Here and there. There and here.

It’s been a busy time in the Mathieson ~ Jones household over the last few weeks. It’s been a bit here there and everywhere. But we managed to get a few weeks together over Christmas in Spain. Second Christmas and third New year. How time flies. In Spain not with Ian. Ask him he’s says about 8 years. That’s dog years by the way. Add another 20 and your nearer the time.

The weather can be changeable and when I arrived it was wet. Now spending half our time in Somerset for the last 25 years you’d think I’d be used to wet. But in Spain it’s a different kind of wet. Yes I know I’m a little bit bonkers but trust me it rains in the West Country. It’s often biblical like last night as I returned on the A303 and the M3. Rain so hard you couldn’t see Stonehenge. To be honest not that I want to. If I have time to see it it means I’m stuck in a traffic jam and after 25 years of passing it it hasn’t changed. Not a bit.

But the weather was proper pants when I arrived. I didn’t go out for two days as it rained so hard that the water was rushing down the hill. You would have been able to surf down La Rampa I’m sure. Not that I’d know. I didn’t venture out for two days. But the rain makes me happy in Spain. Wet ground means easier planting. Our water deposit is full.

Ian arrived a few days after me and it’s always amazing at what he manages to pack into his case. As well as some Xmas goodies which we would struggle to get and of course we can’t live without there were some major additions. A while back I had bought a fabulous cake stand and dome from my friend Mr Glass in London from London Times Vintage up in Islington. I wanted to bring it to Spain but was nervous. It’s heavy. On a stand and is glass. It arrived with Ian in his suitcase. All in one piece.

Those who follow me on Instagram are well used to seeing Ian’s back. This is one I made him stand still on the terrace looking down to the coast.

Trust me you don’t know how hard it is to get Ian stand for a photo. Let alone pose. Before I’ve even pressed the shutter he’s on the move thinking it’s done.

But the weather picked up. Chilly mornings. Glorious days. Chilly nights. That I can cope with. Oh. And have I ever mentioned sunsets. Maybe one or two. Hundred. At this time of year they are stunning and the views vary from the campo to the town to the areas above the town. Luckily there are others as obsessed as me who take sunset pics

On a clear day we can see the coast of Malaga, to the left Gibraltar. And further to the left usually on a different day Morocco.

As we had rain it was an opportunity to plant the final bulbs. Many I had planted with a pick axe earlier had started to poke through so this time planting was easier with the ground being a little damp. The garden in Somerset is like a paddy field after all the rain we have had. In Spain we do actually have a pick axe. Not that I use it that often but it may be useful if I ever want fancy dress as one of the seven dwarfs. Ian says I’d be a mix of grumpy, dopey and sleepy. Point is. He’s probably right.

Last years freesia are already in flower and a gorgeous yellow one was in bloom. Was is the correct term. I knocked the head off as I clumsily passed by! They grow amazingly well in the garden and I finally planted the last batch. We have pots dotted all around and the scent is fantastic a big winner from Peter Nyssen again.

There is already colour in the garden. The osteospermum are spreading like crazy and as each day gets a bit warmer more open. That and the one Gazania that seems to be way ahead of the others.

The almond trees are bursting into flower. Sadly not ours this time as ours are the latest to flower. Probably in the whole of Andalucia. Which in many ways is good. Maybe a bit less windy to have the beautiful flowers blown like confetti across the garden.

There are two different flowering types in our garden and our neighbours. Both our neighbours are out already. I love the pinky red throat of the second almond flower.

Patience is a virtue. One that I’m not great at. Particularly where plants and flowers are concerned. To be honest best I just say patience isn’t a virtue.

I witter on about the roundabout that’s not a roundabout. Not a lot. But it’s so coming into life. The acid yellow of the oxalis pew caprae is beginning to carpet the ground. This year they seem to be taller and more abundant than last year. I blame the weather!

We are over 600m above sea level. A bit exposed in parts so when the wind blows the wind blows. The enormous leaves of the strelitzia Nicolai get shredded. I’m gutted that there are no signs of flowers ~ we last had them in 2018. Fingers crossed for this year. They are magnificent in their blue/black beauty.

We have a number of strelitzia Reginae with flower spikes which will be bursting into the fabulous bird of paradise flower in the next few weeks.

When we moved into La Casa I was surprised to find that we had a Swiss cheese plant. As a child growing up we had one along with the obligatory rubber plant sitting in the sitting room. This one is in the garden. Really slow growing and to be honest it’s taken me over two years to like it. But I do. I’m hoping it doesn’t grow as large as the ones in the Botanical Gardens Malaga. Then I won’t like it. But I suspect there is no chance of that. The seed pods of Sesbania Punicea are still hanging and are a great shape. You can hear the seeds rattle inside as the pods are so dry.

The dodonia s a pretty dull plant most of the time but when autumn and winter come the green leaves turn to a gorgeous red. I’ve tried replanting some of the seedlings but they just don’t take. The final leaves of the grape are falling ~ hurrah as they are a pain to keep sweeping up. I know I should store them for leaf mould, but I fear the tree rats or some slithering snake may take up residence.

