Of Flora and Floating Food Courts

I was working on getting this posted around 2200 this evening when suddenly the lights went out – all over the Island. It brought home a few unsettling truths including the fact that because the Landline is hooked up to a set of wireless phones it is basically useless. Fortunately the blackout only lasted two hours but I couldn’t sleep so finished this post.

Wherever we have lived there has always been a “garden”. Sometimes it was a large – very large – affair other times no more than a few pots on a balcony. This time around it’s no more than six pots on our small balcony/deck and with the southern exposure it’s been quite the show this year.

Our friends Don and Umi gave Laurent this little rose bush for his birthday. It had small yellow roses on it in March but has produced one large orange flower on the balcony.

I had never heard of Gazania Daisies or Treasure Daisies but when I saw them at a local nursery I was struck by their vibrant colours. I didn’t realize that they open and close depending on the sunlight. Known as nyctinasty it is considered a highly evolved way of protecting pollen from dew and damp. These are on their second growth – the first flowers were larger but these are just as brightly coloured.

I don’t think I’ve ever had begonias grow quite as lush as these two boxes. A friend got his from the same nursery and has had the same abundance in the borders around his house.

In our first house we had turned what was a small rectangle courtyard of scrub grass with a neglected Persian lilac in one corner into a very pleasant garden. When we finished with it the lilac shaded a cedar deck, a stone lantern lit a small stream and the borders were filled with roses, bee balm, fox gloves and nicotiana. The memory of the fragrance of flowering tobacco in the cool night air accounts for this small box which only recently started to thrive after weeks of less than glorious blooms. No the foil is not some gardening secret – it’s to stop Nicky from sampling the soil!

A week or so ago I mentioned Nimrod’s the pizza shack on the dock down at Peake’s Quay. It is one of three food stations on our floating food court, a busy place with good food, local craft beer and wine. Caron’s Chip Shack (soon to be featured on the Food Network) serves up the best fries in town and though I’ve yet to try Zak’s hamburgers reports are pretty good. It’s a busy place with locals and tourists. And it moves – not just side to side with the odd wave but up and down with the tides.

The first pictures was taken yesterday morning at around 0730 when the tide was high.

The second one was taken around 1530 when the tide was low – though not at it’s lowest. Notice any difference?

August 15th is Relaxation Day! Hell that’s an easy one to celebrate.

The Flowers That Bloom In the Spring….

I was surprised a few days back when I noticed that Betty Jean’s Christmas cactus had sprouted a few buds. It well past last Christmas and a long way until next but sprout it has and this morning one of the buds burst forth. I can only assume that in the spirit of the season I will find a large gift under the … hmmm there’s the rub!

And the orchid that our friend Lionel gave Laurent last year for his birthday has given forth three delicate and daintily coloured blooms.

And that is only inside – the real signs of spring started to appear a few weeks ago in the parks and streets around the house. So its once again time to sing that old Ottawa Valley ditty:

Spring is sprung!
The Grass is rize!
I wonder where the birdies is?

They say the birds is on the wing
But that’s absurd.
I knows the wings is on the bird!

 01 aprile – San Venanzio di Delminium

The Flowers That Bloom In The … Ah


After years of struggling with the growing seasons in Ottawa I am still surprised here when I see things in bloom in January.  Last Thursday on a sunny but cold (yes I know for my faithful reader living in Ottawa +8 is not cold but it has been getting down to -2 at night!) afternoon I took a stroll through the grounds of Villa Torlonia to see how the work on the Teatro and Moorish kiosk was progressing – slowly I might add.  As I passed one of the lawns that is studded with camellia bushes I wasn’t expecting to see these lovely blossoms

Given their sunny and protected location, the amount of rain we’ve had this year and the fact that they are evergreens I really shouldn’t have been surprised.


16 gennaio – Sant’Onorato di Arles

Christmasy Things – Betty Jean’s Cactus

With the passing of the year things have changed – as they do – and this Christmas will be different from last year in so many ways. First we’re another year older, then we’re in a different apartment in a different part of the city. For the first time in over 18 years we don’t have a puppy or two running around getting underfoot as the tree gets trimmed. Bundnie always loved the little felt mice that went on the tree and one year actually managed to get a hold of one and hide it. Reese was always a little afraid of the tree – he could never figure out how the hell it got there and why it was sparkling.

And this year one dear friend will be missing from Christmas celebrations. Last year we spent Christmas with our friends Betty Jean, Stephen and their off-spring Sarah and Brian. We had started off as colleagues in Warsaw but, to our good fortune, became friends. Though the reason for their stay in Rome was not the happiest it proved a happy time in many ways. We shared a lot over the past 18 months: food, drink, conversation, warm companionship and laughter – particularly laughter.

I have made passing reference to both BJ and Stephen but never went into details as I felt it was not my story to tell. Stephen was under going treatment here in a three year battle against cancer with the incredibly strong support of BJ, if ever there was a team it was them. They returned to Canada in October and the night before they left I spoke with Stephen on the phone. He was tired but he wasn’t giving up – that unique recognizable laugh of his still came, though perhaps not as easily as in the past. Stephen passed away on November 11th with BJ, as always, by his side.
Many of the plants on my balcony came from BJ when she was closing up house the first year we were here. And she gave me this Christmas cactus just after we arrived. I’ve never had much success with Christmas cactus and last year was no different. It sent out a few weak little buds but nothing bloomed. Then suddenly this year ten or twelve buds appeared in early November and by the end of the month it began to blossom.
In a somewhat silly, sentimental way I guess I’m associating those blooms with the good times we shared: the food, the drink, the conversation, the warm companionship and the laughter – particularly the laughter. This Christmas will be difficult one for BJ, Sarah and Brian and I wish there was some way we could make it easier. The only thing I can offer is that we are holding them in our hearts and as we gather for Christmas we will remember them in our toasts and graces. And when I look at our Christmas cactus I think of them and Stephen with the joy of friendship shared and laughter – particularly the laughter.

21 dicembre – San Pietro Canisio