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Trade Secrets 2017 – The Major General Ashley House

This eighteenth century house sits on an incredible piece of property overlooking the Housatonic River. Mature sugar maples, black locusts and an ancient willow make this property one to behold. The property is naturalized with daffodils and ferns beneath these mighty trees as well as other spring bulbs. The lawn slopes down to the bend in the river compelling you to stop and take it all in!

A formal garden of boxwood parterres and brick paths frame the front of the house. Wooden tuteurs in the center are clematis supports with the beds being filled with tulips in spring and Peonies and Russian Sage in summer.  The garden is enclosed with the quintessential wooden picket fence and a spirea hedge with crabapples surrounding the garden giving some relief from the road.

Parterre

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Have you ever tried to espalier a tree? Look how beautiful!

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If this doesn’t say come relax and enjoy the beauty I don’t know what does!

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Housatonic River

Entry into the pool area is through this door a unique element in the privet hedge encouraging you to see what is beyond.

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The pool house

 

The gardens were filled with blooming bleeding hearts in several varieties and color variations

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Bleeding Hearts
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A child’s swing just waiting for you to play.

Did you miss the other Trade Secrets Open Gardens? Here is a link to Coltsfoot Garden 

For more information on Trade Secrets and Women’s Support Services see earlier blogs.

See all the Blogs on Garden Conservancy Days, trips to Italy, and stay tuned for my upcoming trip to Tuscany and Venice in the coming weeks.

Trade Secrets 2017 – Coltsfoot Garden

One of the private gardens open this year for Trade Secrets was Coltsfoot Garden in Cornwall, CT.  This is an enchanting cottage garden that along with the colonial home has been in this family for almost 100 years.  Upon arrival you are immediately dawn in by the multi-colored lilac trees surrounding the garden, the crabapple trees and the surrounding landscape.  This is Litchfield county CT at its finest.

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The garden while formal in structure is welcoming and plants are encouraged to self sow wherever they can find a spot.

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There is a newly added second vegetable garden placed closer to the house, surrounded by a picket fence, gravel paths and artful colorscaping of vegetables like asparagus, lettuces, peas, beans, tomatoes, peppers and rhubarbs. Plants are staked using branches and twigs in artful and rustic ways.

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There are perennial gardens framing a neighbor’s old barn featuring boxwood, peonies, crabapple trees, dwarf Alberta Spruce, roses, irises, bachelor buttons, spurge,  and daylilies which create a delightfully soft, uncluttered effect.

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Gravel paths are created in a geometric pattern to facilitate your winding your way throughout with their edges being blurred by lady’s mantle, nepeta (my favorite plant) and others.

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This is another garden area with an ingenious method of taming climbing vines. This garden features, raspberries, vegetables, peonies for cut flowers.  I suggest if you love to have cut flowers in your home and hate the idea of cutting in your ornamental beds that you plant a separate area for cutting flowers both perennial and annuals for all season flowers.  Don’t forget to use your greens like hostas, astible,  solomon’s seal, grasses and branches etc. to fill in.

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This couple lovingly maintains the property coaxing dahlias, hydrangeas, lilacs and roses to thrive year after year.  The formal yet informal design of the garden allows for times of not too much fuss!

Thank you to the Hubbard’s for opening their garden to us for Trade Secrets Open Garden Tours 2017. Can’t wait for 2018!

I have written many times over the years about the Trade Secrets event which takes place in mid-May each year.  You can read more about this fabulous event in previous blogs.

Trade Secrets

Trade Secrets GardenTours

Trade Secrets Garden Tours part 2

 

 

 

 

Garden Conservancy Open Days – Cobble Pond Farm

The history of this garden goes back 250 years!  Originally an Olmsted design it was carefully restored and updated by Kathy Metz, the homeowner, with some inspired help from others. With its formal and informal gardens it is gracefully accented by stone walls, unusual species of trees and a sunken garden surrounded by clipped yews.  It is surrounded by the magnificent Sharon, CT countryside where Angus herds graze in the afternoon sun.

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The pool was added to resemble a reflecting pool accented by stone walls and a pool house and a giant Copper Beech
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Open pastures surround the property in Sharon, CT

The trees are worthy of envy by any gardener who is just starting a landscaping project. They include maples, columnar maples reaching for the sky, birches, Ginkgo and dogwoods.  The property owners have lovingly enhanced this property staying true to its original design while updating it so it works for them.  Gone are the annuals that were so popular back when the garden was originally conceived and they are replaced by low maintenance perennials and native shrubs.  Each area of the garden relates to another making for a relaxing experience while meandering around.  Of course, taking care of it all I am sure is a joy but a full time project.  A Labor of Love as most all gardeners will tell you, me included!

