Before returning to Italy, let’s review last winter…

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About last winter, well, it was divine. Between the fair weather, a class in horticulture, and time spent with friends over long meals, it was a time to indulge in additional personal growth and discovery while lingering to get to know those around me better.

What I mean to say here is that my new mast cell medication was working mightily well—as were all of the other therapies. This plant of mine felt like its backbone was strengthened and buds began to form. (Now months on, I can see the growth.)

When we left for Italy, my health was better than it had been in some ways for years, but I know now that the neuropathy medication I was just given upon my return should have been instituted before our departure. Years of swelling have definitely taken their toll on my nerves.

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Agapetes serpens.

This winter was about propagation. Much joy was had when these Agapetes serpens cuttings taken from my friend Kate’s plant continued to bloom and bloom under lights in my basement.

They’re still alive and have hardened off outdoors and I look forward to potting them up this week or the next. Bloom on little troopers!

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Not such a bad year on Instagram.

This winter I continued to socialize on Instagram with other garden and plant lovers. It was through this platform we ended up meeting my new friends in Venice.

For anyone who has a difficult time falling asleep it can be a tool that can successfully create thoughtless thoughts. You can count sheep, or scroll through plant pics. Take your pick!

Many of the people I chose to follow are in Europe and I look forward to seeing their mornings as I slowly let the weight of my head really force itself into the pillow. Ok, maybe seeing their delicious morning repasts may sometimes widen an eye and a growl may grow from somewhere deep inside of my stomach, but then I move on to the next photo and set aside that fleeting idea of a sunny morning in Greece.

This past winter Kate and I decided to take a little coastal garden tour in January. We met up with Flora our friend over at Tangly Cottage Gardening Journal. (If you follow the link, you can read more about the gardens we saw that day.) Surprisingly, the weather was decent for us and in the end I was able to eat my beloved oysters.

From there we travelled south to Yachats and the Gerdemann Botanic Preserve.

If you’d like to read a great blog post about that location I suggest this post from my friend Evan over at the The Practical Plant Geek. (He wrote several posts about it and of course I’ve yet to post any photos at all.)

While preparing for departure, the garden grew and things bloomed while more botanical Latin was memorized and I worked to pass my plant ID course in the horticulture department at Clackamas Community College.

Friends were made, I hosted a talk here in my house about rare ferns given by an expert in such things, and the anticipation of the impending journey grew in me, the deviation from my medical routine grew more exhilarating, and soon we crossed the big pond.

More on that next time…

Digging in the Roots: A Pre-Spring Reverie

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Viola odorata. 
After work tonight my husband and I walked to the grocery store. Along the way I plucked a few stray Viola odorata blooms and then cupped them in my left palm like small birds. From time to time—passing the halal markets and medical marijuana storefronts—I held my hand to my nose and drew in their scent. I instinctively wanted to bite into my violets because my brain recognized their sweet scent as a favorite candy. But I didn’t. Instead I walked along enjoying the moment thinking about how much I love plants—especially sensual plants.

Here at home the seedlings are growing in their little pots and plugs. I’m keeping up with my planting schedule (for the most part) but I’m not certain if I’ll be able to finish things up before we leave for Italy.

We have a housesitting plan, a cat sitter, and a seedling sitter.

(I think that it’s wonderful to know there are friends available to help you with your plants, don’t you?)

Whatever doesn’t get planted, at least I can buy at a local nursery. Portland is blessed with so many plant nurseries. [Sigh.]

One of my favorite images from the Yard, Garden & Patio Show.

I made it to the Yard, Garden & Patio Show a few weeks ago here in Portland. (I hadn’t been in years!) It was a fantastic experience and I hope to post pictures from it eventually, but I know, I’ve said that in the past.

I mean it this time. It will happen. I will post the pictures.

This pledge is happening because I’ve been taking my writing more seriously. Being paid to write is a wonderful thing. Thanks to being able to work at doing what I love, a recent goal I’ve acknowledged is to finally organize my photos. This will help me professionally too. I can’t wait to share them.

The plant room has been cleaned out again—for what I hope will be the last time. It is looking better and better but there is still much work to do. Last weekend the compact fluorescent light that has been keeping my plants alive for a few years popped and blew out. That’s one more unexpected garden expense that needs to be attended to but it’s worth it! That room is cheerful during the dreary and rainy months because of that light and those plants bring so much life into the dead of winter.

