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.

Valdobbiadene and Villa Barbaro

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During the last week we took two trips to Valdobbiadene and San Vito di Valdobbiadene to see family and family friends. It’s the hometown of my mother-in-law and where my husband would spend time each summer for 3 months as a boy.  This post is from our first trip there, a day trip.

Sitting at the base of the foothills of the Dolomites this is an incredibly beautiful area.

 

Can you find the Italian word for smoothie?

 

Posters showing local college graduates.

After a brief visit to make plans to return in a few days we headed over towards Maser and Villa Barbaro. We’d failed to visit this Palladian villa during our last visit and I’d really wanted to see its nymphaeum. Sadly, I couldn’t take photos of it, but I took exterior images. (You can look up the interior online. It’s really quite impressive considering its age.)

The chapel was built later and is the last building designed by Palladio.

Not sure if this is a maple used as hedging, but it looked like it to me.

The courtyard where we entered had lovely wisteria in bloom.

Workers were tending to the grass.

A single potted plant graced the covered walkway to the main entrance. Since this is a working vineyard, a grape vine makes sense.

A working cat.

After our visit we drove down the road a few kilometers to the hilltop town of Asolo.

Wild snapdragon or bocca di leone.

  The views there truly were quite incredible. 

This hotel (we think) had a patio full of potted Agave.

The King of his Castle watched me as I took photos through a fence. This guy clearly is in charge on this small street.

We returned to Vencie, took a nice slow walk back to the apartment, and then I tended to the needs of this poor sage plant. Left for us by our hosts, the last thing I want to do is kill it.

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!

My First Citrus Lesson—and a bunch of other stuff from California

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Wintersweet aka Chimonanthus in bloom.
Yesterday our friend—and host during a portion of our trip—took me to visit his friend’s tree nursery in the city of Napa: Main Street Trees. One of the first things we saw was this amazing Wintersweet shrub in bloom and immediately I knew I wanted to use some of it for an ikebana arrangement.
Even on the dashboard I loved its angularity.

Later, after driving north to the vineyard in Kelseyville, I assembled this ikebana with some pine and pretty dried out roses that had overwintered near the winery.

But I’d mentioned in the title of this post that I’d had my first Citrus lesson, right?

The candied pieces at the bottom of this image are from a Buddha’s Hand.
It was amazing to try so many fruits I’d only seen pictures of in books.

This was a lime that my friend rolled around in his hands to release its oils. The scent was heavenly but we didn’t eat it. I was more than content just to stare at it.

As you can see, our hostess was incredibly generous, and best of all, she served a blood orange—one of my favorites.

Beforehand, we’d walk through the labyrinth of trees at the nursery with their Bengal cat. I’d never seen one in person before and I have to admit that I was probably a bit more into the cat than I needed to be but I do miss my own herd back home.

This is Willow, their German Shepard. Oh!, plant people and their pets. I get it and I imagine you do too.

This is not the best image, but I had to add it. I found the juxtaposition of an olive tree and a Sequoia to be a bit like the famous surrealist quote taken from the Comte de Lautréamont’s Les Chants de Maldoror: “Beautiful as the chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on a dissecting table.”

It reminded me to always think over plant associations.

There were bees—lots of bees, and I heard hens, but unfortunately, we had to run so I didn’t get to visit with them.

Just as we were about to leave, I snapped an image of this timber bamboo. That stuff really is incredibly beautiful.

During my drive I kept thinking about this picture I’d snapped while visiting. It was my eldest niece’s 20th birthday yesterday and she has a tattoo of a California poppy. Seeing the roses only reminded me of home: Portland, aka the City of Roses. I didn’t drink any of the wine, but I liked the label, and besides, wine is the connection now between the two states we go back and forth between.

Hours later, I made this ikebana for my niece’s 20th birthday. Like myself, she loves dark and mysterious things that are a bit quirky and I knew she’d love this slightly dark olive and pomegranate arrangement.

Ciao from Lake County, California…

Greetings from an Amateur Botanist in CA

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Leading up to this trip I didn’t say much. I’ve had a lot on my mind, and additionally, my broken finger recovering took a slide due to my swelling disease. Coaxing them both back into splints was all we could do and it really slowed me down again.
The Rogue River in Southern Oregon.

