Spring shop windows 2018

Bagni di Lucca and Beyond

Spring is dragging its feet this year. Spring blossoms are just beginning to appear. However, the season is blooming in the shop windows in Florence and there is lots of colour, from pastels to bright and florals.

Florence spring 2018

Florence spring 2018

Florence spring 2018

Florence spring 2018

Florence spring 2018

Florence spring 2018

Florence spring 2018

Florence spring 2018

The accessories are pretty this year.

Florence spring 2018

Florence spring 2018

Florence spring 2018

Florence spring 2018

Window shopping is fun…and costs nothing.  I have no doubt that something will find its way into my suitcase before I leave.

View original post



Last Sunday I was immersed in an over-the-top exhibit at the Palace of Legion of Art in San Francisco.  Giacomo Casanova (Italian, 1725-98) was our guide, though pictures of him were only a likeness at best. Through the art of painters of the time, including Tiepolo, Longhi, Boucher, Canaletto, Fragonard and Hogarth.  Rococo was key, with  sumptuous rooms filled with the finest wood paneling, Gilt candelabra, silvered mirrors, lavish furniture of silk-embroidered velvet, worked leather, marble, alabaster and gold. Tableaux with mannequins dressed in period costumes, demonstrated scenes of the era, and many paintings connected the viewer to colorful stories of the indulgent lifestyle.Gold room_0185 Fragonard, The Seesaw0179

Notice the note being passed to the maid by the suitor visiting a woman in the dressing room, a common practice, mixing friends and gossip into the ritual of getting dressed. Mythological paintings by Boucher grace the walls.

Boudoir_0177The exhibit was curated world-wide on loan from institutions including he Musée du Louvre; the National Portait Gallery, London; the National Gallery of Canada, the National Galleries of Scotland; the Musée des Beaux Arts, and several prominent private collections.
Casanova, born in Venice into a world of actors and musicians, related well to the theatrical. Once, having been imprisoned for his misbehaves in Venice and imprisoned there, he kept his fine clothing hidden until one day cleverly finding an escape route, convinced a guard he had been locked inside while visiting and calmly walked out the front gate. His many fortuitous circumstances are as legendary as his skillful finagling to bring them about to his advantage. His autobiography of many volumes leaves little to the imagination.

A gourmet connoisseur, he wrote in great detail about his meals. To highlight the importance of fine dining of the era, the Legion includes an interactive exhibit, “The Art of Dining”. It projects an overhead video so visitors can sit at a “dining table” and witness a historically accurate 3-course feast, using period porcelain and silver pieces.

Cosmopolitan Casanova was chosen to guide visitors through the glittering art capitals of 18th-century Europe as he knew the greatest figures of the age, from monarchs to popes, to intellectuals like Voltaire and Benjamin Franklin.

The Legion of Honor is in Lincoln Park, 100 34th Ave, San Francisco and is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 9:30 a.m.-5:15 p.m. and closed most Mondays. Ticket information is at legionofhonor.famsf.org/visit-us.


Camellias Light up Murer House and includes tips for home gardener

Published March 15, 2018 Mountain Democrat, Placerville, Ca.
Betty Albert Special to the Democrat

A crowd of camellia lovers gathered Saturday, February 24, 2018 at Historic Murer House and Gardens for the 4th Annual Camellia Show. Joe Murer planted camellias from local nurseries in 1926 in the Murer House gardens, where seven of those nearly century-old trees remain today. Many visitors brought blooms to be judged at this year’s show. All stayed to hear two presentations by Greg Gayton, California Certified Nursery Professional with Green Acres Nursery & Supply, who shared tips on selection, growing and maintenance of these historic plants.

Ancient Chinese literature records ornamental camellias in Japan, China and Southeast Asia, and brought to Sacramento in 1852, according to the Camellia Society of Sacramento. The flood of 1861 and 1862 destroyed much of the camellia population and interest waned until 1910, when a movement was started to make Sacramento the “Camellia Capitol.” Sacramento adopted the camellia as the city’s official flower in 1941.