This is probably the reason why Mona (the partially feral cat) lives in that room now. She’s always loved it back there but now it’s her room—at least that is until is warms up enough to be outside all day.

Yesterday I made it outside for a bit. It was the first work I’d done in the garden in a long time. My health has not been great. I had a bad infection for several weeks last month but I toughed it out and am ok now. I’m amazed by how easily I lose my strength and conditioning. I feel strong when I exercise regularly and walk a lot but after a few months off I feel as though I have to begin all over again.

Luckily, it’s worth it. The benefits of exercise for me are undeniable. Nothing makes chronic pain go away more than exercise. I guess it really is important to stay limber.

Happy (early) St Patrick’s Day!

Since I won’t be here again until after Monday I thought I’d leave you with this. I was born an Annie, and internally, I’ll always be a little redhead named Annie. There’s just a wee bit of Irish in me, can you tell? And I do love the color green, now don’t I?

(This post is dedicated to Father Cathal Brennan. RIP I still miss you very much.)
My mom with Father Brennan.

Houseplant Season and a Few Fried Slugs

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Oxalis triangularis.
It’s houseplant season and recently I’ve been busy. I hope to clean up a few neglected plants on Sunday.
Working over 40 hours a week with two part-time jobs is challenging physically but it’s rewarding otherwise.
I’m happy right now and it feels different. I’m adjusting. I’m changing.
I wish I could say more about my caretaking job with the elderly—and the amazing people I continue to meet—but I’m sworn to secrecy due to privacy.
It is safe to say that I’ve met a few green thumbs during the last few weeks. Many are physically too delicate to garden now so I tell them about gardens instead and they tell me about the gardens they’ve known. It is a wonderful way to interact with people whom you don’t know well. One woman used to be involved in an ikebana group. We were fast friends.
We tend to talk about the weather a lot and animals. I’ve heard many great stories. It will be good for me to continue the work—at least for now.
There are two elderly cats here at home. It is not their favorite season. Luckily I’m earning more money now so I can purchase special items for them. Hopefully they’ll be watching me sow some seeds soon.
I keep talking about it. I keep threatening to do it. Working is more important for now. Learning two new jobs is challenging. I at least am very confident about how to germinate seeds. That’s reassuring and it feels good to be confident about something.
Last weekend we went to my parents’ house again out by the coast. It felt like a work weekend because we were both writing NaNoWriMo novels.
This week I stopped writing mine temporarily due to swelling and hand pain. My story is writing itself and I’ve stepped back to better control the time I put into it. Something snapped and clicked inside of me while I was at the beach last weekend. Suddenly I saw how I write. I’ve never enjoyed writing fiction much but it’s clicked with me.
My book has a lot of plants and gardening in it. So I’m kind of writing about plants right now. It’s just not so obvious to anyone here visiting the blog.
John and I really like visiting my parents’ house near Astoria. He enjoys cooking and the stillness while I tend to wander in the woods. This last trip I was working too hard though. I’m looking forward to having more fun next time.
For a break we drove over to Astoria and went out to lunch and then walked the streets of our other favorite town in Oregon.
I should have taken pictures of our meal but we ate it all too quickly. Looks like I have a good reason to go back now, don’t you agree?
John has a relative with a boat moored in the Astoria so we walked over to look at it. There were old Victorians for sale as well and a few of those caught our eye.
But it is houseplant season and I’m back in Portland now. It’s been a long week and in addition to caregiving I’ve been writing a lot of content for a cooking blog. I’m still in awe of the fact that I’m being paid to write quality content for someone else as a ghost blogger. I really like the woman I’m working for and cooking is so fulfilling for me.
I’m still struggling with food photography and am setting up a home studio here for it but I will write more on that later. What’s great is that I can also let some of that food spill over onto this blog too.
Tomorrow I’m off to the Portland Farmers Market to get a wide selection of wild mushrooms. Expect some recipes soon…
In the meantime, enjoy this really interesting blog post from a few years back. The next time I hear someone proselytizing on local foods and how they have a lower impact on the environment I’ll through this mushy little monkey wrench at them: Feral Food: How to Eat Slugs.
I’m such a little stinker sometimes.

