Thursday Doors

There are many memorable sites in Settignano, a frazoine (parish) overlooking the Arno valley and Florence, Italy.  This diminutive door along the road to Villa Gamberaia, home of one of Italy’s most perfect gardens, is one of them.  Measuring about 62 inches tall and 18 inches wide, even I would have to stoop under its lintel.

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Settiganano produced three sculptors of the Florentine Renaissance, Desiderio de Settignano and the Gamberini brothers, Bernardo Rossellino and Antonio Rossellino.  It was also an early home to a young Michelangelo.

For more doors, visit the host at Norm 2.0.

A Shady Garden’s Big Moment

Several days ago, I was surprised to hear the Upstate was more than 2 inches short of rain for the year.  I’d be willing to bet, though, we’ve already moved to the plus side of the equation, as the last few days have been very wet, with lots of drippy rain interspersed with hard downpours.

Luckily, especially for fans of the Masters Golf Tournament (about 115 miles southeast), the past weekend was nearly perfect, with blue skies and moderate temperatures.  And lucky for me, my garden was nearly perfect too.

Here’s a bit of what is blooming in the ornamental garden around the house:

Azalea 'George L. Tabor'

Azalea ‘George L. Tabor’

Spanish bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica) with Ajuga 'Chocolate Chip' and violas.

Spanish bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica) with Ajuga ‘Chocolate Chip’ and violas.

Azalea 'Girard's Fuchsia', low-growing and compact with vivid blooms.

Azalea ‘Girard’s Fuchsia’, low-growing and compact with vivid blooms.

Red stem Solomon's seal 'Jinguji' (Polygonatum odoratum var. pluriflorum)

Red stem Solomon’s seal ‘Jinguji’ (Polygonatum odoratum var. pluriflorum)

Catesby's trillium (T. catesbaei)

Catesby’s trillium (T. catesbaei)

Kurume azaleas

Kurume azaleas

Viburnum

Viburnum

And in the woodland garden between the house and the Reedy River:

Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum)

Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum)

Piedmont American azalea (Rhododendron canescens)

Piedmont American azalea (Rhododendron canescens)

Florida flame American azalea (Rhododendron austrinum)

Florida flame American azalea (Rhododendron austrinum)

Spring is always busy, so I’m glad I was home for the garden’s “big moment.”  I even managed a couple of days planting and spreading mulch, and enjoyed two wildflower hikes.  All that changes tomorrow, though, as I begin a month of nearly back-to-back meetings.  I hope to say hello from Louisiana, Colorado, and Delaware, but if postings are sparse, you’ll know why.

To see what’s blooming in other gardens around the world, visit the host of Bloom Day, May Dreams Gardens.

Weekly Photo Challenge–Afloat

The photo below of milkweed (Asclepias), chosen to illustrate the weekly photo challenge, has a familiar story, as well as one you may not know.

Milkweed (Asclepias)

Milkweed (Asclepias)

Asclepias are among the best plants to attract butterflies, particularly monarchs, whose caterpillars feast on the foliage.  In fact, these plants literally keep the monarch afloat, serving as a lifeline as the butterflies migrate from Mexico to the US and Canada in spring and then return to Mexico in autumn.

In the 1940s, however, milkweed was prized for another reason following the Japanese capture of Java and the Philippines, the island homes of the silk-cotton tree (Ceiba pentandra), which produced the seed floss that stuffed life preservers.

As it turned out, milkweed floss was a suitable substitute; it’s hollow, wax coated, flexible, and six times lighter than wool.  Just a pound and a half of milkweed floss could keep a 150-pound man afloat for 10 hours.

Folks across the country were asked to help collect milkweed pods and tens of thousands were gathered by farmers, civic clubs, school groups, and anyone willing to lend a hand.  In 1944 and 1945, millions of pounds of pods were collected to produce the life vests that came to be known as “Mae Wests,” a reference to the well-endowed figure of one of the soldier’s favorite pinup girls.

Mae-West-4[1]

 

For more on this intriguing war story, detailed accounts can be found here and here.

 

 

Thursday Doors–April 9, 2015

Every Thursday, Norm posts a photo of a special door.  Recently, he invited others to join in, and since I’m a door-aholic too, how could I resist?

Charleston, South Carolina, March 2015

Charleston, South Carolina, March 2015

This photo, taken in Charleston, features a home in the historic district with an elegant street door that opens onto a piazza.  Unlike Italian piazzas, which are public squares or marketplaces, a Charleston piazza is a covered, tiered veranda.  Located on a long side of the house, typically overlooking a garden, it’s designed to catch the prevailing breezes from the bay while providing maximum shade from the sun.

