While attending a marriage seminar on communication, Tom and his wife Peg listened to the instructor declare, "It is essential that husbands and wives know the things that are important to each other." He asked Tom, "Can you describe your wife's favorite flower?" Tom leaned over, touched his wife's arm gently and whispered, "Pillsbury All-Purpose, isn't it?" The rest of the story is not pleasant. —Author unknown

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Flowers of Murano—and other Italian horticultural delights

Italy is baking now (we’re hearing reports of 104 degrees in many cities) but when I visited in May, temps were in the 70s, the veggies and flowers were perfection, and the farmer’s market at Campo de’ Fiori (literally: field of flowers) in Rome made me want to go home and cook. For your eyeball-feasting pleasure, here are a few horticultural delights from northern Italy.

We’ll start with Murano, the famed glass-making islands near Venice, where it’s popular to insert the local products in flower boxes. Makes weeding much easier!

Calla lilies on Murano

Sprucing up a potted rosebush

Gorgeous orange climbing rose on Murano, maybe 'Crown Princess Margareta'?

Simple petunias—gorgeous in Venice

No expense spared for the pope's visit to Venice; each pillar base was festooned with flowers in the papal colors

Venetian gondola entirely decorated with roses in the papal colors

Windowsill basil with the colors of the Italian flag

True blue-purple colors of delphinium at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice

Early May is poppy season; these wildflowers were growing in the Roman Forum

Farmers cleaning green beans at Rome's Campo de' Fiori

Fresh herb selection at Rome's Campo de' Fiori

I've never seen fern leaves for sale at American farmers' markets. These were at at Rome's Campo de' Fiori

Freshly cleaned carciofi—artichokes—at Rome's Campo de' Fiori

Nemi strawberries from Lago di Nemi, a crater lake in the Alban Hills overlooking Rome, are prized for their sweetness and tiny size.

Zucchini blossom art at Rome's Campo de' Fiori

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