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Arbor and Peonies

The landscape is dotted with bulbs, tulips, lilacs with their fragrances enticing you to come closer.  There are pergolas, arbors, cutting gardens, a summerhouse garden and a sunken garden surrounded by clipped yews and is anchored with a central fountain. a brilliant tip for keeping yews healthy was to angle the hedge edges thus allowing light in on all sides.  This should be applied to most all hedges so they don’t die out at the bottom.  This was a particularly difficult winter here in CT and it is apparent the yews suffered greatly as did many of our boxwoods.

 

 

 

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Sunken Garden with central fountain and yew hedges

I love the Japanese Maples growing in containers.  A great tip if you can’t get them to grow in the ground is to grow them in a container. In winter, in colder climates they can be moved to a garage or basement.

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Japanese Maples in containers
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Pool House

Peonies are about to explode everywhere both flanking the gated entrance to the sunken garden and around the pool and cabana. I wish I could go back to see them in a few weeks when they bloom.

The original rustic gazebo just beckons you to sit and take it all in. There is a clever use of statutes in this garden.  Garden ornaments can make a garden feel loved and personal while adding personality and letting you see the homeowner’s whimsy.

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Boy statue

 

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Winding paths lead you around the gardens and the house showcasing Irises, Clematis, Roses, Solomon’s Seal, Hostas, Tulips, and Alliums just to name a few.

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Barney the Basset hound was standing guard, or maybe just waiting for someone to pay more attention to him than the gardens.  Sorry, Barney!

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If you are a gardener The Garden Conservancy has Open Days all over the United States and these private and public gardens are indeed an inspiration to all gardeners.  They showcase places to see how others have handled particularly challenging landscapes or just how to decorate a porch, maybe to highlight a plant combination you have been dying to try yourself.  Experiment! What is the worst that could happen?  If it doesn’t work out, move it or remove it! Gardening should be fun, not stressful!  Be sure to check one out this summer!

 

Wynwood Miami

Wynwood is a neighborhood in Miami, FL that recently has attracted a lot of attention and for good reason!   It has become a mecca for art, restaurants, bars, breweries and high end shopping.

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Rust Wynwood

This neighborhood dates back to 1917.  Happy 100th birthday this year! This was originally farmland developed by Miami’s first real estate agent EA Waddell before being sold to a couple of Miamians who were responsible for the modern day street names and numbers in downtown Miami and surrounding areas.  After the construction of Interstate 95 the neighborhood border was unofficially changed.  The western border of Wynwood is commonly considered I-95. It is roughly divided by North 20th Street to the South, I-95 to the North and I-95 to the West and the Florida East Coast Railroad to the East.

This was an area for working class families.  Eventually it attracted commercial business including Coca-Cola, an orange juice bottling plant and the American Bakeries Company. Then the garment industry moved in to the southern portion of Wynwood with both clothing retailers and manufacturers.  It is said that the Miami Fashion District was part of the largest garment district in the country according to an article in 1980 in the Miami News.  The fashion district is still a bustling community in Wynwood.  By the late 1970’s the area had gone into severe decline with drugs and unemployment playing premiere roles.

Art Installation at Wynwood Walls:

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In the middle 2000’s the area got a big boost when Goldman Properties took a keen interest in the area having been a force behind the revival of SoHo and South Beach.  They saw an opportunity for artsy neighborhoods.  Below Wynwood Block images:

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Wynwood Walls, an open air gallery opened in 2009. The entire neighborhood became a canvas for street art.  The area now boasts awesome restaurants, bars and retailers and there are plans to build condos, a hotel and many new retail establishments.  (see Slideshow below)

 

 

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It is worth the time if you are visiting Miami to venture over to Wynwood!  Located north of Downtown Miami and Overtown and adjacent to Edgewater, it is divided into two distinct areas: Wynwood Art District in northern Wynwood and Wynwood Fashion District along West 5th Avenue.

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I had the pleasure of visiting both districts!    I was amazed at the extraordinary talent of these artists at Wynwood Walls.  In one of the galleries there was an exhibit by an artist Peter Tunney.  I was blown away by his pieces. He is an Neo-Pop artist with a message; as you can see below.  He uses language and text and convey his message. His pieces are mixed collaged materials.

Don’t forget to look down at the street art!

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Of course don’t forget to make time for South Beach! But more on Miami another time.

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Lowes Hotel, South Beach

 

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South Beach
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Brickel City Centre, Brickel, Miami
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Don’t miss Miami at night- Spectacular!

