" To plant trees is to give body and life to one's dreams of a better world " Russell Page

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

A very festive-looking cocktail special from New York’s Le Vert-Galant Restaurant.

You need:
1 small scoop raspberry sherbet
½ oz. cognac
Chilled champagne 
Stir the sherbet and cognac together in a tulip-shaped champagne glass. Fill with champagne and stir quickly. Yield: 1 serving.

CHRISTMAS RED:1 ½ ozs. gin
¾ oz. Campari
1 tsp. grenadine
Tonic water, chilled
Lemon slice
Pour gin, Campari and grenadine over ice in a rocks glass. Stir well. Fill with tonic water. Stir once. Garnish with 1 cherry. Yield: 1 serving.

 Cheers folks and Merry Christmas to you all!!!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The enchanted world of Rudolf and Leopold Blaschka - The forgotten glass flowers

In times were Internet and Wikipedia give us instant answers for any possible quest and millions of accurate pictures of plants and animals fulfill our curiosity for scientific detail, there is an stunning and incredibly poetic collection of painstakingly accurate botanical models created of glass - the artwork of two Bohemian glass artists in the name of Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka.

Apple Blossoms

The Ware Collection of Glass Models of Plants  represents 847 plant species painstakingly and accurately crafted by father and son glass artists duo for didactic purposes. 

Hardly known by the big public, the Blaschkas also produced an impressive collection of sea animals - especially invertebrates, jellyfish, sea anemones and microscopic organisms. Part of the marine fauna collection is stored at the Trinity College in Dublin for which it has been crafted.
 Their colorful glass replicas captured in every detail the liveliness of organisms usually reduced to shapeless blobs in jars of alcohol.


Originally charged with creating just a few models, the Blaschkas signed an exclusive contract with the Harvard University to produce a collection of over 4,000 glass models, working from 1886 through 1936. 3,000 models are on display, and just one model of the angelica tree includes some 2,500 individual buds and flowers. The models also include remarkably accurate anatomical sections and enlarged flower and fruit parts. Leopold Blaschka’s actual work bench and tools are on display in the gallery. 


The nearly 3,000 models were made by the two men over a period of 50 years. Heirs to a long tradition of glass-working in Bohemia, they had moved to Germany and established a studio outside of Dresden.

The Blaschkas' glass sea creatures drew the attention of Professor George L. Goodale, the first director of Harvard's Botanical Museum. He had been searching for a better way to represent the flora. "Flowers are perishable," he explained at the 1890 dedication. "When dried they are distorted, when placed in alcohol they are robbed of their color." Drawings, while "spirited and truthful," were flat. Wax flowers or papier-maché, often used in funeral wreaths, were "exaggerated and grotesque."
Goodale believed glass models were the answer and in 1886, he met  the Blaschkas in their German home and started a lifetime collaboration. The results is this absolutely stunning and enchanted world of hyper fragile yet immortal glass flowers.


 Flytrap - Nepenthes Sanguinea.

 Fig branch and sections

 Okra flower

 Glass apple with branch

all pictures are from the Harvard site

Monday, December 2, 2013

Books for Christmas

I've just ordered theese books for Christmas ( oh, yes, I am indulging in self gifting  ;-) ) since there is not much left to do in the garden and a good read is just as pleasant.

Weeds: In Defense of Nature's Most Unloved Plants  by Richard Mabey


Any Day, by Henry Mitchell

Mitchell is the late author of the Washington Post gardening column and author of some of the most delightful and witty gardening books

Monday, November 25, 2013


Last week I've been on a trip to Italy. In spite of pouring rain I went to a local market in Reggio Emilia and this is what I saw:
Baskets and loads of local, antique fruit, pumpkin and kale varieties in an abundance which would have been fit for any Flemish still life painting ( see my previous post).