The Amateur Bot-ann-ist Marries John in Her Garden

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My wedding bouquet made for great photo opportunities.
Four weeks ago today I married an amazing man in the back garden. And now—as I sit here writing this—it’s great to publicly admit that we met online and immediately knew we would marry.
Just 6 months after we met, we were married. There, I said it.
This happened because maturity and experience are great things. Middle-aged love is nothing to scoff at either—especially when it brings such joy and happiness.
And in my case, I can’t say enough about the lessons learned from my divorce. I know now that it took a divorce in order for me to truly understand how much marriage and commitment mean to me. Marriage means working together and being a team and I have that now for the first time. It’s what I’ve always wanted and hoped for and it’s such a great feeling knowing now that someone truly has my back and I can count on him to be there. I’m pretty sure he feels the same way too.
Maurice helping to roll out the garden carpet.

Getting ready for our noontime wedding was a lot of fun. Up until the last minute we’d planned to get married that day in a government office but then I realized we could just do it at home. Why not?

Planted topiary ball with Bromeliad and Ficus. Made to come indoors over the winter. Will keep you updated on how it holds up indoors as a houseplant planting.

Of course I tried to clean up the back garden as much as possible. I added a few pretty things to make it look better too, but overall, we didn’t really intend for it to be a big affair so not much was added. I did make this topiary though.

Two of the fur balls thinking all of the hub-bub was about them—since it usually is all about them.

The night before the ceremony I packed for Alaska and straightened the house.

Since John didn’t move in with me until after our honeymoon, that night, we both had a lot of time to think about our new life together and what it would be like in the future.

My mind was so busy thinking about packing I knew I just had to be me no matter what.

Oh why did I wait until the last minute?

That’s when I rushed out and bought some flowers to arrange at 9pm. That’s just the kind of thing that I do.

Having fun with my own selfie.

The morning of the wedding I had my hair and makeup done. It felt amazing and I’m so happy I did so.

When you plan a noontime wedding, that doesn’t mean you have a ton of time to get ready. I know that now. But of course, I pulled it all together.

John and I are oddballs. If you don’t know that about me yet, then you must be new to my blog or else you haven’t been paying attention.

John and I only invited a handful of important people. We hadn’t really thought a lot about wedding photography so many of these pictures were just shot by iPhone by my nieces.

Look! My head is exploding with flowers!

My flowers were designed by a dear friend who has an amazing touch. (Quinn in the City Flowers).

I had asked Quinn to go “over the top” and I’m pretty sure she nailed it.

Yes, I really do laugh loudly. Am I channeling Phyllis Diller? Maybe…
On my wedding day, I was very happy and we had a little secret too.
The look on my face terrifies me. I look a lot like my paternal great-grandmother who I take after in so many ways. I guess it makes sense.
My eldest niece, seen here on the left, was the minister of our ceremony. We kept that a secret from my family until after the ceremony. It was such a great idea and it made the event so much more meaningful.
That’s not to say that her younger sister (on the right) wasn’t involved too. She made sure we had lots of photos and provided plenty of laughs.
I love my girls.
Probably one of my favorite pictures from our special day. I know. I’m weird. I already told you I was though…

Afterwards, our little group met both of our mothers for a special dessert at one of my favorite restaurants in Portland.

Yes, we didn’t invite our moms to our wedding. They’ve been through it all before so we did things differently and they didn’t mind at all.

Trust me, it worked very well and they both loved seeing us all dressed up while we ate Boccone Dolce.

John looking at me thinking, “We pulled it off, our moms are both stuffed, now let’s get the heck out of here and head to Alaska!!”

And with that, we were off to Alaska!

Wordless Wednesday: I giardini delle due donne

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Climbing Monkshood (Aconitum episcopale) grown from seed.
Staghorn Fern (Platycerium) in its new home.
Pink Turtlehead (Chelone obliqua) grown from seed. Sadly the plant was eaten a bit this year.
The backyard.
Tradescantia ‘Bridal Veil’.
Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis).
Fuchsia ‘Celia Smedley’.
Unknown Rosa.
Unknown cabbage (Brassica).
Notorious female feline.
Potted geraniums (Pelargonium), with St. Francis statuary, at the home of an Italian woman.