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Italy's Giusti Garden is a masterpiece

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog the faceThis is the mascherone at Giardino Giusti in Verona, Italy. It's the first thing you see when you walk in the garden and it was built to emit fire from its mouth. Photos by Doug Oster

By Doug Oster / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


This is the first of a three-part occasional series on gardens in Northern Italy.


blog huh 25Getting up higher in the garden reveals the beautiful design and shows the scale of these old cypress trees.VERONA, Italy — A huge angry stone face looks down on visitors through giant spires of cypress trees at Giusti Garden. The intimidating mascherone was originally designed to breathe fire, probably the only thing that could make it more foreboding. It was just one of the surprises I and 32 other gardeners found on a 10-day trip in September to visit gardens of Northern Italy.
Gently sloping trails led to a grotto at the top of the Mascherone. On the way, we saw an array of beautiful plants, some of which I’d never seen before. A hummingbird moth danced from flower to flower, gathering nectar from low-growing blue plumbago that softens the trail’s edges. Pale pink begonias grew wild along an ancient rock wall next to a stone bench amid swaying white windflowers. After the short trek, we were rewarded by stunning views of the main garden path and Verona itself. Shakespeare set three of his plays in the city, including “Romeo and Juliet.” The Guisti family has owned the palace since the 16th century, and the gardens were created in 1580.
We reached the summit at just the right time. The cheerful, high-pitched songs of birds hidden in the thick green foliage joined at noon with those of church bells, creating a lovely symphony. As we worked our way downhill along a winding stone path, we caught another bit of music -- the sounds of a piano drifting out of the windows of an adjoining school. It was magical.
One thing I love about many European gardeners is the way they embrace weeds, letting them bloom in the right spots. The tiny flowers of wild yellow mustard were the perfect foil for the blue blossoms of the plumbago. In a formal garden, they would have been eliminated because they aren’t a cultivated species.
Our descent offered yet another different view of the center garden. Cypress trees reached for the sky, creating axis points for the long paths.  Neatly trimmed topiary, a maze and huge, beautifully planted containers are all things expected in a great Italian garden like this one. We could get a close look at the many statues or take a seat and listen to the cascading water of the fountains.
As we kept walking, we were greeted with another surprise: Only in Italy could you find a long line of clay pots filled with different colored lantana blooms, perched single file on a weathered rock wall. The simple beauty of the presentation was spellbinding. The fact that some of the pots were cracked only added to the effect.
As our tour ended, I looked over to see common orange lantana mingling with statuesque white anemone that danced in the breeze. Behind them, some pink hibiscus swayed in consort.
This combination embodied the feeling of this place -- chaos and order living together. In his garden, the first big one we visited, it was the perfect mix.

Doug Oster: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 412-779-5861. Visit his garden blog here. Twitter: @dougoster1.

blog overall giustiAn overall look of Giusti Garden.

blog lantan potsThis long line of old clay pots filled with lantana was a hit with visitors.

blog ender anemoneOrange lantana growing in consort with anemone is what this garden is all about.

blog yellow weedsYellow mustard is allowed to flower in this garden.

blog young couple waldA young couple walk along the main path of the garden.

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#SettingtheSEEN: Chatham Baroque's Twelfth Night Gala

Written by Natalie Bencivenga on .

This week was so much fun! Thank you to Richard Parsakian of Eons Fashion Antique in Shadyside for providing the most fabulous #funearalchic inspired clothing! Why were Sara and I dressed in macabre fashion, you may wonder? We previewed Chatham Baroque's Twelfth Night Gala (which is tomorrow night! Get your tickets HERE.) as they honor the 300th anniversary of the death one of the arts' greatest patrons, Louis XIV. Enjoy the show! Until next time, we'll be seeing you!

Keep up with #wheresNataliePG @NBSeen on Twitter and @NatalieBenci on Instagram

 

 

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Feeding the birds now pays off in the garden later

Written by Doug Oster on .

 Blog Red Bellied with PeanutaThis red-bellied woodpecker loves peanuts left on top of the feeder. Photo by Doug Oster

In this week's segment from Pittsburgh Today Live I talk with Jon Burnett about why gardeners should feed the birds, how to give them what they want and how to keep the squirrels away. Jon just had to try the Cole's Flaming Squirrel Seed Sauce and that wasn't pretty, but it was funny from where I was standing.

