January 2017: Amateur Bot-Ann-Ist is Back!!!

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img_1108It seems only fair to write a post after a week-long snow event. This will be short though—much like my patience after being snowed-in for so long. Last year I felt that I needed a break but I didn’t know why and now I feel better about a return to regular posts. So much has happened. It is sad to think that there were many things I didn’t post about but I will try to add them when I can in the future.

img_3249This fall we lost Maurice the Cat. He was an old guy who sadly passed away from cancer on his jaw. Luckily he’s been immortalized because the back garden was named after him so we will forever think of him. He spent many summers in Campiello Maurizio sunbathing on his favorite bench beneath the living willow arbor. He will be sorely missed. img_4266Last spring this little guy made his appearance. Felix has been quite a handful ever since he arrived here. He was abandoned by his mom the day he was born and sadly outlived his sister. With no mama cat and no siblings to play with I have had to do a lot of work. We received him when he was about 3 weeks old and I will forever be grateful to his foster mama.

He will certainly be showing up here a bit more now although both he and LuLu are primarily indoor cats since we lost Quincy just over a year ago to an urban coyote. They do get to go outside but both are doing well with supervised trips.

Felix is an alleycat of the highest degree and there is NEVER a dull moment when he’s around. Never have I owned a cat who enjoyed knocking over garbage cans and breaking glass so much. Lucky for him he’s a love bug. We look forward to those moments. He is a tiny terror, but he was also very sweet to Maurice in his final days. He’s not all bad. img_5674

At the end of 2016, thanks to my underground dinners, I was finally able to pay off the debt incurred by my back surgery several years ago. In 2017 the goal is to work on paying down the debt owed to my ex-husband from the divorce. If you’re in the Portland area and are interested in attending, please find the page somewhere here on my blog and add your name to the list. That’s the best way to find out what I’m up to and what menus will be coming up next. img_8126The other big news in 2016 was my first official job in the horticulture industry. It’s something I’ve longed to do for years and thanks to my friend and mentor Sean Hogan (of Cistus Design Nursery) it happened. I’m only a part-time employee, and this works well because of my health limitations, but the best part is that I’m a “Seedstress”. Only Sean could manufacture a name that great.

In 2017 it would be wonderful to be working more and more in the horticulture field but I’m not yet sure how much I can handle physically. Luckily, my health has been fairly stable since I started new treatments, and I guess that’s another reason I haven’t been blogging. I’ve been living my life and have been having a wonderful time getting up and around and developing and strengthening friendships. I was more active in 2016 than I’ve been in many years. It was great! img_9818Clearly I’m doing just fine! Obviously! So send me some new clothes. The ones I’ve been wearing are old (tight budget) but I DID get a new hat. (Roars with laugher.)

Ok folks, I hope someone is still out there reading this blog! See you again very soon. Can’t wait to update the world on all of the dead plants that we’ll be seeing in the next few months thanks to this weather we’ve been having. We only ended up with about a foot of snow here at our house.

Brrrrrrrrrr.

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.

 

ANLD: Designers’ Garden Tour 2016

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Next weekend the annual  ANLD Designers’ Garden Tour will take place in the Portland area. If you’re available to attend on Saturday June 18th, you’re in for a pleasant day full of lovely gardens with lots of beautiful ideas. Since this was the first pre-tour I’d ever attended I had no idea what to expect. I left feeling inspired and fully enjoyed each and every one of the gardens I visited with fellow bloggers and other attendees. (To learn more about the tour and how it works click on the link above.)

Garden #1: Wagner Garden

Located in the Clackamas area, this garden is a suburban retreat full of lush plant combos and serene seating areas.

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Garden #2: Langeliers Garden

Garden art and incredible plants tie this lovely landscape together with its home and evoke personality that’s consistent throughout the design.

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Garden #3: Hannan Garden

This is a garden that’s all business in the front and party in the back.

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Garden #4: King Garden

A midcentury ranch with a twist of lush landscaping and bold choices of metal, color, and stone.

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Garden #5: Olson Garden

A natural beauty with a mix of bold plant combinations and fine craftsmanship.

