So here we are. About to head off to take our Christmas break. I know I know. Life is one long break for me. But some breaks are special. This is two weeks at La Casa Verano Eterno together. No guests. Christmas day with good friends, a few days in Malaga to see the lights and back up the wiggly road to catch up with more Spanish friends.
Oh. I suspect there will be gardening too. There always is for me. Am I complaining? Hell no.
The decision to have a house in Spain is up there with the best we have ever made along with early retirement.
I’m black and blue from pinching myself. We both love it which is a bonus!
So as we plan for 2019 I’ve had a bit of a reflect on this year. I can’t believe where the year has gone but here I am another year older. Wiser. Heavier.
This has been our first full year in Spain. Full as in 12 months and full as in full on. We have had friends visit, some for the second and third time. Those are the ones who have said it would make sense to leave my toiletries in the cupboard – don’t you think? Which suggests and I hope that there will be more. Visits. Not toiletries.
Not so many trips to the Alhambra this year though, Shame. I think we only went 6 times last year. This years destination of choice was Ronda. Ronda is stunning. The bridge takes your breath away. Well. It does if you walk to halfway down and past the ‘do not pass beyond this point. Or you’ll die ‘. Everyone passed the sign. I didn’t die then but nearly did on the walk back up.
There is a great tapas bar recommended by a friend in Somerset. Fantastic tapas. She said ‘oh you have to go visit the toilet’.
Now when I was in Paris decades ago I visited a new and popular cafe. I went to the loo. I washed my hands. That part was obvious. The loo was resplendent. Opulent. But I still couldn’t figure it out. Until someone came in and used what I had thought was a water feature. Water cascading down the wall. Well. It wasn’t obvious. This loo had nothing on that. Think airplane loo. Only narrower. Smaller. So tight the door scraped your bottom as you slid the door behind you. Room for you. And you alone. No turning round. Oh. And politically correct. Not – No ladies.
I’d recommend the tapas. But find a toilet before you go. Especially if your female. And breathe in if yur male
There has been Poohgate. Don’t ask. But it’s gone and never to be repeated. I don’t know where we would be without Sergio Fernandes and Victor Ramon.
No not a Spanish flamenco duo but our invaluable Estate agent and plumber who are great friends too. And who got me out of this mess. I wasn’t under there though at times it felt like I was! But I smelt sweeter. Just.
We did a fantastic road trip through Cordoba, Casares, Toledo, and Salamanca.
We have been in Spain for some major festivals – Semana Santa being pretty spectatcular. a bit spooky but the traditions upheld through the generations and like all Spanish festivals so very family orientated. The daily processions are each and every one different. Different colours. Different traditions. Who doesn’t love a bit of music, marching, costumes and the smell of incense. Oh add tapas paella and vino and it makes for a happy time.
For Noche del Vino – a big event in Cómpeta, although we have missed both the 2017 & 2018 Ferrias.
The amazing World Heritage site of Casares with the beautifully maintained ancient buildings.
Toledo was fascinating and we stayed in the house once owned by the famous flamenco Guitarist Paco De Luca. Of course I had heard of him and his music, hadn’t I? Um. Sorry no. But I have since downloaded a couple of his albums. I can now be found in the kitchen throwing a few shapes. But only if no one is looking.
We saw the magnificent mosque cathedral in Cordoba. The words stunning and awesome are often over used. But sorry. This was awesome and stunning all wrapped up into one. Or two actually as within the building was a cathedral as well. As decorative as the mosque was simple. As bling as the mosque was understated. Symmetrical.
We saw the fabulous patio gardens of Cordoba where they have an annual competition. We were too early for that but we did get a flavour of what they were like. I’m hoping for a visit in 2019 for the patio festival.
We saw the gardens of the Alcazar which were pretty magnificent. The use of water and the rills as lovely as they are in any of these beautifully maintained gardens. Oh. And entry into the historical sites is so reasonably priced. Suitably so that you don’t mind missing some things as you know that you will be back.
Less to see than at the Alhambra in terms of size and palaces but it’s a definite just for the gardens.