I love the foxtail agave. A lot. This is one at the bank at the back of the house. Them there’s the plecanthrus which is in the main bed. Has a bit of a funny smell. I can’t explain it. Looks a bit like an alien as it grows. Succulents on the back bed. Mr Prickly ~ the one of three healthy prickly pears. Which fruited this year.

We also did a bit of walking ~ down at the coast in Nerja. And a walk from Canillas de Albaida to Competa. A walk in an area between Canillas de Albeida and Canillas de Aceituno.

It wasn’t all gardening. Quite of bit of this trip was leisure as well. Picking lemons from next doors garden. With permission! Making the final batch of quince jelly. Picking olives to dry salt them. Making limoncello. I must remember to take that one out of the cupboard when I’m next home

So for now it’s a waiting game. For some more rain. For the alliums to start poking through. The orange blossom to make an appearance. Time to prune the grape and the olives. There’s never a dull moment, and nearly three years later I’m still excited when I drive up the wiggly road.

And surisingly. It all starts again soon.

Hola Valencia.

It’s a well known fact that we like a holiday. Or two. It’s also a fact that Ian researches the trips well before we book. Fact threee is that we love Spain. A lot. Even more so,since we bought the house in Andalucia which many friends thought would stop us from having breaks elsewhere.

It hasn’t. We spend as much time as we can in Competa which largely is based on not becoming tax resident! Old habits die hard and tax is always just one step away. For me these days it’s a very large one.

But in the last two and a half years we have visited Córdoba, Seville, Toledo, Salamanca, Cacares, Granada, Ronda and of course Malaga with points in between. So we haven’t just spent time a la casa. On sun loungers or in the garden.

There is a list. This week we have visited Valencia. Which has been on our list for some time. Easier surprisingly to fly direct from London than to get here from Malaga. We decided to get a few days of sunshine in before the Christmas hullabaloo.

It rained for the first three days. When I say rain I mean biblical. The heavens opened.

Ian always finds great places to stay. For Valencia he had booked an Air B&B. Which always makes me a little apprehensive. Will it look like it does in the pictures?. Will it be clean? All the questions. Well. The answer to all that was yes. Yes. And yes again. So clean I think I’d like the hosts to come and clean our house. Ian had chosen a trendy area. Full of restaurants. Easy walk to the metro and into the centre. Spot on again.

Home for five days

So happy with the accommodation we decided to walk into the centre and explore. To be honest it feels like we haven’t stopped walking for four days. Literally. My poor fit bit has been working overtime and must think it’s been attached to the wrong persons wrist. I’ve done more steps in 4 days than I’ve done in weeks. Says my fit bit stats. Says my body. Good thing I listened to my mother. Sensible shoes.

The colours of Valencia

There is so much to see and life’s too short not to see it all. It’s also so varied here. The usual. Churches and Cathedrals. Museums. Markets. Squares. Oh. And the amazing CIudad des las Artes y las Ciencias.

Palacio des Marques de Los Aquas

The beautiful facade and entrance to the Palacio des Marques de dos Aguas. A stunning restored palace which houses the National Museum of Ceramics and Decorative Arts. To get to the collection on the upper floors you meander through the various rooms which are furnished with period pieces and are stunning.

Red carpet walk

Ian has still to master the art of the red carpet leading to the rooms on the first floor.

The red salon

1920’s ceramic planters and Darden furniture

After a major and devastating flood in 1957 the City made a plan to reroute the river Turia to the south of the city and the work took nearly 10 years to complete finishing in 1974.

The river bed was turned to gardens and is now the Jardines del Turia. A mix of playing fields, cycle tracks and gardens and is a lovely walk up to the City of Arts and Sciences.

The walk through the old river bed

Turning the corner out of the gardens is quite breathtaking. Suddenly you, well I did , feel you are in the midst of a sci fi film set. Or you have wandered into scenes of Doctor Who which I believe had some scenes filmed here in series 10.

It is quite spectacular and a little eerie. Think South bank without the crowds. Less brutalist but futuristic. The buildings are awesome. Not a word I use lightly. But they are. But the area is so quiet. The buildings were designed by architects Santiago Calatrava and Felix Candela.

The buildings house an IMAX cinema. Planetarium and laserium in L’Hemisferic which was designed to look like a large eye. From certain angles to me it looks like a fish!

There is an interactive museum of Science ~ El Museo de las Ciencies which also has a basketball court. Another building L’Aora holds the Valencian Open ATP tournament.

L’Umbracle was closed which was disappointing as it is an open structure with a landscaped walk and outdoor art gallery.

We didn’t go in and it’s on the list for the next visit is El Palau de les Arts Reine Sofia ~ the Opera House and performing arts centre

It is a complete contrast from the architecture surrounding the park. Certainly a huge contrast from the building we have just left and it deserved more time to explore.

Sci Fi City.

Back to the past and not the future we headed to the Silk exchange. – La Lonja de la Seda.

Another building of historical importance and described as one of the most famous gothic monuments in Europe. It was declared a World heritage site by UNESCO in 1966. Being a Spanish Bank holiday entrance was free and it was busy. It’s a stunning building with exceptional floors and ceilings. Beautifully restored.

