Letter from the Editor
And into the garden I go to lose my mind and find my soul. Coming to the conclusion that learning is a lifelong process has been in the making for quite some time. Knowing that you don’t know seems to come with maturity and confidence morphs into the idea of being comfortable with all of that uncertainty. For me there is an insatiable desire to learn that resides right alongside an acceptance that we can’t possibly know it all. Whether is a topic of interest or something entirely new learning is a possibility. Even the way that we learn can evolve; I'm studious by nature and enjoy the process of researching tirelessly and the satisfaction of knowing no stone has been left unturned. Typically, I worked solo in these areas searching the internet, toting books home from the library, tuning into videos, podcasts and shows to dig deeper. More recently I am embracing the beauty of learning from others and if possible, in person. Perhaps it’s due to the last couple of years but the real time connect is purposefully working for me at the moment.
After working in a painting studio for 15 years and having the opportunity to watch the process in progress but rarely participating; I have found the blank canvas a way to unwind and empty the mind of anything that doesn’t serve my well-being. Allowing myself to go with the flow of paint and a brush has the similar effect of resting in a hammock for an hour. Stress floats away as I focus more intently on the creative process and being in that moment. This happens to me with most of my hobbies and life loves: gardening, cooking, crafting, sewing; really anything that I truly enjoy. A friend recently said that some of those hobbies bring out the perfectionist in her which creates stress rather than a relief. Pondering this predicament, I reflected on why this is not my experience and I believe it’s because I don’t put that kind of pressure on myself to perform or to get it right the first time. I’m no longer afraid to fail because I know failing is simply an opportunity to learn; it’s just one of the steps that happens in the process of making progress with any endeavor. To those of you who
perform best under pressure I commend you but it’s just not me. Enjoying the process has become purposeful to me in the same way that enjoying life does. It doesn’t mean you are not self-disciplined it just means you understand there is a time and place for various activities. You allow yourself the space to have the time and attitude that allows you to have fun with your work or personal projects. It shows when you are connected to what you are doing- some people say having a purpose. For me it’s about giving in a way that feels natural or experiencing joy in the midst of a menial task just knowing that you’ve given your best effort and attitude regardless of the task. Not every part of work or a project is fun, but we can meet it with a willingness to learn or create a way to make it fun. How can I make the most of this experience? What would make this more enjoyable for me? What can I learn while I’m here? These 3 questions really shift my attitude and my perspective.
Early Springtime is when I dream the most about the garden- and by dream I actually mean plan. Once St. Valentine's Day is behind us, I turn my thoughts and take stock of what the garden can become. It is that space in time when I have the time to dwell in the possibility before the actual work begins and without wasting precious outdoor time. It's the perfect indoor activity for me when the weather hasn't quite turned to the warmth I crave. I reach out to seed companies, check in with community garden activity and research growing various plants and trees. This year brings a fresh start to the garden since last year was a late start due to our relocate and was mostly all about amending the soil and getting the raised beds in place and working the community garden. This year we are more focused on the overall layout, structure and variation in the back garden which includes protecting our plantings from our lovable but leg lifting dog, amending soil in the front garden, as well as adding more raised beds and fruit trees. Michael and I started with creating a double arch way by bending 2 lengths of rebar into 6-foot arches on a recent and unexpected 60-degree morning. They will create spectacular height in the garden as well as another place along with the iron fence for any climbers such as roses, morning glories, wisteria, vines, etc. On one particularly and unusually cold Arkansas evening I spent some time researching one of my favorite sites for antiques, Chairish for elements that could be added into the garden. While my wish list looks extremely extravagant and may not ever actually be purchased, the process still serves to help me envision what types of elements I am interested in adding into our garden even if our urns don't end up being 13th century antiques imported from Italy. And later in the season when I don't have as much time to research because I am spending more time with my hands on a shovel or in the dirt; I can easily access my wish list and prioritize what I thought I wanted before the season begins. Not to mention I'll have a good list of items saved should I decide it's time to purchase. I have heard many gardeners express how structure in the garden not only adds visual interest but serves to keep the garden interesting to look at during the Winter season.