The garden has been a delight. Not so my water bill. But as I once said. I don’t smoke. I don’t drink and I don’t go out with women. So my money goes on my garden. It’s been a huge learning curve for me this Mediterranean garden lark. New plants. New conditions. Watering issues. Tree rats eating the irrigation pipes. Last month making sure I shut the gates around the house. We think we had a wild boar sniffling under the almond trees. I don’t want to wake up and find a boar in the pool. Oh says Ian ‘ there’s often an old bore in there’ thanks Ian. Your humour knows no bounds.
I am yet to see the boar – thou there are signs he/she/they have been visitors to our neighbours too. Somerset was badgers and plenty of water. . Spain is boar and for the most part a distinct lack of it.
The Spanish continues to improve. I’m now allowed to order chicken at the restaurants and not have Ian cringing or the staff laughing at me. Pronunciation is as bad as my SM spelling. I think I’m ordering chicken but a skip of the tongue and I’m ordering a part of the male anatomy. Funny once. Embarrassing thereafter.
In reality we could just stay in the pueblo blanco. It has everything we need. Friends. Restaurants. Cafes. Shopping. Sunshine and for those that follow me on Twitter know i witter about the sunsets. Because they are simply spectacular.
So I head off to spend quality time with Ian, to relax and reflect and plan for 2019. More adventures.
Two nights in Malaga to see the Christmas lights. Malaga is a hidden gem of a place so we can explore as tourists for a few days
Remember Christmas can be stressful. It doesn’t need to be perfect. It doesn’t need to be expensive. There is so much pressure to perform. To have the best food. The best presents. Ian and I gave up giving each other Christmas presents 20 years ago. We tend to see things and think Ian/Andrew would like that and buy it. There and then.
The best gift we can all give is the gift of our time. Time to spend with each other. With friends. That costs nothing and the memories that you make are forever. The memories of the continuing Spanish adventure will continue.
Merry Christmas. Feliz Navid and Nadolig Llawen.
Last year we had little or no rain right through Autumn and most of Winter. Until the heavens opened in March. Boy did it rain. But it filled the reservoirs.
We are still in October as I start to write this and the heavens have opened already. For more days than I’d like. Yes. We need rain. For the garden. For the reservoirs. To enable me to plant. Which I have. A lot. But give us a break. It’s been running down the streets. Towns have been flooded. Oh. So has Venice!
At least the garden looks lush and green. There’s a second flush of some of the flowers. Everything smells fresh and lovely. The birds are singing. So am I. But badly.
After a log hot summer and a dry one it’s wonderful to see the colours again. It’s amazing how quickly things recover.
I think that I may need to fleece the banana. Just in case. Usually we don’t get a frost even though we are 650m above sea level. What’s a bigger problem is the wind. It shreds the huge leaves of the strelitzia – but they are huge.
When we first saw the house I loved the lavender path. A curved path leading from the gate to the house and the terrace. The scent and the buzz of the bees sold me the house. Literally. Ian said ‘ you don’t even need to see the house do you?’ You know what. He was pretty much right. But the lavender was a bit woody in parts and I decided to replant at some stage and nearly 18 months later it’s done. 28 new lavender plants. Ordered. Delivered and planted.
As I was having the plants, compost and some feed delivered I was tempted to buy a decent sized cyclad. So I did. Convinced myself that it could form part of Ian’s birthday present. So it’s planted. I didn’t make the silly mistake I made when we first bought the house and ask if the pot was frost proof!
There continues to be colour dotted around the garden with the Lantana which there are three different colours. This one I hacked back as it was ‘if it grows it grows’ If not it’s goodbye. It’s grown.
The nispero /loquat is in flower. I thought it was early but I checked with last years photos and it’s roughly a similar time. Nispero are a bit of a messy fruit. Doesn’t travel or store well and this years crop was pretty rubbish.
This has been my favourite flower this year. By far. I’d almost given up as they started to flower as I left for two weeks. But they were still flowering when I arrived back and continued through the next three weeks. I suspect they will be over when I get back.
I’m going to order more. The only downside is that the flowers hang down and you don’t easily see the flowers beauty. But boy are they beautiful.
