Have I mentioned I’ve retired. Just once or twice I’m sure. The joy of being retired means I am able to do different things. Able to indulge. Whether it is gardening or travelling. Meeting people… More
So here we are. Back again. This is the time that we were expecting to collect the keys to Casa Verano Eterno. But the transaction was completed two weeks early. So we are back. Ian for a short visit. Me 10 days. Hurrah. Ian has reluctantly gone back to London – the joy of retirement means I can stay a little longer. Oh that hurrah wasn’t because Ian has gone back. But that we are here again. He has become the gardeners assistant.
The road to Competa gets no less windey each time we visit. Nor less beautiful. The sight of the mountains as we drive up is truly spectacular. I’d take a picture. But I am driving and as I have started I will finish. But I will take one. Eventually. Ian says look at that. Look at this. I see nothing but the long and windey road.
A week is a long time for a garden. I had worried that the timers wouldn’t have gone off. I knew that the pots had been watered as I was sent a pic of the estate agent and friend at the house. Watering the pots. They were fine. As was the watering system.
The garden has been largely planted for drought resistance plants so it doesn’t need much. I was greeted with one of my favourite plants bursting to flower. The garden has a lot of agapanthus. Some I suspect have seeded but I am not complaining. I love them so I am more than happy that they are here. Next year I will have to smuggle some poo in my bag.
The lavender path is holding up well. I have a tendency to overwater and I know i can’t do that with lavender. Nor should I.. especially as the cost of water here isn’t cheap.
The jacaranda tree is in full bloom and is best seen from a distance. Or looking at the floor as it is constantly dropping its flowers. Is it romantic to walk on a flower covered path, swathed in blue flowers. No its bloody well not. It stains the floor and i have been sweeping up on the hour.
Slight exaggeration there but I don’t need a workout. I’ll get a wash board stomach yet and get rid of the washing machine and tumbler drier one that Ihave now.
I was never a fan of succulents – ! but having a new Mediterranean garden i am going to have to get to like them. That and Cactus. There are a few prickly pears in the garden ( maybe Ian and I will. Be know as the prickly pair – we are grumpy enough).
Ian also picked out some plants. I thought they were cactus. But they are euphorbia. Euphorbia candelabrum cactus . to be precise. News to me. I have potted them and they will probably stay at the front. Another with a poisonous sap.
The garden has a lot of interesting plants and its a huge learning curve. I’d only just got used to my cottage garden planting! I have arranged for someone to come in in Sept to talk plants. Pruning. Some new planting. I have also discussed spring bulbs – there are no flies on me – and my order has to be done before the end of July. They stocked some of my wish list last year and I have requested Brown Sugar to go on the list. Plus alliums. I need to check that they will grow. It’s odd. There are things growing I wouldn’t have thought. There is a great show of hollyhocks on the drive into the town. I have bought two to grow in for next year. Hopefully they will self seed
Twitter is a wonderful thing you know. As well as being pretty rubbish. But that and Instagram when you need a plant identified is awesome. Like the Daucus carrot. Thanks to Phillips Burrough, Sara Venn and Georgie Newberry. I know know what this plant is growing on the bank at the rear of the house.
There are other things I don’t know. Lots of them. But I will before the decade is out. But something else I don’t know What it is.
Rather stupidly last time I was here i went up onto the bank. In shorts.. never ever again.. My legs were as itchy as hell. Not only the moziies had attacked me but I had a reaction to the grasses that were there.
Unlike the man who was weeding the bit of ground outside his house as I drove past yesterday. He was in the shortest shorts that could almost have been budgie smugglers. . No shirt. Flip flops. His skin as red as the shorts he was wearing. Spraying weed killer. In the heat of the day. Weed killer obviously doesn’t affect beer bellies. It may even enhance them. I’m not about to find out.
But I had to stop the car as I was laughing so much. I didn’t dare take a snap. But the vision is in my head. Protective clothing. Never,, health and safety. Never. So I have safely arranged to have our bank strimmed by someone else. The weeds and grass are as dry as. I’m hoping to grow some wild flowers there. It’s not a meadow. It’s a slope. An incline. Dry. Rocky. So maybe poppies. And more cacti. More succulents. Some more almonds and olives. Sounds grand but there are three almond trees loaded with nuts. .
Things are dying back. Things are coming to life. I have had a mother moment and spent most of yesterday dead heading. A snip here. A snip there. Just like she used to do. I’ve said it before. In her own garden. And if she walked up your path she couldn’t resist deadheading a rose or two. Irritating that. The garden is not somewhere you can burn the cuttings. It’s too dry. So no bonfire here.
We collected Ian’s lime tree which is now potted up and ready for the watering to establish it. It will fruit this year but we will take them off and wait until next. Not so the manadarin which is going great guns so far as are the two established orange trees.
