Thursday, August 9, 2012

Time Out To Enjoy the Garden

The sun is setting which is a good indication that our workday is over. Our studios have become too dark to push a brush around the canvas and the shadows in the garden have become long.
I recall reading the wisdom of the garden writer, researcher & professor Allan Armitage reminding us all to put down our garden tools and enjoy our gardens. We take his advice on this perfect summer evening and ignore the weeds and the hose not put away, take off the garden gloves, and spend time in the garden.......with a cocktail, but of course!

This lovely red drink is an Americano.......more about this as our walk continues, but first the garden.

Borgo Pinti Garden

Our garden is made up of a number of individual garden areas which we have assigned names to. We did this for our own convenience to distinguish between the areas when we are discussing them. To the western side of the house is the 'Borgo Pinti Garden', named for a street in Florence where there is a hidden garden that we borrowed ideas for this design. The pea stone paths announce each footstep as we move slowly through this shady garden.

Squirt's Garden

Sipping our drinks we continue our evening stroll south along the path to the front terrace to view a distant mountain that remains fully in the light of the day's sun. Again, we take time to watch as the shadows begin to slowly rise up the mountain. The citrus aroma of the apertivo pairs well with the warm setting sun!

We enter a garden in re-creation. Formerly a rose garden.... that is until I could no longer deal with blackspot and the disgusting hordes of Japanese Beetles every season. We knew that the roses had to go. The next part of this re- creating experience was the question of what to do next. I will say that it was a difficult decision to part with the roses from this garden. Roses remain in other areas, but for the past decade this was a garden dedicated to roses.

We are home cooks so an herb garden seemed like a logical and delicious direction to go in. It would be an apothecary garden of sorts with medicinal, ornamental and culinary herbs. Hmmmm......a sudden inspiration!
This plan changed, thank goodness it was only on paper, after a return visit to Tuscany and the
garden at La Foce in May. Simplify and take a lesson from this Tuscan garden. Create space and edges with boxwood, cypress and lavender. Well, unfortunately we cannot have the cypress, but the box yes, and lavender we already have established.

Once home from Italy we planted sixty young boxwood that will in the future create a low hedge to delineate the edges of 'Squirts Garden'. The area around the pool is planted with herbs, so we did not entirely do away with that earlier plan.

The two Adirondack chairs that are on the freshly cut lawn. We sit back and notice what seems to be hundreds of dragonflies circling over the meadow just to our left. It is quite an amazing site like a dance, whirling and swirling as they fly in and out of this cosmic rotation. A few pass overhead as they exit the arena. Nature is staging this magnificent show here in our garden and we are the audience so fortunate to see it.

(Allan Armitage, you are so right... take time to enjoy the garden)

As the dragon flies migrate towards the lower field we return to the lavender walk which in June is a haze of fragrant blue violet, but now that color has quieted and two unique daylilies call attention to themselves by their form and colors.

Shadows are growing longer.....we walk on to another Italy inspired garden that is called by us 'The Aurelian Garden'.

We walk down the granite steps into the Aurelian Garden. A weed is spotted, we both ignore it,resist, resist! Quickly we move across the pea stone to the iron benches. We watch the shadows draw out long as in a Surrealist painting. It is perfectly silent once we stop walking.
On a stay at the American Academy in Rome, we had the opportunity to linger and draw in their illustrious and grand garden at the Villa Aurelia at the top of the Janiculum Hill.
We repurposed our terraced area from a garden we saw in that Rome garden. The Rome garden was based on a chequered parterre pattern with alternating lemon trees. No lemon trees here.... but our scaled down interpretation uses boxwood with lilacs on standards.

Returning up the stairs, we notice the mountain is now in shadow save for a streak of sunlight at its's peak, soon to fall into darkness as well.
With little but orange slices remaining in our glasses it is time to cook dinner...

..But before we forget first a little about this cocktail or apertivo as it is called in Italy.

The Americano is a favorite apertivo whether in our garden or in Italy served ice cold. An apertivo is meant to slow the day and prepare the palate for dinner. The classic and a few variations on the recipe.

1 oz. Campari
1 oz. Rosso Antico ( sweet vermouth)
1oz. soda water ( club soda)
slice of orange

James' Americano
1oz. Campari
1 oz. sweet vermouth
3 oz. club soda
a squeeze of orange
slice of orange

For a bigger blast...... try a Negroni
1 oz Campari
1 oz. sweet vermouth
1oz. gin
orange slice
(sometimes a squeeze of lemon on rim of glass)

a little lighter without gin and bubbly.... Negroni Sbagliato (negroni wrong)
1oz. Campari
1 oz. sweet vermouth
1oz. prosecco
orange slice

When we are in Panicale ( Umbria) we start our day with a cappuccino or caffe latte
at Bar Gallo. Every day begins this way. Aldo engages James in conversation. Daniella always remembers a little sprinkle of cacao to my cappuccino. Friends and familiar faces are around, Katia and Massimo are always there with their young children, as are their parents, uncles, aunts etc. They all stand at the bar with their espressos. Artist friends and new acquaintances are seated outside. This is a warm and friendly gathering place and the coffee and 'tall drinks' are splendid.

Later in the day... 6:30 or 7:00 we often stop here for an apertivo before dinner.
It could be prosecco, a Negroni or an Americano.
I have learned to order an Americano cocktail...... twice in Rome I ordered an Americano and was served coffee, American style!
Here at Bar Gallo Aldo makes a perfect Americano cocktail . Here we sit an enjoy the piazza and the people before dinner.

Back in our garden......
The morning will bring a new day with plenty of time to pull weeds, water and plant another row of arugula.......but for now I am happy we have taken the time to spend time with the garden.
James suggests we do this again tomorrow. I agree.


Note: Allan Armitage is a Professor at the University of Georgia, Athens. He is a garden expert, lecturer, and is the author of several books on the subject of gardening.

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