Just a few days ago I drove down to California alone, to see my husband and to witness the wine harvest and crush for the first time. It’s the least I could do as his wife and it was my birthday gift to him. I had to be brave to drive I-5 alone and to stay in a yurt right off the highway when virtually few others were doing so. Driving the whole 10 hours in a day—by myself—was just not possible. The two-day drive was amazing!

Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis, in a rest stop near Lake Shasta.
Arctostaphylos in a rest stop near Mt. Shasta.

As for botanizing, my main goal during this trip is to more deeply familiarize myself with the native flora in the chaparral of California. I will be doing some coastal exploration too, but most of my activities will be centered around Lake County where my husband is during the growing season.

While stopping in Redding to visit McConnell Arboretum & Botanical Garden I caught some folks fishing for salmon in the Sacramento River. The flyfisherman who’d waded all the way out in the riffles was fun to watch but I was disappointed that he didn’t know how to cast. (Sometime I will have my husband take a picture of me casting. It’s the only fishing skill I retained from my upbringing.)

After Redding I drove south toward Sacramento and San Francisco before heading west on Hwy 20 into Lake County, CA. From the point on, I was far happier with the gorgeous scenery.

When I arrived, he hopped up the ladder and began to punch down the fermenting grapes in the tank. I have to say, it was impressive and the smell was incredible. It was both good and bad at the same time!

I looked at the color of the grapes, took the picture, and then as I was on the ladder I laughed when I noticed the labels on the tank.

When he finished we walked through the olive orchard.

We were both surprised that the pomegranate tree had actually produced this year despite the funny weather.

Then he showed me what the weather had done to some of the grapes. With the heavy rains and low temperatures we’ve had this season all along the West Coast, you’re going to get some rotten grapes. This is what they can look like and you just have to let them go.

And this is what grapes in a vineyard look like when they’re not pruned. This row was going to be grafted with something else but when the time to do so passed because the weather wasn’t right, they just let the grapes go. It’s only one row, but it really shows you how much pruning is necessary to make all the vineyards look so pretty. They really prune to improve the air and sun exposure for the grapes and to ensure that they have consistency in overall quality and quantity. The whole process is really interesting to me.

While we perambulated, we were being watched. I shot this picture and admired Mt Konocti behind the mighty raptor. That’s because at that moment, I had not yet climbed to its top. Tomorrow, I’ll let you know how that went because right now, I’m off to collect some more plant materials just north of here…

How a Gardener Sees the Wine Grape

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Introductory Thoughts:
During my most recent trip to California I was asked by a friend what my relationship to the grape was and I didn’t really have an answer for him. At the time Quarryhill Botanical Garden was all around me and for some reason I just wasn’t thinking clearly. A few days later we were at the vineyard, just before I was about to leave to travel north alone, and this is how I saw it but I still really don’t know how I see the grape. I think I should have said that I see everything around the grape, but not the grape. Deep down in my heart, I know I don’t have to think about the grapes since people are paid to worry about their needs already, and I am just not part of that process. It is funny though that I do not see them as I see all of the other parts. I see the vines, I note the pruning, and I care about the winemaking process, so I am not a complete tourist, but I truly do ignore the grapes. Since I cannot drink alcohol without getting terribly sick, this is part of it, but I hope that isn’t simply an excuse. I guess this year I should get to know the grape better.
Unknown Arctostaphlos.
Vineyard Walk with Mr B
On the way out to deliver my bags to the car, we both saw this tree and were drawn to it. I have a thing for what we call manzanita, madrone and/or Arctostaphlos. So far, this is the only one at my father-in-law’s house we’ve found and both my husband and I stared lovingly at it for sometime together as we began our walk around the 10 acres before I left for home a few days ago. The deeper the color of the bark, the more we’re drawn to it for some reason. There is a skin-like leathery-ness and the quality is really kind of mesmerizing. Whenever we go on garden tours or for drives in CA, we always seem to look for it.
Unknown Arctostaphlos.

