On the east coast of Sicily, Italy is a beautiful place called Taormina. Within Taormina is one of the most beautiful gardens I have ever seen. Pictured above is the owner of the garden, Florence Travelyan a woman who gained an interest in the creation of what is known as “pleasure gardens”. The garden explained here is called Hallington Siculo which is now known as Villa Comunale; public garden.
Florence’s Garden History
The beautiful Hallington Siculo garden is a beautifully organized with a horticultural arrangement. Florence planted native species in which interspersed with other exotic and tropical ones. She also had beautiful structures including this Victorian Folet (pictured on left). This garden was created in memory of all the times she gardened with her mother.
According to our tour guide of the garden, this Dragon Tree was imported from North Africa in what used to be a private British garden. Dragon trees are very common indoor plants but can also be outdoor. They have medium water needs, only need a lot of sunlight if left indoors, and can help purify the air as well as being super easy to grow. Sometimes the leaves can brown which hints that the air might be too dry, putting the plant next to other houseplants, in the bathroom or even with some pebbles and water can help.
This Drunken Tree was imported from Argentina and comes from other places in South America. This tree gets its name from its very visibly swollen trunk. It is swollen due to its natural ability to store water. Younger trees have thick and sharp horns covering the bark and hang from the branches. As summer approaches pink flowers bloom.
This Coral Tree came from South America and is a part of the Legume family. Coral trees are outdoor plants and can range from 35 to 65 feet tall. They need very little water as too much can cause weakness and breakage. Overwatering can cause the tree to be too soft causing the tree to pull itself out of the soil come dry season. Pruning the tree in the spring can help prevent the limb loss. These trees are of great quality and can be sometimes used to make surfboards!
These Silky Oaks were brought here from Australia. These trees can live up to 100 years old! It used to be native to Australia but now grows everywhere. It is very adaptable and can survive through both drought and frost. It is fast growing and a popular choice amongst gardeners because of its straight trunk; this helps avoid the spread of growth. Its shallow roots grow towards water so be careful not to plant close to buildings or pipes!
(All pictures taken by Alexandria DiPerri except the first one)
Do you ever want to start gardening, but feel like you don’t have the skills to keep up with one on your own? The aero garden is the perfect solution! Living closer to the city, having space for a garden has always been a challenge. Most of the yards in my neighborhood are shared among neighbors and usually tend to be very small. My mom and I always wanted to try and grow our own vegetables, but always struggled with finding the room and proper sunlight. After a few failed attempts, my mom came across the aero garden.
The aero garden allows one to grow plants using aeroponic technology. The plants are grown without soil and it uses just the air and water to grow plants. The kit has a base that you can pour water and the nutrients into and it has lights so that the plants can grow indoors. This was a huge benefit because we could grow tomatoes all year round and we could start a little garden in our kitchen! If you get the seed kits that come with it, they can start to germinate within 24 hours. Not only can you start a garden whenever and wherever, but they even start to grow super fast. The aero garden is so convenient and made it possible for my mom and I to actually start a successful mini garden. The aerogarden makes a basically perfect environment for the plants by having their roots grow towards the air and the water in the basin. It gives the roots a lot of humidity and lets them grow quicker than they would in the ground. The device adjusts the water and nutrient levels and amount of light based on the plant, so it doesn’t take an expert to be able to grow what you want! It has been perfect for my mom and I because we aren’t at home a lot and have busy schedules and it has made it so easy for us to grow our tomatoes. Although expensive, I think the convenience and quality of the plants is beyond worth it.
Throughout my life I have spent a lot of time in Boston, and this fall I was able to get an apartment in Cambridge. Although there are so many different places to go and things to do in the city, there is nothing more relaxing than going to the Boston Public Garden when the flowers are in bloom and the swan boats are in the water.
It is such an incredible sight and immediately calms me down and puts a smile on my face. Obviously the creation of the Public Garden did not happen overnight, so I did some research to see how it got to where it is now.
Similar to many other aspects of Boston the Public Garden was way ahead of its time. It was created in 1839 and was the first botanical garden that was open to the public in the entire country. Between 1839 and 1856 the area was not owned by the city of Boston and was primarily worked on by a man named Horace Gray until he could no longer fund his plans. Once the city of Boston obtained the rights to the land, they held a design competition with the winner getting his vision created. A gentleman by the name of George Meacham won the competition at only twenty five years of age and in less than twenty years his plan was created, and is still primarily the layout of the Public Garden today.
