Viva España

I can’t help but think of my dear old mother as I write that. Viva España. I can see her now listening to that on the radio and dancing around the kitchen. Usually as she was about to go away on her holidays. To Spain. She did it to annoy me I know. Little did she know I’d be singing it one day. I never thought I would either, at least once a month for the last 12 months. Often as I drive up that wiggly road to ‘Casa Verano Eterno.’ It’s an annoying ear worm.

Well the ‘Eternal Summer’  has been a long time coming. Three weeks ago when I left for London the word on the Plaza Almijara was ‘Mucho mucho frio’ It’s been  a long wet winter and Spring. The locals had been saying it had been colder. For longer. The worst weather in years apparently. But now I’m back and it’s gone from ‘frio’ to ‘mucho calor’. It is. Mucho mucho calor. I don’t know if it’s because it’s gone from cold to hot without the bit in between but it feels brutal all of a sudden. There wasn’t the gradual acclimatisation. But we are never happy are we. Too hot. Too cold. Too wet. Too dry.

A week is a long time away from the garden at this point of the year. Both here and there. Ian and I were amazed at how quickly things had shot up in the garden. The agapanthus that were just starting to move have gone mad. Some are out. Many are still in bud. But they are tall. Taller than I can remember last year. They have done well.

I love agapanthus and we are lucky that they have self seeded here in the garden. Whilst they take an age to get to the flower stage they will. Patience young man. Patience. They do well in the dry and the heat so there’s no wonder they are everywhere in the garden.

I’m hoping the black one I brought with me will flower this year. Fingers crossed. There are plenty of light blue and white.

The main crop of alliums is over. Sadly. But I had to stop Ian from cutting them back. I love the seed heads as much as the flowers and eventually some will be picked and brought into the house. There are still two more varieties to flower. The drumstick alliums are dotted all over the place. Not in any kind of proper order. Just dotted randomly. Largely to see where they would work this year. They have flourished in some of the harshest places. I noticed two on the dry bank on the drive as I left the house yesterday. In amongst the grasses. I’d also noticed some when out on a walk a few weeks ago. Dotted in a really strange place. Side of the road. Dry. Amongst dry grasses. No sign of water. But in full flower.

I only noticed the ones on our drive as they had started to colour. I too planted in some very odd places. Probably where I could and where the ground was workable. I wondered why there was a pick axe in the garage – I soon found out.

I planted a few ‘allium Summer Drummer’. One has done great guns and is the tallest allium I have ever seen. It’s a late flowering one so is coming out after the others have died back. It’s a funny old thing really. I was expecting a much bigger head on it as it is so tall. And I mean tall. It’s just starting to colour up too. Definitely one for next years planting.

Now I know they will do well I will be on the old internet and onto Peter Nyssen to place the order for next year. But next year I will label and plant less erratically and in drifts. That’s not a promise. But I’ve promised myself to get a few more different varieties.

A staple of Andalucia and the planting along the central reservation of the motorways here is Oleander. When we were driving home earlier in the year they were cutting them back. Hard. Brutal even. I feared that this year there would be no colour. How wrong I was. They have come back with a vengeance.

The ones on the boundary with our neighbours were cut back too and I admit to thinking oh dear. But again. They are blooming lovely. As are the ones in the garden and on the drive. A variety of colours. Various stages of flowering. White. Pink. Red. There is a double flowered one somewhere. That one is just not out yet. But I will be out cutting them back hard next season as it doesn’t hurt to do it once in a while. I am reminded that all parts of the plant are poisonous. Just like nearly everything in this garden. I should be gardening in long trousers. Long sleeves. Hat. Gloves. Veil. But in this heat it’s impossible.

Interestingly our neighbours whose house is adjacent to ours mentioned that their two sons are keen gardeners and were on Instagram. They are keen indeed and grow some awesome and unusual fruit and veg in their London garden. Check them out – they are interesting to follow – freshbros_uk

The garden is a gorgeous mix of scents at the moment. The honeysuckle is still going strong and in the warmth of the evening is delicious as you walk up the path. The jasmine azoricum wrapping itself around some railings was a new one on me last year and supposedly has a lemon scent. I think it smells like, well Jasmine. It’s a bit of a slow one but is worth it for the scent.

There is a Trachelospermum next to the garage which reminds me of a trip to Italy over 15 years ago.

We rented a great place which had a wonderful pergola next to the pool. The pergola was covered in jasmine and the scent has stayed a favourite ever since. I love it when you relate a smell of a plant to a particular memory.

A bit like remembering that I hate the smell of tateges which takes me back to my parents garden when they grew all their own annuals – this was often one of them. This is their garden in the 1970’s. I think the front row may be tagetes. All grown from seed by them in the greenhouse I made them buy. Apparently.

