Hola ~ Back again.

We didn’t manage to get back to Casa Verano Eterno for a year. Now we are on trip number two. The flight was busier. Epic fail on our part booking around half term ~ why would we book in school holidays when we don’t have to. Checks diary for future trips.

Temperature taken on arrival and Spanish entry form QR code checked and we were on our way up the mountain. Not before we made a mental note to make sure our passport was stamped when we leave. Those who know know we don’t go into the pueblo Blanco when we arrive but take a right at the donkey and into the campo. But who could get bored with this view. Not us. Have I said before how much I love this place. Well I’ll say it again. I bloody love this place.

Competa
Up the garden path
View into the garden

I never lose that feeling opening the gate and walking up the path to the house. It’s the same feeling I had when we walked up the garden path in March 2017. There is always a little trepidation as to how the garden will look. What may have died. What has have opened up. We – as in Spain ~ are pretty desperate for a bit of rain. Its been a long old summer in many ways but in terms of the heat and no rain it’s been endless. I’ve said it before but spending time here has made me think even more about the water we waste. Because we aren’t here full time I’m changing some of the planting to more drought tolerant plants. But to be honest. There are drought tolerant. And there drought tolerant. I’ve lost echiums in this heat. This summer has been exceptionally hot and October has been one of the hottest in years.

Limes

Talking of water. I drowned this lime tree two years ago. A real schoolboy error and not one I’ve repeated. Well not so far but I planted it in a pot. Watered it. Left it for a while during the rainy season. It drowned. I hadn’t checked that the pot had drainage. Repotted. Water drainage it was do or die. It didn’t die and is now full of limes. with more to come. There was a benefit of me not being here for 12 months. No seriously over watering of a pot with no drainage. I admit to being a serious overwaterer and I promise to change. As well as planting everything I get as soon as I get them and in labelling better and having a planting plan.

Buddha hand citron

There is blossom on the buddhas hand citron. A really weird citron shaped like ~ well the name gives it away. A buddhas hand. Very little juice. No pith. No. I’m not taking the pith. There isn’t any. Nor pulp. Or seeds. A gorgeous smelling citron whose peel is used in drinks and in candied peel. Not in this house though. After the first flush I’ve struggled to get the fruit to form. Maybe this is the year. Masses of blossom. A few citron forming. So fingers crossed.

Strelitzia Nicolai

I’ve been planting. I call it planting but is it really planting when you use a pick axe. I’m not joking. The photo on the left is a new strelitzia Nicolai that I had bought three weeks ago and now planted in the bed outside the kitchen area window. To add to the largest one In the garden. Which is too tall to photograph. The one on the right is the smaller of the two originals. I bought one last year before we left for our 12 month sabbatical in the Uk ( no corona travel). So then there were three. Roll forward 12 months and there are now 5.

Strelitzia Reginae and Clivia

Add a new Strelitzia Reginae ( left pic) and two new clivia ( pic 2) and my planting done. Wrong. There are 4 gaura. 4 creeping Rosemary. 2 lavender. And another clivia. I first had clivia as a house plant 25 years ago. My neighbour and friend in Somerset had a fabulous garden shop called The Potting Shed. It was Clare who introduced me to clivia as house plants. To beautiful orchids and to unusual Cornish bulbs for the Spring garden. Clare moved away but the gardening connection continues ~ as well as her animal sanctuary she produces the fabulous Donkey Gloves. Now in the spring as I walk up the garden path I’m reminded of Clare when the clivia are in full bloom. Oh. And when wearing the orange donkey gloves.

Torre del Mar

These Strelitzia Nicolai are on the coast at Torrie del Mar. I’m not expecting ours to get this big anytime soon. Ian suitably seated for scale. The biggest problem is that the banana like leaves shred like mad in the wind. Remember we are 620m above sea level. Up a mountain. Which gets pretty windy at times.

At this time of year there are spectacular sunsets. I bore the pants off myself to be fair. The gorgeous colour of the fallen pine needles on the bank take on a gorgeous red at sunset. But make the most of them. Ian and I spent three days clearing the bank and filling a skip of pine needles. Now I know that rhey can be a mulch. But they were so thick nothing was getting through. When it rained the water just ran off. Plus being Senor Paranoid I was worried about fire. There’s always something. Next the worry will be processionary caterpillars. Nasty little blighters they are.

The Pines at Sunset

Competa Sunsets

We drove down the wiggly road to Torrie del Mar for a walk along the beach. It’s so different in late October to the main summer months. But Spain marked up its beaches so that people could and did socially distance on the beach. Now the beaches are quiet and people social distance of their own accord.. Can I tell you a secret? In four and a half years we haven’t spent a day on the beach. We have walked along the prom. Paddled in the sea. But have never sat in a deck chair eating sandwiches getting pink bits and looking like a lobster.

We have had a wander around the pueblo Blanco. It’s hard to forget it’s hilly with narrow streets. No it’s not. It is. I get embarrassed when people older than me = yes. There are a few ~ who run past you carrying a weeks shopping whilst I gasp for breath. Looking for an oxygen mask.

Competa

A few days later just as halloween was approaching the mists came down and made everything look a bit creepy.

When the mist and clouds come down it really comes down. We get it occasionally and whilst it may look great it’s a nervous drive into town, the first time it happened I was driving the boys and their parents from the pueblo Blanco to home. Boy. You could smell the fear.

Foggy

We had made huge progress back in September in clearing a lot of the overgrown bits in the garden. We had had some help before we arrived and 4 large dumpy bags were waiting to be taken away. We then filled skip no 1. So we were returning to a better position. I’d had a move around of pots and tables on the terrace and we could now see plants in the borders.

Terrace

Ignore the tiles. They are looking better now. For now anyway and until they are covered in olives.

New Rosemary planting

When we moved in four and a half years ago ( yes time flies) we had a great lavender path. two years ago I replanted it. Which was a disaster. I lost some in the first year and then Corona hit. Not being there fir 12 months took its toll and in a fit of pique I ripped it all out. To be replaced with creeping rosemary. I planted it in September in haste ( story of my life) but it looks good. Rosemary does so well in this garden and my experience with creeping Rosemary has been good.

House plants now garden plants

One thing that makes me smile are the things growing in the garden that my parents had growing indoors. I think they would find it hilarious. The Swiss cheese plant was a staple growing up along with a rubber plant. I never liked either but the cheese plant in the garden is growing on me. Especially after seeing them in the botanical gardens in Malaga where they were monster monsteras. They were huge. The tradescantia planted by the door ~ my mother had one that was always breaking off . The aspidistra in a bucket by the jacaranda tree. The money plant. I will admit to hoping the monstera would die. But not anymore. It has had a reprieve.

Aeonium & Agave

There are a few aeonium dotted around along with plenty of agave. We have lost about 4 of the massive agave ~ which is in keeping with friends and neighbours. I’m not sure what’s affecting them but they just rot from the base. I need to look it up and see why.

There is still some colour and shape in the beds. Not a lot. But some. As soon as we get some rain more comes out. I have freesia over a foot tall. A couple of Allium summer drummer starting their way into their tall growth. All early here but the weather has been mild. All it needs now is some more rain. I have had a good old chop back of a number of things whilst we had the skip. The pomegranate trees are now shedding their leaves. They have grown really tall but in the pruning exercise I found a couple of pomegranates. In four years we have had just the one. The year we aren’t here it looks like there have been 5.

Pomegranate

The area at the back of the house was cleared around the almonds. There are 5 almond trees which crop reasonably well. I’ve picked them. Dried them and have never used them. Have you tried cracking almonds.

Almond

Adjacent to the almonds we have two Nispero. The leaves are fabulous but I’m not a lover of the fruit. A bit messy and doesn’t travel well. But the blossom is nice until the rain gets on it. Then it’s like mush. Scent is good too. But the leaves are big. And beautiful.

Nispero

The skip is the last for 2021 the next visit is purely pleasure. Famous last words.

Hard work

But I’ve bulbs to plant. Please remind me never to buy those small alliums. They will be the death of me. I’d bought 100 Allium Sphaerocephalon (Drumstick Allium) and planted half. I hate small bulbs. It’s a patience thing. Not one of my finer points if I was appraising myself. I love them. But as long as someone else plants them.

I have tulips. Ballerina for pots on the terrace. Freesia for pots. Allies ~ big ones for the borders. But first there are the Somerset pots to plant. I’m losing the plot already.

A holiday within a holiday ~ Cordoba

Let me get something off my chest for starters. Spanish underground car parks. They give me the creeps. Not because they are scary. But because they scare me. What is it will pillars. These car parks weren’t built for todays modern cars. The spaces are too narrow. The pillars. Well they are everywhere. And the turning circles and ramps down. just don’t go there. That’s my whinge. I’ll go round and round looking for a nice space to drive in and out of ~ but not in the car park in Cordoba and I was t even driving in!

Friends were staying in Seville and we arranged to meet up when they visited Cordoba. Never ones to say no to a trip away we arranged to drive to cordoba and stay over for two nights and to meet up for supper. We are so well positioned in Competa. Granada is about 1:5 miles drive. Seville is about 3. Malaga 1 and Cordoba is 2hrs 20. We have done it as a day trip by car. I’ve done it by train from Malaga as a day trip. This time we decided to stay for two nights.

We managed to stay right next to the Mosque Cathedral ~ really central and easy to find. The hotel not the cathedral. That’s well signposted.

The Roman Bridge has been around since 1st. Century and the existing bridge is largely from 8thc. A lot of locations for Game of Thrones weee filmed in Spain and the majestic roman bridge was featured in series 5. Ian told me. He was a fan. I just watched bits when we happened to be in the same room. In the same house in the same country. But I also understand they also used CGI to make it look bigger. I think it looks pretty amazing as it is.

Córdoba Uber. No we didn’t try ~ but there are lots of them.

