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.

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…

Alcatraz: The Garden Tour, Part Two

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Once you reach the top, you’re at the cellhouse. If you’d continued following the garden tour, this is near where it ends, just beneath the Recreational Yard, where the fenced in prisoners’ garden once was and where it has been restored. (Note the Lobularia maritima in the foreground.)

In case you were wondering, this is the inside of the prison. To be honest, inside it is very small but it’s so interesting. (We had an amazing time watching the European tourists and we both loved hearing Italians speaking Italian.)

Back on the trail, these were the plants I was able to see as the tour went from the top of the Rock down along the westside towards the north with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge that’s amazing.
Perennial Statice, Limonium perezii.
Seed heads of Bear’s Breeches, Acanthus mollis.
The refurbished prisoners’ area greenhouse.
The prisoners’ greenhouse back in 1993 or 1994 during my first visit to Alcatraz.
Aeonium arboreum and Acanthus mollis.
Crassula, Aeonium, and Acanthus. I am not sure what the silvery one is but I am sure someone else will know.
This is another view of the same area.
And another view. I think there are some Aloe in there too.
This is about as close as you can get to the water on this side. There is a fence though so you cannot walk on the pavement. This area is protected. Birds nest there.
Kinda not sure about this one but it is a Mediterranean plant all right.
Fig Tree, Ficus in the prisoners’ garden.
Notice the fence. You can also see the skyline of downtown San Francisco.
From that area you can walk up the steep stairs to the Recreational Yard.
We started to make our way back down to the ferry at this point and believe it or not there were still plants to see that I’d missed on our way up.
Crocosmia.
Monstera deliciosa in a photo display in the Warden’s Office of what it looked like during the Kennedy administration.
If you were coming to visit someone on Alcatraz, you would have had to walk under this display. The cornucopias with their bountifulness is a bit odd.
The planter box along the road down to the boat was full of Geraniums.
Behind this row and down below are some of the areas we’d been granted access too earlier in the day.
Alcatraz is full of Fuchsia after Fuchsia.
A lone Hydrangea with a few Western sword ferns, Polystichum munitum.
Leathery Polypody Fern, Polypodium scouleri. This is a great native plant.
 Trailing Iceplant, Delosperma cooperi.
Where the Rock meets man.
This was a very tall red Geranium.
 Trailing Iceplant, Delosperma cooperi.
Nasturium have taken over and are growing wild on the island.
Unknown Geranium.
Unknown Geranium.
Back at the dock there is yet another Geranium.
An unknown Fuchsia tree.
Fuchia trying to get off the Rock.
A carpet of Aeonium.
This is a view of the Aeonium carpet as seen from the ferry.

If this did not whet your appetite for a trip to Alcatraz, I don’t know what will! I can’t wait to go back myself and I am so impressed with of all of the amazing work they’ve accomplished with the gardens.

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…

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

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