The Public Garden is twenty four acres and with so much space to cover there is extensive planning that takes place. With Boston having very harsh winters, a lot of the raising and growing of the plants took place elsewhere. When the garden first started most of the plants were grown throughout Boston in various greenhouses. During that time there was also a lot of experimentation going on with what plants look the best and stay alive the longest. There would be new seeds shipped in from all over the world, with some making it to the garden and some not. The Public Garden is something that has evolved over time through the hard work of so many people and thanks to them I am able to escape the craziness of the city to a beautiful natural landscape filled with life.
It was a muggy summer morning in June of 2019 when I received a call from Father on my way into work. We talked as if it was a normal Wednesday. At the end of the conversation he told me him and my Mother were taking a day trip to Maine. I asked where and why they were going when he replied “it’s a secret”. After hanging up the phone I thought of every possible case on why they were making this day trip to Maine, to come to no conclusion. Throughout the work day I could not get this thought out of my head. When I returned home from work that day I sat down at the dinner table but something felt different something felt off. My parents seemed overly joyed and something was up. Over dinner my parents broke the news to me that they had just purchased 100 acres of land in Bridgton, Maine located just about 70 miles to the south east of the capital of Augusta. A small town with a population of 5,000 residents with just about 3 gas stations, 1 Grocery store and about 5 family owned and operated businesses.
That night at the dinner table I asked my parents overwhelmed with happiness “why”? A simple question that was very bland but could be answered a thousand different ways. My parents had always discussed having land and cabin in the woods as it had been a dream of my Fathers for awhile. But to me 100 acres of land just seemed absurdly overwhelming . With a smirk on my Father’s face he replied with a simple analogy “a place to get away and re-charge the batteries”. It took me awhile to realize what this really meant. The point he was trying to make is that this land is a place for us as a family to escape to and grow. A place where we could just relax and have fun and make memories. A place where there is no hustle and bustle of a suburb town and a place where you can just reflect on your thoughts in the beautiful outdoor’s and the great scenery that Maine provides.
On June 20th of 2019 I took my first trip up to the property with my parents to walk the land and see it all for my self for the first time. As we walked around I could see the happiness on both of my parents faces, especially my Father’s. It looks as if he was like a little kid on a playground for the first time. This was the big boy playground. He discussed plans for a cabin, barn, koi ponds, Dirt bike and ATV trails and so much more. You could tell he was really happy with his decision to buy the property. I asked him if he saw this as a long term investment as most people buy large chunks of land to sell for profit. I was surprised by his answer thinking that he would reply with a yes but it wasn’t. He said that he wanted this land to be in the “Casella” name for years to come. Him saying this sent chills down my spine as I began to imagine all the memories that were gonna be made on this land for years to come and the generations that will be using this place for years upon years all because of this purchase made by my parents. Fast forward two year after many long weeks, weekends and a lot of blood sweat and tears my parent’s and I have successfully logged 5 acres, Built a 3 bedroom 1.5 bath log home, Built a 2 car garage/ barn, (1) 45 gallon koi pond, and cut many different trails for hiking, dirt biking, Atving and all different kinds of entertainment. It is still a work in progress but the memories have started and I am still in awe of it all. I am greatly appreciative of this opportunity and am so lucky to call Bridgeton my second home for the rest of my life.
Last week when I was in my Garden Memoirs class, each person got to grow their own type of seed. I chose a seed that was tolerant to the cold and that it was a vegetable that could be cooked to make different recipes like salads, soups or they can be eaten as greens for dinners.
When I received my seeds, I did not know when was the best time to grow the seeds. I did research that they can be planted at the end of winter before spring time. The first thing was to find a container that would hold hold soil and have holes to not overflow the soil.
Some of the containers that I chose was either too big or too small. The first container I picked was a plastic food container and thought that it would be perfect for growing seeds. I felt that this container would be too deep or too wide for the seeds.
Then I chose to plant the seeds in a small plastic pot that was not too big and not too wide. The pot also had small holes on the bottom to help drain too much water from getting into the soil. The seeds started sprouting after 5 days and started to see flowering. I made sure that the plant received enough sunlight, water, and fresh air.