The Silk Exchange

Gorgeous floors in the Silk Exchange

Sightseeing is a strenuous thing and you need plenty of coffee and cake stops. If in Spain those stops need to include churros. It would be rude not to wouldn’t it. We had a choice. Churros or Fartons. Churros won.

Churros and Chocolate

You also need to stop and try on hats. There are two fabulous hat shops that we found. But this hat was in a trendy shop. I tried the hat, but not the mask, but thought whilst Peckham may be ready I was not.

Hats and fans

We stumbled upon the Museo Convento de Carmen , a lovely old convent which hasn’t been restored. It houses art exhibitions in the first floor. The building is of Gothic Renaissance and Baroque architecture.

Everywhere you look in and around the city there is street art. Lots of it. These were two of my favourites of which there were many pictures to choose from.

Just down the toad there is the cat house. A little house in the wall. With a small entrance for cats. It is said that the previous owner of the house had it to shelter the many stray and feral cats. Who knows.?

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Cat house

Everywhere you look in and around the city there is street art. Lots of it. These were two of my favourites of which there were many pictures to choose from. The art is everywhere with shop shutters covered in art advertising their products. Some is highly sophisticated. Some not.

Street art

You can’t visit a city without a visit to the Botanical gardens. I had read a review from someone who had visited recently who had complained that there weren’t many flowers. Um. It is December. But I did agree with the second comment in that you could walk straight past the entrance. Luckily we didn’t. It’s an interesting space and has some great trees and plants. Yes. Not a lot flowering but as you’d expect.

Walk in the Botanical Gardens

The cactus area is great and it’s also good to see a few that we are growing in our garden in Andalucia. The ever faithful foxtail agave doing well and as I post pictures of that constantly I have spared you here. Their prickly pears show no sign of the cochineal fly we have in abundance in Andalucia.

Whilst we were there a group of young lads were looking at the cactus. They decided to take a short cut across the borders when one of them screamed. One of the others said ‘ Did it bite you? ‘ – they weren’t impressed at the man laughing. Bite? No you just got too close to the thorns and you got jabbed.

The city at night looks so very different. First off it’s Christmas. So you get the Xmas lights. In the fountains. On the buildings. The carousel and the ice rink.

Christmas is a coming

The City at night is fabulous. The street lights aren’t that glaring white but a subdued yellow. The streets look like they are paved with gold. But that’s the light and the fact that they were still wet from the torrential rain of the night before. It was difficult walking on the shiny pavements. Both narrowly missing a fall as we meander around the sights.

Night streets

Estacion Nord.

You are never far away from a Cathedral or a Church in Spain. It never ceases to amaze me the variety and the architecture that you find in each and every one. The Cathedral was as you’d expect stunning. Whilst it had the pomp of all the cathedrals we have visited it had a kind of calm about it. Light. Bright and peaceful.

Cathedral

We decided to go to the beach as it was out last full day and the sun was finally shining. No coats. No macs. No umbrellas. We took the metro which was easier back than it was going. Largely because we are rubbish at directions. But we got there. A big and sandy beach with the usual long Spanish promenade. But decent sand.

It was a tale of two seasons for some. One man clearly not giving in to the changing season whilst one embracing the hoodie and beach culture. These were taken on the same day on the same beach at the same time of day. 500 yards apart yet worlds apart.

Long avenues of palms along the front.

I could go on and on and I usually do. But that’s it for Valencia. For now. We will be back. There is more to see. More time to explore the ones we have seen and want to revisit. The City of Arts and Culture could fill a weekend alone.

Next stop. Christmas and New Year in Competa.

Valencia December 2019.

Not just gardens and gardening! Part 1.

I’m coming to the end of another spell at La Casa in Spain. Something I always have mixed feelings about. I so love it here. People ask me why and for me the answer is easy. The people. The culture. The traditions. Oh and the food and wine. But I also,love that I’m fortunate enough to be able to have the mix of both here and there. There and here. Both very very different. Two very different social lives. Gardens. Cultures.

We have settled in here. Settled into a routine. Favourite restaurants. Cafes. Shops. People. But Ian told me when we bought the house that it wasn’t always a holiday when I’m here. There are still things to do. The house to maintain. The garden to maintain. To be fair he was and is right but we try and squeeze as much into each visit as we can.

The last two weeks have seen us have two separate visitors. The first a friend from Somerset we have known for over 20 years. I think she likes coming to stay as this was visit no 4 in the last 2.5 years. The second my old friend Michael or Ooh allo as I call him and have done now for 37 years. When we first met I said ‘ hello you must be Michael’ to which he respndedn’ Ooh allo’. So that’s his name. Must be welsh thing. You know. We have Jones the Milk. Pete the post.

Ian always says guests are like fish. Both go off after 4 days. Not these two. We always manage to fit something in new each visit.

Mosque Cathedral Córdoba

I try and find something and somewhere different to take Helen when she is here. The first trip,was The Alhambra the second was Malaga, the third was Ronda. So this visit I decided we would go to Cordoba. The thing about having a place in Spain is that you do get visitors and this was the third time I had been. This trip I decided that we wouldn’t drive; but park in Malaga and take the train. Bingo. An excellent idea.

