A Garden Tale

Key to the Orto  For those faithful readers, you know that we share our orto with our friends from Portland, its in the heart of town so everyone feels free to comment on our efforts and its not really our orto, its Signor Bruski's orto and he just lets us use it. For anyone else just tuning in, well, now you know the story.

For the past few weeks, the Portland crew has been here and tending the orto. We like to call it a reunion of the Sons and Daughters of the Montone Orto (hereafter referred to as SADMO).

On Wednesday, we left the safety of the Montone walls and spent the day doing chores in Citta di Castello. When we came home this report was waiting for us from John and Libby:

June 3, 2009

We have parsley and celery in the garden that’s gone to seed and John was not sure how to nurse it to greater production or in the case of the celery …when to harvest it. Like a true American, he spent an hour this afternoon with google…when to harvest, how to care for parsley, etc. The result of his research was inconclusive – he still wasn’t sure although it seemed that once gone to seed parsley was gone for the year and once celery was the ‘right size’ it was time to harvest it.
One of our projects in the past week has been to start a garden edge along the sidewalk with flowers among the pink roses. We totally weeded the fence and wall edge, built a rock wall to account for a grade change, planted 7 lavender plants and this afternoon found some sedum to add to the rock wall.
In the garden in late afternoon, Libby was planting the sedum when our elderly neighbors Tina and Virginia came out, eager to talk about the flowers. Libby was chatting them up in Italian and John just wanted to know whether to cut the celery now or later so nudged her to ask Virginia what’s up with celery (sedano).
Virginia, who is delightful, with smiley sparkling eyes,  went to her house and came out with a scythe (a small sharp one) and trudged up the stairs and down the steep garden slope (at 89 years old and 4.5 feet tall). John gave her a hand on the garden slope although she didn’t really need it.
With a flurry of uncertain words she hacked off the parsley and one of the celery at the ground…whoa….what’s going on…she pulled them out of the ground and said they were ‘done’ and if we want parsley we need to plant new ones. We did our best to stop her from pulling everything up without Jeff here, saying we would do it later.
Then, she started showing Libby how to use the scythe and went at the beautiful green ‘wall’ of mint and yellow flowers that are our screen between our garden and hers…in a heartbeat she was hacking down the flowers at the ground like a small tornado, or a whirling dervish. Libby’s voice was getting a bit louder by then…stop, stop….trying to restrain her (except she had a very sharp scythe waving around at a rapid speed) and we only got her to slow down when we said we would ‘finish’…when we really mean Jeff will kill us. We tried to refocus her away from the flowers and onto the garden so she trudged back up the garden steps and down the street to her house and came back with a hoe and immediately starts digging around the beans and tomatoes…destroying Jeff’s trench watering system…all the while talking about something important which we didn’t really understand.
After a few feet, I managed to get the hoe out of her hands and was obligated to keep digging with her giving directions…which we didn’t understand so sometimes she took the hoe out of my hands and did it right…correcting my hoeing.
About this point Marco Rossini arrived to say hello and saved our bacon somewhat…by then, with John manning the hoe,  Virginia had the scythe in her hands again and was going full tilt against Jeff’s flowers…cutting about 4’ of the tall flowers. We did realize from her ranting that the beautiful flowers that we love as a screen are blocking the sun from her grapes that grow along the fence….she wants those flowers gone. Libby is doing her best to stop her from cutting saying that “Jeff piace I fiori…and don’t cut any more” although she kept hacking and talking about her grapes. Marco managed to understand our dilemma and translate that “Jeff con I capelli lunghi” (with the long hair) loves the flowers and we need to talk with him first. Virginia stood up and forked over the scythe to Libby for us to cut the flowers tomorrow (she thinks).
Virginia was not phased by any of this, and seemed quite pleased to be the teacher of the “studenti de orte” (students of the garden) , although not as pleased as if we had let her cut the flowers. As a gift, she  gave us a head of lettuce and a handful of strawberries, and then asked us into her garden to show off her beautiful tomatoes and show us how to do things right….
A couple of lessons learned:
Don’t let strangers into your garden with sharp objects.
Don’t ask for advice unless you are willing to accept the consequences.
Don’t assume that your neighbors love what you love.


  1. Mosk on June 5, 2009 at 8:03 am

    One must use mutual detterance with great care. Do grapes trump flowers?

Leave a Comment

For security, use of Google's reCAPTCHA service is required which is subject to the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

If you agree to these terms, please click here.