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. 

Going on Now: Labor Day Sale at Cistus Nursery

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Gorgeous Hedychium met us in the parking lot.
This summer has been lean and mean for me financially. So when Cistus Nursery posted that they were having a 30% off Labor Day Sale I knew I was in luck. What a great opportunity for me to save some pennies and head on out to Sauvie Island with my friend Billye.
Admittedly, I hadn’t been to Cistus since June so that made this visit a bit more special to me. It looked lovely as usual and I was so happy to be back.
While walking around with all the prickly things I thought about my friend Loree over at Danger Garden. I can still hear myself thinking, “Wow, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t take a picture of one of these things for my blog. I can talk about these things.” Then, just as I leaned in with my camera to get a closer look at the gorgeous Agave americana ‘Yellow Ribbons’ on the top shelf, the Agave aff. macroculmis T73-99 just beneath it on the bench poked me in the leg. Oops! When will I ever learn? (Both are great plants. Don’t let me give any of these plants a bad name.)
I admire those of you out there who can live with these plants and not hurt yourselves. Maybe I would do better with the Nolina macrocarpa sitting beside ‘Yellow Ribbons’? Hmmm, I think not. No. Let’s be positive. Maybe now is just not my time.

It really was a beautiful day and I loved looking up above the nursery to see all of the textures from the plantings. I’m so in love with green texture these days.

I was a little bit disappointed that Sean Hogan (the nursery’s owner) wasn’t around that day, but I hope to catch up with him this winter. He is a good plant friend and very much understands and encourages my seed habit. I like talking to him a lot about seed collecting adventures.

Canary Islands Juniper, Juniperus cedrus.

During this visit I looked at things differently. Sure, I don’t have room for this tree, but I liked it so I took a picture. I’m branching out a bit again, learning a few new things, paying attention.

My friend Billye with her new Italian greyhound Tango.

When you visit Cistus Nursery it’s often quite relaxing. This is the kind of retail environment you like to sit around in while you enjoy the sights.

Than again, if you’re like me, you can park people in the shade while you shop. Billye went for the plants but we all know that we’re not always so lucky and sometimes we end up dragging people with us to nurseries. Cistus is friendly for those folks.

While we were there, birds swirled overhead.

Chilean lantern tree, Crinodendron hookerianum.

As we walked back to pay for our plants I saw this Chilean lantern tree blooming. Mine is still happily growing along but it’s not blooming right now. I think I might have pruned it when it didn’t want to be pruned. I can wait.

Ashe magnolia, Magnolia macrophylla ssp. ashei.

My friend and I ventured back into the corner we’d missed. It was fun seeing a big leaf magnolia. These trees really make me smile with their big huge leaves.

Giant Cape Restio, Rhodocoma capensis.

There were other treats.

Lysionotus pauciflorus.

Up at the register I found temptation after temptation.

Lysionotus pauciflorus.
This one was really difficult to say “No” to but I did. Maybe next time…

Salvia buchananii ‘Velvet Slipper’.

I liked this one too.

Looking around it felt great to be back. I wish I could have purchased more but planting all of these plants takes time. I don’t have a lot of extra time nowadays. It’s good though because I’m staying busy with my garden coaching client.
Sometime soon I’ll be back. I highly recommend you go too if you can do so before now and Monday. The sale was really quite a treat. It’s worth the trip.

In the end I walked away with a few things I’d lost in the garden: Sedum divergens, a pine-scented rosemary, and a Melicytus crassifolius. I also added a few new friends: Carex testacea ‘Prairie Fire’, Mahonia gracilipes, and my first Dahlia. (It’s a Dahlia ‘Fascination’ and I’m so excited to finally have one.)

Who knows what I’ll end up doing this weekend, oh wait, I know: Annual Dahlia Festival. Maybe I’ll see you there!

 

Alcatraz: The Garden Tour, Part One

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If you’ve not yet had the opportunity to visit the Rock, I hope that you gardeners out there will want to see it soon. Its many restored gardens are unlike any others you’ve ever seen and the atmosphere is incredible. Free docent led garden tours are offered at 9:30am on Fridays and Sundays, but you have to be on the first boat out to the island. Purchase tickets in advance online though because they almost always sell out ahead of time.

Visits to the Rock are not always quite this warm and sunny but when they are, it makes the trip even more enjoyable. Don’t forget to pack some extra clothing too because the area can become windy.

The first plants you’ll see while you are still on the boat are the Century Plants, or Agave parryi.

During the garden tour our guide told us these were planted as a barrier by the early military posted on the island.
The trail that grants access to this area of the island is closed during most of the tourist season because of nesting birds. If you’d like to get up close and personal with these gentle giants you’ll have to plan a visit during the fall or winter months. That’s the only time during the year when the trail is open.
Aeonium species and hybrids as well as Jade Plants (Crassula argentea) can be seen all over the island.
This Australian Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) is most likely the oldest tree on the island. There are also several Dragon Trees (Dracaena draco) that were also planted by members of the military that were stationed here between 1850-1934.)


As you leave the dock and begin to walk up the Rock you are passing through the area with the oldest gardens on the island.

 Australian Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia).
The oldest Fuchsia on the Rock, this specimen is 70 years old.
A Monterey Cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa) near the cellhouse.

One of the advantages of the garden tour is that you are taken off the beaten path to admire all of the hard work volunteers have done over the last decade or so as they’ve improved gardening conditions. An extra added plus is that you get to see this! It’s the official compost area on Alcatraz!

This compost has even won some ribbons at the Marin County Fair! What’s not to love about that right?

With the help of the The Garden Conservancy the program here has truly flourished.

Limited to using historically accurate plant materials what’s wonderful is that after all of the overgrowth was removed from many of the gardens long overshadowed plants and bulbs started to return. With each new discovery we’re all learning more and more about how the island’s occupants once gardened. It is also a testament to the hardiness of many of these plants.

This rose was one of the amazing plants to be rediscovered on the island. Actually, it is probably the most important rediscovery. It is what’s called the Welsh Rose and up until 2003 it was thought extinct. That’s when this specimen was discovered on the island! Since then propagation work has been done and work has continued.

Aeonium arboreum gone wild.

Just above the compost and greenhouse level on the east side of the island are the last rows of gardens that were created around and in between the houses that once stood above the citadel. During my last trip I’d wanted so badly to wander down to them but due to the narrowness of the stairways and the unevenness of the paving they are too unsafe for the general public to walk around so be sure to take a tour! That’s the only way to gain access to these areas.

The plants in these little alcoves are very much the plants of gardeners who wanted to cheer up their isolated little spot in the bay. They were the first gardens of Alcatraz, but certainly not the last.

Just beyond the terraced area is the last portion of the earliest gardens and it is a bit more windswept and wild since it is at the top. Like the area below it, the housing structure has lost its wood to fire of uncertain cause and all that remains is the concrete skeleton.

I was left with some great pictures from the top of the Rock.
Kenilworth Ivy (Cymbalaria muralis) hugging the warm wall.
The spent flower stalks of Century Plants (Agave americana).
Note how the Jade plant (Crassula ovata) has its trunk partially in the shade. This adaptation also allows the plant to remain protected from the wind.
The hummingbirds of Alcatraz.

I should add that many of these areas were maintained by the prisoners of the Federal Penitentiary era but I will say more about that tomorrow.

To be continued…