I think if I had a front garden like this, one year I would do bonkers annual planting. Old favourites. And wild colours. But I don’t have the space in London to do it. Sadly.

I digress. Back to me. I noticed a clematis scrambling down the bank on the access road. A really pretty sweet scented white flower. Never watered. Rubbish soil. If you can call it soil. Surrounded by trees but doing ok. I then noticed one winding it’s way into the pineapple agave in the garden. I have looked in my Wild plants of Spain book and think it’s a clematis flammula. It’s small white flowered and scented. Climbs or scrambles. Sounds like an egg order.

Whatever it is it’s very welcome. I’m not sure if I removed it last year from the tree. I can’t remember seeing it at all. I’ve never had much luck with clematis back in the Uk though saying that the one and only one in London has gone mad this year. That’s the same for a lot of things.

Another thing I don’t remember from this time last year are the mozzies. They hate me. Well I think it would be more correct to say they love me. Apparently this form of garlic is a deterrent. I’m not convinced but the flowers of tulbaghia Violacea – ‘society garlic’ are pretty and apparently scented – I can’t smell them! I suspect neither can the mozzies.

I’ve been out spraying the prickly pears again. I’m determined if nothing else and it’s paying off. But note to self. Wear decent gloves. The prickles are a nightmare if they jag your hand even when you wear thin gloves. Oh. And I don’t like the smell of neem oil. Hopefully neither will the cochineal fly. Nasty little things. Tiny white flies which when you swot them on a white wall or a white shirt you see why they are called ‘cochineal’. Swot them and you instantly get a red dye on whatever you’ve swotted them onto. So small they get through the mozzie nets on the window.

I’m not sure I would have planted this if I hadn’t seen it in flower. Commonly known as the Brazilian Sky flower – ‘Durante Repens’ it was here when we moved in and I’m so pleased that it was. It’s a lovely colour addition to the garden. References say it’s blue. I say it’s more violet than blue. Maybe violet blue! But when it gets going it gets going. I love seeing these different plants that I’d never see in the Uk and there are some crackers in this garden

Ok ok. Talking of crackers. You’ve seen this before but now there are two. And maybe a third coming. I can’t contain my excitement. We have a lot of flower heads on the Strelitzia Reginae but it’s the Strelitzia Nicolai that excites me. I make no apologies for even more pictures of it. Sorry. Not sorry.

Everyday there are things to find. Things to photo. The above are some of the flowers that are out this week. With this heat many will soon be over. I’ve spotted some cornflowers coming out. Some calendula. I’m hoping that the scorching sun doesn’t kill them off whilst we are away.

I am here for another week then back to London for a week. I had a message from the cat sitter to say ‘ the front flowers were looking right bonnie’ – Ian has said nothing since he has got back. Makes another note. Remind him to water.

I said the heat is ramping up. It certainly is. Forecast for the weekend is 35/36*. Hmmm I’m not sure how the garden will take it the week I am away. I have said the garden is a Spring – early summer and Autumn garden. The intense heat of high summer isn’t great for the plants even those that are drought tolerant. Or for me! I need rehydrating. Often. Water not wine.

For now it’s watering late at night or early morning. Ten minutes gardening. Half an hour rest. I’ve taken to siestas big time. Oh. And time to do the housework. And ironing. And homework.

I think my Spanish teacher must think I’m boring. ‘Explain to me what you did yesterday’ she asks ‘ I worked in the garden’ and the day before? The same is my response. I’m sure she thinks I’m stuck for vocabulary. I’m not. I am that boring. And the garden is demanding.

I’m off for my class. The good thing. It’s Wednesday and there is an organic market at the nursery. That’s why I’m making a detour on my way back. It’s nothing to do with the email I’ve had saying they have new stock. Honest.

Hasta luego!

There and here. Here and there.

So I’ve been there. And I’m now here. Or. Here and there depending on how you look at it.

I’ve had a week back in London. A busy week to be fair. I try and pack a lot in wherever I may be. Whether it be here. Or. there or wherever.

The two spaces are so different. Not just the gardens but the culture. Where we live. The house in each. Where I eat. How I travel. I’d forgotten how busy Oxford Street can be. Even on a Monday. Out of school holidays too. I had to escape down into Bond Street tube this week to get away.

So back in London it was time to potter in our small (tiny) courtyard garden and to check up on the pots and window boxes at the front. We are lucky to have someone go in when we are both away – largely to look after the cats – but he’s ace with a watering can and hose. Bruce and Christine have been looking after the cats for the last 15 years and are brilliant.

Having had the front garden ‘done’ recently – new wall, new path, railings and new gate we decided to do some replanting of pots at the front. We bought two new standard bays. A bit of a cliche really but they suit the space. I bought two new pots from The Nunhead Gardner. Got them home and realised that once the bays were in the pots they would be too tall for the space. Surprisingly I didn’t have to take them back. Ian said that we should repot the agapanthus into them. And buy two more. Result!

