Monday, May 20, 2013


  What can I say.....we are cat people. Especially Johnny. Cats come to him like moths to a flame. I kid you not. I thought I was the "cat whisperer" until Mr. J came along. He is a total cat magnet. They always come right up, all rubby and what not. Makes me down right jealous, I must say. Perhaps he was a feline in a past life.
  On the other hand, dogs tend to hate us. It's a mutual relationship.
  Panicale has it's fair share of feral cats, like most towns we've visited here in Italy. The cats are part of the local scene. I love how there are plates of left over pasta for them tucked here and there. At the same time, I know that the locals are driven coo-coo by the constant spraying, weeing and pooing of these wild critters. They tend to be a bit out of control.

  That being said.....
  Let me introduce you to Mitchell, the shyest, and sweetest cat in Panicale.
  Mitchell (pronounced "Meetchell) belongs to the darling mother of Linda, the owner of the local market in town. Our sweet apartment was right across the way from Singnora and Mitchell.

From our stoop,
Mitchell in her usual spot, checking out the 'hood.

  We became very aware of Mitchell right away. We would hear her meowing in the early morning, right on cue, at 6:55. Next we would here Signora open her shutters to the day. 7:00 A.M. on the freaking dot. Like clockwork. We loved it.
  We are early risers, so it was sweetness, experiencing this routine.
  Mitchell was put in the cantina downstairs every night, and then she could come out in the morning. It seemed like a pretty good deal, all around.
  For the first few weeks, we just got used to Mitchell's shy demeanor, and gave her space. We loved how she kept her eye on the neighborhood from her doorstep......She rarely strayed from this spot.

Mitchell keeping an eye on things...such as they were....

Just making certain all is as it should be.

Mitchell, don't get too excited now.

  After several weeks, and a little treat of some pecorino cheese, we eventually broke through the steady stare of Mitchell.
  I must say, it was monumental. Mitchell was a tough nut to crack. But we did it. We played it real cool....not too pushy..........

Mitchell checking me out while I was puttering in my little stoop garden.
She was a real piece of work, I gotta tell you.

One shy kitty....

C'mon, Mitchell.....lighten up!

  Was it the flowers? Was it the constant wooing? The pecorino? Who can tell with cats...All I know is this:
   One week she was hanging out in the doorway of her house, and then.... BAM. She's on our doorstep, all lovey-dovey, wanting nothing but love.... and scratching under her chin.

What the?  Mitchell!!! On our steps!!!

I still believe it was the un-resistable cat magnetism of
Johnny Apodaca, Cat Man Do.

Seriously, cats have no chance against the irresistible allure of Johnny Apodaca.

(though it may just be the shoes.....)

More proof.

  The last couple of weeks we shared some very sweet moments with dear Mitchell...she would come running up to us as we came home, or when we first came outside in the morning. She knew there would be ample petting and loving going on...lots of extra rubs and such. She really got under our skin.
  Thing is, her owner, Signora,   wasn't able to bend down and give her all the touchy-feely stuff that we dolled out by the bucket full. Mitchell was just so happy to be rubbed and pet. I'm telling you, it breaks my heart to think about it. Such a sweet little ball of fluff.

  Even though she stays in the same place, pretty much all day, we still had a sense of who she is. 
  Mitchell keeps an eye on things. She makes certain that everything is in it's place in those ten feet around her. She is serious about her job.

Making sure all is well in her world.

I admire Mitchell's steadfast attitude towards life.

  Though I shed a few tears, really, I took a last shot of dear Mitchell on our last morning in Panicale. 
I hope she is still keeping watch over her domain next year. I just know that one of my first stops out will be to check up on Mitchell. She was a real pal to us, though it took time to wear her down. 
  She was just waiting for someone like us to come along and share the love. She was only playing at being the tough girl.

Oh, had no idea who you were toying with.
See you next Spring, little one!

Sunday, May 19, 2013


  Over the years, in lots of gardens including my own, I've attempted growing a wisteria vine to make the jaw drop, to stop traffic, to write home about, to...well, you get what I mean. Never succeeded.  There was a beauty in Hope's garden...and a pretty good one in the Johnson's garden. But they were already great before I started working in those gardens.
  I'm a failure at growing wisteria. I'll admit it.
  That being said, I do love them. I love the color, texture, fragrance of bloom. Wisteria is a spectacular plant when it is happy and healthy.
  I have found that all wisteria growing in the immediate area around Lago Trasimeno are the happiest of all. It's Wisterlandia, for sure. The perfect combo of sun and rain, I guess. That, and a little TLC goes a long way.
  Panicale has some lovely vines along the walls, but all around the area, in every little town, I found amazing wisteria vines doing their thing. Since we drive all around the area, over and over, looking for painting views, it gives me a chance to scope out the vines. I watch them change from the dead look of Winter to the abundant color of Spring. 
  I did a recent post, Before And After, that shows several scenes that I shot in early March, followed by the same scenes in late April.
  It's magic, I'm telling you.