 Green Cabbage and Black Tuscan Kale

 Black Tuscan Kale

 Pumpkins and squash

 Old pear varieties and quinces

 Local "Campanein" apple variety

 Redder than ruby pomegranates!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Autumn Mood

 Louise Moillon, 1634 Still Life with Bowl of Curaçao Oranges

 Balthasar van der Ast, 17th century, Still Life with fruit and shells

Juan Fernandez "El Labrador", 17th. Century, Still Life with Grapes


Frans Snyders, 1630 Dettail of Still Life with Grapes and Game

Monday, September 30, 2013

Event: Orticolario

A truly beautiful garden event at the Villa Erba on the Como Lake, next 4-6th of October.
This edition is dedicated to Dahlias...
more about this event on: www.orticolario.it


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Have some fun in the veggie garden!

We're definitely heading towards autumn - it's official by now! I'm not particularly happy about it, but there is a good side to it too: the new seed and plant catalogues we start to devoure voraciously until we make our next planting choices.
I do not grow vegetables myself -( I do grow lots of herbs) and yet I cannot but feel a sort of childish curiosity and wonder for this unusual fruits and vegetables! If I'd had a real garden and lots of space I would definitely try some of these garden weirds just for the fun of it.

Cucamelons or Mexican Sour Cucumbers

 Lemon Cucumbers
Asian Winged Beans ( No idea how to cook with them, but there should be plenty of tips in the huge Internet sea)

Pretzel Beans

 Parisian Round Carrots - probably pain carrots, but aren't they just cute?

Honey Queen Raspberry

Hungarian Black Peppers

 Chocolate Cherry Tomatoes

 Watermelon Radishes

Now there is definitely no excuse for not eating up the vegetables!
You can find the seeds at the heirloom seed producers.
Check out this site if you are looking for heirloom seeds: http://empowured.com/seed-saver-sources-organic-gmo-free-non-hybrid-untreated/

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

holiday readings

I guess most of us are away on a well deserved summer break and there is nothing sweeter than browsing through a good book while relaxing.
So here are two books and a truly lovely magazine that caught my eye:

While the first two books are written by two giants of landscape design who hardly need any introduction, the third is a new online and free magazine I came across through a Facebook friend and magazine collaborator. It is called Blossomzine and is a truly delectable reading!

Blossomzine is a digital quarterly magazine, entirely free and dedicated to anything green, from gardening to design, vegetarian and traditional cooking, fashion, botany, and flower bouquets worth reading. Its bilingual edition in Italian and English makes it accessible to a wide range of public.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Plant Profile: Watsonia

It's been an awful long time since I have been posting... work and a truly rotten season, due to facade renovation works, which brought my plants to the verge of mere survival, have kept me away from my appointments with you, my virtual gardening friends!

Now, a couple of days before holidays, things have become a bit more relaxed and I can dedicate time to my writing.

So, do you know the Bugle Lily? The first time I have seen Watsonias, those truly beautiful South African plants, has been at the Barcelona Botanical Garden. They were planted in fat clumps on a mild slope and the sight was really of the most lovely. The blooms in shades ranging from white to dark pink were forming generous bunches.

Watsonias own their name to the 18th century British botanist, Sir William Watson and are a member of the iris family.
Though endemic in the South African fynbos, they happily adapt to the Mediterranean climate, but some can cope with a wider range of conditions, mainly continental climate with summer rainfall. . An easy and uncomplicated perennial, the Bugle Lily has been neglected by mainstream nurseries to favor the much better known Gladioli for reasons which I honestly don't understand. Their erect growing habit, not needing any staking or support makes them a far better acquisition to any garden, unless you dislike plants that bloom without fuzz for weeks on!

 The species grows from corms. It is dormant in summer and grows in winter, which is the rainy season in its native habitat. It has tall strap-like leaves growing in a fan arrangement. It may grow up to two metres tall.
It flowers for up to 4-5 weeks in spring, which makes it a really interesting plant for perennial borders.

The most commonly cultivated species is the pink-flowered Watsonia borbonica and its white mutant 'Arderne's White'. These were crossed with Watsonia meriana and other species in the early 20th century by breeders including John Cronin in Australia and Luther Burbank in California to produce a wide range of cultivars.

 W. Wedding Bells (Lamble Nurseries)
W. Marginata Alba