I have been to Cordoba three times before. This is visit number four to the Mosque cathedral. Almost as many times as I’ve visited The Alhambra in Granada. Both are stunning. But the Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba) blows my mind. I think it’s the subtlety of the Mosque; it’s beautiful simplicity with the stunning architecture of its columns Against the bling bling of the cathedral. To have the two in one building is stunning. Spain has 49 UNESCO world Heritage sites and the Mosque Cathedral is one of them.

We visited at night ~ Saturday night its free entrance so why not. It’s a very different experience at night. The lighting is different as is the atmosphere. Oh. And did I say it was free.

I’d have loved to have heard the organ played. In the cathedral and Mosque I’m sure the acoustics would be amazing. Sat under a stunning ceiling. Stunning plasterwork.

The altar was typically grand as you would expect in a Catholic Church. As a vicar friend of mine one replied when I asked which service I should attend at the church where he was officiating ‘ come to the later one. It’s all bells and smells’. That sums me up. Our local vicar once said I was a a festival worshipper . He didn’t mean Glastonbury ~ he meant Christmas and Harvest festival.

The choir seats were a bit spooky. Each arm rest had a figure carved into it. Beautifully carved. All individual. But scary. The seats are carved mainly out of mahogany wood with a row of 30 upper seats and a row of 23 lower seats, all with these carvings.

At the end of the day the brass still needs polishing. I remember my mother getting the brasso out to polish the brass candlesticks and the knocker on the front door. I can smell it still. I remember it made your fingers black.

I would have thought I’d be used to the narrow Spanish streets after five years. But it never ceases to amaze me how narrow they are and how the cars and vans manoeuvre their way through. People have to stand in door ways like sentries. It’s my nightmare having to manoeuvre my way through these streets. Once in Sentil de las Bodegas I threatened to just get out of the car and get the hire company come and collect it. Just where I’d stopped preferably. I was breathing in as we drove through.

The main reason for the trip to Cordoba ~ although Ian and I never need an excuse for a road trip ~ was to meet up with friends who were travelling in Spain. Five us had worked together over the years and had been friends for over 35 years. Ian and Sarah trained together and are birthday twins. Sane day. Same month same year. Four of us were business partners. Four of us are partners. Confused. Don’t be. We know what’s going on and that’s all that counts. The hotel had recommended a restaurant for supper on the Sunday evening. I’m often dubious about hotel recommendations but this was spot on. Great food. Great atmosphere and great conversation. Don’t ask about the plates. It would take an age to explain.

Casa Pepe

Who doesn’t go on a bus tour when travelling in a new city. Ok. Not that new to us but it’s always worth the trip around the city. It helps get your bearings. If we hadn’t been on the bus we wouldn’t have seen this place and hopped off. The Palacio Viana. Is a fabulous Renaissances palace with 12 beautifil and very different patio gardens.

It was was the private residence of the 3rd Marquise of Viana until his death in 1980 and was bought by a Cordoba bank on his death. He died with no heirs.

The wheels on the bus

I love a view through a door in the garden ~ this one draws you in from one patio garden to the next. I love the idea of having the gardens like a series of rooms.

How do they get the plumbago to grow this large. Mine at La Casa is pretty poor. If it’s still alive. I need to check when I’m next there but I’d love for it to cover the garage wall like this.

I can’t imagine this going through the streets of Cordoba but it did. How they manoeuvred around the corners on these small often bumpy streets. I’d be happier being carried around in the smaller one.

There was a lot of wandering. A bit of a bizarre evening where we had booked supper at a restaurant which looked good. We arrived and were shown to a table. A table where you needed a lift to get on the chairs and once you’d managed it you immediately started slipping off. We asked to move. We were considering moving restaurants ~ loud music was coming from the roof top terrace. By loud I mean booming. We were the oldest swingers in town.

We were seated in an alcove. Great table. Tucked away in a corner. The best table for people watching. A huge mirror just in view where the young and trendy had camera phones in hand probably for Instagram or tick toc and were taking their selfies as they passed. Unaware we were watching. I never realised the effort you should put into a pose for these photos. Mine are selfie snaps and not that often. Flicks of the hair. One foot forward. Stand kinda sideways. I might try it. Except my pout would be a gurn and my arthritic hip would give out and I’d ultimately fall over. But the service was excellent. The food really good and the complimentary G& T at the end more than generous in size. The entertainment perfect.

We didn’t do the The Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos this time. We tried on the Saturday night. Another free entry but the queue for the queue was huge and despite the British love of queuing , 10pm on a Saturday night was not for me. Oh. And it’s closed on a Monday. We have been before and I’m not sure what the gardens would have been like. It’s been a long hot dry summer in Spain. As they used to say on Blue Peter ( ask your parents if you are young) here’s one I made earlier. On a previous visit. And not with sticky backed plastic and a squeezey bottle.

We have another Spanish adventure lined up. Next stop Bilbao. One thing is guaranteed. There will be pictures. Maybe a blog. But definitely pictures.

Hello Andalucia.

Well it’s been a while since we have been to Spain. We were due to go in July but it was too hot. Yes. I know it’s Spain. I know it’s the med. Whilst I like the heat when it’s so hot it’s unpleasant. We always avoid August but this year July was a no no too. I was there in a lockdown two years ago unable to travel back because of quarantine in August. I spent most of the time indoors in my pants watching Netflix with the aircon on. Too hot. Too expensive and not attractive.

The journey started badly. Half way to the airport our flight is cancelled and we are rebooked on a flight the next day. Generally not a disaster but we were travelling with a friend. She had been put on a flight that evening. The disaster was they had also changed our airport. Not hers and her car was already in Heathrow. We also live an hour up the mountain. The car was in my name. I’ve praised our neighbours before and I’ve always valued good neighbours. He’s the best. Drove down the mountain at 11pm. Drove her home. Made sure she was in safely and we arrived the next day. A new flight and delay compensation. Not a great start to the trip but it didn’t matter. Friends for 35 years and she bypasses the house rule. Ian says guests are like fish. They go off after 4 days. Mary stayed for 12.

The garden path
The roundabout that’s not a roundabout

It’s been dry in Spain. Very dry. There has been little rain. A local reservoir supplying Malaga has been declared dead. I feared the worst of the garden. We hadn’t been in two months and driving up the mountain it was clear just how dry it was. Parched landscape. The campo had been on water restrictions. One day on. One day off. In Spain that could mean anything. We are lucky to have a large deposito which fills when we do get water and we then have to pump it into the house. The garden had been watered but not as much as usual. It really hits home just how precious a resource water is. Washing up water has been used to water pots. The washing machine only used when full. The roundabout that’s not a roundabout had worried me all summer. The wildflowers had died back. The grasses were tinder dry and there had been wild fires around the edges of the village so we had arranged for it to be ‘cleaned’. Arranged two months ago I wasn’t sure if it had been done. Of course it had. The water position has changed. We now get mains water. Every three days. If we are lucky. I’m not moaning again about hosepipe bans in the Uk.

Drought tolerant ~ not

The planting is pretty drought tolerant. But I’ll be honest. Even drought tolerant plants need some water when the temperatures get into the 40’s. Every day. The garden path plants looked ok. A bit sad in parts but when and if we get some rain and cooler days they will come back. Some have died or won’t recover. I’m giving up on lavender. Planting number 3 was doing so well up to July. Now it’s very patchy. Most gone over and won’t recover. The creeping Rosemary has fared much better. One or two lost. But a massive Rosemary at the rear of the house Is dead. I must have anticipated as I’d planted two more smaller ones to take over in Spring. Looks like they will survive.

Garden views.

The curry plant ( Helichrysum italicum) which is in poor thin soil has fared better and I was tempted to plant the whole path with it. Not the path ~ the borders along the path. But it does give off a whiff of curry in the heat of the day and I’m not sure, as much as I like curry I want to be sat on a sun lounger at two in the afternoon smelling curry. It’s not quite the effect I want.

Surviving plants

Thankfully the foxtail agaves ( agave attenuate) seem to be doing well. There are some to split in one of the pots and these will go on the dry bank once I don’t need a pick axe to dig them in. Seriously. A pick axe. I was surprised to see the colocasia mojito. It’s in a pot and is looking good. I love the silky leaves and it’s colour. But to be honest I never expected it to be alive. We have quince on the one tree we have. A plentiful crop but very small. I’m hoping enough for quince jelly. The gorgeous aeonium also in a pot has survived. Another plant that has surprised me is the canna. There are two large ones in pots. Despite the heat and the intermittent watering one was still in flower. And the leaves were huge.

Agapanthus seed heads

The agapanthus have done well and I plan to plant even more. I’m lucky that they self seed although it takes a while to get to flowering. I can wait. I’ve cut some of the flower heads and left others if the seeds are about to be scattered.

Still green

I love this time of year in Andalucia. Cooler days and spectacular sunsets. Clear nights where you can see the coast of Malaga from 2000ft up the mountain and also the mountains of Morroco. When stars are clear in the sky. And hopefully the mosquitos are dying.

Terrace views
Terrace sunset views to the coast
Puesta del Sol

The two cactus which aren’t cactus but euphorbia candelabrum are in pots and are tied to the railings to stop them getting toppled over by the wing. Needless to say they are drought tolerant. Needless to,say they are still Ian’s favourite plants in the garden.

Night falls

Whilst I spent time in the garden it wasn’t all about the plants. It can’t be otherwise I’d drive Ian mad. There was cake of course. Lots of cake. Cake for us. Cake for the neighbours. Cake for our friends Ruth & Dave. Whenever I use this cake stand it reminds me that a lot of these things came over in a suitcase. Usually Ian’s when he travelled without me as he knew I wouldn’t risk the breakages, but he happily tells the tale of when he was past Airport security and was called back to check in. Escorted down the stairs by security he was asked to explain what was in his case. “ That” he said “is a large solid glass vase. Alongside it is solar lights for the garden.” “And that” he was asked ~ “the organic matter alongside it all”. “OH Barry’s tea bags” . They suggested next time he checked in anything like that he may want to explain at check in exactly what it was. They saw the contents as a security risk. Looking at it I can see what they mean but it’s good to know that the system works.

