Back in Valdobbiadene and Veneto

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Just about a month ago we were still in Italy and were returning to Valdobbiadene to visit family and friends. Oh how I miss Veneto!

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Valdobbiadene is the town to the far left.

The drive was scenic (as usual) and I was thrilled to have a brand-new FIAT Abarth to drive. Whoa! Those things go fast and I certainly made sure that ours worked properly. We arrived on market day and I was happy to see plant venders and flowers. By this point I was beginning to miss my garden, plants, and cats a lot. IMG_1086
Happily, there was another van vending the most incredible handmade pasta. The hole there in the middle with an egg is where the trofie pasta was before my husband bought it all. You can see the stray ones scattered around. Despite what you might believe, not all of Italy is full of well-dressed beautiful women. Here at the market I found my typical work clothing, and again, I felt a bit more at home. Moving along we saw more flowers, and of course, they were colorful. There were seeds, herb plants, a man in a Nike sweatshirt (which made me miss home), and of course there were many other vendors, but I didn’t want to go on and on. Around the corner from the market I found this lovely garden. Like many smaller Italian gardens, it was in a charming state of disarray.

The ever-present Asparagus fern and succulent combo.

On our way to eat lunch with John’s cousin, I stopped so that I could take a photo of this house and windowsill. Right after that I saw this great back garden with its great outdoor oven. It too was colorful, and I loved the palm and mismatched tulips fluttering here and there. Lunch was wonderful and did I mention that Italy is colorful? I think John’s cousin thought I was a bit odd taking a photo of her tabletop but I think you might see why I did it, right? Look at those adorable chickens—and that red! Oh how I love red!
The red Dianthus, with the orange curtains, and the orange drain pipe. Ahhhhh, once again, color.  There are olive trees and palms everywhere. It’s kind of a Mediterranean thing. But that lion up on its pedestal, isn’t he adorable?We stayed in the same apartment we stayed in 2 years ago. Owned by a family friend, I love the view looking out at the vines. IMG_1127We also ate at the same restaurant as we did during our last trip. Pizzeria Caravaggio is fantastic and I really enjoyed eating there again. This time I ordered a pizza though, and was thrilled that they served it the way I like to eat pizza at home. I love nothing more than a cheese pizza covered in arugula. IMG_1131.jpgThe next morning we awoke to a sunny day and again I relished the view from the veranda as I drank my morning cup of coffee. This is the day we drove to Verona, and here I am putting on my game face. Not to go on and on with another back story, but I’ve been hearing about driving fast on the autostrada since I was a kid and whenever I’m in Italy I like to drive fast. This car helped me to fulfill the need for speed and as far as we know I still haven’t received a speeding ticket in the mail like I did last time.

With this kind of success, I think that next time I will wear driving gloves. I’ve earned them.

And next time we’ll talk about the amazing garden, or maybe it will be the post after that…

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Not sure what this adorable little window box plant is but I admired it at our host’s house.

Wordless Wednesday: Regrowing Backbone

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Dianthus superbus.
Cow Parsnip, Heracleum maximum.
Cow Parsnip, Heracleum maximum, as “whisk”.
Stylophorum lasiocarpum.
Campanula punctata.
The willow arbor gets a serious makeover.
Where’s the fire? Smoke tree, Cotinus, with Lychnis coronaria.
Centaurea montana.
Yucca filamentosa.
Still working on the backbone of the garden.

Wordless Wednesday

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Dianthus barbatus ‘Sooty’.
Unknown Abutilon.
Allium christophii.
Unknown lettuce leaf in a lettuce mix I grew from seed (Lactuca).
Dragon Arum aka Dracunculus vulgaris.
Fresh store-bought chickpeas (Cicer arietinum).
Father’s Day Dinner ikebana with Beech, Asparagus, Feverfew, and Dianthus. 
Hollyhock (Alcea rosea).
Lilium columbianum. 
Tradescantia pallida with a friendly Heuchera bloom.
Unknown Peruvian lily (Alstroemeria).

Terra firma in springtime…

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A Phalaenopsis orchid given to me as a gift last Christmas (2011) has finally re-bloomed.
Like the above orchid, I’m currently in the process of re-blooming too. It seriously took my being able to accept that I had to simply shut my own eyes, let go (trusting that I would be caught by something), and finally I allowed myself to fall backwards—yes, I guess back into my own life.
So what if I went to that moment kicking and screaming? I made it.
If I told you what happened next, well this wouldn’t be a garden blog any longer.
A lovely organic leek I sliced for fresh potato and leek soup on St. Patrick’s Day, 2013.

Cooking has again become popular around here and I’m happily creating and trying new things. I’m learning to make the basics, while appreciating the bountiful produce that’s appearing as the season changes.

Being gluten-free is easy most of the time, but then you find recipes such as the one for the cake seen below, and you just have to make a cake to share with your friends.

Though not a garden, or even a plant, I had to share my leprechaun trap cake with everyone. Although no leprechauns were hurt, we did attract some pixies. (See below.)

I wish this had been a gluten-free cake, but it wasn’t. I think that it turned out well except for my poor handling of the frosting. Someday soon I will master buttercream and this cake will look more like it’s covered in grass. (That’s why it’s here. I knew there was a reason! Grass!)