When my parents bought our house, it came with an extra lot of land to the side of it. This gave me, my brother, and our neighborhood friends ample room to play outside while growing up. This also meant my parents could start the process of turning a large portion of the backyard into a flourishing garden over the years.
Placed in the sunniest part of our yard, my parents made a gardening space that they have continued to grow over the past 20 years! My mom always dreamed of walking out into her backyard to pick fresh produce grown by herself and my dad for my brother and myself. The previous owners of our house had chickens, and their manure left rich nutrients in the soil of our garden, which was great for growing our plants.
We have grown tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, soybeans, zucchini, various squashes, decorative gourds, eggplant, green beans, snow peas, broccoli, cauliflower, and the list goes on. This past year we even grew our first mini pumpkin! My favorite part of the garden is our blueberry and raspberry bushes. They are the best berries I’ve ever had. One of my favorite memories growing up is coming home, in the beginning of July, every year from our vacation in Maine and running straight to the blueberry bush for perfectly ripened blueberries.
Another memory that my brother and I share from growing up was using a metal detector in our yard. Digging up our yard and getting dirt everywhere eventually led to us finding old cow tags deep in our soil along with buried gardening shovels. This led us to believe our yard used to be a farm back in the day, which we were so excited about. I will always have these lasting memories of the history of our yard and garden growing up. Also, I will forever be so grateful for what our garden provides us during the warmer months, and the commitment my parents have to continuing our garden each year. It definitely created a connection to the food we eat, knowing it came from our very own yard, and from the love of my parents.
Seed starting is a beautiful transition for us in New England to begin to look ahead into the warm spring from our cold and dreary winter. Starting seeds is a fun and extremely affordable hobby for those who want a connection to our environment. Seed starting is something I have been doing over the past years since I was a young child about the age of 8. Now that I am older and passionate about seeing progress in my seeds I have become much more interested in what exactly I can grow and how to do so. In our Garden Memoirs class we have been able to access an inside look at some farmers and other classmates’ skills of what they grow and have experienced. With this course being offered at Merrimack I think it is a great option to take and should be advocated more vocally to students. I have learned that at our college we even have access to the Merrimack garden on campus for when we are all back on campus. This year in particular with the worldwide events going on around the world I have been more inspired to get to planting than ever before. Seed starting allows us to learn the importance of growth and progress. Growth is slow and steady and this is important in life as well that we as people can learn through these little seeds growing as well. My seeds that I was able to plant during class time have now sprouted! My seeds are showing major amounts of growth and health and it is only March. We started our seeds in plastic containers with coverings to act as a greenhouse. As they begin to grow and get stronger they can be brought outside and transported to pots or in the ground as the warm weather comes in as the Spring progresses. This experience in our Garden Memoirs class has opened my eyes to what the garden has to offer and it has exceeded my expectations!
The following blog post is a story from the mother of a good friend of mine at Merrimack College. I would like to call her by her real name, which is Ursula, for this. Ursula has a backyard with a lot of plants and flowers, which are bound to attract creatures such as Butterflies. Last year she planted an herb garden in pots in the months of May and June of 2020. While planting these herb gardens she included herbs such as dill, parsley, and white sage. Soon July would arrive, and she would see a black butterfly flying around the pots.
Now, the eggs of these butterflies are tiny and light green, and it’s very rare for them to survive and become caterpillars because of predators. Also it was pretty surprising for Ursula to see the eggs grow up in potted plants and not in a bigger garden. So at the end of their growing stage, the Caterpillar based on its colors will become an “Asterius” or a Black Butterfly as it’s called. This wouldn’t be the only time an Asterius would make an appearance in Ursula’s garden though.
In August of 2020 Ursula would find a green and black caterpillar on her white sage plant on her deck outside. She would name her new Caterpillar friend “Guilbert.” Her kids would ostracize her for having Guilbert as a pet and for having them greet the animal. The Caterpillar would start changing, and would eat for about a week, and would thread a chrysalis as well as Cocoon for 2.5 weeks. Finally, the chrysalis would turn black on the morning of August 21, 2020, and the process of Eclosion would occur. This is a long process in the development of a Butterfly, as it can take up to an hour for their wings to strengthen. Fortunately, the butterfly would finally sprout its wings and make its place in Ursula’s garden. Based on the wing colors, the butterfly was a female.