I bought 10 new agapanthus in the sale at the end of July and have finally planted them. Five in pots to go along the white wall of la Casa. The other five – the white ones planted in a border. I’ll add some alliums to that border. Which reminds me to put it on my list. Bulb planting. Now we have had copious amounts of rain the ground is more workable. Plus we are having some top soil delivered this week. The soil is thin in parts. And poor. I’d like to be thin in parts too. Butbulb planting isn’t my favourite thing to do.
I have been staggered at the number of flower spikes the potted strelitzia has given us. It continues with the Autumn flush. There are another 4 spikes growing which will keep us with flowers until beyond Xmas. The ones planted in the garden don’t do so well. There are flower spikes but not as prolific as this one. I have replanted two into a pot. Let’s see how they perform.
I just wish the black/blue and white strelitzia Nicolai would have a second coming. I’ve been told to divide the two we have in the garden. I’m a bit nervous of doing that. I also need to see where they can be planted if I do.
These seed heads are gorgeous. But the tree is massive and will feature in the pruning exercise to be undertaken in January 2019. It May mean less flowers in 2019 but needs must. It’s just too tall next to the house.
The pineapple guava are getting bigger. Will be some to eat when I return. I’ll let you know if I still like them.
Yes. It’s a citrus. A lemon. Citrus Buddha’s hand. Pretty rubbish for the kitchen if you want juice. As there isn’t any. No pulp either. But a fragrant fruit – a lavender scent with a lemon taste, the pith is used for cooking for drinks and the white pith isn’t bitter. So you can just cut off the fingers and use them in salads. That’s a whole new take on finger food.
A present for us from a friend who was staying for the week. A bit of a talking point already. Not her staying but the plant as you walk into the garden.
I only went into the garden centre to pick up a couple more lavender to fill in some gaps. Lucky for me there had been a delivery of plants. Come and have a look at what we have says Lorraine Cavannagh the owner. So I did. Delivery no 2 then.
This Colocasia ‘mojito’ was sat there. Waving it’s big silky leaves at me. So I had to. Didn’t I? It’s a beaut and I had the perfect place for it.
So I return this week after two weeks in London. There has been rain. Sun. Rain. Colder days and nights. More sun. So it will be interesting to see how the garden has fared.
Don’t worry. I’m sure I’ll tell you!
A new purchase. Citron Buddhas hand. A spooky little lemon! No pulp. No juice. Seedless. But a very fragrant pith. The white pith isn’t bitter so you can just cut it and use it in drinks. Salads. And is traditionally used for candied peel. Smells of violets. Tastes of lemons.
With a little bit of rain – well a huge amount there is a second flush of flowers in the garden. The Salvia Leucantha is Hibiscus moscheutis flowering again and is a lovely colour. Looks a bit like a caterpillar. Even better with a bee on it.
I couldn’t resist this at the garden centre this week. Colocasia Mojito elephants ears. The leaves are fantastic. And feel a bit silky. I have found a place in the garden for it already.
The pineapple guava are getting bigger. Will be ready to eat next month. A good crop on two small trees.
The changing colours of the the Hibiscus moscheutis. The flowers were huge this summer. The leaves slowly falling.
A new addition to the garden. A new cycad. A bit prickly to pot. Slow growing but a great architectural plant.
Another trip over. Another flight back to old London Town with a visit to Somerset thrown in. So as the song says ‘I’m leaving on a jet plane’. But unlike Peter Paul and Mary. I do know when I will be back again. And next time. Mary will be with me.
My bags are packed and I’m ready to go. Well almost. Tomorrow morning will do. I’ve packed. Honey. Home made fig and ginger jam. Almonds from the trees in the garden. Thin pickings this year. But fresh almonds all the same. A bottle of local sweet wine. A hat. A scarf and socks. With long trousers. I’ve heard it’s a bit of a chilly one back home. No doubt the heating will be on. Despite it not being October.
So. I’ll wind my way down the wiggly road to the airport. Only to return in 14 days time to do it all again. That’s if my case doesn’t get stopped. A few months ago Ian was travelling here from London City airport. . Checked in. Early. He likes to be there about a week before. Sat having breakfast when he hears his name called on the tannoy. Would he return to check in. Well he couldn’t. He was airside. So security had to help. Took him to the desks via the back stairs. They had scanned his case. Could he explain what was in there. Yes. Amongst other things. A large solid glass vase. Tea bags. And solar lights for the garden. Security had been concerned about an abundance of wires. A heavy solid mass and organic matter. So. I hope my honey and almonds go through ok.