I always have window boxes but as I am away so much these days I wanted something that didn’t need a lot of water. The garden is my domain and whilst Ian waters he’s busy and it’s not fair on him to have to come home and start watering. So again this year I opted for lavender. It worked well last year but this year I just used lavender. It looks good. Ignore the bins. I haven’t told Fred yet. But we are looking for some bin covers. Next door has a fab one with a green roof. But. It’s expensive and the sides are open. Defeats the object really. And Fred would sit on the plants anyway.

Now I love agapanthus. We have two enormous white ones and a very large small blue flowered one in the front. All needed repotting. Sadly one of the whites struggled through the winter and in parts had turned to mush. The first time I’d lost an agapanthus. The big blue had already started to bud up.

I’ve said the back garden is small. It is. Very. Everything is in pots. Some neighbours have small lawns. And I mean small. But I’ve seen them re turf every few years. There is not enough sun in some of them. So the courtyard is paved. Tree ferns, jasmine, honeysuckle, banana, agapanthus,clematis,mock orange all in pots. It’s a small space. So scent is important. Makes watering a bit of a pain but when we bought the tree ferns we thought if we moved we could take them with us -15 years later we are still there. It’s one thing that Ian really loves – the tree ferns. I was lucky this year. I didn’t straw the crown or wrap them as I was away when the cold spell hit and I panicked that we may have lost them. There are 5 in the garden. The tallest is about 6ft odd. But they survived and a feed of alpaca poo works wonders.

We also have flowers on the olive trees. Again both in pots. A strong link between Spain and London are some of the plants we grow in each. I don’t think I’ll be growing large agaves or prickly pears in London though!

This is a pic from two or three years ago taken from the upstairs window. Things have been moved. Things have been removed. Others added. But it gives the sense of the space. Or lack of it. I must take an up to date one. Preferably when the washing isn’t on the line.

It’s been an odd winter /Spring in the London garden. Despite having its own micro climate I lost some things I thought would be ok. Some survived where I thought the wet and the cold would certainly kill them. Nature’s odd like that. I had geraniums flowering all winter. But some of the agapanthus in the back courtyard also turned to mush. But that means more purchases! My tulips were pants. My London alliums pants. All down to the conditions. Not the bulbs as the same bulbs in Spain have been awesome. Oh. That reminds me. I must go and check on Allium Summer Drummer here in Spain.

It hasn’t all been gardening. There’s been doctors,dentists, Orthodontists. Who knew I’d be getting a brace in my retirement.

A bit of a MOT. You also have to throw in a bit of a NGS open garden as well don’t you? Two glorious open gardens in Dulwich Village whose greenhouse would cover my garden in Camberwell. Beautifully planted. Stunning roses with such strong perfumes. Glorious colours. A pond. Plants and the obligatory cake. It wouldn’t be NGS without cake would it? I love open gardens. Probably because I’m nosey. I love seeing what other people grow. What combinations. Take away ideas for my own gardens.

I’ve wandered through the streets of Wapping after a haircut. My old stomping ground when I worked at Canary Wharf and in Fitzrovia where I lamented the fact you can’t go to the top of the BT Tower as you could up to the early 80’s. There was s revolving restaurant and sightseeing platforms. Leased to Billy Butlin! Security concerns led to its closure.

So here I am back in Spain. A bit of a journey. Train stuck 5 mins outside the airport for a trespasser on the line. Stuck for 40 mins watching the panic on people’s faces as they realise they may miss their train. Thankfully I like to get there super early. I can’t stand the panic of rushing and nearly missing a flight.

Added to that the plane was nearly an hour late and I was sat next to someone who was too frightened to catch your eye in case you struck up a conversation. Funny that. I didn’t want to! Interestingly Ian’s flight tonight is already scheduled to be 30 mins late. 12 hours before it takes off. How does that work!

So. I arrive up the wiggly road at 11.15pm. Open up. Lights on. WiFi on. Then water the garden. I can’t see very much but I can smell. I realise even in the dark that the Jasmine Azoricum is in flower. A delicious smell. The honeysuckle is in full bloom. But just as well I watered late last night. Today the pump for the water deposit has gone kaput. So no watering today. Well maybe. The plumber had just been and is to replace a part. I called in the office at 10. By 1.30 he’s here.

So I think I need to bathe in citronella at some point as the mozzies are a plenty. I’ve bought a very fetching orange slinky citronella bracelet. It stinks. But the mozzies. – must have been the wet spring as last year I wasn’t bitten once. Well maybe once. But so far today I’ve been bitten three times. So. I’m not lazing around for long. There’s too much to do. I need to turn into my mother and get dead heading. There’s a lot to do.

