Saturday, December 18, 2010

Italian Style

One of the fun things I had the pleasure of doing earlier this fall was taking a trip to Italy with a group of five other friends.  We rented a fantastic house (  up in the hills of the upper Tiber River Valley near the small town of Caprese Michelangelo in the far eastern reaches of Tuscany, where Michelangelo himself was born.  This was my first real vacation in almost 5 years and I have to say, no cell phone, no computer, and no television for an entire week was absolutely divine!  Our beautiful house was surrounded by Tuscan farm land and we backed up to a several thousand acre national forest, complete with wild chestnut trees (the chestnuts were ripening while we were there and I roasted them in the fireplace almost every morning!), wild boar, porcupine and all kinds of other critters, not to mention diverse plant life.

I took more than 1300 photos in the 10 days we were gone and still have many to go through and cull, but I've put together a few of the better ones and thought I'd share them with all of my readers.  I'll show you some of the plant life a little later on, but here are a few of the better landscapes and other shots I took while we were there.

This was sunrise on the first morning we were at Priello, our house in the Tuscan countryside.

Another sunrise shot, with teasel.

This was the largest and oldest chestnut tree on the property.   There were many others, but this was the granddaddy!

Another view out from our house.

The leaning tower.  If you're close by, you have to see it.  The cathedral and baptistry are also magnificent!

A kind of cool black-and-white shot of the outside of cathedral of Pisa.  The leaning tower is "behind" the church and was built as a bell tower.

The town of Lucca.  Exquisite.

The vineyards at Poggio Amorelli, Chianti, where we did a wine and olive oil tasting!

The medieval walled town of Anghiari.  I love the way the statues atop this school are looking out over the city.

The driveway leading up to our little abode, Priello.

Jerome playing with the goats at Valle di Mezzo.  This farm was owned by the same guys who we rented our house from.   They are in the business of making goat cheese and I can tell you, it was fabulous! 

La Bottega, a small restaurant in Volpaia, Italy.  We ate just across the street at a restaurant owned by the same family, but I loved this little entrance garden!

That's all for now!  See you soon!

Welcome To The New Blog

Greetings Everyone!

I know you thought I had disappeared for good, but I promise I haven't.  Late summer and fall were incredibly busy and I was on the road--almost continuously, it seemed--from the third week in July, when I went to Portland for the annual Perennial Plant Association Symposium,  until mid-November, when I had my last speaking engagement for 2010.  In fact, I had four week-long or longer trips in a twelve week period of time in addition to several overnight speaking engagements.  In the midst of all of that, I decided to overhaul the blog and the website.  The blog is finished, but the website has proven to be a challenge, as the program  I had used previously doesn't seem to like communicating with my new laptop.  It's slowly coming together and I hope to re-launch the website with an all new look sometime after the first of the year.  In the meantime, the old website remains (mostly) operational at .

I am already booking well into 2011 for speaking engagements and have even booked a couple of dates for 2012.  If any of you are involved in plant societies, garden clubs or other groups and are in need of speakers, please feel free to contact me.  You can reach me at .

As many of you know, I was in the process of launching some garden tours when the economic crisis happened and I decided to table that idea temporarily until things straightened out a bit.  Well, it seems things are slowly getting better and I am considering putting together some stateside tours for late 2011 and 2012 with the possibility of a trip to Scotland sometime in 2012, also.  The stateside tours would be to the Brandywine Valley, with tours of many of the public gardens, nurseries and some private estates in the Philadelphia area and possibly to the Portland, Oregon area, one of our country's gardening meccas and a plant shopper's dream, with more than 500 nurseries within a 75-mile radius of Portland.  If any of you are interested in taking some intensely garden and plant-oriented trips, give me a shout!  The more interest I know is out there, the more likely it is we'll be able to get enough people together to make some of these tours work out.  Once we have itineraries worked out, I'll post those, as well, so you can see exactly what I'm thinking about doing and the places we might be visiting on various outings.

For those of you in the South, you'll be seeing a lot of me in the State-by-State gardening magazines (Tennessee Gardener, Georgia Gardener, etc. etc.) this coming year and I'm back in touch with my friends at Fine Gardening and hopefully will be doing some more work for them soon, which takes me out again to a national audience.  We had another incredible year on our television show, Volunteer Gardener , and I have to say a personal "Thank You" to all of you across Tennessee and our "spill-over" areas in surrounding states for tuning in each and every week.  Our ratings continue to be some of the highest in the country for locally produced television and those ratings are part of what keeps us on the air.  For those of you outside of our viewing area, you can find a few segments on YouTube if you search "Volunteer Gardener".

I hope that all of you are having a wonderful holiday season and now that the blog is back up and running, it will be full speed ahead from here.  I promise!  I have 5 months worth of photos and "plant talk" to catch up on, so forgive me if I fill your In-boxes with more posts than usual over the coming weeks and months.  At the least, I'm back to my weekly postings.  I hope that 2011 sees many of your wishes and dreams coming true.  Happy Holidays!