Sunday, January 31, 2016

News From The Garden..January 2016

  Rain...gorgeous rain...What a difference a week with on and off rain makes!
  Here in California, it's been a very tough stretch without any real rain to speak of. I had gotten used to my garden looking a little, well, parched. Sad. Wilted. Crispy.

  For us, it's about cutting back on all things we do that include water.. like watering the garden, of course. Letting the garden just do as well as it can on minimal amounts of water. 
  When we see photos, like these below, we all realize what we are up against.....

Lake Oroville in 2011

The same spot, 2014

Lake Folsom 2011

Again, same spot in 2014....

  I'm not writing today to get into the politics of it all...that's for someone else's bloggy. I just want to point out to my dear readers from far and wide exactly what we have going on here on the left coast...

  So when we do get some rain, REAL rain, it's a big deal, indeed! And boy, is my garden coming back to life.'s such a joy to see. And it's been years. YEARS...since it's looked so fine.

  I really didn't think I'd ever see these ferns looking this good. I was just at the point of digging them up and adding them to the compost pile...but then it started raining!


I love these so much, I had to put two pictures.

  My beloved (because they started as bitty little babies from dear Tasha's garden) hellebores have hung in there like the champs I know they are, but they are looking their best this week. Really, the best since I planted them four or five years ago....

I can't stand it. They look so good.

  I know I'm always sharing pictures of my succulents, which have taken over major areas of the garden, but this week, with drops of moisture still clinging...spectacular!

  If you are a regular reader of Live Pronto, you know that I love my variegated plants...A true favorite is the bulbous grass, 'arrhenatherum elitius', below, which I have spread throughout my shade garden beds.
  It has suffered mightily during these drought years, unfortunately. At best, it would look sort of ok after I watered it, but since I am stingy with the water, it's been most unhappy.

  This week, we have seen such a major turnaround! Yes! This is how it should look, and I can only shout out a big "Thanks!" to the rain clouds-


My plectranthus, which looks semi-ok when dry, is another showstopper right now...
so happy that it also blooms in winter. I have it all over, too.

  I have given up on growing veggies, except for tomatoes, which I'll plant in big black nursery pots...and potatoes, which I can't seem to get rid of.......and my beautiful Italian purple artichokes....

These are much happier, too, with the extra moisture coming their way.
I hope I get to see them with actual artichokes this year!

I have three of these super spiky gems.
They hurt when you get near them, but the artichokes are so beautiful...
And tasty.

  Even though I have to cut her back soon(like yesterday), my climbing rose 'Cornelia' is ready to bloom...again.
 I can't stand it! She thinks it's April, but I must put her to bed, at least for a short period of time.
  Damn you, Cornelia. You always show up early to the party..or maybe you just stay too late...?  Hmmmmm...

  Another gift plant from my dear Tasha, this gorgeous leucadendron, below.
I wish I knew what variety(help?...anyone?) it is, but I can't figure it out. All I know is that it is in full, and I do mean FULL glory right now.
  Huge, blooming like crazy, and just perfection.

Way taller than me, maybe eight to ten feet by six feet wide at least.
I have never seen it bloom like this...

Happy, happy, happy!

I have been making bouquets, and this was what I used for our
X-mas wreath at the gallery...But it wasn't in bloom then.
Still, super pretty.

  I guess I'm getting somewhat wistful....We will be departing soon, and my garden is going to be so amazingly fantastic this year. I think I'll really be missing something special. 

  So glad that the house sitters will have so much to enjoy. I am thrilled that both Anna and James are garden enthusiasts, and will be having a great time with the roses, and all else.
  (Send photos, you guys!!!)
  Pedro, who is my right and left hand man in the garden will also enjoy reaping the benefits, and I love this so much. I hope there will be some roses left to cut when we return...I think so.

  A couple of last shots for todays visit...

Rain drops... actual RAIN DROPS.
Oh, heaven!

A bit of garden decor, just because.