Oh. And I need to buy a new hat. Either this one is too small or my head is too big. But the solar panel on the top of my head ( crown or bald spot) needs some cover. I hate hats. They make my head itch. But needs must. I may be a very long time.

One year on……Here and there. There and here

So. Here we are again I’m back in Spain. Just for a change. This is my summer routine now. I shall be here a lot. I have dates booked through to December. Well New Year.

I drove down the wiggly round again late on Thursday night to pick up Ian from the airport – which always gives me time to reflect. This time to reflect on the last 12 months. . Well it is a long and wiggly road.

What have I learnt? ~ learning a foreign language is harder the older you get. That the Spanish don’t mind you making a plonker of yourself. They like it that you try. Not that you try to be a plonker. That you try speaking in Spanish. But I am trying. Ian says that constantly. Especially when I get my words mixed up in a restaurant. I’m still not allowed to order certain things – my accent is poor. That’s great coming from a Glaswegian. But he’s right. I’ve learnt that I love the Mediterranean diet. It’s worked wonders for my waistline. Shame it’s two weeks off and three weeks on. Like the inches. Two off. Three on. We’ve made new friends. Oh. There are lots of things. So why reflect on the last 12 months?

Well. It’s a year ago this week I collected the keys to the new house. We were at Chelsea when we had the call. We had completed. The house was ours

The next day I was on that flight. This year no Chelsea for the first time in 25 years. Big school boy error. But I was here to celebrate. I just had to live Chelsea from the blog posts of other bloggers. Who collectively saw more than I ever do, discussed it in so many different ways and photographed it from ever available angle. Except as one of my favourite bloggers Jack Wallington said. Not through the garden. You get front. Back. Side views. Enough. That’s Chelsea. So last week.

It was this time last year I was also on my way to collect Ian from the airport so he would have his first sight of the house since we completed. Friends have asked has the novelty has worn off yet. Are we bored? The same people who asked me if I was bored once I retired. The answer was then No. the answer now is doubly no. I don’t like the new house and garden. I love it. The good thing is that so does Ian. Phew.

It’s been a great year. Lots of visitors who I think have loved the house the garden and the lovely white town of Competa as much as we have. Frequent flyer points. Spanish lessons. Tapas. Lots of. New friends. A whole new experience. The aches and pains of s new garden. Gardening on a slope. Difficult soil where there is soil. Dry. Heat. Rain heat. Mosquitos. But new plants. New scents. New adventures.

So we get back at the house at 2am. All I want is to sleep. Ian gets the last flight out on a Thursday or a Friday once or twice a month now he is working again after a 3 month break. He straight away notices that the Bird of Paradise on the path from the gate had flowered.. I never think he notices much but even at this time of the night he sees the beauty that is the flower. ( to be honest he notices more than I give him credit for. I didn’t think he’d notice the new jug either which is strategically placed out of his eyeline! – he did )

He went straight for the blue and white bird of paradise – Strelitzia Nicolai – one flower on the large plant. We had one flower last year and they are pretty stunning. This one does look like a bird in flight. Even in the poor light he manages to see something new in the garden. Wait till tomorrow when he sees it in the daylight. Will have to think on my feet. Is that pot new? Oh no. It’s very last year.

A few days later I notice a second flower. Magic. Doesn’t take much to keep me happy.

Strelitzia Nicolai.

This spring has been magnificent for the Strelitzia Reginae. The one in the pot has been blooming for ages and there are at least nine stems ready to flower. The ones planted in the garden are smaller and the flowers not so showy. But this one stands heads and shoulders above every other one.

strelitzia Reginae

A year on I still got excited at what appears in the garden. I have done a full year now and we have had a pretty wet winter and a cold Spring. Yes. I know it’s all relative compared with the weather in the Uk. It’s not been as constantly wet or as cold but there have been extremes here. It didn’t just rain. It chucked it down for weeks – the reservoirs filled up. Bits of road washed away. A river ran through our bank for three weeks. But the gardens looked good and the wildflowers were amazing. Oh. And it doesn’t look like water restrictions will be in place during the hot summer months.

Nature is a wonderful thing which none of us can control.The roundabout which isn’t a roundabout at the back of the house was awash with wildflowers and the verges on the way out of town a veritable jewel palette. But they disappear as quick as they arrive. Now the sun has come in full force they have gone. Here today. Gone tomorrow. I keep telling Ian that’s why I have to come out so often. I’m scared I might miss something.

