Thursday, May 31, 2012

Polo Italian Style


It's become a regular date on the social calendar, a picnic lunch and an exhibition polo match near the city of Pisa in what is one of the great centers of Italian equestrianism.

Here's Kristina Gavazzi chatting with Alessandra Nicolini. Everyone was given a blue ribbon just for attending!

Gil, at the stables of Tenuta Isola, where mostly trotters are raised. But there's also quite a lot of polo here as well.

This is the Club House, about to be inspected by Clare Mahon preceeded by her companion, Pietro Calvi di Bergolo.

The picnic was held beside one of several man-made lakes on the estate. We were each given a basket with a checkered table cloth to sit on, and in the basket was a selection of local dishes, a half bottle of wine and fresh strawberries.

The ladies were asked to wear hats that would be judged and a prize for the best hat was given. Above are Chiara Manfredi, Sandra Fontana, Elisabetta Giannini (wife of Giancarlo, the actor from Swept Away), Mariolina Solaroli and oops, give me a minute.

The rush to see the match!

Mariolina in the winning hat (her own creation, of course)!

 The Red Cross participated, naturally!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Not for Americans


Americans perhaps know this sort of thing all too well, but I confess it was mostly new to me. When I left the US more than 30 years ago green markets weren't quite happening yet. I expected to see vast bins of fresh Florida vegetables here in Palm Beach—it's a hugely agricultural state, after all. But while there certainly was some local produce—including the bolted lettuce I bought—most of the green was simply local color.

As a cultural adventure for a Europeanized American who hadn't been to the US in two years this Saturday morning green market was full of fun surprises. I've always found this sensitive plant (Mimosa pudica) fascinating, and if I lived here, where you could actually keep it outside all year long, I'd definitely have to have one.

Florida is nothing if not multicultural as any place that doesn't have a true culture of its own would have to be!

Unless you consider such ideas as expressed in the above pickup truck "culture".

And so even with baked goods most of the recipes for pleasure are imported—except for those pecan rolls? Aren't they indigenous to the South?

It all looked wonderful, but how much of this stuff can anyone eat?

I was dying to try that baguette but I'm a model of resistance—when you're traveling you have to be especially careful of your weight.

 As a mostly vegetarian (I eat seafood and sometimes a bird) I wasn't at all tempted by these offerings.

Florida is a big sugar growing state; just inland from here are vast plantations.

And the Caribbean isn't far away—these things looked as though they'd just washed ashore from Jamiaca.

A bit of condiment! What this market seemed to lack for me, however, was raw material.

But we did buy a little tub of this lobster bisque—momentarily homesick for New England. My own is better but at least I didn't have to go through all the fuss.

Monday, May 21, 2012

A Generous Season


I'd been a little worried, being away so much, that's we'd miss the roses this year, but as it happens we timed our return perfectly for the best of our spring bloom. This, above is Ards Rover. It's a climber from 1898 and it's quite heat tolerant, keeping most of its foliage throughout the summer. The fully petalled flowers are a very blilliant red, fragrant, high-centered, and beautifully formed. As with most of the roses in our garden, it blooms only once.

This old west-facing wall here at Villa Massei is from the 16th century and for the last several years it's been the charming backdrop for several antique climbers.

This is Gloire de Dejon, from 1835. It's rarely looked so good as this year.

In the Serpentine garden we find Rosa Glauca.

And near the breakfast room, Cuisse de Nymphe E´mue.

And Variegata di Bologna.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Asian Style Gardens II


We're in Monaco again—before I left for Palm Beach, a few weeks ago. And so I've visited two Asian-inspired gardens on two different non-Asian continents in the course of three weeks. This one is clearly Japanese in flavor with its clipped conifers and arched bridge and the temperate vegetation makes it ring all the more true.

For a public park, you'd have to say it's not at all bad. Palm Beach and Monaco have this quality in common, a civic largess that horticulturally provides for the spiritual well being of its citizens.

A stylized replica of the great outdoors, with its mountain, hill, waterfall, beach and brook, this surprising 7000 m2 park is a true work of art created by respecting the strictest principles of the Zen concept of compactness. 

I've always suspected that vandals tend to destroy what is already destroyed or offensively ugly and neglected. When the public is offered a thing of great beauty even the worst of irreverent citizens tend to respect it.

Nowadays, even in genuine Japanese gardens, in Kyoto or in Nara, gardens have the modern city as their context, and so you could feel that the highrises of Monaco only reinforce this garden's authenticity.

This garden, set in the heart of the Principality, was designed at the request of H.S.H. Prince Rainier III, by Japanese landscape architect Yasuo Beppu, winner of the Osaka Flower Exhibition. And yes, that is the Mediterranean Sea in the distance.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Asian Style Gardens I


It might look like Gil is in the Amazon here, but he's not. He's in Palm Beach, Florida, at the garden of the Society of the Four Arts.

It's the known world to be sure, but I know so little about tropical vegetation. These are a kind of pineapple, can you help me out?

This bit of the garden is Asian inspired.

Chinese, perhaps.

And yet there are moments when it seems quite Japanese.

The whole horticultural world has welcomed the challenge of creating such gardens in foreign contexts, but this particular one, in a sub-tropical climate, is very successful, it seems to me.

There's a world to discover in the details. This bloom is from a flowering tree and it has landed on a broad-leafed plant at its feet.

And this is the same low-growing plant with its own, unfurling new red leaf.