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Garden #6: Beberned-Gawf Garden

A garden with incredible bones, and a history of having been a neglected clean slate, this garden has been landscaped with personal touches, a few recycled items, and lots of stained glass art.

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Garden #7: Mauch Garden

Quietly holding down a city lot with large patches of green, several pockets for seating, and serene, beautiful ceramic art throughout.

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Our Garden Home After 1 Month Away

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It’s always nice to come home. Normally I would have freaked out at the mess in the garden and all the work I needed to do but one month in Italy has performed its magic. My Italian side still has nothing but positive, wonderful, and charming things to say about the place.

“Look at all that green? Where did that come from? It’s fantastic!”

“It looks like a lovely cabin in the woods. Who lives there? I do! What fun!”

And lastly, “Let’s straighten things up and have friends over. We must have something to celebrate, right?”

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Home Sweet Home.

From the plane I’d been able to see roughly where I’d grown up just outside of the city, and then I saw one of the few Italian family farms left in the area. Not too long ago there were so many more and all of the large Italian families in the city had one of their own.

All of this was quite emotional for me. In the space of a generation or two so many had disappeared as Italian-Americans were able to become so many more things because we do have that ability here, or at least we did. Now I’m not so sure about the American Dream, but I know for many of the immigrants in my family, it was real.

Having just returned from Italy were there are so many small farms, it made me sad—but proud too. Oregon is a great place and I am so happy to live here. It’s not always comfortable for me, but overall, after this last trip to Italy, I feel like both of my feet are firmly on the ground now. Funny I find myself wanting to sell produce or plants or even food more and more, but I know exactly where that impulse comes from and I am proud of it.

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Willamette Falls, Oregon City, Oregon.

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Rossi Farms on NE 122nd Avenue. One of the few Italian family farms left in the area.

After passing out for a few days I was able to get up the energy to walk through my garden to see how things were going.

So many of my favorite plants were blooming, and thanks to friends, all of the seedlings were doing great too.

The plane rides had been really hard on me and my swelling was very bad initially but it got better and eventually I saw my doctor and we discussed where I was at concerning my health but I will get to that in another post. I just wanted to emphasize, it really took me several days to get out and walk around and when I did it was quite painful.

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Rosa “Sombreuil”.

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Clematis “Jackmanii”.

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Unknown Dutch Iris.

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Unknown Dutch Iris.

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Rosa “Golden Showers”.

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Rosa rugosa.

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Billbergia nutans, Billbergia Bromeliad, Queen’s-Tears.

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Fave blooms.

The fava bean plants immediately excited me—even though I was in pain. As much as I’d loved being in Italy, I missed my kitchen and while there I’d wished I could have spent more time just hanging out in kitchens watching people cook. I have so much to learn and often feel like a pokey and useless creature but what comes out of my kitchen usually makes me proud. There was so much I didn’t see in one month. There were so many words I didn’t get to hear.

Back home I recommitted myself to cooking more difficult things and I’ve set out to learn more skills.

I also decided that my war on the edible garden is over now. My distaste for my former life is done and I’m ready to move on and I knew I badly need to do the garden renovation dance.

So, during the last week I’ve attacked the front yard with a great gusto, but I have a few big projects to get through before I can say the kitchen garden is up and running as it should be. I am renovating and clearing several areas at the same time with particular goals in mind. Yes, I want more food space, but I also need to dedicate my time and energy to plants which produce seeds I can sell. Maybe I can even get to some plant selection of my own in time. I hope so. That’s what I’ve always wanted to do.

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LuLu gained a little bit of weight while we were gone. I hate to call her neurotic, but she has her issues. Overeating nervously is one of them. 

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Maurice wanted us to know we were missed. Many stern looks were tossed our way between naps.

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Mona was happy to see me and couldn’t sit still. Even at her age she’s still Miss Wigglesworth.

The cats were happy to see us—as you can see. At first LuLu was in shock and hid from us but she continued to look at us with a pinch-me-is-this-real? look. After a few days we all settled in again. I think that’s in part due to the fact we had a great house sitter who really cared about the cats. Additionally, I think that we have 3 cats now who like one another. Mona getting along with LuLu has been a welcome surprise.

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Sweet souvenir: my new Bialetti.