.Talking guns. I asked what the black and white sign was outside the gates. Apparently is a no hunting on this land sign. Great I can safely take my shirt off in my own garden without the threat of great white whale hunter appearing as I get in the pool,
Which I have done. As its now warmed up enough for me to get in. I am a bit of a big girls blouse with cold water to be honest.
I also went on a rescue mission. I rescued a lemon. Forget driving over lemons. Try crawling on your belly in the border under yuccas to retrieve the one and only lemon that you have in the garden. Which has dropped off the tree when you weren’t looking. But you were determined to retrieve it.
I was determined that it wasn’t going to waste so it will sit in my gin and tonic this evening. Not the whole lemon. I will remember to slice it. Or as I found an electric juicer in the cupboard I could juice it. But really? Gin sounds better.
We had a business day on Monday. Off to the bank in Nerja as they had cancelled my bank card. Here two weeks and it gets cancelled. Only because I hadn’t signed a form. But I emailed on Monday early and saw my personal account manager at 10am. Excellent service and I signed in about 46 places and got my card reactivated. Then onto the lawyer to sign the insurance papers. A two hour wait before I had to see the notary meant a little bit of a shopping. So. A bit of pool art in the name of Nemo. Placed at the pool side and looks great. Great colours but be careful. It’s tin and gets hot. Behind it on the rails is a lovely Jasmine. Jasmine Azoricum. The smell is just gorgeous.
A trip up to Frigiliana to see an artist that we had seen previously and two pictures later we were on our way to the notary, who this time hadn’t disappeared to Rome. A swift flick of a pen and my will was signed.
So surprise surprise I have been busy snapping away in the garden. Partly because I can but also so I have a record of what’s what. I am not here for a month and the garden changes so quickly.
But the main thing is the stephanotis that is just about to burst next to the front door. I swear they weren’t there a week ago. I’m sure the smell will be fab and there are loads of separate buds. Ah well you can’t win them all.
I have deadheaded some little blue maugerite type plants which I think flower continuously so hopefully they woill be awash with colour when I am next here. I have admired the black or blue bird of paradise yet again. It’s a real bee magnet.
So I am in the square again. It’s Thursday and there will be no horsemen riding by. That’s a Sunday. Ive decided to have breakfast on the square. watching. Observing. Practicing my Spanish. Ian’s worried that I will repeat the phrase that came out wrong when I was doing my homework last week. Speaking into the iPhone app in my best accent it was translated back into English as long penis. Quite what I was asking for I don’t know as i collapsed into a quivering heap of laughter. So Far the only potential issue could have been when I was looking for Salvias and asked if they had hot lips. I kept a straight ( yea I can do it) face and carried on.. they didn’t by the way. so i bought two others. And yes they have been planted.
So. Off i go to the hardware place that is always full of builders and workmen. I must try not to embarrass myself as I’m only getting keys cut. Maybe.
Two More days and then back to my window boxes and tree ferns. Retirement is hard.
Hola. buen día ( that’s your actual Spanish)
So there have been no more embarrassments. No mishaps. Well I did break the sun umbrella but hey. Anyone can do that. I’ve even been back to the petrol Station and all was ok, no laughing at me today But I suspect that’s only because it was a different shift. I have a funny story about firemen and a different shift, but that’s for another day. And it doesn’t involve me.
Oh I nearly forgot. One of the lights on the terrace in the garden wasn’t working. I spent two days looking for the light switch indoors. As well as keys we have numerous light switches. And plugs. All the other lights came on. This one looked different. But it wouldn’t work. Ok I thought. I’ll have to replace the bulb. So eventually I lift the cover. No bulb. I then realised it was the hole for the washing line pole! So hey ho. I did some washing.
So I am now 6 days into our first visit. Ian’s been and gone. Flew in on the last flight into Malaga on Friday eve. From London City which has to be my favourite airport. Flew out again on mon Pm. A real flying visit. Me I leave tomorrow. On a jet plane. And I do know when I’ll be back again. In a weeks time. What’s bringing me back to London. RHS Chatsworth!
So late Friday night we wound our way up the windey road at 2.30am. Ian hanging onto the car door as if he was scared. I know i was. It was dark. The road is windey. Twists and turns more than Torvill and Dean in Bolero. You need travel sickness pills at the best of times. And a clean pair of pants. There is only so many times you can sing the long and winding road for it to be funny. We arrived to total darkness to get into Fort Knox. I know I’ve mentioned keys but there are 4 locks to get into the house. Try doing that when you are tired. In the dark. Not knowing which if the trillion keys to use. And in not exaggerating.
Well not quite in the dark as the whole of the valley was illuminated with the path lights the wall lights the tree lights and all shining off the top of my baldy spot. To me it’s a bald spot. To others it’s a thumb print.
The lights – All attracting the mozzies. Some men are babe magnets. Some men are bloke magnets. Me. A mozzie magnet. Lights go quickly off. I haven’t sprayed. Why can’t Hermes bring out a mozzie repellant cologne.
We awake early on Sat. Just a few hours sleep. Excited to explore the garden. The town.