Wildflowers on the roundabout

Back in the garden I continue to get excited. I cut back some oleander which had gone crazy – and found a pomegranate. I know. How do just find a large tree. WeI did which I noticed a few weeks later to be in flower. They are gorgeous these flowers. I can’t stop looking at them to make sure they are real. I shouldn’t really as I have to trample over other stuff to see them. The excitement of getting my own fruit in the garden. Who would have thought that the 12 yr old in Cardiff buying pomegranates for about one month a year and eating them with a pin would one day hopefully have his own. Fingers crossed they continue to form the fruit. I must dig out some pins. That’s how we ate the fruit in the 70’s. Cut in half and picked out with a pin or was it just me?

pomegranate

Before I went back to London two weeks ago I planted the red geraniums in the wall planter. Which gives it a true Mediterranean feel. Shame the night after I planted them there was a storm and the wind took the tops of 4 of them. But they have recovered and I think look great. Right plants for the right space.

White wall planting

Talking of the right plants for the right space. We have a pretty large bottle brush – Callistemon – at the back of the house. Now I’m not a great lover of these. But hey. In the right space with a nice blue sky they add a fair bit of colour to the garden and this one will need a bit of trim in the Autumn as it’s getting too straggly.

But I’ve changed my mind. In a Mediterranean setting it works. Well I think so anyway.

Bottlebrush

The pineapple guava ( Feijoa sellowiana) is starting to flower. Only a few so far but the two bushes we have are full of buds. The flowers are so pretty and the petals are edible. Not that I have yet. But I will.

The fruit which comes later I tasted last year. They are a bit of an acquired taste. A friend likened then to germolene. Trust me if they smelt like it they be dug out and burnt. That and TCP must be top of my list for awful smells. Can you still get them!

Pineapple Guava

We have a lot of succulents all around the garden but don’t ask me what one this is as I have no idea. I need to get a book and look them up. But this one is flowering for the first time. Well the first time since we have been here. I’m interested to see what flower it has. But these things are lethal to a gardener who doesn’t wear gloves. And wears shorts. Talk of spiteful. They spike me every time.

We have a number of these dotted around. Most are now in flower and add a welcome bit of orange to the garden. I’d photograph the ones on the bank. But I’ve said before. The bank is steep and takes no prisoners. I have already slipped once and I have no intention of slipping again. It’s not a pretty sight and I don’t want to be laying there for days.

I bought alliums from Peter Nyssen this year to see if they would grow in the new garden. I admit to the random planting of a couple here and there. Not in any designer way but largely to see if the area was suitable and would they grow! By and large it’s a yes. One or two spectacular fails. One planting that needed a helping hand from the twitterati to identify – allium summer drummer – but now I know where they work and grow well I will be on the old computer box to place an early order. Next year I may even label them. Now that will be a novelty.

The allium with verbascum was a random planting. But I like it. The reflections in the pool are alliums that are ever so gently going over. I love the seeds heads and hopefully the Higgledy seeds of calendula and nigella are going to keep coming. So far so good. I also scattered other seed there too. Yep. Another don’t ask.

Random planting 
Allium love 

Allium Shadows on the pool 

This was a random planting on the bank. Dry. Poor soil. Not deep soil. But the flower heads are some of the biggest in the garden. Next year there will be more. If I can get on the bank.

The work on the prickly pear continues. A weekly dose of a neem oil/water mix sprayed all over has resulted in some pretty good and clean new growth. That will keep Ian happy. In London he loves his tree ferns . Here he likes the large palms and the cactus.

A rescued Prickly Pear

I’ve planted pots. Not too many as they need watering . But I bought some portulaca for the white wall planter. But they didn’t work so I’ve planted hem in Pots. Good choice. . Boy. They are so colourful.

As well as these there are the obligatory geranium pots to brighten up the terrace. Yes. You did probably hear someone – Ian – say. No more pots.

We have a large grape vine over the terrace. A black grape. We didn’t have too many off the vine last year but this year there are a lot of buds.

The shoots are all tied in and it’s beginning to give some good shade. We won’t be making wine that’s for sure but if I get enough to make grape and rosemary jelly I’ll be happy.

The garden is definetly a spring and autumn garden. It’s nice in summer but the heat of July and August usually means things either go dormant or slow down. And you have to water. So a lot of the garden has drought tolerant plants.

These hotentot figs –Carpobrotus edulis have been in flower for weeks now. These two if turned over looked like a hat at that recent wedding. You know the one. You watched it. We all did. Just some won’t admit it.

The last time I touched one of these plants I had s mad dash to the pharmacist as I stupidly then touched my eye. It’s poisonous. But smells like pop corn. That’s probably why it’s called the pop corn Senna. Well it’s flowering and I realised what it was as my legs brushed past it and the wast of popcorn hit me. Too late. I had to run in and shower. I wasn’t risking it. But it’s a pretty flower and such a shame the whole plant is poisonous. But then sonare many in this garden.

Popcorn Senna

There is so much going on that I’m hoping to be able to sit and enjoy the garden. But I suspect not for long. When you are only here for two or theee weeks at a time you can constantly be in the garden. Often at the end of the day you look and wonder what you have done. But the aching joints tell you you’ve done something.