We brought back a few things from Italy. Since we had to carry everything, I wasn’t feeling quite as generous as I wanted to be but my back survived.

My first gift to myself was this lovely little coffeemaker. Now I can make a quick shot of espresso just for me. Or, I could make one for you, the garden visitor. It works perfectly and makes a great cup of espresso.

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Not sure yet where we will hang this up.

The second gift to ourselves were these terra-cotta pieces for the back garden. We had to have St. Mark’s lion, and for me, well, something more historic.

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I mentioned LuLu is a bit neurotic, right?

That first week after we returned this is what always greeted me when I left the house or when I returned home. She melted my heart all over again. We immediately went on diets together too and I’ve been enforcing strict activity goals for her. Ok, maybe not that strict, but both of us have lost some weight.

Been a long time in the garden: Wine, Women and Song

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Was taken to a few wineries in September for my 41st birthday. Here I am shoveling some very delicious Willamette Valley grapes in my face. Thank goodness for friends and their cameras.

A few months have passed since I last blogged. With a blogoversary on the horizon I think it’s time for me to begin again. This time of year is always very busy for me with all of my indoor gardening and seed work. I have plenty to share so stay tuned.IMG_5477

Cooking has continued to play an important role in my life. As a gift, my combined wedding anniversary and birthday gift from my husband was an amazing meal at Castagna.

I could write a book about that incredible meal but instead I’ll recommend that you read about the chef and go there yourself. It was an incredible dining experience and one I’ll never forget.

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LuLu and Quincy loved to chase one another in the willow arbor.

Mid September our little buddy Quincy went missing one Friday night. He wasn’t with us for long, and we miss him dearly. I refuse to give up hope and continue to search for him. Luckily our county has a wonderful system for lost animals and I receive daily notifications.

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Gardener, garden writer and designer Kate Bryant enjoying a bit of salmon fishing.

Dad took two of my friends and I salmon fishing back in September. It was a quick trip but we all had a wonderful time with lots of laughs and great food. We may not have caught anything, but a boat of fishermen did offer us a free fish to take home.

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During September I also visited Sarracenia Northwest for their Open House. This is a beautifully fun story and I promise to write more about it in an upcoming post.  IMG_5814

The tomatoes kept coming this year and they kept me busy. As a matter of fact I finished up eating them just a few days ago. I was a bit shocked to have ripe tomatoes from the garden on November 1.

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With a tromboncino squash I was gifted I made homemade gnocchi with butter and sage sauce. It was a great idea for a little garden writing group that I’ve helped to start just to get me to write more. I want to write more. I really do.
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I decided to purchase my first fancy apron after catering for a small party. This was a lovely reward after having succeeded with all of those fundraiser dinners this summer. As difficult as that work was, I do miss entertaining and making menus. Am taking the holidays off too because I cannot afford to feed as many people as I used to so taking a holiday will be a nice break.IMG_6783

To thank friends who offered to help me this summer after my last surgery I hosted a pizza party. I avoided making Italian-style pizza for a very long time, but I feel comfortable with it now. IMG_6057

As I stated a few months ago, I was yearning to return to school. I did. I am taking one class right now and am loving plant ID in the horticulture department at Clackamas Community College.

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There have been the garden visits to friends’ green realms with more meals and laughs. I am a big fan of Felony Flats Botanical Garden and its head gardeners Eric and Robert.

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Petunia exserta.

In addition to school and a new part-time job (more on that in my next post), I’m beginning to take care of my seed shop again and have been collecting, accepting by mail from friends, and shopping online again for things I’d like to grow. As I rip out the garden, I am looking for new growing spaces while considering the possibilities.

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White alpine strawberry.

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Pelargonium peltatum, the species from Cistus Nursery.

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Lastly, I also hosted the Fall Garden Blogger Plant Swap. It’s kind of like Fight Club so I won’t go on and on about it, but if you’re a blogger and you live nearby, let me know. The primarily requirement is that you be a blogger. IMG_6183

LuLu has been my new little furry rock since Quincy disappeared. She’s taken up as my stalker where my little old lady Macavity left off when she passed away last year.