There was eating out. We are fortunate to have so many good restaurants locally and we visited our favourites more than once. We also had the annual art walk over the weekend ~ local artists; photographers and all very talented folk exhibiting. We came away with some great black and white prints of local people scenes from our friend Dave and some amazing cards. The prints are being framed and will be hung when we get back. The cards are a mix of cards for the dreaded C word and birthdays. If I can let them go. They are beautiful.

Cortijo Paco

I’m nothing but predictable at the local restaurants. They know what I’ll order before I do. This is one of my favourite starters from the amazing Cortijo Paco. Beetroot & avacado timbale. Beautifully presented and delicious.

Lunch on the coast at El Camarote overlooking the marina is another favourite just down the mountain at Caletta de Velez.

The marina at Caletta de Velez
Lunch on the beach at Chambao de Vicente
La Herrudura
Nerja

It wouldn’t be a trip if we didn’t go to Nerja at least once. Or three times. Lunch overlooking the small beach and a wander through the small streets. With a visit to the bank for a small withdrawal.

It was a busy few weeks. We had a holiday within a holiday ~ a weekend trip to Cordoba to have supper with friends visiting from the Uk. The visit is worth a blog of its own and guess what. There will be one. In Competa there was the Dia del tourists y del residente where our friends NIcky and Paul received an award ~ Residente del Ano ~ from the Ayuntamiento. Nicky and Paul have three holiday rental properties in Competa ~ Competa Escapes and they work tirelessly to promote the pueblo Blanco on social media and within the community supporting the events that happen regularly. A well deserved award.

Nicki & Paul

I’m hoping for a drop of rain and a topping up of the deposito before I’m back. I have a week on my own booked which will give me a chance to get a few things done in the garden. We are lucky to have help looking after the garden when we aren’t there which I’m eternally grateful for.There will be logs delivered for the winter. Chimney sorted. Some wine to be brought back to the Uk. And the inevitable watching of Netflix. But as it’s not August I will be well wrapped up with a nice fire.

Have House guests will travel

Back to the cottage for a while and we have a guest staying. I love it when we do as it makes us get off our backside and do things. Ian has a saying about house guests.

He says they are like fish and go off after 4 days. He has a general but not a hard and fast rule that guests usually only stay that time. This guest can and does stay longer. She fits into the great house guest category. And is a regular visitor to Somerset and Spain. And reads the blog.

There was a list of things to do. Garden visits. Lunch out. Supper with friends. The other good things about great house guests is that there is no hard and fast rule of what where and when. Let’s leave the structured days to organised trips which indeed have their own value. But not from one’s home. The weeks list was varied and a great distraction from the gardening I would have otherwise done or not done had we been on our own.

I always think the strength of my likes for a garden visit are the number of photos I take. There are two clear favourites from this week. I’ll let you see what you think. But over two blogs.

Hestercombe House and gardens

We hadn’t been to Hestercombe House. Despite livig in the county for nearly 30 years. When we were both working we would travel to the cottage on a Friday and back on a Sunday or Monday so most time was spent locally with friends. Local friends made over the years and/or visiting godchildren family and parents. There weren’t enough days in a weekend. But hey. What’s retirement for if not enjoying your self. I have to pinch myself that I’m coming up to my 7 year anniversary of early retirement. I still laugh at the comments that were thrown at me. Won’t you be bored was the most asked question. The answer then was NO. 7 years later it’s still no and as I approach a milestone birthday there is still plenty I want to do whilst I’m still able. A milestone birthday. And it’s not 21.

Hestercombe gardens is a fine example of the partnership between Gertrude Jekyll and Sir Edward Lutyens. In 1944 the estate except for the House and the formal gardens were sold with the latter two sold to Somerset County council in 1978. The house and gardens are now managed by a garden trust.

With the current heatwave many gardens are not at their best. At bit like me to be fair. Needing plenty of water and feed. The layout and planting are great but when we visited there was not as much colour as you would have expected. I found the planting not as interesting as I had hoped for but there were pockets of beauty. I’m not quite sure what the gypsophylia was but it was stunning. I must ask as it was like a fluffy white cloud of very small flowers.

There were some swathes of colour like this purple around some very lovely urns.

Hsnshehehe

Pollen coated bee

Ia greaarden fro

Hestercombe planting

The echinop were a plenty in the garden and the great swathes of them were full of bees. Some covered in pollen like they had been dusted with icing sugar. It’s a great garden for pollinators ~ it’s been a long time since I have seen so many bees in one place.

What I would say about Hestercombe is that for the garden visits it came up as number one for the garden cafe. Both for menu and service. An excellent three course set menu ~ with an excellent main menu available. The staff were brilliant. Friendly and personable. Helpful and charming. I would go back just to eat at the cafe if I was in the area. Also the garden cafe isn’t behind thenAye all so,you can go and visit the cafe without having to go into the garden. That’s a bonus in my view. We will be back.

Forde Abbey

Forde Abbey

Another day another garden. We visited Forde Abbey on our guests previous visit but at a different time of year. It rained then and we watched the fountain erupt in the rain. This time the sun was shining and to be honest we did t know what to expect. Oh and the fountain didn’t erupt the whole time we were there. Maybe saving water ?

It’s a large garden with different areas. Can I just say one word. Fabulous. Another. Colourful. The planting is just up my street. Gorgeous planting. Zingy colours. Delightful borders. The gardens are listed as Grade II in the National Heritage list for England as a historically important garden. On my list as ‘ a bloody lovely garden’. And a big one. Covering over 30 acres. This time we didn’t manage to get to the bog garden. Not that I need an excuse to go back.

Wonderful wide borders against the wall were a delight with views across to the house. The combination of planting was astonishing given the current weather and the gardens are so beautifully maintained.

A highlight was the wonderful wildflowers. Planted to form a maze like feature it was stunning. I’m told they do the same with tulips for the spring so we will be back. Not that I need the excuse of spring but the tulips will beckon. There is a lovely Sitting spiritually rocking bench just overlooking the wildflowers. A company I first saw at RHS Chelsea decades ago. One of three of their swings at Forde Abbey. To add to the collection of ones seen here there was another at the Seaside boarding house. More if that in the next blog. Don’t hold your breath. It may or not be for a while.

The planting of the borders at the edge of the long pond are fabulous and can be seen from across the water and in front. Great planting to have views from both sides. . A word I know I’ve used a lot about this garden. Fabulous. But to be honest there are the colours. The plants. The combinations.

Time to sit and relax

This is not a sitting spiritually swing . The third one in the garden was unavailable. The people on it refused to budge. This bench was a welcome seat on the middle part of the wander as I headed off ahead to take photographs. For once ahead of the game leaving the other two,to,sit and I suspect put the world to rights.

Forde Abbey

Who lives in a house like this.? A former Cistercian Abbey occupied as a private house by the same family since 1905. Used as a film location for Far from the Madding Crowd, Restoration and Daniel Doranda we didn’t go inside the house. But we will. They open for Christmas. That is tempting.

Oh for a veg garden like this.

There is a large walled vegetable garden as you enter the gardens from the car park area. An amazing array of vegetables. Amazing looking rows of onions. Of cabbages and cauliflowers. I meant to ask the gardeners what happens to the veg. The garden is too large to supply just the house and I suspect not big enough for,a commercial enterprise. But whoever gets it is lucky!

What would be great is for the garden produce to be used in the cafe. Especially the salads in the summer months. Hint hint. We will be back

There is nursery at Forde Abbey and we came away with a car filled with new plants. But. Disaster. I missed the dahlia section. That’s a big fail on my part and I can’t quite understand how I did it. . I have a nose for a dahlia sale, I suspect skullduggery on Ian’s part to get us away from buying anymore plants. Two more words I keep saying ‘Next time’

Hello Heatwave. Hello Somerset

Well it’s been a bit of a hot one. Ironic really as we cancelled a trip to Spain as the temperatures there were forecast to be too high for comfort. I spent 9 weeks there bordering July and August in in one of the lockdowns and I swore never again in August. Yes I know it’s July but it was already August in Spain in June. If you get my drift.

There is no point in getting to Spain only to spend 2/3rds of the day indoors in my pants watching Netflix with the air con on. I can do that in the Uk but without the air con. London was hideous this week when the thermostat hit 30. No air. No air con and no patience.

As soon as it cooled I headed down to Somerset pre the school holiday traffic and avoided the holiday route. I had driven past a roadside cafe that was kind of hidden and this time decided to stop. Oh joy. It was quiet. The pathway was dahlia filled. The omlette was delicious.

Somerset gardening beckoned. It had been over three weeks since we had been here and I had three days on my own to try and break the back of the weeding. Whilst breaking mine. As I drove into the village looking at the car temperature gauge I marvelled. how could the car temperature on Tuesday show 38 in the car park at Sainsbury’s and only 20* the next day in Somerset. It’s bonkers.

Cottage pots

We had a good spring display of Tulips again this year and it’s always a difficult one on what to plant for the summer. We are here a little more often as we don’t go away in August and early September but we are conscious of watering at the front of the house. geraniums are always a good bet. They can cope with the sporadic watering and I am lucky that my goddaughter is available and willing to do the watering for me.

I always try and get my geraniums from Columbia Road flower market as both quality and price are excellent. This year is no exception and the decision on going for one solid colour against the warm stone of the cottage is looking good. The only issue we now have is that Jacks Shute is running dead slow to virtual,stop making watering from the spring a tad difficult. I won’t mention the last year it dried up according to Grandad Martin. But it was 1976. A date that has been mentioned a lot this week.