As usual I digress. We’ve had some pretty heavy rain here in Spain. Which has meant a second flush of flowers. And helped some continue flowering as they have done all summer. And Summer. It’s been a pretty hot and dry one here.
Back in the summer I heard about these little beauties. I was wittering on twitter and I have no idea how they came up in conversation. Or a picture. But they did. And I wanted them. Yes. Wanted. Not like. Wanted. Could I find them anywhere. Nope. Finally I found some bulbs on Amazon. Not my usual go to place for anything Plant or bulb related. But I did. Ordered some Bessara Elegans. And elegans they are. For weeks I’ve been looking at thin strands growing. And whilst plenty of growth. N flowers. . Then suddenly this happened. Pretty flower buds on fishing rods. Swaying in the wind but two weeks and they haven’t opened. But they will. In the next 14 I’m away. But there will be some when I return. I’ve been reliably informed by one who knows. And the one who pointed me in their direction.
You’ve got to love an agave. Haven’t you? These aren’t technically mine. The first ones line the drive to the house. As you leave the main (?) Road. The second is part of a row opposite the drive up to the house. Pretty big eh? Massive. And spikey.
I have been trying to identify this plant for ages. I think we finally have it cracked. Sesbania punicea. It has a gorgeous pea like flower and the most amazing seed heads. I have seeds and some small Self seeded plants. Bonus. It does get a bit straggly tho. Another one to try on the the dry bank. I’ll not plough the fields but scatter when I’m back.
I moved the foxtail agave off the terrace and close to the pool. We inherited it with the house so it is staying put. I love the shape of the leaves. We have two more. One a small one in a Pot for now. Number 2 is much larger and planted at the rear of the house and is looking mighty fine. I’m often to be found hosing it down to clear the debris that sits in the leaves.
The path from the gate is looking fab at the moment The yucca has gone crazy so my October visit will see me cutting away at the trunks and moving the off shoots to the bank. I’ve shaped the Brazilian sky flower which is in its second flush of flower. I’ve fed the bananas. I’m considering wrapping them this winter, not because of frost but wind. We are pretty high up the mountain! The strelitzia Nicolai gets its leaves shredded in the wind and I suspect that the bananas are a bit small to worry about. But I still will.
Well we knew we would get grapes but not as many as we did this year. I have picked some and made some grape and rosemary jelly. Disaster of sorts. It’s not set properly but if you don’t mind it sliding off a piece of cheese then it’s fine. Or in a favourite broccoli and feta recipe. Tasted great though. I am sure I will find other uses for it too.
This Lantana is growing horizontally across the terrace. There are three in the garden and all are different colours. A long flowering plant with berries after flowering which takes a hard cut back.
This has only been in a month or two but is well on its way. Ian was unimpressed with the speed of growth on the other two bananas I had planted and when this one was in the sale at the garden centre and he wasn’t with me I decided that I would plant and see if he noticed when he was here. He did. Straight away. And loves it.
The Brazilian Sky flower is such a pretty plant. The colour of the flowers remind me a bit like the indoor African violets that sat on the windowsill of my parents house. This is the second flush of flower. But like a lot of the plants this year the flowering has been a bit haphazard. I’m not sure if it was the heavy spring rain which was welcome on a number of levels. Or the unusually cold snap that lasted a little too long but the flowering on some plants hasn’t been great. Good. But not great. I have shaped the larger of the two to reduce a bit of height and to get some flowers lower down. something needed on the Oleander too.
I had never heard of pineapple guava let alone seen or tasted one before we had this garden. A gorgeous flower starts the process and I would grow them just for the flower alone. They are so pretty. The fruits take a while to ripen and will be ready when they drop off the tree. Ive said it before but one friend who was here last year likened the taste to germolene. I don’t agree. I don’t love them but will eat them,
Listening to Andrew O’Brien’s new podcast got me in a a conversation with him regarding the Swiss Cheese plant. Now I have to admit. I’m not a lover of indoor plants. The cats have a love hate relationship with any that I have had and Ians love of a tropically heated house has not worked with them either. So we generally don’t have any. But we do have a Swiss cheese plant in the garden here in Spain. Do I like it? Not a lot but it’s healthy and I will see how it goes.