Here is that same tree as it reaches for the sky. I will need to figure out which tree it is though and then attempt to propagate it. Plant junkies may not be able to take plant material into California, but you can take your plant matter out when you cross the border back into Oregon. I forgot to mention that makes plant shopping in California a lot easier, and I understand why they want to monitor those of us crossing the border.

The vineyard is located in Lake County, CA, an area that essentially surrounds Clear Lake, the largest natural freshwater lake in California. Sadly, the lake itself is heavily contaminated with mercury from an old closed mine that is now a Superfund site, but that fact certainly does not ruin all of the natural beauty surrounding the area. If anything, the beauty should encourage a quicker cleanup of the area.

Mt. Konocti as seen from the vineyard. Small olive tree block is made up of Arbequina olive trees.

The area is volcanic and there are small faults nearby. The largest of the old volcanoes that encircle the lake is Mount Konocti and at 4,305 ft it can be seen from all over the area. Coming from the Northwestern Region of the United States I am very familiar with our volcanoes, but I find that I laugh at myself whenever I realize how easily interested I am in other peoples’ volcanoes. I think it is the ecologist in me, trying to figure out how the nature of that ecosystem figures into the landscape, the plants, and in the case of what my husband is doing, growing wine grapes.

Since they are continuing to rip out the last vestiges of the old walnut orchard by having the massive trees taken out, it allows us to look into the soil quite a bit. Some of this actually helps to determine what kind of irrigation techniques they may want to play with and it gives them a much clearer idea of what to expect in terms of drainage. Without going into too much detail concerning the grapes and their grafting, the grape vine stock chosen has a two part methodology to it. Pick the wine grape you want to grow, and then pick the root stock to grow it on. Root stock is chosen by determining what you’re growing the grapes in. In this case, we have heavy clay volcanic soil.
The great side-effect of all of this geological exploration is that it allows the gardener an opportunity to pick up some cool rocks. In this case, I am highlighting the obsidian that I picked up to bring home. It doesn’t look sharp, but it is. It will get a special place in the garden and it will come with a safety warning for the foster kids. I really had a difficult time keeping them in the garden last year, so this year I have changed my angle. A dangerous rock made of volcanic glass seemed like something some of the kids would really like. It might even get a special box so that it will look that much more special.

After looking through the rocks at one end of the property, we headed back to the plantings nearest the house so that Mr B could show my the gabion he’d made to accompany their sign by the highway. Before we arrived at that site, we had a lot of other stops and things to see.

Oldest block of grapes. 10 year old planting of Barbara or Sangiovese.
Gorgeous stand of Miner’s Lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata). It is an edible Western native plant the name of which comes from the fact miners ate it for its Vitamin C in order to prevent scurvy. Back then, the citrus trees were not yet what they are today! That is so hard for me to fathom because it wasn’t that long ago.
Western Redbud buds (Cercis occidentalis). Native to California and the American Southwest Lake County is full of them but they were not yet in full bloom as the ones near Sacramento were. I regret not having been able to snap a photo of one of them.
This is Squids the official Winery Cat. She is the least feral of the cats running around the house and she is a happy outdoor cat who eats snakes, mice and lizards during the summertime while following my husband around from task to task.
I fell behind while hanging with the cat and this is Mr B waiting for his two ladies to join him. We both followed him around during that brief walk around the vineyard. It was nice to spend quality time with his other cat because I haven’t been able to much before. I think he has domesticated her much more over the last few years.
Really nice big old vine. The outer pealing is normal. I was curious about that. The irrigation you see is part of a drip system. Growing in a fairly arid region, they have to limp the vines along with water from above not only due to expense, but due to the fact the vines must be encouraged to grow deeper and deeper tap roots. This helps over time to help the grapes to develop deep and richer taste, enriching their terroir.
Unknown Eucalypus and bloom. Any thoughts?
Unknown Eucalypus and bloom. Any thoughts?
Mr B and Squids.
New Lake County Wine Tour Signage.
Gabion being made by my husband. So proud of his incorporation of native stones into this signage. If working around Frank Lloyd Wright ever taught me anything, it was the importance of including things from the surrounding native environment and culture into your new construction.

So as you can, none of the grapes were out to discuss, but I suspect that during my next trip to California in the coming months there will be more to say on their behalf.