Venezia on Foot (from April 2016)

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(While going through my unfinished blog posts recently I discovered this one from my last trip to Italy back in 2016.)

Wish I could find a little pot holder just like this one.

It has been over two years since I was on this trip, yet seeing these photos quickly brings it all back to me. The devil really is in the details. The colors, curves, light, shadows, and the many kind people I met while there for two weeks warm my heart. I didn’t want to love Venezia, but I carry it with me now. It seems cliche to this cynical American, and yet, the place inspires! It’s a magical place and I wish I could have known it long ago…img_1345This was our front door for two weeks. We had the large apartment located on the top floor of this building.

Many times I walked past this shop nearby and admired these ceramics. I still think about these ceramics. While there I bought this book to practice my reading comprehension. I’m always amazed at how little I use my Italian and yet am still able to do ok with it when I need to read it. These are likely window boxes filled with Sedum palmeri. It felt like the entire place had all shared the same plant. While visiting there the first time, I’d admired this color on another building. It’s called Venetian salmon and seems fitting. After the second trip I loved the color even more. (This is Hotel Iris.)During this second trip I also learned quite a bit more about the gardens of Venice and the history of many of the plants there. (It helps to be included in a group of Italian Instagramers who know a great deal about Italian Garden History.)With so many tourists, it’s nice to hide the garbage cans with art. Many shops sell items for Carnevale. This shop caught my eye with its modern masks. On this trip I walked to see some art, but not as much as I’d hoped to see. I rested and read quite a bit. Traveling is still hard on me and this wasn’t really long after I’d had my back surgery and I was in the midst of terrible nerve pain from my old injuries. Being there made the pain better. It was even better when I saw plants. It’s a place where you always want to peek over walls. I spent a few days like this but was relieved when the tour took place on the last day there. Being invited into homes and gardens is always a wonderful treat. It seems possible to me that I loved this walk so much I could do it all over again in my mind. Then there was a cookbook store. Oh how I wish I’d spent more time lingering there!The best was saved for last. I stopped several times on my way back to the apartment to pick up this incredible sarde in saor from a vendor who served theirs on polenta. The two creamed together like this still makes my mouth water.

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…

Mission San Francisco de Asís and Its Historic, Cinematic, and Photogenic Garden Cemetery

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Located in The Mission neighborhood of San Francisco, this mission is also referred to as Mission Dolores. Its common name originates from a creek that once ran near the community named Arroyo de Nuestra Señora de los Dolores. Founded by Franciscans, it is named after my favorite Catholic hero: San Francesco d’Assisi.

It is difficult for me to believe that I have been to the Bay Area almost twenty times in my life, and yet, this was my first visit to the city’s oldest structure, a location made even more famous by its inclusion in one of my all-time favorite Alfred Hitchcock films, Vertigo.

I loved that the official plaque made it very clear that the original adobe walls and roof tiles were still intact.

The first Catholic Mass celebrated here took place under a shelter at this site just a few days before the
signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. These bricks had not yet all been formed and dried at the site. The building was completed in 1791.
Inside, the proof is made even more crystal clear.
My namesake, St Ann(e), mother of Mary, is to the right of the crucified Christ and the Immaculate Conception Mary is to the left. Above St Ann(e) is St Clare, the founderess of the Poor Clares, or, the female Franciscans. Above Mary is her father San Joaquin.
Without going into too much detail about the alter and its iconography, I can say that much is being said in this one that is rather atypical. Since I am such a plant and animal nut, it was really great to see such a formal alter for St Francis and all that he stood for in his work.
Beside the mission church is the larger, more modern, Basilica. Seeing its main alter decked out with garlands of blooms and tons of flowers flooded me with memories. It also allowed me to show my husband where my penchant for springtime pagan-like bloom worship sprung from.

Lastly, there is the famous cemetery. If you have not yet seen Vertigo, I promise to hide my shock. If you have, this is where Jimmy Stewart’s character Scottie follows Madeline and he watches her as she sits and visits a gravesite.

This was the only Italian gravestone we found but there  were many in English and Spanish.  I was also really curious about many of the early Irish people who appeared to have been living here when it was still Mexico. That makes sense since it was Catholic. I’d like to learn more about these people now!