The Camellia Society of Sacramento, founded in 1943, is a non-profit organization that meets October through April to study camellia culture, care and growth. Probably due to the camellia, Sacramento’s sister city is Matsuyama, Japan. Today, species and their cultivars grow worldwide as hybrids, sasanqua, hiemales and japonica to heights of 20’ tall and 10-12’ wide. They can live for hundreds of years. In the world of camellia taxonomy, their one universal trait of beauty prepares them for a world of comparison and competition equal to nothing less than the likes of a Miss Universe pagent.


Bill Kitagawa of Sacramento’s “Toichi Domato” bloom took third place as well as peoples’ choice in the Murer House show. Second place went to Folsom’s Jim Raines’ “Haru NoUtena.” Sonyia Noonan of Folsom took first place with her “Mathotiana Supreme” bloom. Best of show was again Jim Raines with his “Swadas Dream,Raines_0059 3

a 20-year old plant according to Raines. Last year at Murer House, Raines won first place with his “Colonel Fiery”.


Judge for the show was Greg Gayton, who joined Green Acres (then Matsuda’s) at 19 years of age. “I’m 60 now,” he said, “and I’ve never lost the passion I have for teaching others, especially about giving camellias more generational recognition. Our millennials need to learn and appreciate their historical significance and beauty.” When asked what he looked for in a competitive specimen, Gayton talked about the bloom’s form, color, overall beauty and perfection. He congratulated those who brought blooms because he said that these varieties cannot be found now, they come from very old cultivars.

“People think camellias are fussy and hard to grow,” Gayton related, “but the opposite is true. They can survive neglect very well, and are drought tolerant. Japonicas need a little shade, and all camellias like cooler roots. Keep all fallen debris picked up, provide plenty of mulch, and be sure to plant them on the high side.”GregGayton_0040

Working closely with horticultural specialists in California, Gayton spoke of current propagation techniques Green Acres has contributed that will bring new and hardier camellias into our climate zones.

He cautioned the audience to keep their plants away from walnut trees and redwoods.

“Most important to camellias,” he said “is the soil. It should be a specific mix like the one we make such as 80% finely ground aged bark (1/4”fir, pine, cedar) 10% Builders sand and 10% peat moss. A lot of peat and/or bagged commercial mixtures with synthetic ingredients are not recommended. Look for the CDFA organic label on fertilizer, mulch or soil from local producers for our climate like GNB or E. B. Stone.”2018Camellia_0007

In addition to excellent drainage, mulch is important. Gayton said to add mulch around the plant, but keep it well away (12”) from the trunk of the plant.

Sulfur can help keep the pH around 5 if a soil test indicates more acidity is needed and especially if your buds do not open,” he said, “and the potassium and nitrogen in liquid fish emulsion helps the plant’s vigor, immunity, and tolerance of our heavy soils. Too much nitrogen can burn leaves. Feed with acid-loving fertilizer or the fish emulsion after the bloom in spring and again in mid-summer if growth seems sparse. “

Another caution was overwatering in continued hot spells. “Dig down into the earth with care not to damage surface roots, and you’ll probably be surprised. If the soil is full of nutrients like it should be, it will hold moisture just fine,” Gayton advised. “Regular watering doesn’t mean every day.”

Botrytis or Ciborinia Petal Blight (brown petals) affects all cultivars of camellia japonica. C. sasanqua is less infected in California according to the UC integrated pest management program. Look to the condition of soil, watering and nutrients for resolution.

More information on:



The 94th Annual Camellia Show in Sacramento at the Memorial Auditorium, 1515 J Streets, will be held Saturday and Sunday, March 3 and 4, 2018. More details at:


The “Dig into Spring” Seminars March 10 and 11, 2018, at Green Acres, 205 Serpa Way, Folsom, CA. give participants weekend ideas on many gardening topics. Call 916.358.9099 M-Sat. 7a-6p Sun: 8a-6p More details at: