This year I made the usual trip to the castle of Masino, a FAI property and pretty interesting if you like castles. All around in the ample gardens they hold the” 3 days for the garden ” shows in conjunction with the Italian FAI (a kind of National Trust organisation).For members the entry price is slashed. And you get a ticket for a free tasting of marmalades from Kolymbethra, a property in Sicily with the most marvellous array of marmalades; Bitter orange ( what we English call Seville orange), Blonde orange and Bergamot marmalade,tasting over, I strolled round the stands asking my questions as I went – the consolation for going on your own is of course that you can spend as long as you want talking to the nurserymen and women and you don’t have to worry about your friends standing behind you totally bored! I asked about chickens, I really would love a bantam or two but I think my neighbours would object. They’d probably destroy my garden too and the cat would take umbrage. But they are cute. I also tried to get some worms but the man had only brought worm compost with him this time. I probably don’t really need any more because my lawn is disfigured by worm casts but I like to encourage people who make, grow or do unusual things. I walked round a couple of times hoping I wouldn’t forget where I’d bought my plants from…it can happen. I only bought a few this time (ordered some others from a nursery nearer home) a low growing Verbena and a lovely, delicate Thalictrum, which will shoot up to about 2 metres next year. . But it’s lunch time and though there’s a limited choice, the food available is so good you don’t need much to choose from! There was polenta and porcini mushrooms, fantastically good, washed down with something red and Piedmontese, or my latest favourite “orto fritto” which is great: eggplant, zuchini, sweet semolina, fennel, big sage leaves, macaroons, borage, apple rings oh just too good to be true. Burning hot and crisp. I love it. I sat on the ground to eat it, all the bales of straw were taken, and it was great. Another little wander round before going back to get some groundcover roses I’d seen in the morning and I found the stall of a lady who makes mead. Sounds very prehistoric and Anglo Saxon to me. Well I tried it and it was interesting. I guess it would be a good talking point at any party. I preferred the after-dinner mead to drink with sweet dishes, particuarly those crusty biscuits they eat in Italy accompanied by vin santo. I want to get home before it’s too late so off I go to buy the wonderful rose…….it’s gone! What a dope! I hadn’t asked its name or taken its picture so now I’m high and dry. This has never happened to me before and I’m kicking myself. How could I have been so silly. Well there you are, back home with an unusually empty car and a correspondingly fuller purse. (Til next week when there are two more nurseries in the pipeline).