The garden has been a delight. Each day finding something new, something unknown and then going back to what Ian has described as the most expensive bloody book on plants to try and decipher what we have. Little does he know. But it is useful. A book by Lorraine Kavvanagh on Mediterraneanean plants. With pictures.
I like a picture book. Reminds me of Watch with Mother and other tv programmes. Of my childhood. Picture book was on a Monday. Then we had Bill and Ben and Little weed who must have been the first TV gardeners. As usual I digress back to childhood. I wont mention anything about Andy Pandy Looby Lou and Teddy bear. Or even the Woodentops as only people of a certain age will understand. Others will think I’m mad.
Looby Lou. Sounds a bit like me meeting – The poo lady – Lou’s poo at RHS Chelsea. Even if she wasn’t holding a bag of compost tea with MY agapanthus pic on the label. I can’t believe I didn’t bring some out with me, (I’d been paid in pooh for helping with the label) A poo smuggler. Anything to declare Sir – only a bag of s—t occifer! Oh and an awful pic of me to boot.
Back to the garden. Now I don’t drink. I don’t smoke and I don’t go out with women. So I buy plants. Ian will say I don’t always plant them but I am getting better. So it was with some surprise he mentioned that we should go to the local garden centre run by the author of that ‘bloody book’. Did i want to go? stupid questions need no answers. But I wasn’t buying anything. I didn’t. Ian bought two great big fat ferns, two big pots. A 7 year old mandarin tree that will fruit this year. Anothger big pot. Which they kindly delivered that afternoon with soil, peat free compost and some organic worm fertiliser Despite Ian being confident we could get it all in our hire car. I said no. They said they deliver. They followed.
So here for two days and already on the plant run.
Oh and we were given a copy of an interesting book on Citrus written by Lorraine. She also does a garden consultation Which I think will be useful and hurrah. Ian agrees. It will enable me to write down what plants there are in the garden now. One for next time.
So to the garden, The garden around the house itself isn’t huge but beautifully planted already. There is a slope at the back and a bit above the road but for now I’ll mostly ignore it. It has been ignored for years. The direct bit behind the house is planted.Srought tolerant. Some succulents. A rogue bougainvillea. A couple of almond trees. Covered in almonds. Need to look when to harvest. .
The garden starts with a fabulous lavender path. Trachelospermum at the gate, big succulents, a jacaranda and yucca. The jacaranda flowed are lovely. But you have to be at a distance or above to appreciate them. My appreciation is the flowers on the path. Fallen from the tree. . A bougainvillea which is just getting going. A big fat olive tree – which is full of flowers and will hopefully fruit. Quite what we will do with them is another thing.
Some lovely Salvia – which last well in a vase!
Thwre will be more salvia now i know that they will survive. I have my eye on two already for next week when i am back.
We have a hedge. I was told what it was. But again I forgot. It needs trimming to keep it low for the view. To the mountains. On a good day to the coast. On a very good day Morocco. There is a hedge cutter in the garage.
The plant colours are bright. The ground hard as iron. You need a pick axe not a spade. I did wonder why there was a pick axe in the garage but I didn’t dwell on it! I will annoy Ian when I use it ~ as I put it on my shoulder and sing hi hi hi ho it’s off to work I go. Snow White I’m not.
But I managed to dig a hole – usually I am digging myself out of one – to plant the lions ears ( leonoris Leonurus) I bought on Saturday. I lied. I did buy a plant.
There’s also a lot of sweeping. The flowers from the olive trees are falling. The leaves from everything are falling. So my exercise so far has been tonsweep. Almost hourly. I’m getting a bit OCD. How many calories can I burn off with each sweep? Who knows. To be honest. Who cares.
I do love this prickly big ears though. A number of these were attacked by a bug last year and I have been tol;d that you can slice them right down to the base and they will come back again. I have visions of it attacking me when I do. So i may find a man that does. Cut back Cacti that is.
There are things in the garden which I know nothing about. Like this succulent or cacti, It’s about to flower but I suspect that it will be in full bloom whilst I am not here.
I was told today that there were wild orchids on the slope although they had finished blooming. Blooming marvellous . I have to wait another year and they are in an area that I want to strim. Do I want to do it or is there a man that can. It’s on a slope. I’m bound to fall over. I’ve learnt that I shouldn’t go up their in shorts. Not because I’ll frighten the neighbours. But the grass and weeds make my legs itch like crazy. Singularly unattractive red scratch marks When wearing shorts. Along with big red mozzie bites. Not a great look tonne showing whilst sitting on the square drinking a Diet Pepsi.
There are a lot of orange and purples in the garden. On trend again then following RHS Chelsea last week. This is a gorgeous tree with very lovely flowers just growing next to the garden path.
So I ventured back to the garden centre – this time alone – Viveros Florence. Ian sent me.To get some more compost. , They know what they are talking about.. Can give advice. I was here for compost. But I also had to wander around too,, Didn’t I? I bought some strawberry mint to go in the alcoholic drinks some lemon balm – which we have numerous clumps of in Somerset and some lemon grass. On a further look I find two huge clumps of lemon grass in the garden already. Great for my coconut and lemon grass cake!