Despite the lack of rain the garden is looking good. Even if I say so myself. It’s had very limited water whilst we have been away and some things were struggling. Largely against bindweed which is the most drought tolerant plant in the garden here. It’s impossible to dig it out at this time of the year. So I cheat and just get rid of what I can. Out of sight out of mind for now. But it’s the biggest single problem we have.

View down the garden

The grass was largely green but was in need of a haircut which is the first thing I always do. I can then do the edges which makes it all look better in my eye. My eyes head to the edges but avoids the weeds. Diversion tactics.

View down the garden

I must do better for Instagram. I should put the garden hose away before I take the photo. But it’s not perfect and it never will be. It will be better when we love here more but until then I’ll struggle to do more than I do. I have come to accept my limitations. Of which there are many. Not just in gardening.

View up the garden

The photo makes the grass look harsher than it is. But we have had a bit of a soaking and it will green up with a little more. I never water a lawn. I’ve never know for it not to jump back after some rain. This lawn needs levelling and redoing l. We have been here 30 years and it’s as is. Uneven. And not Wimbledon perfect. But I like it. It goes with the cottage.

Echinacea

I need to plant more echinacea. We have one and this year it’s looking fabulous. Adds to list.

Sanguisorba

I only planted these last year and they are a stunning addition. Sanguisorba. I’m not sure if it’s Squirell tails or pink elephant. I’d look in my book if I had written it down. But. I haven’t. So it’s a pretty Sanguisorba If you are asking.

Agapanthus

This came from some friends and is a particularly gorgeous dark agapanthus. It’s particularly stunning as the flowers open which I think is my favourite time of flowering. It’s dark and sultry.

Hemerocallis

Day lilies are gorgeous. This clump has been in the garden for over 30 years. And also seems to have been divided out before that time as it appears in at least 4 other gardens in the village. I have an issue with the plant. It takes up too much room for such a short flowering period. It’s a day Lily. And that what you get for each flower. A day. Very beautiful but the clump needs splitting. Makes a diary note. ( in my head) ~ but I suspect it will be another 30. Months not years before I get around to it.

Persicaria

This clump of persicaria has also been here since we moved in. Decades ago. This one has been split a few times and newer varieties brought in. I love them. Dull to start but with a great colour flower spike and great leaves. Great for picking with other flowers for the house too.

The persicaria polymorpha is very different in flower and leaf and a bit of a bully. In the right place it’s a great statement. Adds a note to split. There’s a lot of notes.

Persicaria polymorpha
Evening primrose and day Lily

This years biggest self seeder . Evening primrose. Followed very quickly by borage. I had planned to make a dahlia bed again this year. But time and energy ran out. So I left it. The gladioli in that bed have come up again. The borage has self seeded in that space so I’m happy. But. There’s always a but. I’d be happier if I had got myself together and had a lovely dahlia bed filled with big blousy dahlias. Next year it’s either a dahlia bed or a rose bed. Decisions. Decisions. Oh bugger. Both. But I got my dahlia fox this year on the TOdds Botanics stand at RHS Hampton Court.

Verbena bonariensis

Last year was the first year I’ve managed to keep the Verbena bonariensis going into a second season. A neighbours self seeds everywhere but she does have a gravel area which helps. Mine – Doesn’t. And the ground is so wet in the winter. Unlike now.

Acanthus

The acanthus is good but not as good or as many as the ones growing in a bit of guerrilla gardening along the road from us in London. But it is better this than last year. There need to be more to make a statement.

Honeysuckle at dusk

The honeysuckle on the arch goes on and on. And with a white jasmine on the fence which this year is flowering like crazy the scent in the garden on a warm day is delicious. Interestingly the Jasmine hasn’t flowered in years. Or maybe it had and I’ve ignored it. How rude of me.

Giant scabious

I remember planting one of these last year. So how come there are 4. The lovely yellow giant scabious. Would you believe me if I said I hadn’t realised it was there. I was sat at the table just gazing out and it was there. I’m sure it wasn’t there the day before. But it towers above everything. It’s like walking along LOndon streets. Always look up. The architecture of the buildings is great and you moss do much if you just look at street level.

There’s nothing like an incentive for rain like me putting up the sail. Which fills with water when it does rain. I did. And it did. I could have entered the wet t shirt competition when I went to let the water down. Hideously cold water and laughter from my godson who has called in after work as I misjudged where the water would go. I’ll get my own back on him.

Clearing the grape vine and tall roses

A door with a view. As long as you don’t look left where if you do you will see the calor Gas canister’s. Why they can’t make green ones is beyond me. I suspect it’s a health and safety issue. But there need to be an aesthetic issue too. There again why haven’t we built a cover or bought the green cover to go over them.

The grape vine had virtually grown over half of the door so it’s been lightly pruned. The vine. Not the door. Not only to expose the door but also to expose the grapes to get them to ripen. Not quite chateau Pitcombe vintage but they will be made into grape and rosemary jelly later in the year. If the birds don’t get them first. They have had most of the red and black currants and the gooseberries already. I dream of a fruit cage. Along with a weed free garden. A new greenhouse. Less arthritic fingers and a six pack. One can but dream. Some are achievable. Some can be bought. Others would be miracles.

One interesting fact. Maybe as a reminder to me but not to you. There was a vineyard in the next village when we moved in. Vintages were patchy but when it was good it was good. Sadly no longer there. Castle Cary vineyard. I remember drinking a decent bottle at a wedding reception of the couple from whom we bought no 4. That’s over 22 years ago. That’s scary.

Chateau Pitcombe

A black grape. Origin unknown.

Household chores continue

The reality of the house and garden. Normal household duties continue out of sight where possible. But I love the fresh smell of clothes dried outside ~ and let’s be honest it’s as cheap as chips.

Large border

The borders have filled up well. Not surprising with how much I stuff into that space. Too much really but it looks great. Great places for the slugs to hide and the birds to pop in and out of. I can’t stuff much more into there but I will try. Some of the roses need replacing. Some dividing needs to happen. A little better planting planning. Say that after a few glasses of summer rose. It’s not easy. Planting planning.

Large border

The perennials are doing their thing. As are the gladioli. I planted these two years ago and whilst I love the colours I won’t again. They are a faff with staking. The poppies are about to pop their seeds over the garden. Note that I need to get some Lauren’s grape to sow soon.

Apples and pears. We need to coordinate our time here to pick them. They are too good to miss and I hate waste in the garden. There’s a plan to plant more fruit trees and that’s for another day. There’s a fence to be sorted first.

We have looked at the bottom of the garden. Out of sight. Out of mind. It’s like closing the door to that spare room. Two parts are in a bit of a mess. Under the rambling rector and an area behind the greenhouse.

All in good time. For now I have tulips on my mind. I have made grids of ones that have taken my fancy. More than one grid I’ll add. This is one. If I told you how many grids ………

I may be some time.

The start of the choices.

Social Media is a funny thing and Flower Shows

Ian has no social media presence at all. Nothing. He doesn’t get it. Especially when visiting an open garden in Somerset when I saw from a distance someone making a bee line for him. Apparently she had recognised him from my Instagram posts. Which if you follow me you will know quite how hard that would be.

The majority of the photos are taken from ten feet behind him and rarely are there any of us together. What’s this go to do with this blog? . I tell him he doesn’t know what he’s missing. Yes. You can go down that rabbit hole if you aren’t careful and never should you get into a Twitter spat. It’s just not worth it.

But. Through social media I have made friends. Friends in real life. Friends who have introduced me to others. Which brings me to the point. I wouldn’t have been at Hampton Court Flower Festival on the Master Growers stand had I not met Georgie from Common Farm Flowers Who introduced me to Lou Archer from Arches at the Larches. Who in turn introduced me to Todds Botanics and Mark and Emma MacDonald.

I had helped at RHs Chelsea in 2019 on Todd’s stand working with Lou as part of the Poo Crew. Manning the stand and selling plants and Poo. Some would say talking it too. In case you thought I’d made up the poo crew ~ Here’s our money bag. Nothing like poo advertising. Lou is the Queen of Poo. She has 21 alpaca and they all work for their living. Great dried and liquid alpaca feed. I’m already a fan and it works wonders in my garden. If it’s good enough for the nursery it’s good enough for me!

Alpaca Fertiliser

Plans were to return again the following year. But we know what happened next. No Chelsea in 2020 and Todds made the decision not to show in 2021.

Each year The RHS announces Master Growers for the shows and this year Todds was announced for the RHS Hampton Court Flower Festival and I was happy that I was allowed to be part of team again. So delighted I cut my trip to Spain back by a week. That’s dedication but it’s not something I’d miss. I can go to Spain whenever. It’s only the once I get to be on the Master Grower stand.

Master Grower

Meet Mark MacDonald. This years Master Grower for RHS Hampton Court Flower Show. You won’t usually find Mark in such a colourful flowery shirt. There is a story.

I met Mark three years ago for the first time when I helped on the stand. On day three I caught him rolling his eyes at a T-shirt I was wearing. A bit flowery. To be honest even for me. But it was Chelsea. We were selling plants. And poo. Later that week I told Mark I had seen him roll his eyes and he’d better be aware that should I get asked back I’d find him something suitable to wear. For the last three years whenever I’ve seen something awful clothes wise I messaged him. ‘ what about this?’ To be fair I’ve only sent him awful pictures. So awful I wouldn’t have worn them. Not even in the dark.

Bill & Ben the flowerpot men

So it started as a joke but I did get him this shirt and to his credit and my surprise he wore it. But sensibly not for filming. With hindsight we should have sat alongside the beautiful pots from Vaso Toscano. Gorgeous Italian pots. Reminds me of The flowerpot Men. Bill & Ben. Someone said where’s weed. Trust me. There were none.