The mesquite cathedral is fabulous. A word that I use a lot about the historical buildings and the gardens here in Andalucia. But they are. Simply fabulous.

The difference between the simplicity of the Mosque against the pomp of the cathedral is staggering. Both beautiful in different ways. I loved the cool repetition of the pillars and the subtlety of the colours of the mosque. With a dash of the sun through the stained glass peeking onto the floor of the mosque.

Reflections from the stained glass

I have seen the Alcazar de low Reyes Cristian gardens at different times of the year and these are lovely at any time. Not on such a grand scale as the Alhambra and probably not as well known as those in Seville but these are beautifully laid out. With some impressive topiary.

The Alcazar dates back to,1328 and has been used in the Spanish Inquisition and as a garrison for Napoleon Bonaparte’s troops in 1810. I didn’t go into the building this time. Steps up to the top are steep and as we had walked and walked and as I had been before I left a helen to do that whilst I had a snooze. In the chapel.

The gardens of the Alcazar de los Reyes Córdoba

The closest I’ll get to being on that plinth in Trafalgar Square

Typically we wandered and wandered in between coffee to,the Roman Bridge. A spectacular looking bridge, a bridge I have yet to cross to the other side. You may recognise it as it was used in The Game of Thrones. As in it was used in the filming of. They closed the bridge to,film apparently. I was neither in the series,:watched a full episode or was there when they closed the bridge.

The Roam Bridge Córdoba

Lunch. Ice cream. Coffee toilet stops and then fell upon a small renovated house in the Jewish quarter with a beautiful courtyard garden.

We are also lucky that the coast is a short drive down the wiggly or windey Road. Dependent on whether you want to go left or right at the coast. I decided that for Sunday lunch we would go left. Down to the costa tropical. Who knew. I didn’t. I’d heard of Costa de Sol. Costa bravo. Cost a lot. But never Tropical. But down the wiggly road and turn left you head toward The province of Granada and the Costa tropical. Sunday was a trip to La Herrudura for lunch at a little chirringuito that a friend had taken us to previously. Lunch right on the beach. Fresh fish. Delicious. A walk on the beach after lunch to round it off. La chambao de Vicente is one of my favourites.

La Herrudura Costa Tropical

Unknown to us until the second year of being here and thanks to our friend Sergio we went to El puerto deportivo de marina de este just around the coast from the beach of La Herrudura. . A quiet marina full of expensive boats. Some restaurants. A large apartment complex. And not too many people.

El puerto deportivo de marina de este

There are two,ways to drive back. The high road. Or the low road. Ear worm starts to,sing the theme tune from some obscure TV series. The low road is the coast road and is the one I like to take. It takes you through the outskirts of Maro and through the town of Nerja. With a stop off in Maro to take in the sight of the Aqueduct that originally took water to the sugar factory down in Maro itself. Today it is used for local irrigation. The sugar factory long gone. Although there is still some sugar cane growing as you walk down the road to the small little beach.

It wouldn’t be a proper visit without a stop off in Nerja. When we first came to the area I have to admit I did t like it. I went there to go to my bank. Nothing else. Oh. And the fabulous fruit shop across from the shop that sells excellent empanadas.

Now we go often. Sometimes to eat in the evening. Sometimes just for a coffee and a wander.

Nerja

There’s always a visit to Nerja. Even if it’s only to have a wander along the Balcón de Europe to look at the sea. Grab an ice cream. So visitor one was due to depart. Ian due to arrive the following day. Two days to relax before visitor no 2. And it starts all over again. Different friend. Largely different places for week 2.

What will be similar is that they have both requested to go to Casa Paco. To El PIlon to see Dani & Loli. And to the Teteria.

Am I complaining. Never. .

Hello again. Hello Spain

Hold onto your hats your in for a bumpy ride. The flight back to Spain was a bit wobbly – so turbulent that the cabin crew had to sit down for ages. But we had a fabulous view of the sunset as we approached Malaga over the coast.

I arrived after a bit of a storm. It had chucked it down. Heavily. Hail stones. My reaction. Ha. At last I can turn the irrigation system off. Only parts of the garden are irrigated because as much as I try those drought resistant plants don’t like the drought and 40* heat for any length of time.

It’s exciting to see what’s happened in the garden and true to form after a quick cuppa with our lovely neighbours I wandered around the garden with the garden lights on. And a torch. I could see I’d lost a few more lavender. Again I have no idea why. But they will be replaced. I ignored the growth of the hedge. If I didn’t I’d have to think about cutting it. Tomorrow is another day.

The storm had cleared the air and the morning light was lovely and it was time to have a good look around. All looked ok. Yes. There was some work to do. The hedge does need its final cut. – a job I hate but I need to do it. I was interested to see the quince. When I left it was heavy with fruit. So heavy that one of the branches had snapped and the fruit had fallen. But. There was still a lot to be picked. Well a lot for me. Quince jelly here we come.