Ian had said he would like a lime tree, What he didn’t say was what lime. A lime is a lime isn’t it. Nope, there’s your lime. Then there’s your kaffir lime, three times the price of the ordinary. The lime where your use the leaves in curry dishes , then there are the trendy limes used by TV chefs, I was told the names. I forgot them,, What’s wrong with an ordinary lime. For a bottle of Bud, oh I remember one. The Australian finger lime – caviar lime fruit. A new one on me apparently being used by chefs. But I may buy one. I see that you can get them in the uk Australian finger lime Uk – it doesn’t look like a lime at all once cut.
I asked about tulips. Yes I can grow them here. Was shown some of the ones they had last year and was told if I wanted anything in particular let them know in September and they will order them for me. Yep. Brown sugar please. Do I have a list. Thanks to the recommendations and suggestions I have had uh. Yes. You know who you are who keeps adding to my list.
They stock some beautiful Iris. A simply gorgeous iris burnt toffee and a stunning dark blue. Heads home to look for space. They order daffodils. Hyacinths anemones. Lily’s , foxtail lilies. So I think that I will be back. To plant for spring.
There is wildlife in the garden though i am a bit of a wimp to go up on the bank too often , I don’t know what may be lurking in the vegetation. But there are bees a plenty, birds a plenty. A couple of lizards. And a big b—-r like this came buzzing past me as I was taking photos.
I head back to London tomorrow. To my small lovely patio garden. So very different. But equally as lovely. But I will be back next week! Hopefully To more sunsets.
So today has been about the watering. I have sat down with the plan of the formal garden bits and marked up the pots. The frequency of watering which I’m panicking about. And the frequency of the timers. But I’m back in a week. I’m also writing on copy no 2 the various plants that I know. To add the ones that I don’t when I do.
So. We saw the house in the middle of March. On Tuesday we completed. Whilst we were at Chelsea having given the lawyer power of attorney to sign on our behalf. Miss Chelsea. Never. So we went to Chelsea on Tuesday as usual. I went again on Weds. You can never get enough. Then first thing Thursday I got on that flying machine and whoosh. I was off. First on the plane. Last off. Eager to get going up that long and winding road.
We were expecting to complete next week. Not this week and for a number of reasons RHS Chatsworth being one we weren’t coming out for another two weeks. So time for the Estate Agent to get a few things done for us. Sort out some locks being one. But we completed early. Being impatient. I am here early. Excited. Not Arf!
Boy we’re there keys. Lots of them. The vendors said there were keys. It’s like Fort Knox. Ian will be happy. You don’t notice little details when you view!
So I arrived. On my own. Ian not arriving until the next day. In a foreign land. To a house that I had dreamed of and which was in front of me. Did I get emotional. Huh. Yes. It was scary going in. Not because I was scared scared but because we had only seen the house three times. Some people pooh pooh love at first sight. So do I generally – unless it’s cake. Or a plant. But I fell in love with the garden. Straight away. No hesitation. No thoughts on how I would manage to keep it as is let alone change anything. So big breaths and all that …..
And I’m in. First reaction – no lock on the front gate! But I’m two weeks early. It’s Spain. Manyana. A word I’ve been told to get used to. I open the gate – the smell of honeysuckle mixes with the scent of Jasmine greets me. I’d forgotten how much I love that smell.
The garden is as lovely as I remember. More lovely now as it’s ours. Debbie whose garden it was had been panicking about the lavender hedge. One part of the garden not on the simple irrigation system. She needn’t have. It was fine. Before I opened the door I went to check that the timers had been put on the taps. They had! Good old Victor had been. The Estate agent had given me a plan of the areas for the zones. I have yet to work that out. That’s for another day. So I’m in. The house is just as I remember. Just as well really there is no going back at this stage.
So down go the bags. A quick whiz around and straight out into the garden. A cuppa tea in hand. We have been left an array of garden tools.- a wheelbarrow. Hedge trimmers. A chain saw! I find the secateurs. I’m an avid deheader. That’s my mother’s influence. She couldn’t resist walking up the path without deadheading her roses. Or anyone else’s to be fair.
The tools . All neatly hanging on the wall. So armed with the secateurs I wander around snipping here and there as I go.
A trug soon filled. It’s exciting to find the plants. The scented Lavender path. Honeysuckle. Jasmine –
I counted three varieties of Jasmine this one a sweet smelling Jasminum azoricum – a new one on me. But I’m going to try it in London. It flowers all summer.
A pineapple guava, whose name I got from a request to my friend Sara Venn. The flowers and fruit are edible. I’ll try the flowers next week.
There is olive , citrus, bird of paradise, a black bird of paradise something I’ve never seen before and had passed by twice thinking the plant was a banana. Not noticing the flowers half way down the plant.