Here she is loving up Maurice but we all know she’s just letting him know who’s in charge. She’s a bossy pants, piglet. In addition to climbing the walls and my pant legs, she’s almost always underfoot. I adore her and her youthful kitten energy.IMG_6246 Luckily LuLu goes out a little bit, but she’s not going to be allowed to be an outdoor cat. Here she is helping me to collect tomatoes. IMG_6264She also helps me with my botanical studies. Here she is letting me know that DOGWOODS bore her.
IMG_6859So welcome back! Welcome to indoor gardening and there’s more to come. I promise!

Northwest Flower & Garden Show 2015: Romance Blossoms (Day 2)

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IMG_3282I’ve lived through another day of complete and total exhaustion and yet here I am up late in the hotel room posting a blog post when I should be sleeping.

Earlier this morning I attended the annual Tweetup. During this brief event the lights are turned up over the display gardens at the show and the garden media is set loose to take some photos.

Since it’s so late, I won’t write a lot. I really only wanted to get these little show details out there. What do you think?

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Interesting way to use some more of those corks I’ve collected in my kitchen. (A Garden Built with Love/Adam Gorski Landscapes)

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(A Garden Built with Love/Adam Gorski Landscapes)

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(A Garden Built with Love/Adam Gorski Landscapes)

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Beautiful Hosta. I thought I wrote down the name but cannot find it now. (Will You? A Romantic Proposal in the Park/Fancy Plants Gardens, Inc.)

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(Love the Space You’re In/Susan Browne Landscape Design)

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(Love the Space You’re In/Susan Browne Landscape Design)

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Beautiful looking glass Sansevieria. (Love the Space You’re In/Susan Browne Landscape Design)

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Cute “dresses” for photo ops. (Picture Yourself on Azalea Way/Washington Park Arboretum)

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(Knotty and Nice…Here’s to We Time/Karen Stefonick Design)

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(Birds do it… Bees do it…/West Seattle Nursery)

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(Birds do it… Bees do it…/West Seattle Nursery)

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(Romantic Folly/ Pamela Richards Garden Design)

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I love my salmon. (Romantic Folly/ Pamela Richards Garden Design)

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Great container wall. (Romantic Folly/ Pamela Richards Garden Design)

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(A Moment to Remember/ Nature Perfect Landscape and Design)

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(Over the Moon/Assoc. of Professional Landscape Designers—WA Chapter)

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(Over the Moon/Assoc. of Professional Landscape Designers—WA Chapter)

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(The Root of True Romance: Beautiful Chaos… Love, Art, Nature/Elandan Gardens)

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(Three Phases of Love… Young, Passionate, Forever/ WA Association of Landscape Professionals)

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Hard to see from the picture, but it’s a bike. (A ‘Bio-Cycle’ Built for Two/ Evergreen Landscaping & Designs)

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Fountain designed by Douglas Walker. (The Romance of Steampunk/ Whitby Landcare and Design)

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The display gardens were too numerous to capture so I’m jumping to some retail now. At large garden shows such as this one you’ll find all kinds of things for the outdoor and indoor gardening lifestyles.

From vases such as the one on the left, to handmade glass work and other objects to ornament your garden with—there is something for everyone. (I’ve purchased from the booth on the right in the past (Bedrock Industries. Check under their tab: Gift & Garden).

I think I might just go back to purchase this number 12 for the front of the house tomorrow. Sure, it has something to do with football, but it’s also my house number!

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There are many rustic, recycled, and upcycled items too. Some are made by hand, and some are likely mass produced. No matter what, there is really something for everyone. IMG_0851

After the Tweetup I was exhausted but I met up with a landscaper friend to help him select a few plants for clients. This Trifoliate Orange (Poncirus trifoliata) was something we had to get. These are such great plants. IMG_3206

As I started to get drowsy I turned to go back to the hotel. Just walking back, through the displays, you’ll find the sweetest plants to admire. I very much want to get one of these Variegated Brugmansia.    
     IMG_3281 I’m also a sucker for a Geranium that’s become a standard. IMG_3284

More than anything though, I now have my heart set on an Edgeworthia chrysantha ‘Akebono’.IMG_0854Walking back to the hotel I looked up at the Rainer Tower building across the street. From my room—for the past two year—I’ve admired this building. Yet, I only just discovered it was designed by U of W alum Minoru Yamasaki, and it just so happens that he’s also known for having been the lead architect of the World Trade Center.