A shot from a recent post, showing a wisteria vine in it's Winter phase.
Not a whole lot going on.

  The photo above is just showing what I look for early on our trips...wisteria vines waiting to fluff out. I'll keep my eye on all the various vines around Panicale, and the whole area. We make mental notes to go back later on, just to watch them pop.
  Like mirrors, gnomes, vintage Cinque centos and tavola caldas....I get obsessive about finding them. I'll tell you what...they are way easier to spot in mid April than early March. 
  Just look for the purple haze.

On the shores of Lago di Montepulciano, in Binami, a very small fishing village.

Same vine as above, I just loved this angle.

On the road to Tavernalle, just below Panicale.
I like the color combo. Especially the wall.

A massive old vine in the center of Tavernalle.
Look how it wraps around the building.

In Castiglione della Valle.
Like a movie set.

  When the wisteria vines are at their peak, I swear...the fragrance is all around. On a warm day, it's the first thing you notice. The sweet smell of all the wisteria vines going off. Most vines are huge, and pruned so nicely. The blooms are immense, and there are plenty of them. So. 
  It smells very nice, indeed.

I wasn't sure if this old vine was a little wild, or not.
The garden seemed non existent, but the wisteria seemed pruned...
Either way, it was a real stunner.

  The next few shots are of vines that have gotten a little out of control. What is that purple blooming tree? Oh, it's not a tree at all......

Near Mugnano, this vine has climbed into an equally lovely
Cercis, or Redbud tree. Nice.

Wisteria Gone Wild!
In San Feliciano.

Another victim of another wisteria vine.
Bad vine. Bad, bad vine. But so pretty.

  Most of these examples are are vines that we would drive by two or three times a week. I just didn't notice what they were until they began budding up. Then it was a race against the clock....would we leave before the big bloom? Would we miss the show?
  And because the weather was cool and mild, the blooms lasted and lasted...most were still going when we did finally leave. 
  Last year it was really hot very early. All the vines came on fast, and lasted about three minutes. They were hit hard by the early heat. 
  This was a perfect wisteria year.

Another amazing vine we drove by numerous times before knowing it was even there.
The first time we saw it in bloom, I made Johnny turn around and go back.
I had to get up close to this one!

Under the same vine. It was a warm day. The fragrance was almost overwhelming.
It just made the driveway a little more special.

  Panicale has her fair share of gorgeous wisteria vines, thanks to some gardeners with vision. One side of the outside walls are almost completely filled with wisteria. When folks park their cars, they are greeted with the sweetness of the blooms and the beauty of the colors...It's a nice way to say "Hi, Panicale" when we arrive home after being out all day.

The pretty vine that lives in Stew's garden. In full bloom like this, you can see it from outside the walls.

I watched anxiously as these little buds started popping out,
softening the tops of the walls of Panicale.

So perfectly in their place.
I call it "site appropriate".

One of the few white wisteria we see, this is in a magical garden of friends.

Draping themselves over the top of Panicale's outside walls, these
vines add a softness that is so unexpected.

Still more in Panicale.

Another view of the white vine, with it's purple companion.
I have taken photos of this view more times than I can count...

  This year our apartment looked over the little public park, as well as the now closed Hotel/Restaurant Boldrino. I had never seen this huge vine bloom before, and was ready to give it up for this year, too. But just in the last week, week and a half, it all came on. I would gaze down from our windows waiting, waiting...

This used to cover the outdoor seating area of the restaurant. Now it's very overgrown,
but still breathtaking, especially with the yellow Banksia rose going off at the same time.

The same vine from the street. The four windows next to the tower
were our apartment windows. Two upper floors.

Another shot from the street. Sigh. I hope someone re-opens this old beauty.

Nice red and purple shot. We loved our little car.

Enough wisteria yet? I told you, it's Wisterlandia, man.

My dream house. Just saying, Universe......

A shot of Stew's vine from below. I can still smell the sweetness of walking around
Panicale those last couple of weeks.

Massive old vine in the park outside of Paciano. This one I watched like a hawk.
It did not disappoint.

Same vine as above, from the front. In the summer months to come,
 they sell organic veggies here, under the vine.