There was more excitement. I walked the side bank to check the chimney and gutters. And there it was. A pomegranate. Now it may seem insignificant to you but trust me. It wasn’t to me. We have two trees/bushes close to each other. We have been here 2.5 years and we have never had fruit. One tree had a flower this year. But this one had none. Now there was a fruit.

The previous owners has also confirmed that it had never fruited in the 6 years that they had been here. I need to read about pruning cutting back. I’m not sure on what growth it flowers. I did hack it last year as it puts on a tremendous growth.

I love the leaves on the níspero/loquat. Big long leaves. It’s now in bud and starting to open flower. I’m not sure if it’s early or not. If I’m honest I’m not too keen on the fruit. They are a bit mushy and song store or travel well. And like most garden produce. All come at once.

The rear bank is the best for drought conditions. There are succulents and agave mixed with rosemary, some figs, lantana and bottle brush amongst others. The rosemary does so well and is flowering like crazy. We also have some creeping rosemary on the other banks and that grows so well.

The prickly pear needs a hose down. Every so often I put the hose on it to clear any cochineal fly that has appeared. I’m managing to save it from attack and this year the larger one had fruit. The second one which was pretty ropey is also now looking so much better and provided the rabbit ears picture.

The colocasia black magic leaves are looking much darker. The glare of the mid summer sun had bleached the leaves a little but a bit of amove around us helped. The large leaves of the green colocasia also continues to get bigger. We don’t really get frosts so I’m hoping the shelter of the terrace will help keep them over the winter left in their pots. Last year the colocasia mojito died back but reappeared in early summer.

I’m pretty amazed at the ferns. Bearing in mind the heat and that they are in large pots they have gone crazy. I’m having to move these slightly so we can walk through to the door. They need a bit of a tidy up. Which I will do over the next few weeks.

There is still colour. We tend to get a splurge of colour as the weather cools and we get some rain. This Durante Repens has flowered on and off all summer. Small golden berries form ( usually ) after flowering. Common names are sky flower and golden dew drop. I get few berries but maybe the birds have them.

The pink gaura is still floating high above the other plants. I need to get a white one as it’s such a lovely flower. Small delicate and lovely.

This is like a big crazy physcodelic caterpillar. Salvia leucantha which grows like crazy here.

It has been pretty quite flower wise over the summer months but now is in full flow. It’s a gorgeous colour combination and like the gaura though not as tall floats above the other plants.

It wouldn’t be autumn without seed heads. These are the seeds of the Sesbania Punicea which is a straggly but lovely flowering plant. The orange flowers are pea like and there are a few new plants growing – self seeded. Sometimes called the scarlet wisteria. I need to pot some as I’d like to plant them elsewhere in the garden. Apparently difficult to get hold of in the uk but it will grow.

It doesn’t take me long to pop into Viveros Florena our local garden centre. I never walk away without buying something. Or things. This time was no exception. I really only went in to schedule a delivery of some pots to plant my freesias and tulips in. But I couldn’t resist this Salvia. A new one to me. Salvia Oxyphora. Hairy Bolivian sage. Large leaves. Pretty

Don’t ask me where it’s going. I didn’t think that when I bought it. I rarely do. I like a plant. I see it. I buy it. Planting it is secondary.

There is work to be done but I’m pleased with how it’s fared in my absence. The dame de noche ha at long last flowered. An insignificant flower but a glorious evening scent.

The Indian jasmine is still flowering. One of the oleander still has flowers. The Salvia amistad is marching along.

The orange tree has blossom on it which has surprised me but I’m not complaining and last years freesias are already up and growing strong.

But for another week sunrise isn’t until 8.30′ and sunset is getting earlier. The clocks change next week. But when I’m here time stands still. After all. Yesterday I went into town for a half hour appointment. I arrived back home 3 hours later.

This week I’m off to Córdoba for the day. I’m hoping the gardens of the Alcazar are still blooming lovely.

London. Somerset. Spain.

We are back in London having spent a few weeks in Spain. We certainly weren’t singing Viva España when we left. Sunny Spain. The previous two weeks had given us patchy weather. Not an issue normally as it would give me a chance to do some gardening jobs.

But we had a visitor. Who likes the sun. It was there. Just a bit like hide and seek. Now you see me. Now you don’t. Enough. Back to London.

Um. What a difference. I’d left Spain in bright sunshine. Shorts. Sandals. No socks though. Back in jeans and a jumper. With the heating on.

I was intrigued about the garden. Was it still ok. What was dying back. I felt the same arriving in Spain after being away for 6 weeks. The longest I’ve left it since we bought la casa in May 2017. It was fine. I’d lost some lavender. Why I have no idea. But it was fine.

The London garden was lush. Very green. Some colour but the foliage had gone bonkers.

It’s been a good year for my canna and the bananas. Possibly as I’ve been better at watering them. And feeding. Regularly. When we got back it was all very green. And still growing like crazy. The cannas has finished flowering. I have my eye on a few more for next year.