Borgo Egnazia NOWHERE ELSE

Recently I had the pleasure of staying at the Borgo Egnazia Resort and Spa in Puglia, Italy. They will tell you it is “far more than a resort but rather represents a new concept of hospitality.” Right on the Mediterranean Sea it offers magnificent rooms, The San Domenico Golf, an 18 hole championship course facing the sea, 2 private beaches, The Vair spa and did I mention the Mediterranean food!!! There are 3 large outdoor pools, one heated indoor pool, 4 tennis courts, swimming, cooking and ceramics lessons as well as water sports, game and reading rooms. Borgo is dedicated to providing a unique family experience. Kids play, parents RELAX!

The unique architecture of this resort is like nothing I have ever experienced.  The simple but unique design details emphasizing the repetition of an item were luxurious but welcoming and cozy.

Here is some history of the creation of this resort taken right out of their brochure. (Thank you Borgo Egnazia since I could not have said it better myself). “The Melpignano family had a vision: combining Puglia with luxury, refined hospitality, cultural richness and elite tourism.” “Borgo Egnazia was built entirely of tufo, a local type of limestone..” “The architect … Pino Brescia was inspired by Puglia’s farms and rural villages, from nature, and from simplicity.”

Keep following my blogs!  I am headed to Venice, Florence and Tuscany this summer so the journey continues.

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Lecce – “The Florence of the South”

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Lecce is located in the Puglia region in the heel of the boot in the Italian Peninsula where the Adriatic and Ionian seas are easily accessible. This city is over 2,000 years old and is one of the most important cities in Italy. Commonly known as “The Florence of the South” for its Baroque architecture. The town’s treasure is its architecture.

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There are 3 Baroque style gates into the historical city center and 2 centers: the central square of Lecce the Piazza Sant’Oronzo where the ruins of the Amphitheatre stand and the Piazza del Duomo (the Cathedral square). In the Piazza Sant’Oronzo is a statue of a bishop perched on a column.  This column is one of 2 which originally marked the end of the Roman Appian Way.  The other is in Brindisi. One gate, the Porta Napoli was built in 1548.

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Porto Napoli
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Porta Rudiae (rear)

This city existed at the time of the Trojan War and was conquered by the Romans in the 3rd century B.C.

The Baroque buildings built by the 17th century architects rival those in Florence. So distinctive is Lecce’s architecture is has acquired its own name “Lecce Baroque”.  It is now a casual university town with boutiques, restaurants and a strong tradition of Papier-mâché making.

As is common in Italy, the streets empty as the hottest part of the day passes and this was the case when we were in Lecce so of course if you can’t shop….the infamous gelato was enjoyed by everyone in our group! As evening approaches Italians get out and ‘stroll’ this is called “Passeggiata”.  This ritual evening stroll can be experienced all over Italy. We found it on the Amalfi Coast, in Rome and now in Puglia. It is just a leisurely time to walk and chat with neighbors.  See and be seen!

Some of the sights of Lecce:

Basilica di Santa Croce; Church of the Holy Cross begun in 1353 was completed in 1695 and features sculptures and a rose window (the church was under renovations so no great photos of the entire church). It is a Baroque church that is decorated on the facade with all manner of animals like sheep, cherubs and grotesque figures right out of Harry Potter and has a large rose window and Corinthian columns. Next door is the Government Palace which was a former convent.

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Piazza del Duomo- Lecce Cathedral and seat of the Archbishop of Lecce was originally built in 1144 and rebuilt later and finally restored by 1670.  The Duomo Square features a 5 story Bell Tower.

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Lecce Cathedral
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Lecce Cathedral

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Chiesa di San Matteo, a Baroque style Catholic church built in 1667 has 2 columns on its facade, one is decorated but the sculptor was killed before he could finish the work.

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Chiesa di San Matteo

Chiesa di Santa Chiara 1429-1438 – A Baroque church with twisting columns and ornate statuary and a ceiling of classic Leccese Papier-mâché.

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Chiesa di Santa Chiara

Chiesa di Sant’ Irene from 1591 has one of the largest altars in Lecce.  From the 17th century it contains a pair of mirror Baroque altar pieces facing each other.

Church of San Giovanni Battista.  There was a long traditional affinity with the Greek culture due to its proximity.

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Church of San Giovanni Battista

Limestone is one of the city’s main exports.  it is very soft and workable and very suitable for sculptures.

Olive oil and wine production are prominent in this area as well as ceramic production.