And my beach glass will continue to grow, too.
Froggy is a good luck pal.

  Looking forward to more hours in the garden yet to come, my friends!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Morning Coffee And Umbria On My Mind

  Sitting in bed this very early mid January morning, good coffee in hand, the sound of much needed rain gently falling, I am remembering soft warm days in Umbria. 
  We are readying ourselves for the upcoming visit, so it's a joy to think back, as well as look forward.

  I am often asked "What do you do while Johnny is out painting?" 
  Well, I almost always go with him, both to record what he's doing, and just because (corny as it may sound) we dig hanging out together. I love taking long walks, reading whatever I have on hand, and just checking out the area we have chosen for that particular day.

  The landscape is so beautiful, and it goes through such a major change during our stay. 
  Spring 2015 brought snowcapped mountains across the lake, even!

  The scenes I love most include the lake, the mountains in the distance, and the fields. Throw in some classic cypress trees... and it's heaven.
  To me, anyway.

I never get enough of the wheat fields.

  As Johnny sets up to work, I wander off, seeing what I can see.
  On this day, we were parked on a 'strada bianca', or white road…as I've mentioned before, these are gravel roads that are totally for public use, and also our favorites to explore. They are regularly used by locals…especially farmers.

Watch out Johnny…. it comes.

At least they're slow moving.

  There are several plant nurseries in the vicinity, both small and large. I normally visit the smaller nurseries to buy herbs and flowers for my little garden back at the apartment, as well as the farmer's markets. These are more akin to nurseries we have here at home, in California.

  The big nurseries are an entirely different critter altogether. They are huge! They go on forever, and all the plant stock is growing in the ground, not in containers.
  It's pretty cool….

Italian Cypress doing what they do best.

  While Johnny paints, I have fun getting as close as I can for these photos of rows upon rows of large scale plant material. I would love to see how they dig them up and transport them. I assume they must contain the massive root ball in burlap, or something similar.

I head up and down the dirt road, taking time to check out the nursery...

  Sadly, I can't get right into the rows of trees. This is all behind a fence. I'm thinking it's for protection from various animals that could do harm here, big time.

Umbrella pines, I guess....

Some type of weeping/flowering tree...but doesn't
look like cherry...? Hmmmm.

  This particular area is so beautiful, with views looking out over one of the smaller lakes.
Perfect spot to enjoy this amazing scene!

Plus, it was an extraordinary day.

Just a small section of the nursery, which seems to go on forever.

  Yep. I'm looking forward to these views, this weather...and just some good old fashioned 'hand-holding' time. 
  Soon, Baby...soon!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Day Tripping: Spello, Trevi & Modern Art 2015

  Now that I've made it through the End-O-The-Year festivities (not my faves), I am anxiously looking forward to the next trip across the pond.
  Jeez...were we not just there? 
  Yes, and there is not one thing wrong with that..... as long as we can get away with it.

  As the planning gets hot and heavy, which means, in my case, looking up all the new and exciting places we can have a meal in Rome and Umbria, I do love to look back at some of the adventures we had on the last trip.

  One day, when we knew it would be nice and sunny, we took the gorgeous drive down to Spello...itself more than just a little gorgeous. 

  Spello is mainly known for being the cutest, steepest, and flowery-est little hilltown in the area. In fact, every May or June there is a huge festa which includes streets filled with the most amazing artworks made of flower petals. You can read all about it here.
  We are never there to enjoy the "Infiorate", but I do love looking at the website to see the lovely and complicated creations created each year.

  I think we must have gone late April or early May, as there were actually nice pots of flowers all about town...

Like this.

And this...

Not as much color, but still nice.

  The primary reason for this day trip, though, was that Johnny wanted to paint a small gouache on paper work of the old (very) Roman arch, way at the top of town.

He did it, too.

I wished that he included the kitty, but

  Afterwards, we walked all the streets (which was kind of dicey because they were tearing up all the roads to put in new pipes, etc.), enjoyed popping into a couple of churches, and just did some classic hand-holding along the way. I am certain that there was a stop for wine at one point.
  And some gnome hunting, but that was discussed in a previous post.
  Spello is a wonderful place to get lost....