The red banana has gone crazy. What started as a small pot plant has just grown and grown. Much better than the one in the garden in Spain. But I suspect it’s the water. More in London. I’m not sure I’ll be able to overwinter this one. If I don’t I’ll treat them like an annual. If they can put this amount of growth in a season than that’s fine for me

So I don’t think I’ve mentioned I love agapanthus for a while.

Well I do. This is one of the tallest whites we have. Name unknown. One we bought as cheap as chips at Columbia Road market. Flowered for ages. Big fat white flower heads. Now we have the seed heads so I want to collect some seed to take to Spain. I’d really love to get the height of some of these in one part of the garden. Agapanthus do brilliantly in Spain. Not that I’m complaining with the London crop. They have been great. I’m thinking I have to divide some of the pots this year but I hate doing it but needs must.

No not the Mediterranean. But sunny Peckham. This is a citrus tree I bought years ago and it flowers well in a pot. But rarely fruits. When it does it’s exciting but the little fruits are. Well little. But fun.

As a homage to Spain I have a number of succulents – some in pots on the fence and wall. These are all doing great and I have been adding to the collection. I’m thinking I may take a note from Jack Wallington and plant up a small window box outside for the kitchen window.

I even have started to have some indoor plants!!

We had a trip to Somerset. A short non gardening visit. One reason was it was too wet. And I needed more than two days to make a start but there was still colour in the garden. That’s my excuse. It wasn’t that I spent the afternoon with Georgie at Common Farm Flowers – honest, and walking around the flower farm admiring the flower beds. In particular the dahlia beds.

I can but dream. I miss my dahlias.

Back to the cottage –

The perennials have covered and smothered the weeds. I can hardly see the ground elder. The bindweed. So for now I can breathe. But not for long once the perennials are cut back – though not before seed heads have fed the birds – I will see the weeds again.

I await the new book from Jack Wallington ‘ wild about weeds’ with anticipation of the way to grow to love them. Jack and Chris stayed in Pitcombe recently and I was worried about the garden. A garden I hadn’t worked in for a few weeks. There were weeds – I have the national collection of ground elder. Quickly followed by bindweed.

I worried at being judged. Little did I know then that Jack was waiting to release the news on his book – and that Jack would embrace the weeds and not judge me. !! Not that Jack & Chris would. But we are all paranoid about our gardens. Aren’t we?

Now I like these. But not all over the garden. This year at clear up time there will be a cull. A large one. They are taller than ever this year and they have flowered and flowered, and spread and spread. A previous gardener used to divide – and plant them in other parts of the garden. Me. I will divide and find homes.

I planted this poppy a couple of years ago. It floundered a bit. But this year has flowered its petals off. And still it continues. It’s such a shame poppies are rubbish as cut flowers. Reminds me. Maybe next year at least one of the 10,000 poppy seeds I scattered on the bank in Spain may at least flower. I’m not holding my breath – nothing ha appeared in two years.

I never expected to see berries on the honeysuckle. Don’t ask why. I don’t have an answer but I didn’t. And there are. Adds some colour!

Some of the perennials are dying back slowly. But as soon as there is a frost they will be gone over night. The few dahlia I have in the garden will be mush.

I missed the grapes. The constant rain recently had made the majority mouldy. So not chateau Pitcombe this year. Not even enough for my usual grape and rosemary jelly.

But then comes the new opportunities. The new bulbs to plant!!

I have received the bulbs for London and Somerset from Peter Nyssen as usual.

The plan is being made. The tulips for London window boxes. The tulips for the Somerset pots. Yes. I have a plan. Surprisingly a planting plan.

I may even remember which tulips are planted where. There are some old favourites this year. Belle Époque. Angelique, which I’m trying again after a disappointing year a few years ago. New ones. Tulip Copper image – Tulip Uncle Tom.

And one I’m particularly excited about – tulip hocus pocus. I saw this at the open day for the NGS at Ulting Wick and I thought it was fabulous. Tall. Large flowers and totally bonkers. I’m still at odds as to where they will go but as they are so showy I suspect they will be at the front of the house and cottage. A bit of a show off. Me! Yes.

I have spent the day tidying the small patio garden in London. By small. I mean small. I have moved the important things. The chimenea for Harry the cat. Who has decided that he likes being out in the rain as long as he can watch it from the cover of his den.

I head to Spain this week. Friends say aren’t you lucky to have three very different gardens. The answer is a resounding yes. And a resounding no. London really manages itself. It’s small. Everything is in pots. No grass to cut. Little weeding. Lots of watering. It’s an easy garden. Perfect for its size.

Somerset has a lawn. Perennial beds. Fruit trees. And compared to London time consuming and at times hard work. No. At all tomes when you are an absentee gardener. I’m having to think hard about Somerset and it’s planting and maintainence and accept I can’t do it all by myself.

Spain. Oh. How I love the garden. But it’s challenging in may different ways. The heat. The drought. Getting the watering right whilst I’m away. Choosing the right plants. Understanding the pruning of almonds. Of níspero. Of the 3 orange trees.

As I head back I’m excited as well as worried as always to see what I’ll find behind the gates. It’s been very dry again. Very warm. A little rain. That didn’t touch the sides. But. Of course it is forecast to rain for two days when I arrive. But we need the rain. The garden needs the rain. My bulb order should arrive as well so if the ground is wet then maybe. Just maybe I won’t need a pick axe for planting.