There are also two what we called “money plants” dotted in the border. I don’t know what the horticultural name is but then again I am still calling coleus coleus and monbretia monbretia.
The Botanical gardens in Malaga have some whoppers growing there along with some glorious beds of Clivia.
The strelitzia is starting to have a second flush of flowers. The ones planted in the garden don’t do as well as the ones in the pot so my mission is to move some into pots for the terrace and see if they flower better. I have yet to tell Ian we need more pots. The hibiscus has been such a fabulous colour and has had more and more flower buds on it as I left.
The weather is cooling over the next few weeks so the need for irrigation and watering reduces. Thankfully in terms of time and cost. Water is a precious commodity, over the summer we regularly have the water shut downs but thankfully we have a huge water deposit to fall back on. One day I’ll understand how it all works.
There’s been an explosion. The seed pod on the stephanotis is pretty amazing. An explosion of cotton wool like matter. I’d tell you if it felt like cotton wool but I’m cotton wool phobic. I have to ask Ian to take it out of pill bottles. I can’t stand the feeling. We only get one seed pod each year on the stephanotis which is outside and has flowered for months. I think it needs a good feed and a larger pot for next year. Oh. Another pot to add to the list.
It’s not been all gardening. To be honest and I don’t know why but I have struggled in the garden in September. Yes its been hot. Yes I have been lazy. But the main reason is that I have been bitten to death. It’s no fun gardening in 30* heat in jogging bottoms long sleeved thick t shirts and a hat. And still they bite me. At least i know I’m attractive to something.
So I have been out and about in the Pueblo Blanco.
I head back next week for a longer trip. I have arranged to have the almond trees pruned. I have picked the slim pickings this year and I have brought them home with the intention of honey roasting them. Local Competa honey to add to it.
I have also arranged for someone to look at the general cutting back for January and for some cutting back of the large jacaranda. I have a friend coming to stay in November and I am yet to tell him about a delivery of top soil which will need to be wheelbarrowed from the drive and put over the garden.
Oh. I have also ordered two dozen large lavender plants to replace the lavender path. I have tried cutting back and shaping but I think its time for new. I was going to do one side this year one next, But I have bitten the bullet and decided that its best to do both sides and try and get it even now. The next few months are good to plant to get the plants established ready for the heat and the drought that will inevitably come next year.
But back in the UK I will be planning tulip pots which should arrive when I’m back!
Can there be too much of a good thing where flowers are concerned? Can you suffer from dahlia overload?
It may seem like that this summer for me. I love them. But sadly through the beast of the east and two seasons of neglect in our Somerset garden I had none of my own. Previously I had a lot which I boldly left in the ground. Year on year. But this year the weather and my inability to manage the garden beat me. I then beat myself for the neglect. But a new project and a new house and garden has been all consuming. But you already know that.
I have therefore had to rely on the generosity of other peoples gardens for my dahlia fix. Oh. And what a fix it has been. There have been open gardens – Jack Wallington and Alex and Joe ( The Gardening guys ). There has been Common Farm. And Instagram and twitter. A quiet start to the dahlia season and then. Boom. They were everywhere.
Well not everywhere obviously because there weren’t any in my garden. At all. Some people also struggled. Later blooms. Smaller flowers.
Yet look at his one. A big fat dinner plate dahlia as big as my head. Taken at Jack Wallington and Christopher Anderson’s open garden last weekend. Emory Paul. A dahlia I recall seeing at RHS Chatsworth last year and thinking. Blinky blonky blimey. Look at the size of that. Which I did and thought I want – no says Ian I think you mean you would like. Which I do and I will next year. Even if its just the one in a big pot on the terrace in Spain. It’s magnificent. But truth be told its never just the one. Never just the one plant. Never just the one trip. Never just the one bar of chocolate.
Jack and Chris opened their Clapham garden twice this year for London NGS, and I was pleased that I could make one of the two. Jack likes a dahlia or two. Or thirty three and grows most on his allotment and had picked a lot of the dahlias from there. ( Hint. Maybe an open allotment day next year!) I say picked but I think he stripped the allotment of all the blooms.