I’ve set myself another challenge for next time. He said that it wasn’t as bad as he was expecting! That’s a fail on my part. I should have got the matching shorts. That way I’d never be asked back.

Vaso Toscano pots
Canna

The stand was beautifully designed and planted by Emma “ Mrs Todds” and Julie from the nursery. The Master Grower stand isn’t judged by the RHS committee but my medal would have been Diamond. It ticked all my boxes but hey. I’m not a judge. But the colours and the combinations were fabulous. The planting of dahlia alongside agapanthus and canna were stunning. What I like about these plantings is that they are achievable in your own gardens. Whole beds or sections or plant combinations.

Dahlia totally tangerine & Canna Durban

This was a fabulous colour and planting combination. The gorgeous Dahlia Totally Tangerine with Canna Durban. The colours of the dahlia flower against the lovely colours of the canna leaf are a treat. Throw in a bit of verbena bonariensis and it’s magical. And it’s achievable.

Canna were a feature of the display with Tropicana Black, Durban, Pretoria, Annei and what had a huge interest was Canna Cleopatra.

I just wish the leaves on mine were as perfect as these. I had to keep reminding myself that I don’t have a show garden. Or the patience or skills to get there!

One canna that had a lot of interest was Canna Annei. From Todds Botanics website “ Canna ‘Annei’ is a lovely old variety bred in France in the 19th century. Annei is a very tall Canna Lily reaching above 2M. The flowers are a pale peach and are very pretty, almost delicate looking, they waft above the tall stems and slender leaves.” It really is a stunner. I bought one two years ago and it’s in a pot in the front garden in London. It’s a favourite of mine.

Canna Annei

Let’s talk Dahlia. When I was growing up my parents grew dahlia. Nothing like the ones we have these days. But they had a few. I hated them as they were full of earwigs. If I was asked to pick them I’d always shake the the flowers to get rid of the earwigs. I’d get into trouble as I would shake them so hard I would snap the heads off. I’ve grown to love them following getting flowers from Georgie at Common Farm Flowers. Mark & Emma had varieties I’d not seen before. But I will again as some have found their way to my garden!

Dahlia Fired Up
Dahlia Friquolet
Dahlia Holy Hill Lemon ice

Dahlia Fired up was a stunner. Friquolet like a raspberry ripple. To be honest I’m not a lover of yellow dahlia but Holywell Lemon ice was a beauty. Two out of the three will be in my garden.

Throw in Honka Fragile. Totally tangerine. Sam Hopkins and Grenadier a Bishop of Auckland and big love and you have some stunning dahlia with a great colour mix. Oh. I forgot David Howard and Karen. Another hotly requested plant.

Pots and Plants

The stand also had the gorgeous pots of Vaso Toscano ~ one planted with Friquolet and salvia Amistad just at the entrance to the stand. A pretty eye catching combination. Great hand made Italian terracotta.

I’m not a gardener. I garden and I’m always in awe of how gardeners and garden designers plant. I’ve never been a lover of grasses until recently so I loved the planting of the grasses in the beds here. They softened the large dark leaves with structure and movement. Stipia Gigantea was a huge interest to many people. ( but a nightmare to photograph so I didn’t).

Great pollinator

It always amazes me at the shows how quickly the bees find you. The single flower on Dahlia Roxy was buzzing. A great pollinator for the garden.

This photo shows how colourful the planting was on the stand. A mix of the dahlia and canna. Agapanthus and grasses.

As Master Growers the stand has photograph of the nursery and of Mark & Emma and a video on continuous loop taken at the nursery. It’s an interesting insight into their work at the nursery.

RHS master grower stand

There is a lovely segment on Gardeners World with an interview on the stand with Joe Swift which is definitely worth a catch up on BBC iPlayer.

Another tale of 3 gardens

Casa Verano is possibly the easiest and hardest at the same time to garden. Back in March when we were here it was wet. By wet I mean wet. And we had hideous Sahara dust. So wet and red. We had an unexpected week here in April and the weather was kinder. We even had tulips. Have I mentioned I like tulips. Hang on if I didn’t because you sure will by the end. If you get that far. We are back here now for 10 days and it is as hot as it was wet in March. Un seasonably so. The nighttime temperature tonight is tropical. Electricity may be cheaper after midnight but not cheap enough to put the aircon on. I’ve been gardening at 6am. Partly in the dark. I suspect these days I look better in the dark.

It’s been a busy few weeks. After two years of little or no travel and with better weather we have been here and there. There and here. We had a short trip to CasaVerano Eternno to get the house ready for the more frequent visits over the next few months. We have had a few weeks in Somerset. Weeding. Visitors in both Spain and somerset. A few weeks in London and are now back in Andalucia. It would be good to spend longer here. But. We have to count our days. And make the days count.

April

I planted only four pots of tulips here in Spain which was a late a late planting as planned trips at the end of 2021 didn’t happen so the bulbs weren’t planted until February. Oh. I also planted them in the white wall ~ Tulip Armani which did surprisingly well given how windy it can get 2000 ft up the mountain and the wall is exposed.

The majority did well. The wet March certainly helped with flower size and stem height. As we had a friend staying we didn’t spend all our time in the garden. There has to be a balance. There were cultural events thrown in. Lunch on the coast ~ that’s cultural isn’t it? A trip to Granada and for once not to the Alhambra. But to a secret garden with great views across to it.

Views to the Alhambra

A visit to the Botanical gardens in Malaga for the first time in a few years. There has been a lot of work carried out since we were last there. It’s not a manicured gardens but there are new beds and things look generally more cared for since we were last there.

Malaga botanical gardens
Malaga botanical gardens

I find it amazing to find plants growing here that we had as houseplants growing up. How many houses had a Swiss cheese plant indoors when growing up. We did. The botanical gardens have huge swathes of them. Huge in size as well as quantity. Clivia is another. I had one in my office for years and when I first came here five years ago and saw them planted outside in the shade I did the same. Not on the same scale obviously. But they have been great again this year. Beautiful orange flowers. I’m trying to find some yellow ones.

Monasterio de San Jerónimo, Granada

When in Granada we visited the Monasterio de San Jerónimo, ~ found originally when we parked in the underground car park close by. Well worth a visit. The monastery. Not the car park. Although it’s easy to find and easy to park. Ian rolled his eyes again when I asked if we should ring the bell and ask for Maria. It’s a closed order so I guess we wouldn’t get an answer. I know. Childish. Me. Not the closed order. Ian often wishes I had made a vow of silence.

It was a fly8mg visit in April. Literally. But we are back. As I said it’s hot. The rain in earlier months has definitely benefitted the wildflowers. The campo is a glorious swathe of colour and our roundabout which isn’t a roundabout has grown like crazy. Not the roundabout obviously but the growth on it. Strimmed to within an inch of it’s life in Autumn it is now full of grasses and wildflowers. More grasses than I’d like but it’s looking pretty. Looks like another hard strim will be needed later in the year. Why strim?. Wildfires. Whilst it’s away from the house it worries me. So strimmed it will be.

Wildflowers on the roundabout
Area behind the house under the almond trees

This isn’t the roundabout but is the area at the back of the house where we have some almond trees. Thankfully it’s a poor year for almonds. I do pick them. Dry them. But have you tried cracking the things. I need a professional cracker. But. The wildflowers look good. Again it will be cut back late summer when things have dried to a crisp. There is no watering of this part of the garden.

Aloe maculata

It’s been a good year for the soap aloe ~ Aloe Maculata . We usually get some flowers but this year in one bed at the side of the house 15 are flowering. To be honest they may flower as well every year. But last year and 2020 we weren’t here at this time of year. This is our 6th May here having exchanged this week in May 2017. I digress as usual. The mix of some rain ~ too wet and they rot ~ and the recent heat has brought them all out. By the time we are next here they will be over.

strelitzia Reginae

The strelitzia Reginae are out. In force this year. One of my favourite plants in the garden with about a trillion other favourites. Sadly the strelitzia Nicolai hasn’t appeared so I stand and admire next doors. They are such beauties and I have planted two more to go with the two we already have. Only one of the four is large enough to flower and it has a mind of its own when it does. They are popular along the coast here. so we get to see them a lot. When we first had the house I thought we had banana plants. I was shocked when one day these flowers appeared.

This agave is still growing strong and I continue to hope it doesn’t flower. The foxtail agave which once flowers dies. For once I’m happy to have something that’s not flowering. There are a number of baby plants to pot on. Which I must do soon. I planted one in a pot two years ago and that has done well and it needs to be transferred to the dry bank Oh. It’s another one of my favourites. There are three dotted around the garden. This is the largest.

The Rosemary and lavender I replanted along the path is doing really well with the lavender about to flower. Ignore the hose pipe. If I was a proper blogger and Instagrammer I would have moved it out of shot. It’s a nice shady path but boy the mozzies love it. I have planted scented pelargoniums as well here so will see if that helps. The Rosemary should too. A.one with the society garlic and the chopped garlic I have strewn along the bed. Thankfully the scent of the honeysuckle in the tree will mask it at face level !

The planting is pretty eclectic here. A lot of what is here ie the more established plants like the agave the aloe and the oleander do well. I’ve added to the agapanthus which to those that know me well isn’t a surprise. The large ferns continue to surprise me. Placed where I want them and not in what I think would be ideal conditions they have more than flourished. They have become huge. It’s such a different garden to what I am used to in the Uk. It’s dry. It’s Hot. Water is used sparingly. Well I am trying to use less. If it needs a lot of water it’s not planted. But to be honest there is little that is totally drought tolerant. I can be a serious over waterer but the cost and the lack of it here has reined me in.