The gravestone from the film is no longer here, but there are plenty of real people to keep you more than entertained for an hour of so. Oh, and then there are the plants!

The plants are rambling all over the place.

If you go and you see something you like, there is a list of plants posted.

The architecture, the light, and the plants, made for an unimaginable visit that day.

Even though it was overcast, I could easily see why Hitchcock had picked the site. For many years the church actually left the gravestone of one Carlotta Valdes in the cemetery, but it became too much of a tourist site, and the stone was removed. I am not sure where it is now, but I am sure that it is out there somewhere.

In the film, this figure can be seen behind Scottie. It was once part of a grotto, and from online research, it appears to have been moved around a bit.

St Francis pacing in thoughtful prayer around the rose garden. He was a bit too large and lifelike for me.

I really liked this stone seat. Its permanence is unquestionable.

A newer addition, this looks a lot like the spineless Prickly Pear developed by Luther Burbank. Against the white wall, it really stands out.

As always, the history of the site appears to overlap with that of my husband’s ancestor who travelled on what was John C. Frémont’s famous Third expedition. It is sad that Basil LaJeunesse became an historical footnote during that trip, but his death reverberated for many years in the lives of those closest to him. It is my belief, based on what I’ve been reading, that it was a loss both Kit Carson and Frémont were unsettled about since during the ensuing weeks they did things they later regretted.

I loved the casual feel here. The stepping stones, Sedum and hose make this feel so much like a garden.

One of the most controversial actions these men took involves this man.

This is the grave of the first mayor of San Francisco—though he was called an Alcalde and the city was then still Yerba Buena. Kit Carson shot and killed his twin sons and their distant cousin in 1846 near San Rafael when told to do so by John C. Frémont. This was just a few weeks after Basil’s death, after they’d attacked and killed the wrong Native Americans to avenge the death in Oregon, and after they must have realized they’d been tracked by Modoc paid by the Mexican Government who’d been tracking them from their encampment near Monterey as they’d headed north of the border for safety.

So enough about all of that for now, you soon will be seeing more of Frémont as he has so many native plants that have his name attached to them. I just have to add this stuff because it is so much a part of why both my husband and I love where we live, between both the Pacific Northwest and California.

So the next time you find yourself in San Francisco, I invite you to sit and stay awhile. Meditate a bit and transport yourself back in time to a California before the Gold Rush, to a time when it was part of Mexico.

Mission San Francisco de Asís or Mission Dolores

When Gardeners Can’t Sleep I Prescribe This Book: Gardens in Art by Lucia Impelluso

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Pumpkin, Bartolomeo Bimbi, c. 1711, Florence, Museo Botanico. (The rectangular stone at the bottom reads: Pumpkin grown in Pisa in the garden of His Royal Highness in the year 1711. It weighed 45 kilograms or about 100 pounds.)

Last night when I went to bed I wasn’t feeling well. In a hurried rush to get out the door next week—and back on the road to California—I have been doing far too much. Since reading complicated material is often very difficult when I feel unwell, I turn to imagery. Seed catalogs and garden magazines work most of the time, but I am often left with that icky I-can’t-afford-all-of-this taste in my mouth. In comparison, this art history book is the quiet calm that always soothes any little storm inside of me that I throw at it.

My steady bedside grab is called Gardens in Art by Lucia Impelluso. It’s part of a series of books put out by The J. Paul Getty Museum simply called: Guide to Imagery. I don’t think you have to be an art history expert to enjoy this book, but I am fairly certain it is a must if you love gardens. Following current curatorial style, the book is arranged thematically and it is not chronological. There are tons of paintings, and not too much text. The painting above was in the brief Still Lifes section.

Gardens in Art by Lucia Impelluso

The reason I picked this painting is that it was the work most emblazoned on my mind last night when I finally turned into a pumpkin myself. Still lifes are a favorite genre of mine to begin with, but this one really struck me because it reminded me so much of the photographs, come autumn, in so many magazines. This image resonates much more strongly with me than many of the others I’ve seen, both in books and museums domestically and abroad, and if you garden, I think you know what I mean. We’ve all wanted a painting like this of something from our own garden bounty writ large like a trophy. This painting could replace the huge mirror above my fireplace any day.