A bright blue sky always helps a photograph look better.
The varieties and colours were fabulous and not only did he fill a room with single stem dahlias he and Chris erected a dahlia arch over the front door, so there was no escaping what house was having an open garden day as you turned the corner.
Having watched an insta story the night before of Jack trying to put the arch up I wasn’t that hopeful to be honest. Sorry Guys! You had even turned the sound down so we couldn’t hear the angst. But patience is a virtue and it was brilliant.
Don’t ever go on that telebox programme Through the keyhole” guys. This room would give you away when they say ‘ who lives in a house like this’ Um. Must be Jack and Chris. I loved it but boy I was nervous. I stood at the edge and admired and took photographs. Too nervous to put my size nines anywhere near the flowers. I still wonder how Rumbles – the cat , not their nickname , doesn’t just go in and paw each single stem. Fred our cat would. One by one. I loved the dark red/black dahlias in the brown bottles. Recycling at its best there!
But just look at them. Gorgeous.
It wasn’t all about dahlias at their open garden – in the garden were Rincus, Jacks fern wall, coleus (sorry guys I am old and they are coleus to me), salvia, great seed heads on the clematis, shadows on the leaves of the banana and great foliage plants. But this is about dahlias. Just dahlias. There are more pictures of the other plants on my Instagram feed and Jack has a blog on the foliage plants on his feed.
Oh and course there was cake.
Another dahlia fest for me this summer were my days at Common Fam Flowers. A working flower farm. With rows of dahlias. Dahlias for picking. Dahlias for bouquets. Dahlias for weddings. Not just dahlias of course.
The thing about going there in the summer is that you are guaranteed a dahlia or two. To be honest it was Georgie who made me realise that I did actually like a dahlia. I ordered some flowers from her early on in our friendship and the bouquet included dahlias. I was hooked. Much more interesting shapes colours and styles than grown in my parents garden decades before.
Growing up my parents grew some. Not many. Pretty dull ordinary dahlias. Yes there are such a thing. I hated them. Always full of earwigs. Which fell out as you picked them. It put me off for years. I was sent to pick them to bring indoors. Which my parents always did – had flowers indoors – there was none of ‘ flowers are just for the garden’. That’s where i got my gardening habits from. Amongst other habits. Like talking constantly like my mother. Her deadheading obsession.
I digress. The dahlias of Common Farm Flowers never cease to amaze me. This year the Cafe Au Lait were and are stunning. Another one for my one pot dahlia on the terrace in Spain. Spectacular in arrangements or in a brides bouquet or equally gorgeous in a single vase. Such beautifully formed petals.
Now please dont think of asking me the names of all the dahlias. I know the names of three. The rest are either pretty dahlias, pink ones, pom-poms or cactus.
This one took my eye when we were preparing the flowers for a big wedding. 85 jam jar posies. 8 large arrangements for the table centres. Pew ends. A huge ball to hang from the ceiling. Garlanding. Buttonholes. Included in all but the buttonholes were dahlias. All colours. All sizes.
This is American Dream. And it is. A definite Dreamy dahlia. Sat quietly in a bucket I zoomed straight in on it. The flower was in the bucket. Not me. That would have been silly. And required a large bucket.
The petals shape size and form on Cafe au lait are just fabulous. I don’t mind that its not my usual big loud blousy colour choice. It’s just beautiful in its simplicity.
I was given a jam jar posie from Georgie when I called in last week which included dahlias. And a big fat Cafe au lait included. Not one. But two, lucky lucky. Worth a stop on my way to the cottage.
Here’s a few, just a few of this years delights. None of which I can take credit for – though the photographs are mine.
I think I maybe all dahlia’d out for this year. Is that a thing? I need to move on. I have.
To the bulb catalogues for tulips and alliums. For Canna and agapanthus. Tulips and alliums ordered already.
But I have one more wedding at Common Farm to help out with at the beginning of October and I am sure that there will still be blooming lovely dahlias about then. In the meantime I have made a list of what I would like to try in Spain next year. It has to be a short list. A very short list. But don’t tell Ian.