I love watching the birds, but there’s an advantage for gardeners to attract them now. They’ll stick around the food source in the spring and will hunt lots of bad bugs, which makes our gardening life easier. The main feed I use is black oil sunflower seeds.
But during the winter, I always like to give them something else to boost their energy. Suet is something that helps them thrive during the hardest part of winter. I love these little suet nuts that Cole’s offers, they also make a suet called Hot Meats filled with hot pepper. The squirrels won’t touch it, and the birds can’t taste the pepper. The company makes my favorite varieties of bird seed and suet and it’s easy to find in your area by using this link. If you can’t physically block squirrels and chipmunks from the feeder, they have a whole line of feed laced with hot pepper.

They also have a liquid hot pepper to apply to seed you buy in bulk. Jon Burnett got a taste of it and it's hot, really hot. I just put out one of the Hot Meat ssuet cakes and forgot to wash my hands. I rubbed my eyes and now I was the one who was sorry. Be careful when handling the hot pepper products. I do feel bad for the squirrels, so I feed them at their own feeder.

I also enjoy making my own suet. I usually make enough to last most of the winter and keep it in the freezer. Suet is a type of fat from a certain part of a cow; you can find it at the meat counter of the grocery store. If you don’t see it, just ask they’ll get you some.

Here’s everything you need to know about suet including lots of recipes for making your own.

This is one of my favorites-

1 cup suet

1 cup peanut butter

3 cups corn meal

1/2 cup sunflower seeds

Melt the suet in a saucepan at low heat; add the peanut butter while stirring until it’s blended with the suet. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir.

Anything that a bird likes can be added to the recipe. If I have raisins or peanuts, I’ll put them in too.

I use hamburger patty makers to form the suet cakes and also pack it into big pine cones and hang them from the feeder.

Bringing birds into the yard is not only fun, it will help you garden next spring.
Here's where you can buy Cole's products, everything on the show came from Penn Hills Lawn and Garden.

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Point Breeze man wins Wahl 'best facial hair' contest

Written by Sara Bauknecht on .

Conor-Barrett

Pittsburgh is home to the American Mustache Institute and to a former Mustached American of the Year title holder. Now that winner is in good company.

Conor Barrett (pictured above; courtesy of Wahl), 25, of Point Breeze is the Wahl Man of the Year for best facial hair in the nation. He was one of 12 finalists who went "face to face" for the title. The public had the chance to vote for their favorite on Facebook, and that pick made up 40 percent of the score. The rest was based on a review by a judging panel, which ranked finalists on general enthusiasm for facial hair, media readiness and potential brand ambassadorship for Wahl.

Wahl visited places its research deemed to be the "Most Facial Hair Friendly Cities in America" and brought along a mobile barbershop to scout men with the best beards and mustaches. Mr. Barrett's full, burly beard earned him the name of Wahl Man of Pittsburgh and got him in the running for the grand prize.

And the grand prize is (drum roll) ... $1,000, a national advertisement spot for Wahl grooming products and all the bragging rights and glory that go along with being Wahl Man of the Year. Yet another accolade for the City of Champions!

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Why snow is good for the garden

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog snow max gardenMax the Wonder Dog spots a deer and is ready to take off. The snow helps our plants and reveals deer paths. Photo By Doug Oster

When it snows it makes life hard for us on roads, sidewalks, driveways and more. But for the garden, snow is a great thing.

The white stuff has great insulating properties, providing protection from the deep chill for our plants. When temperatures rise and fall, the snow helps keep the ground from feeling those swings.

Any gardener who left root crops in the ground or has some greens growing outdoors welcomes the snow.

Of course when a thaw comes the snow will soak the soil too. The snow also provides nitrogen for the plants.

It's also a way to figure out deer patterns. I always go out in the garden after a fresh snow to locate deer trails. They have a tendency to use the same trail all season and beyond. Knowing where they travel might help in planning next year's plantings.

Just like gardeners feel differently about the rain than "normal" people do, we can welcome the snow too.

 

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