I’ve already been told that there is a lot of work to be done. The garden has been watered. But nothing else. So I will have my work cut out. In between tapas and vodka caramelo of course. And a trip by train to Córdoba.

Oh Dahlias you are fabulous.

I like nothing more than getting the message ‘ do you fancy coming over for lunch today’. Hello. We arrived late last night to the cottage and we have made no plans. Let me think for a minute – yes. Yes. Yes.

My yes was two fold. Yes for lunch. But yes. Yes. Yes to be able to have a wander around the flower farm and check out what was still in flower. Those that know me know how much I love Common Farm flowers.

Social media has a lot to answer for. We had lived down the road from Georgie for years but our paths had never crossed. Until we met over twitter. The rest is history.

Georgie is also the reason I love dahlias.

As a child I hated them. My parents grew a few. A few Pom Pom. A few cactus. All had ear wigs in them. I used to shake them so hard that sometimes the flowers dropped off. That got me into trouble. So I had a hate hate relationship with them.

But now. I’m a convert. The dahlias at Common Farm are always fabulous and Georgies bouquets are simply gorgeous.

So it was a delight after lunch to don wellies and walk around the gardens. It’s not just dahlias of course. I’m staggered at what Georgie grows and what she uses in her bouquets. In her button holes. In her jam jar posies. Her table arrangements. The list goes on. And on. She taught me very early on that you can put anything in with the flowers. Some rosemary. Grasses. Foliage from whatever you have in the garden – there is so much foliage around the garden that there’s a huge choice.

There was still plenty of colour in the garden. Fading in places but still beautiful. Well it is October after all.

There were still roses in bloom – not as many as many as high Summer but I suspect she’s had a wedding or two. There’s nothing better than a basket of rose petal confetti. I know. I’ve picked many a basket for her. I came back to the studio smelling of. Roses of course.

The dahlia garden was still full of colour. There had been no frosts. Still plenty to pick and oh. Oh. Oh. I could have picked them all. The colours. The shapes. Imagine if they had a scent. Now wouldn’t that be fabulous.

I love dahlia Tartan. I wasn’t sure at first as it’s so bold but it’s a real stunner and looks fabulous in a bouquet or in a vase.

The thing about dahlia is the choice of colours. The shapes. Pom Pom. Cactus. Dinner plate. There were Pom Poms . I just didn’t photograph them. I don’t know why.

The orange is fabulous. The red. Very dark. The pink and yellow. So subtle.

There was an amazing selection of reds. Dark almost black.

I could go on and on- Ian says I usually do. I was in my element – if I can’t grow them myself what is better than being in a garden surrounded by so much beauty.

Ian had already headed back to the house!

The dahlias are still going but come the first frost – bang – they will have gone in a blink of an eye. Until next year.

Thank you Georgie for indulging me.

Check out Common Farm Flowers new website

Hello again Hello Spain

We are back in Spain after a gap of 6 weeks. The longest I have been away in the last 2.5 years since we bought Casa Verano Eternno, We had decided that the month of August was too hot for both of us and that we would be better off in the UK. Which turned out to be baking hot. But still not as hot as Spain.

Still, we are back now and the weather. Well its a bit like a summer in the UK. A normal one, not one like we have just had. I went into town this morning in cloud. Arrived back home an hour later to bright blue sky. Drove to the coast  hot hot hot. Back home to a thunderstorm and some rain. Not enough so I don’t have to water this evening. but enough to bring in the cushions.

Back to the garden. I set the irrigation system to come on whilst I was away. Being paranoid about the water bill and being tight I set it for every other day  I also asked a neighbour to come in and water during the week to give the garden a good old soak the old fashioned way. With a hose.

Overall its not too bad. There have been one or two casualties alonmg the way but none that I can’t deal with. Some lavender along the lavender path have died. Why I don’t know when they are in the middle of the path and all those around them have done ok.

There is still some colour which at this time of the year is a minor miracle. The summer has been long. Dry. And very hot.

At the back of the house is a steep bank. I rarely go up there unless I absolutely have to. It’s steep and it’s not that the bank is unstable. It’s me.  I have rolled down once or twice and it’s not a pretty sight. For you or for me. So I don’t attempt to do anything on there. But at the base is a lovely bed  – although I can’t call it a flower bed as such as its not just flowers. There are succulents. A foxtail agave which is growing nicely. Some other agave. Rosemary. The dreaded fennel.

The lantana is a plant that keeps on giving. This has been in flower on and off for ages and has both flowers and berries. They come in some great colours and the red and yellow is known as Spanish flag. This is rather subdued but is right for this bed.

Alongside it as well as the succulents there is Rosemary which as you would expect in a meditteranean garden and it does pretty well This one has some lovely little flowers at the moment and is a welcome bit of colour in the border. Plus there is plenty if there are any grapes left for me to make some grape and rosemary jelly.