I have removed the tulips from the white wall and bought geraniums to,replace them. But then as you do changed my mind and decided a few geranium pots on the terrace would give some colour before the large pot of canna appears and the scented cerise pelargonium flowers I found Sanvitalia procumbems _ a creeping Zinnia. Who knew. I didn’t. It has a dainty trailing habit with yellow flowers. Apparently drought, humidity and heat tolerant. We shall see ! They are annuals so if they don’t work this year they don’t work and will be replaced. Need deadheading. My mother was a serial deadheader. She couldn’t help but walk up a path and dead head the flowers even if it wasn’t her own garden. I think I have inherited that gene but only for my own garden thankfully.

Creeping zinnia

We have three pomegranate trees in the garden. More bushes than trees really and they were heavily pruned earlier this year. Very heavily. We get flowers if we are lucky. Last year when we returned after a year away there were two pomegranates high up on the bush. Both split. Both half eaten but after 4 years of having none we now know they are not ornamental. They have a mind of their own and do fruit. That’s the downside of not being here full time in that we can and often do miss things. Buts how it is for now.

There are two Pineapple guava which were also cut back as I hadn’t been able to,do anything to them for two years. I suspect now that my timing was wrong as there are fewer flowers than normal. Which is a shame as they are so beautiful. The fruit is an acquired taste. A visiting friend tasted one and said it tasted like germolene. I get where she is coming from but the two childhood smells I hated were germolene and TCP . I worked with someone many years ago who used it as after shave. Or bathed in it.

The cactus. Or to be correct the euphorbia candelabrum. But it’s a cactus to us in this garden. One of Ian’s choices as he likes structural plants. Both in pots. Both tied to the railings so they don’t get blown over and they will at some point go in the ground. But as they are doing so well not yet although the pots are cracking. As in splitting.

Then there is the quince. Not something I expected to,find in the garden but there are a lot of them about in the area. There is one not far from us where the quince are left to drop. I just may go and ask this year if I can have them. But this year we have quince again which means that I will be making quince jelly . It’s a favourite of mine along with a bit of gorgeous Spanish cheese.

Pomegranate. Pineapple guava. Euphorbia candelabrum and Quince

The weather is due to get cooler mid week. Then I can cut the hedge. Check the irrigation system. Tie in the grape vine. Oh and lunch with friends. Before we return for Jubilee celebrations. Until the next time when it all stars over again. Oh. I mentioned tulips. But that’s for another day.

Here there and everywhere

It was an interesting trip to Spain this time. We had rain. More rain. And even more rain ~ add the hideous Sahara dust and you hay a bonus. So back to the Uk where everyone had been enjoying shorts weather. And then the weather changes. But back to a very different garden.

I always forget that I have these planted in the pots with the two bay trees. They flower and then disappear for the next ten months. I think they are Muscari peppermint. Maybe?

The tree ferns have come through the winter with nearly all of last years fronds. I have unwrapped them. Taken out the hay. Hay because I forgot to ask Farmer Martin for straw ~ out of the crowns and given them their first feed of Alpaca poo. Ian keeps reminding me that when we move they are coming with us. We will see.

So here there and everywhere. A trip to Somerset for a few days. Just me which is something I haven’t done much of theses last two years. Me time. My mother could never quite comprehend why I liked to have some time on my own. Won’t you be lonely she’d ask. No mother. I’ll be alone. That’s quite different. People ask how we have managed to be together for 30 years. Ian’s answer. At times different houses. Or in the last 5 years. Different countries. I don’t think either of us bargained for the last two years.

A bit of a different drive to the cottage compared to Spain. 5 mins away from the cottage is the drive past the grade 2* listed gates to what was Redlynch Park. Which was built probably to impress George III who was a frequent visitor there on his trips to Weymouth. It certainly impresses me as I dive past. Unlike our drive in Spain up and down the wiggly or windy road this drive is through beautifully cut hedges. Not actually through the hedges obviously. I love it when they are cut and can be seen from above.

Back in the Somerset garden which at this time of year is a little neglected. We had had a great week clearing last years die back in January. All but one patch cleared. We had planned another week but after two years and three Jabs I Covid got me and plans were put on hold. Thankfully very mild but it put me out of action for 10 days. Which threw all manner of plans out of kilter. The work on the revamped kitchen had to be moved. A trip to Spain held in abeyance. Gardening in LOndon was ok as I went in the front garden early and late and the tiny back garden whenever.

I managed to cut the grass on the one dry day I was there. It’s cut for us when we have a few weeks away but I do like to cut it. The Lidl lawnmower I bought after last years lockdown started first time. Was a bargain and did well in the Which trials.

It always looks better but I didn’t have time to do the edges. Or to weed. That’s for the next visit. The honeysuckle could do with a bit of a shaping. Looking at my self haircut I think I’ll get someone else to do it. I don’t usually put trimmer to my hair but as I’d been quarantined and didn’t have a chance to get a haircut I had to. Don’t worry. I won’t be taking it up professionally. Sheep shearers have more finesse.

The patch on the right along the dodgy fence is one bit we hadn’t cleared. Full of spreading asters it was hiding bluebells and primroses. Sadly the Spanish variety – bluebells obviously. . As a child we used to walk along what we called the Rusty Line – an old disused railway line and I remember collecting primroses. That was decades ago.

At this time of year there are swathes of Pulmonaria which the bees love. A great early pollinator and it’s spread like crazy under this old rose.

One of the reasons for the visit was to check the tulip pots. Did I ever say I like tulips? I needed to check them and water them if they were a bit dry. A reminder that even if it rains you should still check the pots and the tulips could do with a bit of water as they are about to flower. A top tip from Harriet Rycroft who is the queen of pots. I want to be more Harriet. Her pot displays are awesome.

I was really pleased to see such a strong display coming through. Another two weeks and it should be full tulip show. I hope they flower well and that the eclectic colours work. If it doesn’t there’s always next year. I’m already making a note of tulips I see on Instagram which could be 2023 contenders.

I found my tulip planting list but I’m not sure I stuck to it. What I do know is that there will be Brown sugar. Ballerina. Flaming spring green. Black hero. Dutch dancer. Helmar. Some oranges. Some reds. Oh. Two new ones. Sarah Raven. And Istanbul. There are a load of others. It will be interesting. As I’ve mentioned I’m already making a note of new ones I see this year. Ready for the off in August to order next years.

I planted this viburnum a good few years ago and it’s never been so lovely. It’s full of flowers which change colour as they open from soft pinks to white. Maybe my absence during lockdowns has allowed the garden to grow instead of my innappropriate pruning. I didn’t see it in 2020 or in 2021.

I can’t ever remember so many flowers on it. I must make sure it’s supported against the fence.

There is blossom in abundance in the garden. This ornamental cherry is heavy with blossom. It’s the only thing that saves the tree. It’s pretty useless than the the flowers but the branches which have bird feeders hanging on them. I am surprised that the frost hasn’t got more of the blossom to be honest. There have been some pretty hard frosts in Somerset

I pruned the gooseberries and the currants this year for the first time in years. It looks like I haven’t killed them and the red gooseberry in particular is showing good results. We had a spectacular harvest of redcurrants last year. But no matter how many you have you need more. I made redcurrant jelly. The amount of jelly v redcurrants is sad. The red gooseberries I just eat straight off the bush. They are sweet and delicious .the one above is the one above is a Rokula. A new German raised Mildew resistant with apparently high yield. I’ll let you know. That’s if the birds don’t strip them first.

Spring flowers. Pulmonoria or lungwort. which are great. Alkanet which I hate. It spreads like crazy. The hairy stems irritate and it’s as tough as old boots. Primroses and bluebells hiding in a bit of the garden which we hadn’t cleared. I did clear a fair bit so the bees at least could get in. The bluebells are Spanish. I like them but a proper real gardener who said she wanted to see the garden said if we had any Spanish bluebells we should rip them out. Thankfully none were out when she visited.

The top two tulips are previous years randoms in previously planted pots. I must have missed them when replanting the pots with agapanthus. The bottom two are this years pots.

I pruned the roses as well. On time. Last year I was late to the party. But a shout out on Instagram brought in advice. Which when it comes from a legend Rosarian it was advice I heeded. This year on time it looks as they have survived. Some great growth.

Spring has certainly spring. New growth on lots of trees. The apples. The pears and the plums. And on the Cornus which last year was spectacular. I tiedied up the shape after flowering and I’m glad to see new growth this year. I’m surprised at the plum blossom. We struggle with plums as they are usually hit badly by late frosts. Looks like this year the flowering is later. Fingers crossed though.

This mahonia has had a reprieve. It’s never really done anything and this was the year I was going to dig it out. Maybe it heard me saying just that but the flowers this year have been great. It’s at the bottom of the garden next to the river and is another area that needs a tidy. Behind it are some raspberry canes and the patch where we grow our runner beans. I might even be more like my father this year. Growing up it was my job to dig a trench for the beans. Which would be filled with newspaper and vegetable waste. To be fair they have done ok for the last 30 years without bit every year when I plant I hear his voice in my head.

Here and there. There and here. Back in London and the tulips here are ahead of somerset. Well some of them are. I don’t know why. These were planted later than somerset but this spot does get some good morning sun. This pot is tulip passionale. I think. It’s a new one for me and one I ordered from a different supplier this year as they had tulip Brown sugar which was one I wanted. But I saw this and thought I’d give it a try. Maybe a bit shorter than I like but I’d grow it again.

I’d forgotten how much I love Tulip Brown sugar. It’s a fabulous colour. Has a scent. Is tall. What more could you ask for.

A couple of pots of left over tulips for the front door. Maybe. Just maybe it will keep Frederick Fox away from the front door. There are plenty more to come out and they will but usually in their own time.

One thing is guaranteed. When they do you will know!

Oops I did it again.

Another week. But what a week we had last week. Some sun. Some rain. More rain. Clima. Torrential rain. So Clima. Yep. The arrival of the Sahara dust on the Costa del Sol. The worst here in our pueblo Blanco that anyone can remember. The Pueblo Blanco is now a Pueblo Naranja.

