Photo: Daniela in her balcony garden

Apartments can be quite small in Sicily, but this doesn’t mean you can’t have a wonderful garden. Our relatives love fruit and but trees but also love having tons of flowers about. These pictures of from Daniela’s balcony garden in Nicolosi, Sicily.

Daniela in her balcony garden

Daniela in her balcony garden

Daniela's Balcony Garden

Geranium in Daniela's Garden


Photo: Grape Vines and grapes in monastary vineyard

Grape Vines and grapes in monastary vineyard, originally uploaded by dewelch.

I saw this amazing scene when we visited a restored monastery last night in Nicolosi. For me, this sums up the beauty of the outdoors and of Sicily itself. The sun, the vines, the grapes all together.

I have had a small dream of growing a vineyard and making my own wine. Scenes like this only reinforce that dream. I can easily imagine this in my own garden in California.

Photo: Zinnia

Zinnia, originally uploaded by dewelch.

Another lovely flower from our cousin’s garden here in Sicily. Francesca loves flowers and lovingly raises large pots of annuals from seed each year. These zinnias fairly glow in the sharp Sicilian summer sun.

We were making plans for a few road trips around the island yesterday and several gardens were metioned as candidates to visit. I will make sure the camera is charged and the memory cards are emptied to make way for that.

Photos from Sicily: Vinca

My wife, son and I are in Sicily visiting family for the next 3 weeks. I will be reporting from Mascalucia, Sicily (near Cantania) and posting lots of photos.

Today’s photo so from a pot of vincas (la vinca in Italian, funny how that works (SMILE)) that our cousin Francesca has scattered on her patio. There are also pots of lovely geraniums and a host of other flowers I will highlight in days to come. Stay tuned!

Vinca Flowers

Vinca Flowers

I Like This – July 22, 2011

What is GardenCampLA?

GardenCampLA is currently in the planning stages. We are looking for venues, sponsors and organizers. Visit for more information — Douglas

GardenCampLA is a community organized, gardening-focused, unconference which calls upon local communities and people to share their knowledge, expertise and other important information on developing your garden, landscape design, and public garden environment.

What is an unconference?

Unconferences are self-organizing conferences, similar to many professional conferences, but instead of hiring well-known, professional speakers, they call on the attendees themselves to provide the content and focus for the event. Every person who attends is highly encouraged to present on some topic deeply important to them or, barring that, to facilitate an open breakout session or round table discussion or even just to engage and converse with their fellow attendees between presentations. A few organizers band together to find a venue for the event, recruit sponsors and invite attendees, but the focus of the unconference is driven solely by the attendees.

Some might question the usefulness of presentations by their peers, but we have found that there is an enormous amount of real-world expertise available in each and every local community. GardenCampLA utilizes a format that draws out that expertise and benefits everyone. GardenCampLA (and other unconferences) provide a structure and an opportunity to share this expertise in ways that traditional conferences do not. Additionaly, GardenCampLA can also attract gardening professionals who can use GardenCampLA as a way of introducing themselves to a new audience..

How was GardenCampLA developed?

The genesis of GardenCampLA was found in the BarCamp unconferences held around the world. GardenCampLA founder, Douglas E. Welch, was a long time attendee of BarCamp, which is an event that embraces any topic — although it often leans toward technology — and PodCamp — which is focused on podcasting and new media. After seeing the success of BarCamp as a way to illuminate and educate within a community, Welch that the unconference concept could also be applied to the specific world of Gardening.

What is the typical structure of GardenCampLA?

Each GardenCamp can and should be different, but there are some basic steps that suit the purpose of the day.

Much like any unconference, each GardenCamp is driven by a small group of passionate organizers in the local community. These organizers locate a venue, select a date, collect volunteers to assist on the day of the event and sponsors to cover the minimal costs of the GardenCamp.  Local restaurants can be recruited to provide breakfast or lunch.  Local stores can offer gift cards for their services to be used in a free raffle for attendees, often held at the end of the day. The organizers are also responsible for promoting the GardenCamp by reaching out to local media for coverage, sometimes bringing in various media as sponsors.