View of Assisi from Spello.
It was a wonderfully clear day.

A perfect Lady Banksia rose, in a perfect spot.

Nice on a hot day, I'm thinking...

A great combination: Cersis and Wisteria.
Oh, and the green hills & blue skies of Umbria!

Overlooking his domain.....

  I mentioned that Spello is steep....

I love this.

And this, too.
Up, up, up we go.

The clock tower with it's crown of green.
This is at the bottom of town, near the best parking area.

  Yes, we love a good day trip.
  After enjoying the earlier part of the day in Spello, we decided to stop in Trevi, which is another hilltown just south a few kilometers. 
  I had read about this contemporary art venue, Flash Art, that had a main site in Trevi, and we wanted to see what is was all about.
  Plus, I had read a book that took place in this town, so I wanted it to 'come alive' for me.
  As you approach Trevi from the south on the SS3, a main road that runs north/south through the valley between Trevi and Montefalco, the view of the hilltown is spectacular.


Yeah, it's another one of those steep up and down towns.

  As these things generally go, it took us awhile to figure out the best place to park...without the need to hike all the way from the bottom of town. Did we accomplish this? No....because no matter what, we always seem to find the best parking after we have already parked and hiked into town.
  Oh, we really know the best parking.

  We found our way through an entry gate, which is always a nice, regal way to come into a town. Any town....

Some day I want to go through one like this on horseback.

  We wound up the narrow passages to the top f town...

   I was quite taken by this mosaic stonework along the way.

Me like. 

  As we turned a corner, we were suddenly in the midst of a construction site, sort of. 
  This was the old Flash Art space, long closed from lack of support, we have since found out, and it was housed here, in the Palazzo Lucarini, which is now the home of Trevi's Galleria Civica, a nice contemporary museum. 
  It was getting a major overhaul, evidently.

  Hey, we enjoyed the murals which were surrounding and hiding the construction zone, and were happy to stop there:

  Then we found an entrance, which was open, so we continued our adventure inside. There was no one around, no one at the front desk, or anywhere inside. We were it.
  Not knowing what to do, we just went for it, assuming we would run into some attendant that we could pay, or at least say "Ciao" to.
  Fortunately, it was a nice bright day, since there were no lights on, either... I enjoyed the exhibition very much, despite the lack of illumination.

  Sadly, I didn't get any artist info, as there was none to be found. I gotta say...the whole experience was totally great. We felt we had made quite the little discovery. 

    The building itself is lovely, and the exhibit was primarily installation works on a grand scale.

This was great.

I think it was one really long cool.

These paper pieces are huge...also wonderful.


The wooden sculptures were also a treat to see. Maybe it's the scale of them that appealed to me. I am assuming they were site specific, but with no one to ask, it's a mystery to this day. 
  I just found them so simple and meditative...

  I wish I knew who the artwork was by, but that will be a question for another visit, hopefully when the gallery is open.
  By the way, the mystery of the ghost town-like museum? It was lunch time, man....and this was Italy, after all.

  We left feeling satisfied that we had seen some nice art, but also hungry. 
  Heading towards the main piazza in town, we figured we might find something still open for a small bite, and we did.

  This little place was so perfect for us, I couldn't believe it. A one man operation which served a small but mighty menu, and it had just what we were craving.....

Fresh fava beans with young pecorino cheese. Oh, yeah.
Not something we see on actual menus, btw.

Yes, garlic rubbed and drenched in Umbria's best.
A slight sprinkle of salt...Heaven.

This is my dream of a light lunch, dear readers.

  After we finished our lunch, we began the trip back down the hill to our car...but found one last place to explore before we called it a day. 

  A beautiful old palazzo, now filled with apartments, that had the softest blue walls in it's entryway...we couldn't resist just poking around a little bit.


  It was a very good day trip.