Clima. Sahara dust

It was a pretty eerie sky as we headed into town to pick up a takeaway. A definite yellow/orange hue. Like we were in some sci fi movie. The white walls have all been covered in the dust. The dust dumped in the pools and the terraces caked. I have hosed the terrace. Hosed the walls of La Casa. Then it rained again but didn’t make much difference. Now we are waiting for round 2. Which may or may not happen. But there is torrential rain forecast. Which is fine as we need the rain. Just not the dust.

Sahara dust

The garden was covered. The plants were covered and it’s taken days to make a bit of a difference. But thankfully we were here otherwise my paranoia would be in overdrive.

The rain is welcome and to be honest it’s perfect planting weather. I think for the first time since we bought the house I have been able to dig and plant without a pick axe. You think I jest. Trust me ~ I wondered when I’d ever use the tools we had acquired with the house. Various sizes of pick axes for one thing.

Hi ho hi ho it’s off to work we go

But this week I can dig deep. The ground is wet and I can plant properly. So I have had to buy some plants to try it out. One has to really.

Salvia

So we headed to our local garden centre. I’d be lying if I said this was our first visit this trip. I’ll be honest. It was our third. The first to collect the roses I had on order. The second to collect the 10 lavender I had ordered. Of course each time it wasn’t just the roses. Or the lavender. I added to the list. So today Ian said if you are only collecting compost I will wait in the car. After I was taking too long he came and found me.

But . I saw the lovely salvia x jameensis fuchsia. I love salvia and had already picked up two others on the earlier visit. But I loved the colour so it fell in my bag.

Digiplexis

This was a new one on me. Looked like a digitalis so I thought I have a spot for that. But looking closer the label said it was a digiplexis. A what? Who knew. I didn’t. It is a hybrid plant and is the cross between a foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) and Canary Island foxglove (Isoplexis canariensis). It will be interesting to see a) it flower and b) will it survive. I’m sure if it does there will be photos.

Gaura

I also bough 12 gaura to add to the ones that I already have planted. 6 white. 6 as above. I love them. They are tall like dancing butterflies above the other plants. I have planted them all around the various beds. Guess what. There is room for more.

Path from the gate

When we moved here the path was a fabulous lavender path. But we lost a lot of it and I tried starting again. Wit was a disaster. So I planted a Rosemary path. Mostly creeping Rosemary which whilst it’s done well I wasn’t that happy. ~ I can hear Ian saying ‘No change there then’ So I decided to remove every other Rosemary plant and plant a lavender in its place and to have a mixed path. Time will tell as to how it works. But I’d be happy if it did. Back to square one if it doesn’t.

We have a number of these around the garden. They have grown bonkers which is surprising as some are in the brightest sunniest part of the terrace. When it’s sunny which hasn’t been this week. Two have decided to break out of their pots so it’s into larger ones for them. A bit of a tidy up for all of them and a bit of a feed. Given the chance Ian would have Tree Ferns. He’s still adamant that they will leave London with us when we sell. But not to Spain.

The Osteospermum are starting to flower in force. They are so reliable though a little late to the party this year. They spread a fair bit but that’s fine for where they are growing. Two years ago I bought some fancy new colours. They lasted a month. I hated them. I’m happy with these.

Tulip wall

I was late to the party planting my tulips in Spain. We were due here mid December but that was cancelled so it wasn’t until the end of January when they were planted. This is the white wall at the end of the pool. In summer it’s planted with geraniums. Bright red Common old garden geraniums. For now it’s a tulip mix. If I remembered what they are I’d tell you. Every year I’m determined to label. Every year it’s a fail. But. Hopefully we will be back in time to see them out. There are a number of pots dotted around the garden which are heavily planted with tulips. It’s a joy that I can still get bulbs from my friends at Peter Nyssen shipped here. Direct from Holland.

Orange blossom

The orange blossom is out in force. I’m hoping that we don’t lose it and that we get oranges again this year. It’s a bit hit and miss but the help we have has pruned and tidied the growth and I have done a feed. It’s fingers crossed. But I love the blossom and the smell is delicious. Oranges aren’t bad either. When they form.

Hola hola. I’ve repotted and moved this large aeonium twice. I love it and it’s almost alien looking. It was worse for wear when we returned after a 12 month absence and one of the larger bits had snapped off. That is now planted direct in the ground and is growing well. I still can’t get used to being able to leave these out all year round. I have green ones in the ground which really look like aliens.

In a pot on the terrace this is finally in flower. Opening with the sun it’s a lovely shade of orange. Would go well with this years Pitcombe tulips which has a bit of an orange theme. Well I think it does. A great succulent which I may be Malephora or maybe Lampranthus. Either way it’s flowering!

A walk outside the main garden and out through the gate. The roundabout that’s not a roundabout which is lovely and green with a splash of yellow. Strimmed back in the Autumn as I worry about the dying back of the wildflowers catching fire ~ been rejuvenated with the rain. The Oxalis pes-caprae are starting to open. I’m hoping for a sea of acid yellow by the end of next month. Known by a multiples of names ~ African wood-sorrel, Bermuda buttercup, Bermuda sorrel, buttercup oxalis, Cape sorrel, English weed, goat’s-foot, sourgrass, soursob or soursop;

I know it as the yellow weed that spreads like mad but looks great in the spring. I’d rather have this than bindweed.

The roundabout that’s not ….

The roundabout that’s not a roundabout is a large area across the access road from us and above the pine trees. The large pine you can see isn’t ours. It doesn’t look much but I can’t strim it myself it’s steep and my balance on it would mean I’d be tumbling down the hill to the bottom of the road. Walk up that access road which is a dead end and you get great views to La Maroma. I know. I’ve done it once or twice in 5 years.

When we bought the house there was a stump of an old mimosa on the bank. I eventually cut it right back but a shoot was growing about two feet away which I was too lazy to deal with. It has now become a large tree bearing amazing hanging branches of mimosa. I will give it a prune after flowering but it’s full of bees at the moment and frames the gate perfectly. Not great for my hay fever but I’ll live with it. Plus it looks great picked for the house.

‘ How are the cactus doing’ Ian asks. We don’t have any I say. Yes we do. The ones tied to the railings. Ah. They aren’t cactus they are Euphorbia candelabrum. Whatever is his reply. You’ve looked that up. Let’s stick with cactus. It’s less of a mouthful. Well they are doing pretty well. Once in a while Ian sees something he wants for the garden. These were one of those purchases.

Banksia rose

The gorgeous banksia rose is a little sparse on the flower side this year. Climbing the jacaranda tree it’s such a pretty little flower. Makes note to give it a tidy up for next year.

Melisnthus major

I walk through a little shrubbery on my way to Peckham Rye station and they have some amazing Melianthus major growing. I didn’t expect to get them here in Spain but I have. Great plants from Lorraine Cavanagh where I buy most of my plants. When we made an offer on the house I bought a book on Mediterranean plants ready for the new adventure. When Ian saw the price (Amazon). He said how much? He changed his mind when talking to the sellers and I mentioned I’d already bought a book to help with the plants. Oh. That’s Lorraine. The garden centre is here in Competa. Lorraine has been invaluable these last five years and will message me to say ‘ we have had a delivery. I think you may like x. “ It’s one place Ian never minds going. Lorraine also has a book on citrus. .

As well as the gardening books Lorraine has written about Cómpeta in a book ‘ There are no flies. Only foreigners’ about Cómpeta and the surrounding areas. She has been here for 37 years and seen many changes. imagine no mobiles in the campo only walkie-talkies! It’s a really great read.

Allium

I know not where this came from. I can’t remember planting them but they are springing up around the garden. I’ve checked back at purchases but can find no trace. Maybe I bought them locally. But I hate planting small bulbs. I’m reliably informed it’s Allium Triquetrum but can’t recall planting it at all. The alliums I know I have planted are on the way up. Even the dreaded drumsticks. I love them. But as I said. I hate planting small bulbs. Patience is a virtue. Sadly not one of mine.

I’ve had a move around of the pots. Something I do occasionally. That’s the joy of them. . As long as they aren’t too heavy they can be moved around. I cut the pelargoniums back hard and they have come back stronger. I’m hoping they will flower better this year. And for longer. I forgot to photograph the society garlic. I could smell it before I saw it and it’s starting to flower already. Supposed to deter mosquitos. Not in this garden. They were hideous last year. I looked like a dart board. Or a dot to dot picture.

Ignore the dirty wall. it needs cleaning and repainting. A job for another day. . I had this rose arch made locally and fitted. All done without me being here. Our neighbour took in the sketch of what we wanted. Think a 5yr olds drawing. They came and measured and fitted without us seeing it. Perfect. I’ve finally planted a climbing rose ~ Rosa Zephrine Drouhin and a star jasmine ~ Trachelospermum jasminoides. When we first moved in I had to go and look at a rose on a house opposite. A gorgeous red rose which I thought was fake. It wasn’t of course. . But I was surprised that it was growing so well. Fingers crossed this will. Although it’s pink. And Virtually thornless.

Up the garden path

More rain is forecast. More Sahara sand. And more planting. Tomorrow is another day

Up the garden path ~ again

Well we are back. But it looked a bit shaky when we were waiting to board the plane in London. Booked well in advance like most of our flights for the year to get a decent price or moved from the last two years supply of vouchers. A packed flight checked in and waiting to board only to be asked for volunteers to not take the flight. Weather was going to be bad. The plane was too heavy. Not with our luggage ~ we had the smallest bags imaginable but they needed 22 people to volunteer.

Guess how many they got. Yep. None. So there was a roll call of names. They decided and the luggage had already been removed. We’d escaped the roll call. But to be honest I was tempted. The compensation was generous.

