I’d only seen pictures of in books.

This was a lime that my friend rolled around in his hands to release its oils. The scent was heavenly but we didn’t eat it. I was more than content just to stare at it.

As you can see, our hostess was incredibly generous, and best of all, she served a blood orange—one of my favorites.

Beforehand, we’d walk through the labyrinth of trees at the nursery with their Bengal cat. I’d never seen one in person before and I have to admit that I was probably a bit more into the cat than I needed to be but I do miss my own herd back home.

This is Willow, their German Shepard. Oh!, plant people and their pets. I get it and I imagine you do too.

This is not the best image, but I had to add it. I found the juxtaposition of an olive tree and a Sequoia to be a bit like the famous surrealist quote taken from the Comte de Lautréamont’s Les Chants de Maldoror: “Beautiful as the chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on a dissecting table.”

It reminded me to always think over plant associations.

There were bees—lots of bees, and I heard hens, but unfortunately, we had to run so I didn’t get to visit with them.

Just as we were about to leave, I snapped an image of this timber bamboo. That stuff really is incredibly beautiful.

During my drive I kept thinking about this picture I’d snapped while visiting. It was my eldest niece’s 20th birthday yesterday and she has a tattoo of a California poppy. Seeing the roses only reminded me of home: Portland, aka the City of Roses. I didn’t drink any of the wine, but I liked the label, and besides, wine is the connection now between the two states we go back and forth between.

Hours later, I made this ikebana for my niece’s 20th birthday. Like myself, she loves dark and mysterious things that are a bit quirky and I knew she’d love this slightly dark olive and pomegranate arrangement.

Ciao from Lake County, California…