I love seeing these grow outside. We had a plant when I was growing up. Indoors of course. Both the plant and me. In another bed is a Swiss. Geese plant. I’m not keen but it’s growing well albeit slowly. So for now it stays.

When we were back in the UK we had a number of trips to gardens. Both private and public gardens. At Ulting Wick I was taken with the path lined with gaura. The gorgeous flowers at the end of the long tall stalks dancing away. It was stunning and something I would like to do one day. In the meantime we have some pink dotted around the garden. I need to find some white ones.

it’s goodbye agapanthus. I can hear the sigh of relief on social media. Hurrah. Maybe now he will stop bleating in about Agapanthus. Your right. I will. For now. There will be more. I bought ten at the end of season sale at the garden centre here. They close for the month of August and have a pre closing sale. It was agapanthus heaven for me. They are all in pots dotted about the garden and will be planted when we have the rains. Hopefully we will have rain in October or a November and I will be able to plant. Without a pick axe. I joke not.

I thought all was lost with my colocasia mojito. It had died right back. So I sulked and refused to dig it up. Until I saw that I had one leaf appearing. I replanted in a pot not hoping for much and on my return hey ho. It’s growing really well. Needs a repot into a larger permanent pot. But that will be my Autumn task.

I love these colocasia. I bought two black magic. One I potted and it’s grown really large. Big leaves. But they aren’t as black as I had hoped but I think that’s because they are griping bleached in the intense sun on the terrace. I need to find somewhere more shaded. Shame as I like it where it is. The other I lost. Yep. Lost. I couldn’t find it anywhere. It was to go into a pot. I knew the pot. Not personally. But I knew which pot it was going to be planted in. I gave up. Planted something else in that pot.

Today I have found the lost colocasia. I must have dropped it. Because it is growing under the jacaranda tree. Only two, lives but it’s growing. I am leaving it there for now and will dig it up and plant it in a pot. When I buy another.

This always amazes me. It’s sesbania punicea . Whilst there is only one flower on the straggly tree like plant there are a lot of seed heads. It self seeds but in the past I have dug them up not realising what they are.

This year I am nurturing some as I’d like some more plants around the garden. The flowers are glorious and the seed pods really interesting. The plant is straggly and the lower part unattractive. But these pea like flowers are lovely.

We had the almond trees pruned this year. The first time since we have been here. I had no idea what to do so I found a man that did. And he did know. A good prune and a fantastic flowering season later we have almonds. A lot of almonds. I thought we may have been a bit late in picking them but there will still a lot in the tree. Some had already fallen. So we picked a lot. Now to decide what to do. I have had a number of suggestions. But the biggest problem is cracking the blighters. A recommendation from an insta friend. Don’t be a cheapskate when buying but crackers. Buy cheap buy twice. Or three times. I agree. I bought cheap last year and gave up.

I’ve come to realise late to the party with the fruit and nut and olive crops. One good year. One bad year. Last year was a dire year for the olives and the quince. We had one quince on the tree last year. This there are at least 20. So it looks like I will be making quince jelly and may try my hand at membrillo. To go with the fabulous spanish cheeses.

Not being here all the time means that some fruit ripens and is gone by the time you get back. Like the figs. There are 4 on the tree. That’s breakfast sorted for the next few days. Not just a fig. But to add to breakfast.

So we have had a good collection of goodies to pick and eat. The almonds, the grapes,the chumbos and the olives.

The chumbos are the fruit of the prickly pear. Prickly they sure are. Get one of those needles in your finger and you know it. You also spend the next few hours trying to get it out. Apparently they are short in supply. The prickly pears around here are decimated by the cochineal fly. I have been spraying mine regularly and have two decent ones in the garden. Makes me feel special. We have them. But I’m not going to eat them. They will be re homed.

The olives won’t be picked until they are black and then will be salted. I did it once before and they were delicious. A recipe given to me by a friend who has a b& B in Portugal.

They tasted great and that’s from someone who’s not a lover of olives.

There are seed heads and pods coming all around the garden. . The sesbania. The jacaranda and the seed heads of caesalpinja gilliesi. Oh. And an unknown wildflower. The name escapes me.

There is a lot to do. I have taken the plunge in pruning the lavender. It looks pretty awful now but it will get better. Won’t it? It was planted a year ago and looked fabulous during the summer. Gorgeous lavender flowers with an amazing array of bees and pollinating insects. Oh. And it smelled heavenly as you brushed past on your way up the path. Dodging the bees of course.

So it continues. I have a lot of clearing to do. The olive tree makes a mess with its dropping leaves. The grapes drop. Their leaves drop. The agapanthus – oops. Another mention need a tidy. Some people leave the seed heads. I did last year and we have a lot self seed. This year I’m cutting them back. It’s a choice against tidy and untidy. This year I’m doing tidy.

One more thing that’s left to do. Order my Autumn planting bulbs. I have grown freesias in this garden for the last two years. They have been a huge success. Ordered and delivered to Spain by Peter Nyssen they have been tall. Strong stems and a fabulous scent. They need a bit of staking which along with labelling is a weakness of mine. But I’m going to have to. I want more.

We have rain forecast for Friday. That’s a bulb website day!