The pixies are French so they could have cared less about the rainbow and pot of gold. Note that one has a ladybug on its thigh and the other has what looks to be a snail. No, oops, I mean escargot.

Like other gardeners I am excited for spring and I am feeling very playful and happy again.

The vintage ceramic potatoes make for nice vases on St. Patrick’s Day too. 

I really miss ikebana classes a lot but due to the divorce I’ve had to cut such things from my life for now. In the meantime, I’m doing the best I can and it’s not so bad at all.

Vintage hanging ceramic indoor planter with an Aligator fern (Microsorum musifolium).

The fact that I’ll be moving sometime during the next few months has finally sunk in and I’m looking at my plants much differently now. Although I have not yet found a place to call home, I’m finally getting excited about it.

Epiphyllum grown from seed. I like to call this move “doing the Icarus”.

Someday soon, I hope to see many of my houseplants bloom—like this Epi cactus!

Well, stay tuned since it’s moving with me. I have no idea how many years it will take, but I will wait for it.

Green mums in a small vintage liquour glass inherited from my family.

These past few weeks I’ve quietly sat back a bit to think about my life, my garden, my plants, and who I am and who I want to be now. I started this blog when I was obviously a different person, living a different married life. It was full of chronic illness, unhappiness, and for a time, troubled foster children.

When things changed for me over a year ago, I was shown by many of my gardening friends that I belonged here.
I learned that lesson rather quickly, but I didn’t know how to start over. I have no shame in admitting I needed to find my own way. I’ve learned some incredible things about myself during the last two months. The serendipity I’ve experienced has given me a kind of hope.

My niece Chelsea glam’d me up for an event.

Yes, then there are the things you need to do for yourself. My marriage did not make me feel very beautiful at all. Let me tell you now, if you feel that way yourself, get out. It is the most important lesson I’ve learned. The people you surround yourself with should always help to make you feel like the beautiful person you are and sometimes that’s just not what happens.

My nieces helped me to really understand this recently and I’m proud of them. When you help to raise a child, and then they come over to spend hours making you look pretty—after you’ve not looked so great for nearly a decade—it does something to you. To say that my niece Chelsea made me look beautiful one Sunday to prove a point to me is an understatement. She’s been telling me for years she missed me, and that she wanted the world to see the woman she sees, and I have to say the kid’s got a great eye. I just wasn’t seeing it.
She proved her point, and as an aunt, it was the first time I’d sat back to be school’d by one of my nieces and it was so worth it.

Oh weird! Downtown Portland. I remember this place…

Trust me when I say that I’m not giving up gardening. I’m very much going to continue blogging too. I just need a little more time to adjust. There are many changes afoot.

There is direction too—and maybe even a plan (possibly a very detailed plan).

I’m over the shock and pain of having fallen blindly. I survived and I’ve planted my feel solidly on the ground. It’s new where I’m standing but I’m certain it’s terra firma. In characteristic Ann fashion I’m standing a bit uncomfortably in the middle of an empty field and I’ve covered my eyes with one hand while with the other I reach into my pocket for seeds.

I am throwing out the seeds. I am casting them blindly in every direction, and if you look closely, you’ll notice I’m coyly smiling. If you listen, across the distance, you’ll hear me laughing again. It’s not loud, but it’s happy at least.

So take that springtime! I’m ready for you this year.

Let’s get this party started.

Garden Blogger Blooms on a Wordless Wednesday

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Bat Face Cuphea, Cuphea llavea.
Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Arisaema triphyllum.
Dainty Daisy, Daisy Fleabane, Oregon Fleabane, Erigeron speciosus ‘Grandiflorus’.
Dianthus plumarius ‘White Lace’.
Armeria pseudoarmeria.
Dianthus plumarius ‘White Lace’.
Kniphofia uvaria.
Kniphofia uvaria.
Yellow Onion, Golden Garlic, Allium moly.
Columbine ‘McKana’s Giant’, Aquilegia ‘McKana’s Giant’.
Dianthus.
Allium christophii.
Nectaroscordum siculum.
Allium cernuum.
Sedum kamtschaticum.
Rosa ‘Julia Child’.
Iris tenax.
Common Rue, Ruta gaveolens.
Rosa ‘Sweet Chariot’.
Aquilegia vulgaris.
Rosa ‘Sombreuil’.
Dicentra formosa.
Goat’s Beard, Aruncus dioicus.
Aquilegia atrata.
Dianthus superbus ‘Rainbow Loveliness’.
Spanish Snapdragon, Antirrhinum braun-blanquetii.
Western Labrador Tea, Ledum glandulosum.
Rosa viridiflora.
Rosa damascena.

Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden (Fort Bragg, CA)

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If for any reason you ever find yourself on Fort Bragg, California, you must visit the Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden. Created by Ernest and Betty Schoefer, the property originally was a display garden and nursery for the retired pair. Clearing the land was rough, but it was worth it. Today the gardens are perfect gem that should not be missed.
I feel bad that I have not tagged and named all of these pictures but I have run out of my wifi time and I have to get back on the road again.

Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens