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4.-Mille-Miglia-Car-Race-Si

Mille Miglia – Siena Italy

Sometimes the most memorable moments of traveling are those that are unexpected and spontaneous. Even though Mike and I enjoy planning our trips and organizing our travel itinerary, we find it’s often the unanticipated and unplanned events that are most rewarding.

1.-Pizzeria-Trattoria-on-ViOne was an impulsive decision that took us into a trattoria on Via Cavour in Florence. When walking back to our hotel, we saw a small sign that said Pizzaria Trattoria on a very plain looking storefront. We decided to go in. The place was small and charming with covered tablecloths. As we stepped inside, we were greeted warmly by the owner who spoke only a little English. We spoke even less Italian but communicated enough to convey that yes, we’d have his gluten-free pizza and a carafe of wine. We watched as he poured the dark red Chianti from a wooden keg on top of the bar. We lingered over the delicious wine as we enjoyed a very tasty gluten-free pizza. We still reminisce about this Trattoria on Via Cavour especially when drinking a glass of Chianti.

When we visit different cities, we are always on the lookout for rose gardens to visit. Even if the gardens won’t be in full bloom, we go any way and manage to find some aspect of the garden to enjoy.

We set aside an entire day to visit Le Parc de Bagatelle located in Paris’ 16th Arrondissement. With no easy access by metro or bus, we took a taxi. Our goal was the Roserie de Bagatelle – a very famous rose garden we had heard so much about; but it was late September so we knew that most of the roses had “gone by.”

3-Sole-e-Luna-in-Bagatelle

Sole e Luna at Bagatelle

While we were wandering around the garden, we came across a rose bush that had clusters of fresh, bright yellow roses surrounded by red buds. It was a variety we had never heard of – Sole e Luna. The hybridizer was an Italian rose breeder named Barni and the variety, not available in the United States, is one I would never have seen had I not gone to Bagatelle. What a treasure it turned out to be. Even though this rose is not for sale here in the US, my photograph of Sole e Luna is hung where it brings back memories of our trip to Paris and Bagatelle.

Roses aren’t the only unexpected treasures we experienced while traveling. While driving from Rome to Florence through Tuscany, our driver Marco stopped in Siena. After lunch, we took a leisurely walk through this ancient Tuscan hill town and wandered into the Piazza del Campo, the historic Siena square, looking for some gelato. As we enjoyed our Italian ice cream, a parade of magnificent vintage sports cars roared into the Piazza. We were luckily in the right place at the right time to see part of the famous Mille Miglia Classic Car Race, a 1000 mile race that goes through cities in northern Italy like Siena and Florence. (See photo above.)

5.-Thatched-Cottage-Adare-IOne thing we hadn’t planned on seeing when in Ireland were the famous thatched cottages which  are rapidly disappearing. But while driving to Limerick where we were to meet up with Mike’s cousin, we made an unplanned stop for lunch in the town of Adare. As we walked about the town after a quick lunch, we spotted a few of the remaining cottages with picture-perfect thatched roofs. Definitely a bonus to our Irish adventures.

While we’ll always remember the iconic attractions we’ve seen like the Louvre, the Colisseum, the Cliffs of Moher, and the Vatican, it’s the unplanned and unstructured components of our trips that are the most vivid and memorable.

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View from the Top

Roseto di Roma

It’s hard to believe that a month has gone by since our trip to Italy, but the best part about travel is reminiscing about all the great sights we have seen long after the trip is over. I keep a travel journal, knowing that with passing time I’ll forget details. But we won’t forget the sights in Rome (the first leg of our trip) such as the Trevi Fountain, ancient Roman ruins and our inspiring visit to the Vatican and the incredible Sistine Chapel. Plus there was the delicious Italian food and wines. But especially memorable and unforgettable is Il Roseto (Rose Garden), Rome’s Municipal Rose Garden that contains over 1100 roses in bloom and the ruins of the Circus Maximus as its back drop.

Sign Primio Roma Rose We had planned our itinerary, hoping the weather would cooperate, and scheduled our visit to Il Roseto after a tour of Ancient Rome, knowing it was a short walk from the Colosseum. Before leaving home I did some research and was fascinated to learn that this rose garden, which originally was located closer to the Colosseum and Palatine Hill, has ties to the United States. An American, Mary Gayley Senni from Pennsylvania, married to an Italian Count, gave a gift of 300 roses to the city of Rome in the early 1930’s to create Rome’s first public rose garden. Unfortunately, that rose garden was a casualty of World War II, but it was later resurrected in its present location on the slopes of Aventine Hill across from the Circus Maximus.

Upper Garden

Il Roseto is a garden divided into two gated sections with each section separated by the road, Via di Valle Murcia. The upper section holds the garden’s collection of roses from European countries as well as countries from all over the world including the United States and Canada. The garden has quite a history as it sits on a site that was once a Jewish cemetery dating back to 1645. The cemetery closed in 1895 due to road construction and the graves were moved to another cemetery. It then became a public park and in 1950 the home of Il Roseto when the city of Rome was looking for a new location for Countess Senni’s original rose garden. The garden paths are laid out in the shape of a menorah and the ancient cypress trees from the old cemetery still grow as reminders of the garden’s history.

Paul's Himalayan Musk

Paul’s Himalayan Musk

Another distinctive feature of this garden is the way the roses are displayed. There are no rose beds per se. Instead roses are planted one by one on the broad grassy slopes of the garden as well as along fences and on trellises. It was peak bloom time in Rome and in the upper section we saw magnificent roses such as Paul’s Himalayan Musk, growing skyward with a profusion of blooms. An amazing sight. We saw many familiar varieties such as Austin’s Crown Princess Margareta and were pleased to see other varieties that were less well-known like Jean Cocteau from Meilland, Purple Rain from Germany’s Tantau and Poulsen’s Lea, one of their Renaissance varieties. Il Roseto’s collection also includes a small section of species roses such as Rosa phoetida and Rosa chinesis mutabilis.

Throughout the garden were many benches where visitors could rest and enjoy the view and peacefulness of the garden. What made this garden truly special, though, was that from the top of the garden we had a spectacular view of not only the rose garden and the very old cypress trees below us, but ancient Roman ruins as well. To us, this was Rome at its best, away from the hustle and noise of the busy streets and the reality of Rome in the 21st century.

Lower SectionUnfortunately, the lower section of the garden was closed the day we were there because it was being prepared for the Premio Roma Rose competition, the second oldest in the world, which was to take place two days after our visit. But if we had been able to view this section, we would have seen not only the roses entered in this year’s competition, but also a collection of previous winners. However, I was able to fit my camera in between the bars of the fence and at least take some photos.

We wished we could have gone back to see the winners of the competition, but our time was limited and we were off to Florence – Firenza – for the second part of our Italian journey and another fantastic rose garden. But that’s a post for another day.

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St. Peter's Square

St. Peter’s Square

Mike and I are going to Italy in a few months so we have been following the Papal election with great interest. We’ll be in Rome for 5 days and had planned on spending an entire day at the Vatican. When the surprising news of Pope Benedict’s retirement blanketed the news media, we eagerly focused on all the news footage and every photo knowing that we would be in those exact same places in a matter of weeks. We were fascinated with the quick renovations to the Sistine Chapel as it was modified for the election. We waited patiently, along with the massive crowds in St. Peter’s Square, for smoke to appear out of that little chimney. All this made us even more enthusiastic, if that was possible, for our first visit to the Eternal City.

Swiss Guards

Swiss Guards

One of the tours we’re especially looking forward to is the Vatican Museum, St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel. I’m sure there are many disappointed tourists who were not able to view the spectacular murals on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel when it was closed during the Conclave.

Besides the Vatican, there is plenty for two visitors from New England to see in Rome. We’ll spend most of a day in Ancient Rome, visiting the Coliseum, the Forum and Palatine Hill. We discovered that Rome has a Municipal Rose Garden that is open daily from early May to late June while the roses are in bloom; it then closes for the year. (It may open again during the second bloom cycle, sometime in August, but this is not always the case.)  From what I can find out about this rose garden, it was built in 1931 and open in 1932. It was Rome’s first roses-only garden and has over 100 varieties. It’s opposite the Circus Maximus near Palatine Hill, although my understanding is that it’s on Aventine Hill.

Colosseum

Colosseum

We’ll let you know after we visit and will share some of our photos. We will also keep an eye peeled for small intimate gardens that are nestled into courtyards, churchyards, and tiny public spaces. In the past we have discovered these little gems by chance but now we are on the look-out for this sort of matchbox horticulture in our travels, especially in old European cities. If anyone knows of any special gardens we could visit while in Rome or Florence, please let us know.

Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain

We will do all the “touristy” things when in Italy and take in the must-see sites such as the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps. We’ll also visit the famous Borghese Museum with Bernini’s iconic marble statue of David and works by Caravaggio, Titian and Rubens. We’ll shop at the Campo de’ Fiori, a fruit and vegetable market that opens every morning. In the evenings, we plan to stroll about town eating ice cream – excuse me, gelato – and then have delicious meals in small cafes. We will be Romans for a week.

Now that the excitement generated by the selection of the new pope has started to abate, Vatican City and the rest of Rome will be back to normal when we arrive and we’ll have it all to ourselves – well, almost all to ourselves. We’ll post details of our Roman Holiday after we head off into the Tuscan sun towards Siena and Florence through the vineyards of Chianti onto the second leg of the trip.

Ciao.

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Winter GardenLast week, on the 35th anniversary of the “Blizzard of ‘78,” Mother Nature socked us again with the “Blizzard of 2013.” If you lived through that great snow tempest of 1978, you’ll recall it snowed for three days with accumulations of 2-4 feet with drifts up to 8 feet. It shut down the entire state for a full week, but throughout that epic storm power was never lost.

We had plenty of notice for this year’s blizzard. We wondered if the weather men’s predictions would be accurate, since we remembered that last year on the same weekend in February, every local TV and radio station was predicting heavy snow. Mike and I were scheduled to present a lecture on that weekend, but because of the weather forecast, the event was cancelled. We woke up that Saturday morning to find that nary a single snowflake had fallen. As Mike’s father used to say, the storm had suddenly “turned left and gone out to sea.” This year we were again scheduled to present a lecture, and again it was cancelled. This time for good reason.

Since this year’s forecast for extreme weather was so certain, we checked the batteries, gassed up the snow blower, and even remembered to disconnect the electric garage door opener in case we lost power. Then we hunkered down, making sure we had milk, bread, popcorn, wine, good books and movies. Friday night we listened to the wind howling, blowing snow sideways and tearing a large limb from our neighbor’s maple tree. Then the lights went out.Split Tree

While this year’s blizzard dropped less snow (we had about 18” with drifts up to 3’), than the Blizzard of ’78, the real threat was the loss of electricity – much of RI and MA was without power while the temperature plummeted to single digits. We lost our electricity about 10 pm Friday night and woke Saturday morning to temperatures inside the house in the low 50’s. Mike spent several hours clearing the snow and I surveyed the back and front yards, taking pictures.

Measuring SnowOur roses created an almost surreal winter landscape with their canes poking through the snow, a dramatic departure from what the gardens look like in June. Since snow is an excellent natural insulator, it provided additional winter protection to the winter cover we had already applied a few months ago. The landscape was completely white with the only color from the garden art Mike created two years ago and hung on the side of our shed – a lonely reminder that spring will come eventually.

Garden Art - Winter Roses

Garden Art – Winter Roses

By suppertime on Saturday, the house had gotten very cold and it looked like it was going to be a three-dog night. We were bundled up in bed like two caterpillars when the lights finally came on late Saturday night. The power was only off for 24 hours but seemed a lot longer than that. We’ll have to wait until spring to determine what damage, if any, was done to the rose bushes by the weight of all that snow. The real lesson learned here was how vulnerable we were without power in the middle of the winter – modern technology didn’t keep us warm. But our roses, like us, are hardy and we all survived the Blizzard of 2013.

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Ping Lim in Shanksville, PA

Remember Me Rose Garden

Last month I posted “Remembering 9/11 with Roses” and Ping Lim, whom we became friends with several years ago, added a nice comment to that post.  Ping, in addition to hybridizing the Easy Elegance roses that Mike and I like, has also developed several “Remember Me” roses. Because of his contribution, Ping was invited to and attended the 10th anniversary of September 11 held at the “Remember Me” Rose Garden in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. (Above photos courtesy of Ping Lim)

Mike with Ping at the Chet Clayton Sustainable Rose Garden at the University of Rhode Island

Ping, who immigrated to the United States and became an American citizen, was pleased to become “a part of American history” by being involved in the creation of the “Remember Me” gardens. His rose ‘Forty Heroes’ honors the 40 heroes of Flight 93 who bravely fought back against the terrorists. (Photo of Forty Heroes courtesy of Ping Lim)

Roses, aside from being America’s National Flower, symbolize different things to different people and evoke memories of those we’ve lost. Ping expresses his thoughts in an essay he shared with me. He writes, “I am very honored that among the many roses chosen, four of my bred roses were selected to be part of the event to commemorate the 911 victims, including the 40 heroes on UA93.”

He continues, “This is indeed an opportunity that, as a rose breeder, I would never dream of having in my career. The rose has charm and beauty, is a symbol of love and brings sunshine to deeply soothe. It touches more than any political language….The rose shares love, remembrance and respect. It far transcends the meaning of a rose and I was totally awed by such a great honor.”

Thank you, Ping, for using your talent in creating beautiful, hardy and disease resistant roses to honor those who lost their lives on 9/11.

Visit Ping’s web site (http://rosesbyping.com to learn more about his roses.

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Patio before Storm Preparations

We’re busy preparing for Hurricane Irene, expected to hit RI tomorrow. Mike has the generator ready to go and filled a second tank of propane gas for the grill. We’ve checked our flashlights, stocked up on bottled water, and bought extra batteries.

Storm Ready Patio

Other than moving some hardscape, the in-ground roses in the two gardens are on their own. But the 150 roses in pots required a little more thought. In seasons past, when stormy weather would knock pots over, Mike just left them knocked over until the following day. However, that resulted in broken canes and otherwise beat the roses up…not the best solution. A better way is tightly gathering the pots into groups of 20 or so on the ground where each pot supports the ones next to it, lessening the likelihood of any one of them toppling over.

Hurricane Ready Roses

Trees, however, present another problem. Since we have no control over the trees on the city land that surround the pond behind our home, damage from falling trees and branches remains the biggest threat. We already experienced a large tree limb falling in June, damaging the fence and taking out an entire bench of roses.

We dismantled the garden room we create each summer on our flagstone patio, took our flag down, and called it a day. We’re hoping that everyone will get through the hurricane with minimal damage and that Irene will be kind to you and your roses.

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Rideau Hall Guide

 On our second day in Ottawa, Angie and I headed out to the Canadian Heritage Garden at Rideau Hall, an easy drive from our hotel and located not far from Parliament Hill. Rideau Hall is the Canadian governor-general’s official residence and is surrounded by bucolic grounds – trees, meandering paths, rolling lawns and the Canadian Heritage Rose Garden – all open to the public.

This rose garden was inaugurated in June, 2000 and implemented Alvin Regehr’s bold design “that uses roses to symbolize Canadian ancestral groups and historical events.” Claire Laberge, our friend from the Montréal Botanical Garden,  due to her growing national reputation, had been invited to select the rose varieties for this national garden. Her challenge was to select as many native Canadian varieties as possible as well as roses that illustrated the many immigrant contributions that flavor Canadian society.

The morning was cool and cloudy and we found a free parking space on the street in front of the entrance gate and considered ourselves lucky. As we walked toward the gate, it started to rain. Lucky us.

We were warmly greeted at the entrance by a cheerful guide undaunted by the weather dressed in a bright red blazer and standing her post under a large blue umbrella. The rose garden was just down the path, can’t miss it, she said, and off we went with our cameras tucked under our jackets to keep them dry.

The garden, mostly shrub and old garden roses, had peaked two weeks prior to our visit, around June 15, and clearly had gone-by when we arrived. This is the same time our rose gardens had peaked over 450 miles south and east in much warmer USDA zone 6b. I saw no obvious micro-climate reason to justify this. I will ponder this seeming anomaly.

Wrought Iron Arbors & Obilisks

Regardless, the footprint and hardscape were impressive. Wrought iron arbors and obelisks gave the garden the vertical element necessary to every successful rose garden. The paths were pea stone gravel which I liked very much – the soft crunch of each step adding pleasing audio to the visual.

Sunken Bed of Nearly Wild

Interestingly, the beds were sunken, not raised, and were lined with granite blocks. In lieu of traditional plant markers, the names of every variety were engraved in the granite blocks, literally carved in stone. I wondered how they will change anything. Three young gardeners were busy primping and grooming the garden presumably for the visit of William and Kate two days hence.

Engraved Granite

Angie in the Rain

By now the rain was pouring and we hustled back to the main gate and gift shop. The steadfast guide was helping a bus-load of visitors, slipping easily from English to French and back again. (We see this fluent bi-lingualism everywhere we’ve gone in eastern Canada both in French Quebec and English Ontario. I envy this.)  I chatted with the guide, quizzing her on Canadian history and found myself out-gunned. She was ready for any questions I had … a capable and delightful young woman.

We decided that a rainy day was a lousy time to walk through gardens but a great time to walk through a museum.  We headed over to the National Gallery of Canada, a short distance away, to catch the Caravaggio exhibit.

Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Rubens, Monet, Cezanne, Van Gogh, O’Keefe and Pollock – a very decent way to spend a rainy afternoon.

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