In contrast our London garden is very very different. A terraced house in South London where we have recently renovated the front wall, the path and added new railings. Window boxes of lavender and new lollipop bays from The Nunhead GardenerOh And there are my favourite agapanthus in pots. All easy to maintain and easy to water. Ignore the bins. That’s the next project.

The back garden is small. Very small but full of pots. The tree ferns are in pots. The foxgloves and the the clematis. All in pots. The garden is fed with alpaca poo courtesy of Lou Archer. Well not Lou but her alpacas obviously. She has s new product which she launched at RHS Chelsea especially for tree ferns. A must have for me when I get back and it’s on her Website

I pinch myself black and blue on a regular basis on how lucky I am to be able to garden in two very different environments. It’s been a huge and steep learning curve here in Spain with some disasters along the way. I’ve planted. Changed my mind. Replanted elsewhere. I bought pink geraniums for the garden. Too pink. Is there too pink? There is.

So I gave them away and bought red. Which is what I wanted at first. I bought a climber that hasn’t climbed so out it’s gone to be replaced by a red Passion flower. And on it goes.

But patience is a virtue. Sadly not one of mine.

So. We m here for another week. How many more plants can I fit in!

Hola Hola

It’s been a funny old time weather wise. Not funny ha ha. But funny. Both here and there. Depending whether I am here. Or there. Or there or here. Here now is Spain where the words ‘mucho frio’ have been ringing in my eyes for weeks Because it has been. People have said it’s the worst winter and Spring in many a year. . Yes. It rained. We needed it. But the volume in such a short time. And the cold. Went on for ever. The good bit is that the reservoirs are full. And the hillsides are green. Oh And I bought flannelette duvet covers. Because. Mucho frio was a good description. It has been very cold.

So I’m back. Yep. As a friend said. Again? I am and it’s a pattern for the next few months. The hills and mountains are green. The verges are colourful. Wild flowers everywhere. Everywhere and in the back of the garden and on the roundabout. Which isn’t a roundabout.

The garden in three weeks I have been away has changed a lot. The weather has been ok. There has been sun. It’s been warm. This week positively hot. So hot the legs came out and will stay out now until November. Only in Spain though for now. Out came the gardening hat and sunscreen. I’m waiting for the return of the mozzies.

.There is an abundance of colour in the garden. And in the sky. A great ball of fire. For most of the day.

The gazania just love a bit of sun. They open as wide as they can and are gorgeous. There Are 8 flower spikes on the strelitzia – and the two that have opened look amazing. I love them.

But i was beyond excited to find that there is a flower on the black/blue/white Strelitzia. There is only one flower again this year but I’m excited.

The banksia rose is climbing the jacaranda tree and is full of flower. It looks great against the blue sky.

There’s been a bit of tidying to be done. The Vinca has been a complete pain in the posterior. It’s everywhere. Yes it looks pretty when in flower. But not when it’s strangling everything around it. I had a good clear of the bedding area at the side of the house and came across a plant I wasn’t sure about. Until I touched it. And got the smell of popcorn. There was no doubt. . This was a popcorn Senna. I have two on the bank which aren’t doing anything. This one at least had a fair bit of growth. And flower buds.

Now this plant is poisonous. Like a lot of the plants in this garden. The last time I touched a Senna didymobotrya I rubbed my eye. Yes I know. Basic school boy error. But we all do them. Don’t we? A quick visit to the pharmacy and some eye drops I was back. So I was aware of not touching it without my gloves. But I did. And my legs brushed it. So it was straight into the shower. So far. So good.

The alliums have shot up. More are on my list – the never ending list – for next year. These are from Peter Nyssen and they are loving the growing conditions here. I have dotted them all round the garden but need to be a bit more adventurous in the planting. I need to group them better next year. With a few different varieties in a great big drift of colour.. Makes note on order schedule. Right. Like I have one. Well this year I very may well do.

The white wall planter was crying out for colour. What better plant than the good old geranium. I bought pink. I gave them away. They were the wrong colour. They got lost in the planter. I needed bold. Brash. Bright. I wanted red. Now I know a lot of people don’t like them. Feel they are the staple of municipal planting. But I don’t care. It’s the right plant in the right place for me. And with a couple of permanent pelargoniums I think they look the business.

I have been cutting stuff back a fair bit. And I found a pomegranate. Yes. Found it. I didn’t know it was lost. Because I didn’t know it was there. But it was. Hidden. And. It has flowers. But will it bear fruit?. I’ll let you know. If it does. I’ll tell everybody. Because the other two don’t even look like they are going to flower and I believe that they have never fruited.

I’m assuming that these are flowers on the small palms that sit in the middle flower bed. Again I’ll keep you posted. Don’t hold your breath. I may forget especially if they aren’t photogenic.

The osteospermums get everywhere and I love this bit of randomness in the garden. Succulents and flowers.