Gardening is a wonderful thing, and design is all around us. Sure, I’m having a wonderful time in Seattle, but looking at this building brings along with it a somber feeling for those connected to his other work, a love of freedom in my country, and a sense of awe for what we’re able to design and build. I hope that in the years to come we’ll build again, and stop the destruction.

We garden to forget these things. I know. But with the building there outside my window as I sleep, it’s difficult for me not to think of its power.

And with that, it’s to bed, and I’ll be back at the garden show in the morning…

Book Review: Into the Garden with Charles (by Clyde Phillip Wachsberger)

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Into the Garden with Charles by Clyde Phillip Wachsberger, 2012, First Farrar, Straus and Giroux Edition, 209 pages.

Into the Garden with Charles is a love story written by a man who finds love during the middle of his life after having given up his decades-long search. Resigned to spend his life alone, he purchases a small three-hundred-year-old house in Orient, Long Island after having fallen in love with the area and the community he finds there. He continues to commute between his apartment in New York City (where he still works) and his small country home on 1/3 of an acre until he gives up the apartment and moves permanently to Orient.

He begins to grow the garden he’d dreamed of having since he was a boy and works as a landscaper. He’s clearly happy to have reached this point, but he still longs to share his life with someone and is lonely.

“I began to grow around my loneliness the way a tree limb can grow through a chain-link fence, incorporating the sharp metal into its fiber without showing any outward signs of distress. I gardened my way into middle age, dog-earing nursery catalogues, circling seed packets I wanted to order, lusting after rare plants.” 

Then—as if by chance—he meets Charles. He’s a dining room captain and assistant maître d’ at the Carlyle Hotel who also just so happens to be an art collector with an interest in horticulture. Their touching story most certainly does not end there though, and as they grow together, their garden flourishes.

Wachsberger’s writing draws the reader in and you’re left feeling as if you’re part of his life as you watch anecdotes and their actions unfold into the overall narrative. He is a generous writer and it’s clear that he tenderly cared for every word in his memoir as I can only imagine he must have cared for every plant in his garden.

The story is also made brighter by how he tends to those he loves in his own life, but the memoir also hinges on his own self-care.

“…if I’d been going for regular checkups. I had never wanted to disappoint Charles. I had never wanted to bring any sadness into his life. My fear of doctors had resulted in this.”

I know that I for one felt as if I was right there during all of the life events he recounts. I rarely feel that way unless I’m experiencing the effects of a well-written memoir. When this book was over I put it down and felt an immense sense of loss. It wasn’t just because the story was over, but let’s just say that Wachsberger skillfully puts the garden to bed for us and as I shut the cover I felt as though the garden gate was permanently closed to me too.

“This moment: these tiny bits of white tossed this way and that by fate, or defying it; Charles’s rapt attention; his profile in shadow against sun-drenched salvia and verbenas; his lips parted in amazement; Rover curled sleeping at his feet—that will forever be the garden for me.”

Throughout the book we meet many characters in his life: family members, an opera singer, a varied cast of other fun people I wish I could have known, small town folks, NYC folks, and Rover the Dog. There is a long list of plants too, but I’ve left them out of this because in the end what the garden is about is people. That’s what Wachsberger so beautifully captures in Into the Garden with Charles. Gardens contain the unseen networks of memory we create over time between our relationships to the past, the present, and the future, but most of all, they’re very often an expression of our love for the lifecycle and beauty of the plant world, and for our own shared human experience.

This is a book I will recommend for many years with the hope that it will inspire others to live as Clyde lived and loved.

Clyde Phillip Wachsberger was an artist, gardener, writer, and retired professional set-designer (later becoming a landscaper in his retirement), but he was more importantly a man who clearly loved life and beauty a great deal and hoped to communicate this to us as humorously and as lovingly as he could in his memoir Into the Garden with Charles.

(A free copy of this book was provided to me by Farrar, Straus and Giroux not long after it was first published.)