On the day of the event, attendees arrive, check in and are greeted in an opening session where the organizers briefly explain the mechanics of how the day will proceed. Typically, there will be a schedule board, divided into a grid of rooms and session times. Most GardenCamps have 3-5 session rooms for each hour of the day, as well another series of rooms or seating areas are available for open, un-moderated, “breakout” discussions. This combination of presentations and open discussions allows for a wide variety of content to be shared across the day and allows the attendees to choose among this content as most benefits them.

After the opening session, attendees proceed to the schedule board and begin placing their presentations, and breakout discussion topics on the board — selecting both a room and a time for their presentation. As the time for first “session” period approaches, attendees make their way to the session or breakout rooms and the first presentations begin.

Between each session, attendees are given 15 minutes to re-visit the schedule board and select their choice for the next session period. This process then repeats throughout the day. When possible, a catered lunch is provided, allowing the attendees to remain on-site and continue their discussions and networking between morning and afternoon sessions.

A closing session ends the day thanking the attendees, sponsors and organizers, soliciting feedback from the attendees and, in some cases, offering a door prize raffle of items from various GardenCamp sponsors.

Photo: Bees Up Close

It took some time to make peace with honey bees. I grew up with yards that were more clover than grass, so summer days often involved accidentally stepping on bees in the yard while we played. Along with that we had nasty mud dauber wasps that seem to sting you for no other reason than just being there. Add to that the ground dwelling bees that would sometimes well up when you were mowing the yard and it tended to make you a bit scared of anything that flew and sort of looked like a bee or wasp.

Honeybees Up Close - 1

Honeybees Up Close - 2 Honeybees Up Close - 3 Honeybees Up Close - 4 Honeybees Up Close - 5

I have learned over the years, though, how to identify a honey bee (and our somewhat bumbling huge carpenter bees) here in California. I am often showing people the difference between the gentle honey bee and the aggressive food scavenging yellow jacket wasps.  I am always telling people that a honey bee doesn’t want to sting you because stinging means that it will die. Wasps, on the other hand, can (and do) sting multiple times without too much ill effect.

I have walked through clouds of honeybees who have been naturally swarming near trails and such and find them a docile, if acoustically intimidating, companion. Their buzzing can get quite loud in mass and I think this scares a lot of people, too.

I don’t have room for honeybees here in my yard, but I think in different circumstances I might become a beekeeper, tending my flock for the benefit of us both.


Transplants from seed starting project


Clockwise from Top Left (Basil and 1 small oregano seedling), Unknown (I am letting it grow to see what it is. I think it might be a grape vine, but only time will tell, Tomato volunteer that popped up, probably from my homemade compost I used for the pots, Basil again. There are a few broccoli seedlings on the ground to the left but some bug has been munching them pretty badly and I don’t think they will survive the transplant.


This is a close up the little basil pot. It has been the healthiest of all the seedlings and I hope it continues that way. These pots are placed in a tiny spot int he backyard that seems to get more sun than the rest. Most of the garden is shaded by mature trees, so it is a little hard to find a good spot, hence the containers, which allow me to move things around as needed.

A week from this Sunday we are off to visit family in Sicily for 3 weeks. We will have garden friendly friends housesitting for us, so hopefully these will be even bigger by the time we return.

I am planning on seeing as many gardens as possible in Sicily and supposedly will have fairly good Internet access from the house we are living in. If I do, look for some great gardening pictures and more from the Mediterranean!


Photo: Cucumber flower

Cucumber flower, originally uploaded by dewelch.

Cucumbers are on the way in our friend’s garden. They already have corn and some tomatoes on the vine, too.

I don’t really have enough sun exposure here to grow veggies, so I have to live vicariously through others. (LAUGH)

Photo: Figgy pudding, perhaps?

These wild figs pop up everywhere her in the Los Angeles area, seeds spread by birds and other wildlife. Once started they can quickly take over an area. I have cut back several over the years, but then my wife developed a taste for figs, so this one has remained. It is still a battle with the squirrels over which will get to eat then first, but it looks like we might get a decent crop based on these examples.