The Roman Amphitheatre was built in the 2nd century and is located near the Sant’Oronzo Square.  It once seated more than 25,000 people.  It is half buried now as other buildings and monuments were built above it over the centuries. You can feel the history when you stand here.

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Roman Amphitheatre

I was fascinated with all the doors in this historic city and I will do a separate photo blog of those but check out some of the ornate building details.

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I couldn’t let the opportunity pass without mentioning our guide Giuseppe who made our tour of Lecce extremely memorable! Thanks Giuseppe!  I guarantee we will not forget you 🙂 or to the Bride and Groom whose wedding arrival we interrupted for pictures!

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If you are considering a trip to Puglia I hope you have gotten a little taste of how fabulous this region can be.  It is becoming a more and more popular travel destination.  Where to stay?  We stayed at the Borgo Egnazia Resort and Spa in Savelletri di Fasano right on the coast.  Their slogan is NOWHERE ELSE and I can tell you I concur!  Madonna left just before we arrived. Bummer! This is a great spot for visiting all the sights in Puglia like Alberobello, Lecce, and Martina Franca.  I bought a case of Olive Oil!  This resort does not require my endorsement. Follow the blog (up next week) to see some of the many pictures I took trying to capture the magnificence of this resort. Borgo Egnazia, Puglia

If you missed the beginning of this series head back to the beginning: Puglia – an Undiscovered Gem in Italy.

MATERA: a UNESCO World Heritage Site

SASSI di MATERA- Ancient cave dwellings

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This is a true walk back in time but amazingly people inhabited these caves until the 1950’s. Before the Sassi (historical center) were abandoned this was one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world.

These natural caves dot the steep ravine and were first occupied back in the Paleolithic Age.

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Sassi di Matera
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Notice the Belvedere Piazzetta Pascoli standing tall in the background

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There were approximately 1,500 Sassi and they were expanded into living spaces as these peasant dwellings were occupied. Many of the caves had their ceilings extended to make a vaulted ceiling to expand the available living space so it was not so cramped.  This was a typical Sassi that we were able to tour and is open to the public. The rooms were dug into the soft limestone.  These were very poor people sadly.

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Casa Grotta di vico Solitario – kitchen area
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Even the animals lived in the Sassi notice the Bread on the table

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To tour this ancient city is a fascinating experience.  We walked down into an underground area where deep cisterns collected rain water for drinking.  There were 8 deep interconnected cisterns throughout this ancient city.  This 16th century cistern complex is right under the main town Piazza surrounded by historic buildings!

Check out the water lines on the walls!

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Piazza  Vittorio Veneto – Palazzo dell’Annuziata

This is a popular city for shooting movies like the remake of Ben Hur  starring Morgan Freeman which began shooting in early 2015 (below) and Passion of The Christ.  It is one of the oldest living cities.

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Right out of the movie Ben Hur

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Chiesa dei Santi Pietro e Paolo
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Love the ancient doors

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The Matera Cathedral.   Magnificent!

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Pane di Matera

Bread is this city’s symbol.  It’s form and unique taste are symbolic of a tradition that is still strong today. The bread’s shape is reminiscent of the hills or a mountaintop range. Each family had a brand on their bread using a wooden stamp so they could recognize it in the shared ovens. It has a slightly salty taste with a crunchy crust.  This traditional bread goes back to the Kingdom of Naples in the 15th and 16th centuries.  The wheat which is grown in this area has a unique and distinct flavor and the preparation of the yeast uses fresh fruit!

Again, we had a wonderful guide who regaled us with all sorts of history and stories. Thanks Giovanni! Next up Lecce! Follow along as our journey continues!matera-18

Alberobello – a UNESCO World Heritage site

alberobelloA small Town within the City of Bari, in Apulia’s region of southern Italy known for its Trulli buildings. The area is part of the coastal plain to the Mediterranean where olive groves are everywhere.  It does snow here in winter but only occasionally!

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The Masseria, the largest farm houses, have mostly been subdivided now but many are still working farms.  This region was once filled with oak trees that were only found here in Puglia until in 282 B.C. this valley was crossed with elephants and the oak trees were leveled. This was farmland, cows everywhere! Believe me the burrata and mozzarella here are amazing as is the white wine! Wine! Did someone say wine?

The Trulli have been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1996.  There are more than 1500 Trulli in this non-farming environment.  Trulli are also found throughout the countryside but the largest collection is right within the Town of Alberobello.  A single house in known as a Trullo.  The popular central town area is Rione Monti leads up to the top of the hill to the main church – Chiesa di Sant’ Antonio.

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Trulli have conical roofs constructed of limestone from the region.  These are ancient stone houses some dating back as far as the Bronze Age c.1350.  They were constructed by peasants using a dry wall construction method made without mortar, a prehistoric building technique still in use featuring domed or conical roofs.

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Today some are used as stores, restaurants, lodging but most are homes. They developed as temporary structures that were easy to demolish and an efficient means to evade taxes at the times to the feudal lord. They are and were incredibly durable so this was not at all accurate.  They are warm in winter and cool in summer.  The roof is composed of horizontal limestone slabs in concentric circles and typically have a central room with additional living spaces in arched alcoves.

The keystone is often decorated and is a very important structural element individualizing each property and is something of a status symbol.

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Keystones on the rooftops
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Conical roofs
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Wandering the streets

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The roofs are often decorated with fanciful symbols supposedly having religious symbolism or superstitious significance.

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Fanciful roof symbols

This is an area of Italy I will return to someday.  Fascinating history and architecture and oh yeah the WINE!!!!

Again I would be remiss if I didn’t thank our fabulous guide Michele who gave us all sorts of history, stories and shared more than a few bottles of wine with us before jetting off to spend the weekend with his lady in Russia!

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Ready to continue our tour of the Puglia region. Next up is Matera!  Come join me.

 

Pompeii- a step back in time!

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The ancient city of Pompeii is located in the southern region of Italy called Campania near the coast of Naples and was an important port town.  This once great Roman city was buried under tons of ash and pumice when in 79 A.D. Mount Vesuvius erupted. This thriving city of 20,000 people that was built up with private and public establishments under both Emperors Augustus and Tiberius was destroyed.

After the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, Pompeii was rediscovered and is still undergoing extensive restoration and excavation.  There is an extraordinary collection of architecture, sculpture, paintings and mosaics.  The major artifacts were moved to Naples by the Emperor many, many years ago.

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Mount Vesuvius

We entered through the Marina Gate in Region VII (there are 9 Regions under excavation at Pompeii) where you are immediately greeted by the Suburban Baths.  These were private baths some with erotic paintings; others with extravagant decorations.

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Agostino- our fabulous guide in Capri and Pompeii

Our private guide, Agostino, regaled us with all sorts of racy stories!   Excavated in 1960; 1985-1988

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Marina Gate and Suburban Baths

The Marina Gate & Walls provide access to the west side of this city and is the most impressive of the 7 gates of Pompeii. It seems the name came from the fact that the route out led to the sea.  The gate has 2 barrel vault portals made of concrete and dates back to 80 B.C. The 2 portals provided entry for both horses and other pack animals and the smaller was for people. Excavated 1862-1863

Another highlight was the Temple of Genius Augusti (Vespasian) which was built at the request of the Priestess.  It consisted of a small courtyard, marble altar which depicts a bull being led to sacrifice and a small temple with 4 columns and exquisite marble decoration. Excavated in 1817

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The Bakery of Popidio Prisco: The mill and the bakery were adjacent to each other as they were part of the same production process. There are 5 large lava millstones that were used to grind the wheat. Bread was baked in a variety of shapes in the large central oven and sold to residents or to wholesalers. Excavation 20’s of the 19th century.

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The bakery of Popidio Prisco

 

The Sauna Room and public baths were a significant social scene where Romans would relax and be pampered after leaving the gymnasium. There was both a hot and cold bath here. Water was abundant in this city.

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The sauna room

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The Streets of Pompeii were established on a grid plan The streets have grooves for the horse carts. Since the streets often flooded there are footsteps that allow pedestrians to cross the road without getting their feet wet.

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Interior of home of a wealthy merchant with colorful frescoes and ornate decorations

 

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The Forum: this was a public space originally at the center of Pompeii’s commercial, religious and political life and is surrounded by many of the most significant buildings of the city. The Basilica was a public building where business and legal matters were conducted. It was at one end of the Forum.

 

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The Building of Eumanchia has an ornate carved marble frieze. Note the “key” which supports the gate without a central support. Eumanchia was a local priestess and a successful business woman to boot! Women rock!

 

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The ruins of Pompeii:

 

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This exploration of a time gone by is well worth the visit.  It is immense and you can easily fall into the trap of everything looking the same.  Take my advice and hire a private guide or you will miss the highlights here as following the map will have you wandering endlessly in circles! A word of warning: wear comfortable shoes!!! The streets are very uneven and you can easily lose your footing.

Now onto the Puglia Region.  Here is a link to Alberobello our next adventure.  Stay tuned for Matera, Lecce and the gorgeous Borgo Egnazia

 

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