Succulents who’s name s I have no idea.
So am I happy. Hell yes. A good sleep and I’m wakened on Friday morning I think by the sound of the bell on the gate. ( it sounds grander than it is. Trust me. ). Well I think I heard something and get up. Throw some clothes on.
Look out of the window to see that the bell may have been rung. But we have no gates. They are on the back of a van. Being manhandled by a young man. A young man who speaks no English. My limited vocabulary in Spanish of ordering a coffee. Asking for the bill. And toothpicks is no good in situations like this. So between us we speak Spanglais. I ask him how long they will be away ( we are having a lock fitted – I know more keys) at which point he sticks two fingers up. By that I am meant to understand two. Two what.? Hours. Days. Weeks. I understand the word hours. But do I believe him.
In 2 hours the gates are back. With a new lock. Hung back in place and two of them this time knock the kitchen door with 3 more keys.
All whilst Mr Wifi is on the roof pointing his aerial across the valley so I can get access to the other important things in life. Calls via Tu for a start as the signal is a bit iffy. Social media. Emails. Skype.
So we have lift off. A front gate with a lock. And wifi. Not the lock. That doesn’t have wifi. What more could I ask for. I don’t suppose they deliver pizza round here. On horseback.
I have fun looking at plants. Looking again. And wondering what on earth I do. We have a slope behind the house. It has almonds. Some figs. Nespera/loquats I’m not sure if those olives are on our bit. Next time I see the previous owner I will have to ask.
I decide to go for a swim. Which I do but it may say it’s 22* but to me that’s like swimming in the North Sea. So I’m in and out as fast as Ian Thorpe in the Olympics. I have a confession. I hate wet swimming trunks. Hate them. Always have. Trunks that stick to your legs. That and those crappy hotel shower curtains that stick to your bum. Hate them.
So. I get out of the pool and quickly get out of the trunks as usual to change into a dry pair & wrap myself in a towel. Just as the bell on the front gate rings. I can’t ignore it – they may never come back. It may be the plumber. Or the Estate Agent. Ha . It’s the neighbours coming to say hello! The last time I took my top off in public was 1986. What a way to greet them. Lovely neighbours too. With a bottle of red and a card to welcome us both. So I’m off and in quick time I had thrown on some clothes. But I looked shifty. They will have thought I’d been skinny dipping. Not at 22* I hadn’t. Trust me.
I decided that as I was picking Ian up from the airport late – like 1.30am I should fill up with fuel. Another job I hate in a strange car in a new town. What side is the cap on. Will I get it off. ( don’t mention France when I couldn’t and threw a strop. I know. Me. A strop). Easy least this one. Drive in. HOla. Buenos días. cómo estás To the young man. Who says 95? I look bewildered I know but I haven’t even got my bus pass. Not yet. Then realise he’s taking fuel grade.
Cheapest. It’s a hire car. So I’m back in the 50s and he unscrews the cap and fills up the car. With 95. I pay. Go back to the car. Get in. Actually get in. Sit down. Now they are laughing at me.
Why? Because I’ve only got in the passenger side. Sat down and looked down and realised there was no steering wheel. Huh. That broke the ice. The mad Brit who thought he was being asked his age then gets in the wrong side. Ian can fill up on Monday. .
So day 1 and day 2 of the new adventure. Interesting. Fun. And at times embarrassing!
When I mentioned to some friends Matt & Clare at my favourite local breakfast haunt Petitou in Peckham that we were looking at a place in Spain Matt said that he had recently recommended the book Driving over Lemons to his daughter. A book that was sitting on the book shelf at home. It reminded me that I had read the books some years ago and thought I’d go back and read them again. I’ve started and they are wonderful and particularly relevant to the new adventure we find ourselves having.
As well as twitter I use Instagram. A lot. My camera was a purchase not long after my father died and was a more expensive one than I would normally buy. But I’ve loved it. Never far from my hand it enables me to snap away. That’s why the pictures of Ian are always of him ahead of me. Firstly he hates pictures and there are very few of us together. Secondly. I am always hanging back snapping away happily. This and that.
A fellow instagrammer commented on some of my recent Andalusia pictures and said that it was like Driving over lemons. That had me smiling. Two mentions of lemons in such a short space of time. I almost gave myself a squeeze with delight. Rather than usually having a face like I’ve been sucking a lemon.
It’s all about the citrus. Oranges and lemons. Lemons and limes.
Andalusia is indeed special. Has beautiful scenery. Mountains. Great light. Long and winding roads where motion sickness pills may be required. Just to get to the bottom of the hill. Zig zag roads. Twisty. The road from Competa to Torrox Costa a roller coaster of a drive. There is Coastline. Beaches. Mountains. Natural parks. People. ( back to the horse rider again). Tapas. Wine. The attitude of don’t do it today if it can wait for a week. Maybe not next week. But a week. You can’t be in a hurry in Spain. Unlike London where we are always rushing. Here there. So it’s a glorious difference and a great adventure to be starting. Part time. Not full. I need no convincing.