More about California next time…

10 Reasons Why I Garden Therapeutically

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1) Creative Outlet: I am a creative person, but I am not creative. This is what I used to think, but I am beginning to change my mind. Gardening has been the activity that has helped me to better understand this and it has helped me haul my obstinate mind and kicking spirit over this hurdle.

2) Relaxation: I know there are folks out there who consider a week by the pool relaxing—and I am sure that works for some of you—but I have found that kind of relaxation dull. Gardening is my form of moving meditation.
3) Sharing: Gardeners are wonderful givers. They always have plant divisions on hand for others and they are always open to sharing their knowledge with gardening neophytes.
4) Connections: Through plants I am connected to both my past and my future. One of my white lilacs is from a cutting of a lilac once grown by my great-great-grandmother in Baker City, Oregon. Additionally, seeds from around the world have allowed me to travel to places I would never have been able to experience otherwise.
5) Curiosity: Not every gardener really gets into the fine details, but for me, our garden is a laboratory where I perform plant experiments. Collecting seeds that I then germinate is what makes gardening even more rewarding. I am simply in awe of seeds and the potential they hold.
6) Love of Nature: Whenever you’re unable to camp or hike, you always have your garden. Bringing birds to it, and providing room for all of the other little creatures is the least we can do to give back. When I need a quiet sanctuary, I go to my garden.
7) Preserve Dignity: Until you have to tell someone you are unable to work due to a disease, and that you are unable to have children, you may not understand how painful this encounter can be. My garden helps to preserve that last scrap of dignity in that it is a way for me to contribute something. In time I have discovered it is the best answer too when I am asked what I do for a living. I make and care for living things.

8) Sense of Perspective: Things are steady and the seasons dictate the rhythm of time. I hum whatever tune is needed and I can be inconsistent as the days pass. Nothing is lost, and nothing is truly gained. Every day is different and no plant is ever the same.

9) Sense of Pride: Yes, I do garden to grow things but I will not take part in any kind of foodie garden fad. I am an Italian-American and that means you grow your own food. I am also a descendant of pioneers, and in our family, if you couldn’t grow food, and save seed, you’d die in the wilderness. Better to be prepared, to grow well, providing for your family and sharing your knowledge with those who may need your help.

10) To Provide Relief for Grief and Loss: My words cannot yet fully describe the feeling of losing the sense of yourself once the process and experience of disease begins. Mourning the loss of what life was like before is something that never fully goes away. I can be the cloud on a sunny day in my garden, and I can pour my heart out while toiling with my hands. Best of all, I learn from the garden. My garden has taught me how to renew myself daily, weekly, annually, and like it, I continue to grow, and shed, and change.

Seeds of Inspiration, Plant Veneration, Pits and Poetry

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Some palm-like plants I’ve grown from seed. They are looking kind of sad.

While eating a date today for breakfast, out of concern for my teeth, I bit into it carefully. I’d noticed a small chip in my tooth recently, so I sat wondering if it had been a seed pit from my last package of dates. It had been a dangerous bag.

Somehow, this led me to thinking about the poetry of Medieval Spain and of Al Andalus. My roads to nowhere often lead to this place, and I am sure that when you garden, your trains of thought all arrive back at some station that’s meaningful to you.

These are the things that we gardeners sometimes think about when we don’t speak to people all day. How on Earth do you explain that to people though when they ask you what you think about all day?

Of course all of our minds wander all over the place. Somedays I think of nothing, and yes, sometimes I think about seeds, and plants, and where the come from, and why and how. I think about the people who travelled with them tucked into their belongings, and I think about those who longed to see the plants of their childhood in places far away from them. Yes, these things I find inspiring and they perpetuate the mythology of the garden while propelling me forward as I create my own. Great garden poetry inspires me too.


The Palm Tree
A palm tree stands in the middle of Rusafa,
Born in the West, far from the land of palms.
I said to it: How like me you are, far away and in exile,
In long separation from family and friends.
You have sprung from soil in which you are a stranger,
And I, like you, am far from home.

Abd al-Rahman, Emir of Cordoba, d. 788 CE