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 One of the most wonderful things about Italian life, and part of my original premise for this blog, is the way Europeans seem to live closer to nature.  It is not only about growing your own olives, but each home or apartment, no matter how big or small has its own orto (garden).

In addition to my penchant for collecting objects while traveling, I also like to collect seeds, leaves and rocks.  Many travelers are satisfied to bring home a key chain depicting the Leaning Tower of Pisa or an ash tray of the Colosseum to commemorate their trip, while I delight in going to the local nursery and foraging for seeds.  Even when walking I cast my eyes downward to search for interesting leaves and rocks.  Each Thanksgiving I bring out my collection of Aix-en-Provence leaves that I collected and dried from the plane trees lining the Cours Mirabeaux.  In the 19th century, plane trees were imported to Southern France. Napoleon was actually responsible for extensive planting of plane trees for the purpose of keeping his marching army cool, under their great green canopies.  How considerate.

At home in beautiful Coral Gables, I have happened upon an interesting group of women with a plan for a community garden.  The garden is at The Merrick House, boyhood  home of George Merrick,  founder of our city.  The garden is a joint effort of the Coral Gables Garden Club, the Merrick House Board, the City of Coral Gables and Slow Food Miami. It is spearheaded by gardening devotees and local foodies, Donna Reno and Susan Rodriguez.  “Our mission is to educate people on the values of growing their own organic food and helping interested residents in setting up their own home gardens,” explains organizer Reno.  So far the sprouts are sprouting, the buds are budding, and the shoots are shooting.  The garden encourages participation from all ‘would-be’ gardeners. No green thumb required.  The philosophy is simple.  You reap what you sow.  Those who plant and prune are entitled to the fruits of their labor.  So get out those gardening gloves and meet us at The Merrick Community Garden.