The mountains are spectacular surrounding the Andalusia Towns and villages. There was snow on the mountain tops in early March when we were last there. Now its all gone. With bright blue skies. And a moon. Oh and heat and a mosquito. Or two.
The white washed towns and villages hang onto the side of the mountains. Pristine. White. Narrow streets – steep and winding. But making you want to see what’s around the corner. At the top of the steps. Breathless. Both in body. And spirit! Ian ahead of me As usual. Striding to get to the top. Me just striving to get to the top. Eventually.
I have found my Spanish’ Petitou. Casa Paco is situated on the square. Is friendly. Always busy. Now to try and order in Spanish. Or spanglais. I can ask for the bill. For toothpicks. Say hello. Ian is better than me. We both have apps on our phone trying to learn. If you see Ian on the tube. He’s not talking to himself. He’s learning his verbs. If you see me. I probably am.
Just down yet another long and winding road is Torrox Costa and then onto Nerja . Nerja with its restaurants. The beaches. Glorious torquise sea. Rocks. A coastline. Sea air. A slight detour to Frigiliana another white washed town nesltling on the hillside. But more touristy – has tour buses. Tourists. Like us. Except we have driven.
So back to Competa. On a clear day you can see down to the coast a 45 minute drive away. Probably quicker if I am not driving. Slowly. Ignoring my co driver saying. Ooh look at that. Sorry Ian. All I can look at is the road ahead.
These are known as the hanging houses in Competa. There are literally hanging on the cliffl looking pretty moorish lit up at night.
I wonder if i can get a part time job. The goat man with his herd of goats. Who walks them around the town and mountainside. Ian unimpressed with my sound of music rendition of ‘High on a hill with a lonely goat herd’. He hasn’t heard the yodelling bit yet. You smell the goats before you see or hear them. And the man has a whistle that they seem to understand. A bit pied piper to me . The downside for the part time job. That suit. I’m not sure it would suit me.
These plants are lethal. They seem to have taken a dislike for me. Big time. I swear they see me coming and jump out to scratch my arm. Badly. My hand was swollen after getting stabbed by one of these. But they along with the palms are beautiful and majestic.
More great views across the mountains.
I am looking forward to further forays into the surrounding villages. A trip to Granada. To Córdoba. To Malaga old town. A train trip to Sevilla. Oh. There will be pics. Lots of them. But not of me. Maybe of the back of Ian’s head. Of plants. And definetly of a horseman riding by.
Have I told I have retired. Oh. Yes. About a million times. Not that I exaggerate at all. But I have. That was the start of a new adventure. I’m still asked. ‘Aren’t you bored yet’ I’ve learnt to smile sweetly. And just say. No. What do you do they ask. This and that I reply. This and that. Here and there.
So the adventure continues.- with a bit of there. Rather than here. Or here rather than there. Dependant on where there is. At any given time.
For a long time Ian and I have wanted something ‘abroad’. We looked at France. We loved France. But why buy in France when we can stay at Cuq en Terrasses where we have celebrated big birthdays. Friends who own a fantastic Small hotel. With amazing food. We love Italy. But we have an annual invite to go and stay with friends at their house near Sienna. Which surprisingly. We take up. Annually.
We love Spain and have been back and forth for the last few years. Gaucin – too quiet. Benhavis. Lovely but not for us. Archidona – lovely but again a bit too quiet.
In March we headed to Competa in Andalusia. An hour from Malaga. To stay at a fab B&B Casa B We had some viewings. I was pretty definite in what I wanted. In the town. A roof terrace. No pool. But it didn’t work out like that.
We are back here at the beginning of May. To sign papers with the notary. . For completion at the end of the month. A place 10 minutes drive from town. Not a town house. Without a roof terrace.
So what sold it. What? The house or the town.
For the town it was life. It had a soul. In March. When many towns are still indoors. Still recovering from Xmas . Tapas in the square. Coffee. A glass of wine. Or two. One for me. The road is windy and narrow.
Less than an hr to a beach and on the edge of a national park. A shortish trip down the long and windy road to Nerja. To Frigiliana. We met some great people on the viewings. Stayed at a fab B&B. Made friends.
There was Tapas. And sunshine. And no. The horsemen riding by in the square on a Sunday morning didn’t swing it. Not really. I didn’t really see them. The oranges caught my eye. I was photographing the oranges. They photo bombed. I have been sat in the square for hours this time waiting to complain. They haven’t reappeared.
The house? Need you ask. It was the garden. I didn’t notice the house. Not at first. We viewed because I’d seen pictures of the garden. Small but beautiful. Both the house and the garden. A lock up and go. But the garden. Lovely planting. Lots of plants. Mediterranean. Dry.
In time I will be able to tell you which mountains. But geography isn’t my strongest point. The sat nav tells you the route. Not the name of the mountain ranges. The garden has citrus. It has lavender. Different types. Lots of it. Along the path. From the gate past the garage.
It has succulents. Agapanthus. Jasmine. A grape vine. Bird of paradise. It has plants I have no idea what to do with. How to care for. It has fruit I can’t pronounce or know what it tastes like. But for me the house had been sold on the garden.
When we met the owners again I hear him say ‘he’s only gone and bought a bloody book and spent a fortune’. Oh that’s Lorraine they say, on seeing the book the author – she lives here on the outskirts of town. Runs a garden centre. Supplies all the plants he’d like to have in his garden – whose laughing now eh. Especially as we went in and said hello. Where she gave me details of two open gardens nearby but sadly I won’t be here when they are open. Or there depending when you read this.
But I’m on her mailing list already. That book. Money well spent I say. He’s said I’m not to go there alone. I said she seemed very nice. I’m not worried about her he replied. Your gonna spend a fortune in there. And that’s just on what he’s seen! I haven’t started. New plants. New pots.
So it’s an adventure. A new path. Lined with lavender. From the garage to the house.
So we begin the adventure at the end of May where will be go between London and Andalusia. Gardening in both. Two very different gardens. Two very different climates. Both exciting. Different. Fun. Who said I’ll be bored in retirement.
A decision also made that after 23 years we will sell our lovely cottage and garden in the West Country and embark on this new adventure. We have had a wonderful time. A fabulous garden. But sometimes in life you need a new adventure. A change. Something different. Surprisingly we have taken the plunge.
There will be pictures. Lots of them. A bit of a blog here and there too. Apologies in advance!
I love Twitter and Instagram for different reasons. Instagram for the pictures obviously and Twitter for information, top tips and a bit of banter. Often Twitter will remind you of things that you should do. Places to go. People to see. That’s how we ended up going to RHS Garden Wisley today. I love twitter for the gardening folk I follow and who are always there to point you in the right direction to a plant or a garden, help with some advice, identify an unknown plant that may have appeared in the garden and to generally talk plants.
So following a tweet from @jackwallington who had been to Wisley earlier in the week I decided that after a 25 year absence a visit was long overdue. Finding my membership card was an adventure but find it I did. I wont mention my RHS disasters this week in deleting my print at home Chelsea and Chatsworth tickets. Ill save that for another day.
Fighting the Bank Holiday traffic through South London reminded me why we generally don’t travel over a Bank Holiday weekend but I was determined. I had started so we wold finish.
Busy. Was the car park busy. So busy we were sent to the overflow car park but despite my grumbling i was rather glad.
The walk from the car park was simply gorgeous. Bluebells were out everywhere like a beautiful carpet of blue loveliness. We would have missed this bit of the garden had we parked close to the main entrance. So every cloud and all that.
Typically Ian was 30 paces ahead. You’d think that after all this time he wouldngave notnbeen so embarrassed to be out with me ! But i had to stop not just for the bluebells but for the other delights that were begging to be photographed. I hadn’t been here for over 25 years remember.
The garden was busy. We realised only after we arrived that there was a craft fair in the grounds. A pretty decent fair to be honest and full of some top quality stuff. I was swiftly moved on through the garden toward the glasshouse, after a sausage bap!
I love a good glass house. This one didn’t disappoint and was somewhere to get a little inspiration for our new mediterannean garden.
It’s great to see the unusual and interesting and there were definetly some of those here. The bird of Paradise plant so high it had a sign that said this is not a banana plant. The plant whose buds looked like a great big fat nose and opened into a simply gorgeous flower – solandra Maxima – a blue brugisima, a protea as big as a dinner plate. Orchids which remind me of orchids bought in Castle Cary from another Instagram friend @ridgewayfarm when she had then best gardening shop ever, oh and the clivias also reminded me of her too – she introduced me to them too and one sat in mine and my friend Janes office for years.
The big pots of Agapanthus were further on than mine but then again they are in a glasshouse. Mine are in pots in South London. So they would be wouldn’t they! I wonder how many bags of Lou’s Poo they would need here.
Outside the glass house is a Prairie garden. I’m spoilt in that we have the wonderful Piet Oudolf garden at Hauser and Wirth Somerset just down the road in Bruton but I love them. Not so much in Spring to be honest but later in the season. The planting I know at Bruton is stunning and there are glimpses here that show what it will be like later in the season.\
There is so much to see and not enough time in one visit to take it all in n The fruit garden is full of the most amazing espaliers of all fruit types, apples pears medlars. The rows of apples some still in bloom some with fruit setting are like great long avenues. The planting is amazing with long avenues of paths to walk through.
Great big beds of Rhubarb. They hold the National Plant collection – with enournmous leaves and pink fleshy stalks, some being forced. The produce bing used in the restaurant and in Jams to be sold at the shop. I sisnt look to see if any rhubarb was for sale. Would have been good to have tasted a variety that you don’t usually get at the greengrocer
To be honest you get lost in the size and scale and the beautiful way it is presented. I can’t remember much about my previous visit ‘ may be I wasn’t as interested in the planting and the plants themselves then. But we were both impressed.