The piazza ceilings caught my eye too.

Charleston piazza, with painted ceiling

Charleston piazza, with painted ceiling

Lovely, don’t you think?  Must be newly painted.  The weather is harsh on these old homes.

Charleston’s 68th Annual Festival of Houses & Gardens, showcasing the city’s distinctive architecture, history, gardens, and culture, continues through April 19th.  For a look at the brochure, click here.

 

 

Wordless Wednesday–Carolina Silverbell

Halesia tetraptera, previously known as Halesia carolina, commonly called Carolina silverbell

Halesia tetraptera, previously known as Halesia carolina, commonly called Carolina silverbell

Small woodland tree, 20 to 40 feet tall, native to southeastern US, moist soil, often near streams or rivers, pure white flowers roughly 3/4 inch long

Small woodland tree, 20 to 40 feet tall, native to southeastern US, moist soil, often near streams or rivers, pure white flowers roughly 3/4 inch long

Weekly Photo Challenge–Blur

When I read this week’s photo challenge–find beauty in a blur–I had to laugh because I’ve taken more than a few that qualify, just not with intent.

The pic below, however, made for tomorrow’s newspaper column on upcoming garden tours, focuses on the fountain and puts the house in a blur.  Why?  The curbside feature is not only eye-catching, it’s also the element in the landscape that announces, loud and clear, there’s something special going on.

Tully home on Cleveland Street, featured on the upcoming garden tour of the Greenville Council of Garden Clubs.

Tully home on Cleveland Street, featured on the upcoming garden tour of the Greenville Council of Garden Clubs.

To see where others found beauty, visit the weekly photo challenge at the Daily Post.

For Upstate gardeners, here’s the scoop on upcoming tours:

April 17 & 18:  The Greenville Council of Garden Clubs will sponsor “Harmony in Our Gardens,” featuring six gardens in the Augusta Road area, from 10 am to 5 pm on Friday and Saturday.  The Council’s home and garden at the Kilgore-Lewis House, 560 North Academy Street, is also open and will offer a plant sale and lunch options from food trucks in the upper parking lot.  Advance tickets are $18, tour-day tickets are $20.  For more information visit the Council’s website.

May 8 & 9:  The “Joyful Garden Tour,” benefiting renovation of the historic grounds of Christ Church, is scheduled for 10 am to 5 pm on Friday and Saturday.  This year’s event features six gardens in the McDaniel and Crescent Avenue area, plus the beautiful church gardens and grounds at 10 North Church Street.  Tickets are $20 in advance or $25 on tour days.  For more information visit the church’s website.

 

A Crowd of Camellias

For the first time in the four years we have lived in our current home, the nine Japanese camellias (C. japonica) in the garden are all blooming concurrently.  This is likely due to the bitter cold of the past winter, which resulted in a shortened bloom season.  Since all predate me, I know the names of just a few.

Japanese camellias (C. japonica), March 28, 2015

Japanese camellias (C. japonica), March 28, 2015

First (top) row:  ‘Memphis  Belle’ introduced by an American hybridizer in 1968, ‘Glen 40′ registered in 1942, and ‘Jordan’s Pride’ (also known as ‘Herme’ and ‘Brillant Gem’)  introduced from Japan in 1859

Second row:  First 3 unidentified, the one on the right is probably ‘Pink Perfection’, introduced from Japan in 1875

Third row:  Undidentified (the two red splotched are from the same tree)

All the camellias in the first and second rows are planted near the property boundry on the west side of the house (just outside my kitchen window), ‘Memphis Belle’ is the last in that line, so it could have been added after the others.  The house was built in 1952, and some of the camellias are quite large, so I would guess they are at least 40 years old.  They get nearly full sun in winter when the trees are bare and two to three hours of late morning sun in summer.

The two camellias in the third row are planted against the back of the house and are likely to be younger.  Despite getting only an hour or two of sun per day throughout the year, they bloom surprisingly well.

If anyone has a ID for the splotched bloom, I would love to know it’s name.

Male Northern Cardinal, on 'Jordan's Pride' in the February ice storm, waiting for a spot at the bird feeders.

Male Northern Cardinal, on ‘Jordan’s Pride’ in the February ice storm, waiting for a spot at the bird feeders.