La Bella Vita Marella Agnelli & Mr. Fiat
Marella Agnelli was an Italian noblewoman, art collector, socialite, style icon and wife of Fiat chairman Gianni Agnelli. She often appeared in the fashion magazine Vogue. She was named to the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame in 1963. I find images of her and the lifestyle with which they indulged incredibly fascinating. To me she is an icon in and of herself although she had the added advantage of being married to a man who could literally create a customized beach worthy vehicle worthy of Pinterest and Instagram shots long before it was a thing. She often drove a fleet of charmed Fiats with rattan seats and fringed canopies from the Villa Perosa outside of Turin, Italy. She, her husband and children took up residence in an 18th century Piedmontes Baroque country house within Villa Perosa. If you are interested in learning more about her life adventures, I'd encourage you to read The Last Swan inspired by a true icon of the dolce vita lifestyle which was published by Rizzoli. The villa gardens were as stunning as her own elegant personal style.
“Create a life that feels good on the inside; Not one that just looks good on the outside.”
I love quotes for their ability to get us thinking and reflecting on a philosophy. While we need not adopt these thought-provoking sayings as our own life guide sometimes, they strike a chord within us in a way that encourages us to take stock and listen. We have been talking about the idea of this concept quite a bit lately. Authenticity and intentionally have been the buzz words of many lifestyle artists for quite some time. I do believe this quote sums up the idea in a nutshell.
Dario the Dog
Last Summer we loaded up the Fiat, the TR6, my niece Jackie and Dario and set out for a photo shoot which later inspired this naive doodle of a lady traveler in her vintage clothes and vehicle. Art inspires art sometimes. I had forgotten all about it until I saw the incredibly detailed paintings of Janet Hill Studios which reminded me of my first travels to London where I bought a travel watercolor set and a brightly colored paisley print notebook and spent 6 days in coffee houses painting the idyllic village streets that charm tourists. It was a solo trip that allowed me to learn much about myself traveling about in a foreign country a long-held dream, I specifically chose England because of the language.
Domesticity Simplicity Necessity
“We are from a time when something is broken, we fix it, not throw it away”
Perhaps you’ve seen this meme floating around on social media? The black and white image is of an elderly man and woman walking down the street together holding hands walking away from the camera. You get the feeling that they have been thru hell and back yet remain unscathed. Or perhaps have found the way to rely on each other through thick and thin. While the image and quote make a powerful statement about the potential of long-term commitment it applies to the material world just as well. One of the ways Michael and I saw our families recycling was by challenging themselves by using things in unconventional ways or learning to DIY home and auto projects. Mike‘s father fashioned an apple picking device from 2 broom handles and a tin can that allowed him to reach the highest branches of his peach trees. His mother used a sawed-off broom handle as a rolling pin which allowed her to make king sized focaccia. Dad worked on the maintenance of the family cars and all of our parents were the original weekend warriors taking on home improvement projects like remodeling their bathrooms. Every time we travel to Italy being surrounded by ancient architectural structures we are awestruck by their magnificence and grateful for their preservation. As we age Michael and I see the benefits and satisfaction of taking on a project and seeing it through to completion with the added benefits of saving money by doing the work ourselves along with learning new skills and continuing to challenge our ingenuity.
In Tuscany, stone walls greet you at the entrance of a new town. Here Michael stands in the archway to give perspective to the scale of the structure.
Back to Nature
Spending time out of doors at every stage of life makes for a vibrant life. Our parents were a constant reminder of this as they shooed us out of the house and away from the television as young children. “Go outside and play” was heard on a nearly daily basis in both of our houses. As Spring is upon us, I often turn my thoughts to all the ways we will be outside living; picnics, hikes, bikes, swims, gardening, motorcycle rides, outdoor concerts, farm markets, top-down car rides. Our parents instinctively knew many of the best times of our lives are spent out of doors getting back to nature and ourselves.