  I never tire of these special vines, and I hope I didn't burn you out with so many photos. It's just that I find every one of them so beautiful. I honestly couldn't choose which not to include.
  Funny thing is, next year...I'll take all the same photos again. It's hard to resist. I'll keep them to myself, though.
  Now I'm off to enjoy my garden. It's an absolutely perfect late afternoon....see ya.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Help In The Garden

  What do I miss most when we are away for weeks and weeks? 
  My Family.
  My Garden. 
  Cheese Enchiladas.
  Upon arriving home after eight weeks away last year, the garden had exploded with weeds, bugs and general unruliness. My dearest pal Tasha was a trooper. She came by often to check on things and throw a little water around. My dearest neighbor, Loreen, came over (unbeknownst to me) several times to try and keep some semblance of order. I appreciated this beyond the beyond...really. They are the best garden pals ever. I love them.  
  But.... I just can't expect anyone, no matter how grand a friend, to really "garden" my garden while I'm gone. Way too much to ask. This year I decided to hire a pro.
  Hence the phone call to Pedro, a wonderful gardener and all around cool fellow that works in several gardens I know well. I know his work is fantastic, and I knew it was time for me to finally bite the bullet and cry "Uncle". 
  Thank you, Pedro. You are my new BFF. Seriously.

  We got in from the airport late at night, but first thing the next morning, I was up and out to connect with my garden....

I knew all was good just looking out the kitchen window......

  The front area looks spectacular...roses all around the arbors and front door....what a treat to come home to. Last year the roses were already spent, and full of all things icky for roses. I'm so happy to see everything looking so fine.

Front entry way is just coming into bloom.

I love this rose, "Polka".
 That's "Flower Girl", trained as a standard, in the foreground.

  It's been hard for me to hand over my garden to someone else. I am a control freak, I'll admit it. I hardly let Johnny do anything in the garden. But....I can't do it anymore. At least not everything, and not the way I used to. 
 I'll say it right here. Right now.
 I am no longer Gardening Super-Woman. Whew. There. I feel so free.

  Now....if I can only make sure dear Pedro will be able to keep helping. He's a busy dude.

Just shaping those two large shrubs would kill me these days.

  The back yard, not so big, but just so full, is a huge chore. What a treat to come home with all the paths raked, and everything nicely weeds, plants fed and very healthy. It made me very happy.

A shady bed outside of the Dining Pavillion/Library.
Looking mighty Holy, I must say. Hear the angels singing.....

Opposite side of the Pavillion...I'm in love with the Japanese maple here.
It's new.

This combo is working for me, though I wasn't certain
about the salmon pink here. I like it with the Euphorbia.

My succulents just keep getting more wonderful.
I'm spreading them all around, for sure.

  Here's the thing. I have not been able to enjoy my garden for years. It's beautiful, as long as I work like crazy to keep it just so. I'm getting hurt doing this. I just can't do it anymore. 
  Now, with Pedro's fine work(you will have time for me, right?), I can do the little piddly stuff that I enjoy, and maybe be able to really fall in love with my garden again. Instead of looking at my garden as some huge weekly chore I must attend to. Sigh.
  Am I really ready for this?
  Why, yes...yes I am.

  Maybe, just maybe....I might actually be comfortable sitting in the lovely area below, without jumping up every five minutes because I see something that needs to be done. Poor Johnny....he'd love to have me relax in the garden some day.
  I say...That Day Has Come.
  Well, I hope so, anyway.....

Sitting spot to enjoy, with my name on it.
 Oh, that big red pot is for our little fishies. So the critters can't get to them.

Now I'll have time and maybe even energy to clean out my potting shed, in the corner.
It's a hot mess in there.

  Before leaving, back in late February, I planted some seeds, just for fun. It was a true joy to have a small harvest to come home to. Chard, carrots, scallions, a couple of beets...and a lot of potatoes. 
  One of the first things I've done now that we're home, is plant a bunch of tomatoes. I missed having home growns last year, but this year I didn't hesitate. Can't wait for those!
  The arbor leading to the veg garden is full of the rose "Buff Beauty", a real favorite of mine. I hate to cut them, but I love the bouquets in the house and gallery. Damn. 

Looking into the veg garden. The light on the arbor is from a great salvage place
we discovered last year in Italy. We found one for the entry this year.
Johnny just needs to rewire it.

Pedro even raked the veg garden, which was very nice, indeed.
Lettuce seed just planted in wired bed on the right.


It's what's for dinner.

"Constance Spry" and "The Alchemist". A match made in heaven.
Especially together on my fence. 

  As I have mentioned many times before. Or maybe only once before.....
  I love having the garden to ground me when arriving back home after being away for so long. Even with all the work to do, or not, it just helps me "center" myself. The sound of the fountains, the colors and textures. The light changing and shining through the canopy. It's really kind of magical, and I do  occasionally pat myself on the back for a job well done. 
  All the years of planning, planting, making big mistakes, trying again, changing, changing, changing things....all the work that has gone down over the past seventeen years, all that. 
  It's beautiful. I really do love it. I don't want to think of my lovely garden as a chore. I'm ready to hand over the reins, friends. 
  I'm finally ready to sit, relax and enjoy my fantastic creation. 
  Thanks, Pedro. You have shown me the light.