Behind the house we have a steep bank. I’ll admit o occasionally I do climb down it. But I’m mad. You can easily slip into the transparante hedge below. There are some wonderful pines on the edge. A walk up the steep slope – the access road behind the house and you get a fantastic view through the trees to the mountains and in a clear day to the coast.

We found some nests of processionary caterpillars in the pines and had them swiftly removed and destroyed. They are lovely trees, a bit wonky. But like wonky veg there is nothing wrong with them.

I do and I don’t want the agave to flower. If it does. It does. If it doesn’t it sits there until it does. I like them. As long as they don’t get that bug that eats them from the base and they rot and die. That added to the destruction of the prickly pears from cochineal fly would be awful.

I have been out spraying the prickly pears I want to save with a water and neem oil mix. So far. So good. The prickly pears are doing ok. Me. I smell of neem oil. Maybe the cochineal fly and if I’m lucky mozzies will leave me alone too.

So it’s been a busy time in the garden. There is still loads to do. I haven’t touched the beds at the rear of the house. That’s for another week.

But I did have a chance to go and drool over my neighbours bee orchids. Which are small. Beautifully formed and gorgeous. Me. Jealous. Too right I am. I will just have to be content with the wild orchids I have in our own garden. Of which I have found another 4.

There is so much going on in the garden as things start to flower. There are flower spikes everywhere on the Aloe. The pelargoniums are in full flower. The orange blossom fills the terrace with wafts of its scent. The Viburnum opulus is heavy with flowers. This year there is an abundance of fat white globes hanging down. But the one I have been excited about is the one solitary flower on the Echium pride of Madeira. Wait till next year.

So I head back to London. But only for a week. Planning what next in the garden. Maybe. I’ll also have time to sit and enjoy it.

Tip toe through the tulips.

Yes I know it’s a Sunday Ian. And I know you haven’t had a lie in all week. But. I said I’d go to the open day for The National Garden Scheme – you know the one I missed last year. Ulting Wick

Yes. I know. It’s in Essex an hour and a half drive away. But. Trust me. It will be worth it. And there is cake. Lots of cake. 10,000 tulips. Reluctantly he agreed. Oh. I forgot to tell you. We have to leave early. It’s the London marathon so we will have to skirt the race to get across the river.

Me. I needed no encouragement. I have followed Philippa Burroughs on social media for some time. Have exchanged comments. Liked pictures. Swopped recipes. So I was in the UK at the right time and I was determined. Add to the mix that there would be a smattering of the twitterati attending it was a no brainer. I was keen to put names to faces. Find out real names rather than twitter handles.

I explained to Ian on the way. Its an 11 acre garden in a beautiful setting with amazing black tar varnishes barns. One open for teas. There are tulips. There are plants. Cake. Nice people. Oh. And it’s sunny.

We arrived. Talk of Tip toe through the tulips. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Tulips tulips everywhere. Forget daffodils. Today was the time of the tulip.

The planting is stunning. No other word. Stunning. The colour combinations are magic. I’m stealing some for next year. The combinations. Not the actual tulips.

Last week I was thinking, as I’m sure Philippa and Lou – Head Gardner Lou – @loujnicholls on Twitter – were also thinking – would the tulips be out. Would it be dry. Well. The sun was shining and it was a perfect day. The tulips were out and there were still a lot in bud. Perfect.

There’s the white garden. The pink garden. Kitchen garden. Old farm yard beds. The spring bed by the pond. The stream bed. The meadow. All beautifully planted. Colourful. And so well maintained. But not manicured. Well tended. Planted. And interesting.

Tulip varieties I’d not seen before. But will again as I will be talking to Karen at Peter Nyssen for next year. A note on the door to the magnificent listed barn mentioned that the Tulips come from Peter Nyssen. I’m a huge fan. Huge. And Karen is brilliant. Gorgeous colours. Colour combinations. Shapes. Sizes.

The tulip above was a favourite. Noted for next year for my window boxes in London. – Dior. I love it. Big. Blousy. A better one for me than Belle Époque.

These tulips were translucent in the light. With no filter. Just the sun.

Gorgeous whites in really stunning displays.

Ian loved this bed. He loved the colour combination so I think this will be another for next year. Maybe the pots in Spain. If I can work out how not to get short and stumpy. A bit like me really.

There were so many variations that I could go on for ever. Ian says I will anyway. I usually do. But everywhere you looked there were different tulips. I didn’t count them. But there must have been 10,000. ( I know. I read that somewhere). I moan at planting mine which are a fraction of that number. A mere fraction.

Well done to Philippa and Lou.

There is more to the garden than just tulips. I’m reliably informed that I should visit again for the August opening to see the perennial borders. If I can I will. This time we walked through the meadow – what a beaut it is. Full of cowslips. Beautiful yellow cowslips. So lovely to see a meadow of them and people obeying the signs. Keep to the paths. We did.