Basil Pascolla on the lawn mower at 92 years young.
Enjoying outdoor picnics with our moms.
Meeting up with Dad at 74 years young for a 12 miles bike ride. He usually went for a longer ride since he was retired, and I was due at work.
Michael sitting down to enjoy a beautiful Springtime soup and pasta dish.
Transplanting tomatoes in a new garden plot.
Enjoying evening outdoor concerts at the Chicago Botanic Garden.
Road trips & Destinations
Biltmore Estate & Winterthur Museum Garden & Library
Intrigued as I am with the castles of the Gilded Age among others leads me to want to learn more about the Vanderbilt family’s residence: The Biltmore Estate and du Pont’s Winterthur Museum Garden and Library. Any opportunity to visit a spectacular home and garden is of interest for a variety of reasons the fact that the estate’s owner du Pont was a horticulturist and antique collector is reason enough for me.
Known as Dr. Love and for teaching a class on Love at the University of Southern California this author gets to the heart of the matter of human relationships. Influenced by growing up inside an Italian family and seeing love at work on a daily basis was the foundation of his career and he often uses humor to convey the irony of the most universal language of humanity. Leo taught his students with refreshing candor and shameless passion what many who grow up inside of loving families are already fortunate to know. We humans seem to need reminders of our own difficulty to relate, communicate, connect, share, and openly express kindness with one another. A lesson repeated as we see continue to see countries choose war over peace. It is fortunate that we have the writing of Leo Buscaglia as a guide.
The Most Important Garden Plans might not be what you think. While the structure layout and soil are all of great strategic importance to the garden, we will be utilizing inspiration from Butter Wakefield and Matilda Goad there is a component far greater. As I reflect on 30 plus years of gardening, I now realize that the days spent in the garden with children were some of the most precious. To inspire a child to revel and awaken to the wonder of the garden is to give the gift of beauty and quite literally the fruits of one’s labor that can last a lifetime. While I had the pleasure to do this with most of my nieces and most certainly my dedicated nephew; there was even the added joy of gardening with my friend’s children and kids I did not know well.
Garden plans are constantly being updated and modified garden around here.
Visiting gardens in your zone can give you a better idea of how things are companion planted.
Visiting Spring Valley Nature Center in Schaumburg Illinois when my niece and her bestie were young.
Putting in a garden for Papa.
Watching children enjoy the greenhouse garden at Loyola University’s Ecology Campus.
Cooking Per Tutti Menu Idea
Grilled Chicken with Potatoes and Onion
Green Bean, Tomato & Feta Salad
Peach, Plum & Cherries with Fresh Spearmint and Edible Pansies
A great menu example using my easy nutritional rule of thumb:
3 fruits and/or 3 veggies at every meal.
Planting Fruit Trees
Michael and I search for buds on a newly planted tree. Plums, Apples, Lemons, and Peaches will join the Figs, Olive, Magnolia and Calamondin (citrus) trees in our collection this year. We learned that the peach trees are self-pollinating, while the apple and plum will need pollination companionship in order to fruit. It’s also a long-term process; the new fruit trees will take anywhere from 2-5 years to produce fruit. A couple “happy accidents” sprouted in the raised beds last year and in one season have grown to about 6” plants as we enter this Spring. Judging from the leaves they appear to be lemon or orange trees. Mike has nurtured them indoors in a sunny location this Winter and they should be ready to move outside in pots this year. These videos were captured last year around Mother's Day as we put the first round of fruit trees into the ground. Trees from Freedom Tree Farms from Kroger.
If Spring puts you in the mood for flowers here's another way to get some into your world in outrageously practical style: for fun colorful and flowery print pajamas check out Yolke.