We had a car to pick up. Oh. And the fire had been lit ready for our arrival. Hot water was on and there was the essentials in the fridge. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Good neighbours are worth their weight in gold.

It is 5 years to the weekend we first viewed this house. 5 years and I can’t quite believe how fast the time has gone. Even with the two lost years when travel was sparse.

I still get the joy of arriving at the gate and opening it into the garden. Ian will tell you that I didn’t want to see the house. It had everything I didn’t want. 10 mins from town . A decent sized garden. A pool. But he will also tell you that I only walked through the gate and I’d made up my mind.

The garden has changed a bit over the years we have been here. We have had to adapt to the fact that we aren’t here all the time and that we need to plant even more drought tolerant plants. Rain this last year has been especially scarce although it’s chucking down a storm right now and rain is forecast for the next week. By chucking it down I mean chucking it down. Apparently it’s Celia’s fault. Storm Celia hitting the Costa del Sol. The next few days are forecast between 10-20 mm. each day. But even that will only have a marginal effect on the reservoirs. To the west of Malaga water restrictions start this week.

We arrived later than planned. Late departure and arrival. A massive queue at border control. Gone are the days of a cursory glance at your British passport and a wave through. Now every British passport is scanned by the two people on duty. And stamped. Don’t forget it needs stamping in and out for recording of your 90/180 day limit.

Despite being late. Despite being tired I always have to have that walk around the garden to have the cursory check even though it’s dark. For a minute the concerns over electricity prices are thrown to the wind and as my mother would say ‘ with all these lights on it’s like Blackpool illuminations’ I’m still getting my head around the price timings here. There are three time bands at various times of the day. The whole of Spains washing machines are either on at weekends or between midnight and eight am.

I can see that despite the late planting of tulips at the end of January that they have pushed through and the pots are all showing a good success. Hopefully we can time our trips to be here when they are out. I can look closer tomorrow when there is a break in the rain. If there is one.

Well there was a break in the rain. The tulips in the white wall planter are doing well. Not much further behind the ones I planted in London. I’d tell you what I’ve planted. If I could remember. It was a mad dash to,plant and I can’t find my plan. ( Did I even have one). The other pots are also doing well and should make a good display.

I’ve planted a lot of Rosemary around the garden. The windey path has a creeping Rosemary edging on one side. It’s taken and it’s flowering but I think I should either add some ‘normal” Rosemary or rework the edging. Not a job for now. But the flowers on the plants are looking great and they do well with little water.

The clivia are out in full force. I’ve mentioned before that I first had these as houseplants. Bought in Somerset from a neighbour who had the most fabulous garden shop in Castle Cary. Clare introduced me to these and I always think of her when I see them now. But now planted outside in the Mediterranean garden rather than indoors.

I cut the cistus back quite hard as it hadn’t been touched for two years. I wasn’t expecting it to be flowering now. But it is. Gorgeous crepe paper like flowers though today battered by the rain. But a welcome sight of a bit of colour.

I first planted freesia here in 2019 or was it 2018. Whichever one they do well. I have added more each year all~ from Peter Nyssen. I didn’t see any last year as we didn’t come out when they were in flower but our neighbours enjoyed them. I told them to keep picking them. I have tried them in pots in London but they just didn’t work. These are a mixture of pots and in the ground and a mix of single and double flowers and give a fabulous display.

The dodonea is a spectacular colour at this time of the year but has really insignificant flowers. I need to get some more plants as they are great drought tolerant plants and the colour is vibrant. I must pick some for indoors.

I’m not sure where this came from. I haven’t planted any in over two years. Must be a self seeder which has appeared in a pot. Just the one though. It’s a very welcome addition and I hope it will self seed again. It reminds me of my parents garden as they always had some in the bk garden.

The yellow banksia rose climbing through the jacaranda is a bit straggly this year. A reminder I need to do a tidy up for next year. It’s such a lovely little rose and another welcome sight so early in the season. We had a rose arch made for the side gate and I’m off to pick up the climbing rose tomorrow. No doubt there may be more than just one rose purchased. I’ll make a list this evening.

The bathroom bed is a bit of a hotch potch of a bed. A real mixture of plants. Two large pomegranates dominate , well they did until we had them severely cut back. There are succulents. Some canna. Agapanthus. The lovely dodonea. A large lemon grass and like everywhere else lots of Rosemary. Oh and some drumstick alliums ( I’m never planting them again). Oh. I forgot. The large leaves of the strelitzia Reginae and the Swiss cheese plant.

There are three of the bird of paradise out with three more flower spikes to open. I’m more worried that I can’t see any sign of movement on the strelitzia Nicolai ~ the lovely black/blue and white variety. I’ve planted three more as I love the size and the flowers. Fingers crossed. No doubt I’ll tell you when and if there are flowers.

Meanwhile on the bank by the front gate the mimosa is about to open fully. Not bad considering the original tree had died and the new shoots are now a 10ft tree. If open fully this visit I’ll be picking for vases indoors.

Above the mimosa are the Pines which are looking the best they have since we have been here. I love the colours.

I’ve seen a window in the rain for tomorrow which means a bit of a feed. The plants not me and a bit of a tidy of the agapanthus and a look at the other parts of the garden and the pots. In between seeing friends. A visit to the bank and shopping. But. I’ll be back.

Another day Another 10,0000

I’ve said it before. But I like to repeat myself. Ask Ian. He often says. Yes. You’ve already told me that. But let’s be fair. There hasn’t been that much to talk about these last two,years. Especially in lockdown. But. I’ll repeat. One good thing to come out of lockdown is walking. We have walked more in the last two years than we have walked in the last two decades. Areas locally that we have never seen despite living in the area for over 3 decades.

Today was another day. Up early for a walk to The Cornerstore London for coffee before we continued to try and get 10 by 10. Which really sounds cool but in reality it is usually 10 by 12. Sounds like the size of a saMall room but I mean 10,000 steps.

We try and vary where we walk although the parks continue to be a favourite as the seasons are slowly changing and spring bulbs are springing up. Today though we decided to walk to Battersea Power station via Oval.

I have driven past The Oval cricket ground since 1982. But have never been inside. I don’t like cricket. There’s I have said it out loud. I always swear loudly on match days as the traffic is bad and it takes longer to Beth one. But it’s a lovely building. Home to the first Test match played in the U.K. in September 1880. A few years before I ran away to London. .

A bit of a diversion between The Oval and Vauxhall dodging the cycle Lane as we crossed the road and into Bonnington Square gardens. This is only the second time I have visited ~ a little garden with a massive hand drawing you in.

The history

I think we need to go back at night and see it lit but it’s great to see that it is a garden looked after solely by the residents with no outside funding. The garden and square is a hidden gem ~ quiet yet a stones throw away from busy roads. Train stations and high rise blocks.

We then headed away from Bonnington Square toward Nine Elms. Another area we usually drive through. Either toward Lavender Hill or past the Covent Garden Flower market toward Battersea on our way west. There was a time I frequented the area at weekends ~ the Market Tavern ~ now demolished and a new hotel being built on the site. The area between Vauxhall and Battersea both river side and road side has changed dramatically over the years we have travelled along the route. Huge developments of high rise apartments. Cafes. Restaurants and the new American Embassy have grown up.

The American Embassy

The new building is an interesting modern design compared to its old residence which was grade 11 listed before it’s sale for redevelopment into a fancy pants hotel.

The American Embassy in London is the largest American embassy in Western Europe. It’s an interesting place.

Do I like the surrounding developments. Sort of. Some of the apartments appear very small. Others look straight into each other’s rooms. Great terraces but no privacy. As I’ve got older privacy and light have become more important. My biggest question to all of these developments is where are the banks. The post offices. Health care facilities, the doctors surgery. The dentists. Schools? Maybe they are there. Maybe I missed them.

Across the road begins the Battersea Power station development. More apartments. More bars. I love it when some people say ‘ I remember being in my pram and recall my grandmother talking to me’. But me. I struggle some times to remember what I did yesterday or where I put my pen the day before. Where am I going? Battersea. Where I went in the 1960’s to Battersea park and Battersea fun fair. I remember going. But nothing of the day. My memory has always been shocking. Now where was I. I checked. the fun fair was opened in 1951 and finally closed in 1974.

The chimneys of Battersea Power station .

Battersea Power station is iconic. Its a grade II listed building and at its peak was supplying a fifth of London’s electricity and was in operation from 1930 to the 1980”s. The website gives information on interesting developments over the years. Like the inflatable pink pig tied to the chimneys for a Pink Floyd album. Or how a power cut delayed the introduction of BBC 2.

It’s one of the landmarks I first recognised when I moved to London 40 years ago this month. Younger. Thinner. Excited and excitable. It’s also taken decades to get the development ( the building) going. To be fair the building from the outside has been done superbly. It looks fantastic. The chimneys are still in place. All four of them. Apparently they were originally going to be Square. Something I learnt from the website. Go look it’s interesting history.

From the outside looking in it looks like an amazing space and I can’t wait for it to be fully open. Outside green space appears a little dull at the moment ~ lots of grasses. But fingers crossed for more.

In development.
Surrounded by new builds

Again there are masses of apartment blocks. Various designs. Some with. Some without balconies. A range of shops on the ground floor. Restaurants in the Railway arches. A theatre. Moored houseboats. And masses upon masses of ongoing building works.

Street sculpture

There is sculpture. A light show until the end of February,which we must try and get to.

Boat sculpture
Boats and buildings

There are a few houseboats moored alongside the development. I forgot to look out for the Battersea Barge which is a floating theatre and cabaret venue. The one thing I did think that a lot of the area was cast in shade. Maybe the time of day. Maybe th3 height of the buildings.

Restart ants and cafes
Turbine theatre.

Too tired to walk all the way back ~ the 436 bus and lunch when we got back. Tomorrows another day.

Shadows