We had a wander around the garden with stops – plural – for cake and tea. Now for me. You Judge a garden opening by it’s cake and it’s tea. This was right up there. Chocolate and Guineas. Coconut and lemongrass. Gin and tonic. Lemon and lavender. The list was huge. Like the queue for cake. Word had got Out. The cake was good.

The perennials are starting to shoot. There is a fabulous row of ferns starting to get growth on the edge of the water. And more ferns. And more perennials. I want to go back and see the dahlias.

Add to the opening for the National Garden Scheme we had Barbara Seagall who was signing copies of her book with photography by the late Marcus Harpur – ‘Secret Gardens of East Anglia’ and features Ulting Wick. (Page 110) – which I will read this evening. One copy is for a friend. I must put it away.

I have followed Barbara on social media for some time. We have replied to each other’s photos. She has encouraged me with my blog. So it was such a treat to be able to meet up and to be able to put a face to the name. I’ll forgive her for recognising Ian first – which is magic as most of his photos on social media are of his back. As he said to Barbara. He must have a distinctive bald spot. But he was in deep conversation by the time we left.

Its not just flowers. There is a fabulous kitchen garden which I would love. But don’t have the space in London or the water in Spain.

All that was left was to pick up the plants I had bought and head home.

A huge thank you to Philippa and Lou. The garden was stunning. I loved the planting. The colours the variety and thank you for arranging the sun to shine and for the tulips to be open.

I shall be back. If you’ll have me.

Just a walk through the park

I can’t remember when it changed. But it did. I can’t remember when I started enjoying the park at the end of our road. Or when it became alive. Children in the play area. Teens playing football. Families picnicking. Trendies sitting on the grass chatting. People playing on the fixed table tennis tables. But it did. So very different to the 80’s when the park was threatened with a cut and cover tunnel for the planned Euro star route. It never happened. Thank the lord. A community grew up.

This year a sea of daffodils has appeared. Beautiful. Colourful. Interspersed with blue.

It’s a joy to walk through the park on the way to the station. Past my favourite tree.which is now staring to bud.

This year there are plans to plant wildflowers around the edges. There are hanging baskets to be hung on the lamps posts along the path. The wildflowers by the Friends of Warwick Gardens. The hanging baskets by Southwark Council.

Outside the gate and along the path are cherry trees. The white blossom being scattered in the wind. Beautiful at this time of the year. Three or four in a row. Here a sea of white.

Leaving the park you head towards the station. Via the Holly Grove shrubbery. Or via the road. As often as I can I walk through the shrubbery. A small bit of green along Holly Grove. Naturally. That’s where it gets its name from. Just to check out what’s flowering. What’s there to surprise.

A Narrow space. Some seating. Houses to the left. Black railings to the right. A curved path down the middle.

I didn’t know when it was planted. Or who planted it. But for a council owned space the planting is interesting. Very interesting. Some great perennials. Unusual ones for a local green open space.

A little research shows the land was purchase in 1897 by Camberwell Council for £996 planted and opened to the public in 1897. Its opposite the listed houses which were built between 1816 and 1822.

The details of the purchase of Holly Grove shrubbery give additional details.

There’s ceanothus. I’ve never been lucky with ceanothus – not in Somerset anyway. Maybe too wet. There’s Forsythia. A memory of my parents garden. They had one bush. I’ve never quite got forsythia.

There’s melianthis major. I intend to have some in our Spanish garden after seeing them in Malaga Alcazar.

There are hellebores. Two colours. There are bulbs interspersed with dandelions. Just inside the black iron railings. I’m surprised that the railings weren’t removed during the war years.

Things have come alive. There is colour. The lime green of the Euphorbia. The pink of a plant I can’t identify. The whites. The yellows. There are blackbirds in the bushes whilst those pesky parakeets screech overhead.

It makes a lovely walk through first Warwick Hardens and then Holly Grove on the way to the station and the noise and clutter of Peckham Rye.

At the end of our street the other way is Camberwell Arts College. A newly refurbished frontage of the college which is adjacent to the South London gallery. A bright frontage. Lit at night.

In front of the college on the wide pavement area they have created beds. I have walked past here a lot. I can’t remember what was here before. But now there are flower beds. The front ones have been planted with beautiful white daffodils. With what looks like white vinca. And the prospect of alliums. Hopefully white too. Genius planting. Not to have your usual bog standard yellow.

It’s is lovely to see such fantastic planting. Who ever is responsible – well done! Behind the front beds are beds on a slope. It looks like these are full of alliums. I will keep a look out for the flowering as I go to the Sainsbury’s local when I run out of Milk. Toilet rolls. Or cat food. One of the three.

We may be inner city but there is plenty of colour. Some lovely planting. And at long last. Some sun and warmth to bring it all on. .