In conclusion, I think Ursula’s experience teaches us a lesson we shouldn’t forget. It’s always the little things that matter. Having a butterfly grow in your garden may not mean much to others, but I think Ursula naming it and making her children greet it is very telling about how something so little can bring so much joy. I think this happiness is the essence of what gardening is.
One early morning in May my father, cousin, and my eleven year old self headed out for a fishing trip to the Quabbin Reservoir. Quabbin is a very unique place, in the 1940’s an entire county was flooded to supply Boston with clean water. What was left behind is one of these most beautiful fisheries in the world, no civilization in sight, just green mountains sandwiched between the blues of the sky and water.
The Quabbin Reservoir is home to state record trout and is known for its pivotal position in rejuvenating the American bald eagle population. Seeing these majestic birds of prey, the staple of americana, soar above your head is the epitome of freedom. They especially grabbed the attention of my late great uncle, Uncle Moose. Moose was the textbook definition of an outdoorsman, doing everything from commercial tuna fishing to hunting rabbit, but his favorite place to be was right there at Quabbin with those eagles. On this particular day in May the presence of the eagles were prominent. You could make out the white of their heads perched in the evergreens like a singular ornament on a christmas tree.
As we neared lunch, still fishless, our luck changed. One of the rods off the back of the boat bent down and we had a fish on! My father handed me the rod and was coaching me through what to do. He was saying; “Ok Jack, you’re going to reel the fish in, pull it past me next to the boat, I’m going to drop the net into the water, and then you just let the fish drift right back not the net.” It seemed fool proof. Twenty feet off the back of the boat we see the fish break the surface of the water, my cousin and dad come to the conclusion that it’s a rainbow trout. My first Quabbin fish was now fifteen feet away. Ten feet and I’m thinking of how I’m going to hold it for a picture. It’s five feet away and all of a sudden a shadow screams in from the right, there is a splash in the water and my rod bends straight up. That shadow belonged to the eagle that was once perched high up in the trees. But the fish was still hooked. So here I am, eleven years old, fighting a bald eagle at the end of my line. After a valiant fight of a few long seconds, the eagle won and took my fish back to his perch. Dumbfounded at what we all had just witnessed I picked up the phone and immediately called Uncle Moose, frantically trying to explain to him what just happened. After all he was the one who taught my father, who then taught me how to fish. Although we left that day without catching a fish we all knew that what we all experienced together out there on the water was a shared memory that will never be forgotten.
Gardening is arguably one of the most rewarding processes. It builds one’s connection with nature while contributing countless benefits. However, my personal favorite aspect of gardening is the gift of fresh food as well as all the benefits that it brings.
When you grow your own food you are not only benefiting the taste of your products but you are benefiting health wise. Your diet becomes packed with minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. When products are harvested directly from the source, you are able to consume these nutrients in their rawest form. This is very different from food purchased in places such as a grocery store because the timeline there is much longer. The food we see sold in our stores go through several stages of being harvested, shipped, and distributed. The longer the food sits on a shelf or in storage the freshness of the product is compromised. These products are also subject to undergo unnatural treatments in order for them to last longer. Overall, this is not the healthiest for people to consume and can compromise existing health benefits. By growing or harvesting your own food, you avoid these things. Instead, you are granted with delicious products in their purest form, directly from the source to your plate.
Not only does growing/harvesting your food provide health benefits but it allows you to form memories with the people around you. For me personally, harvesting blueberries will always remind me of my grandmother. We didn’t grow them ourselves, but each summer she visited we made countless trips to the local berry farm. We would wander up and down the patches in search of grammy’s criteria for the “best blueberries.” She taught us just what to look for, not too big or small, not too dark or to light in color. As kids, we were always quick to grab the first berries we saw in sight. But when we would go to show her, she always warned “you’re not looking deep enough” as she believed the best ones were always hidden. When the process finally came to an end, it was time for what I thought was my favorite part: blueberry pie. The pie we would make tasted far better than any other pie as the freshness of the blueberries was evident. However, I have to say, looking back all those years ago I can’t clearly remember the taste of the pie. What I remember most are all the times collecting the blueberries with my grammy and it is those memories that are still clear to me.
Growing/harvesting fresh food is extremely beneficial health wise as it allows you to consume products in their rawest form, providing all of their individual benefits. However, more importantly, growing/harvesting food is an opportunity to make memories with those around you like I was able to do. As we have now created our greenhouses in class, I am excited to have the opportunity to grow my own product and make memories with my classmates while doing so.