The perennial beds [ mixed borders] on either side of the sweeping walk to the top of the hill look like they will be exceptional in the summer. The borders are springing to life with the alliums starting to pop into bloom in little drifts and singularly throughout the beds. Like tulips it looks like this year will be good for alliums too. The borders are massive – the website says ‘ a sweeping 420ft’ – imagine the plant buying for that. They leave the beds to their own devices. No watering – no good for me – i would have to be out there with the hose constantly.
Having recently stayed at Ard Daraich in Scotland I was keen to see the rhododendrons and the azaleas. The flowers were more advanced than Scotland and again the planting and the paths between them encouraged you to walk through. I still find the buds as fascinating as the flowers themselves and I was even more appreacitive of the guided tour of the Scottish garden given to me by Norrioe Maclaren when we were there.
Onto an area where I loved the colour palette of the planting. The last of the tulips- bright red with the start of the alliums. Simply lovely and a bed I would love to have.
This is a glorious view away from the house along the canal with the Henry Moore sculpture, King and Queen and the beds of lovely scented wallflowers. my window box of wallflowers has an abundance of leaves and only two flowers. Those two yellow flowers smell glorious. Busy i was expecting a bit more!
Neither of us had any knowledge of the history of RHS Wisley and its interesting to see that it was gifted to the RHS in 1903
Another cuppa tea. A scone and cream. Jam first of course. A wander to purchase some plants – only one today a philadelphus Belle Etoille which we had in the Somerset garden years ago. I even think Ian was impressed. One plant only. That’s progress. He doesn’t know about the ones I bought earlier in the week,
Was it worth the drive. The traffic. Running into ex colleagues. Definetly and thanks Jack!
Some more random photos.
We had decided that we would go away for Easter again this year. I’d have liked a bit of sun. Ian decided the Highlands of Scotland. As far away as possible from any sun. In April. But I was persuaded on two counts. The first a trip on the Caledonian sleeper. The second was a stay at Ard Adraich which looked great. Which also had a fantastic 8 acre garden. The garden is open to the public and there is a small nursery where you can buy plants. The added bonus we were staying there. In the garden. Well not in the actual garden. But the garden studio.
The house was originally owned as a holiday home by the cookery writer and florist Constance Spry although I suspect she wouldn’t recognise the garden today which has grown in size and beauty.
To be honest. I was in love as soon as I saw the hedge. Yes. In love with a hedge that sits along the front oft the main house. A stunning camellia hedge. And I mean stunning.
The front of the house along the lane had a long row of skunk cabbage which I had never seen before and which is due to be thinned out. Thankkfully after we leave.
Norries father collected seed from around the world and the trees and the plants in the garden reflect this.
The garden is full of Rhododendrons azaleas and maples with rare exhibits and plants from around the world. . The rhodendrons are being catalogued and there are over 1000 species in the garden. That’s species not number of plants!
Norrie kindly gave us a tour – an hour long through the various levels. They garden on a hill with practically no soil which in itself is impressive. I have heard of no dig gardening. But no soil. The garden is fed with seaweed. The moss taken off the granite rocks lay at the bottom of the rock.
The garden isn’t without moss especially on this tree which looks like a hand making a rude sign.
But the variety of the plants, the planting and the colours are simply magnificent. Breathtaking. So much so I listened intently to Norrie and tried to remember the names and species. Great big fat fail I’m afraid. There were too many! But I heard maples. Camellias. Sorbus. Plants originating from Japan. South Korea
The flowers were glorious in bloom but I loved the ones which were budding and about to burst into colour, form and shape.Of which there are many. Hundreds if not thousands of flower buds.
I have never really looked at the buds before. Usually just the big blousey flowers. But Norrie was right. The buds are often as interesting if not more exciting than the blooms and they vary in shape, colour and size.
Alongside one tree were branches still with last season seed heads. Brilliant to see this together with this seasons flowers.
The garden is much more than just rhodendrons. At the side of the path from the garden studio sits a big fat gunnera looking magnicent as the sun shines through the leaves. There are camellias. Euphorbia. Large trees. Sorbus. Maples. Hosta. Japanese anemones. Wild flowers.
Other interesting plants and flowers
Norrie keeps bees and even at this time of the year you can hear them working in the quiet stillness of the garden. As well as bees thengarden is a haven for birds and we have been lucky to watch the woodpecker at the feeder each morning along with blue tits great tits coal tits a sole robin and chaffinchs.
I have taken so many pictures of the garden and I only wish I could remember all Norrie told me. The garden is stunning.
The garden studio a great place to stay and with access to so many places nearby. Oh. I can’t forget fresh eggs from the Ard Daraich chickens, and the friendliness and helpful hosts.
The gate to the bees the chickens and more plants! A glorious country view.
You may find me there. With a glass of wine. And a view.