Six on Saturday Somerset

Back in Somerset for a few days to do some work on the neglected garden! Despite the plethora of ground elder and bindweed there were some good bits.

Honeysuckle Graham Thomas

The honeysuckle over the arch , Graham Thomas I think ha gone flower crazy this year. It’s a beautifully scented plant and is a real attraction to the bees. I hate to dodge them as I ventured through.

Astrantia

The garden ha always done well with Astrantia. I’m not sure which one this is. I know I have bought astrantia shaggy but that is all white.

Cornus

The Cornus is another one that has gone mad. It’s a pretty large specimen and is a great addition to the garden.

Another Astrantia

Another Astrantia. Could be ruby wedding or Hadspen blood. Whatever it is it’s lovely.

Rose

I pruned the roses after leaving it to late last year as we were away. They have responded well. Those pruned hard have come back and have plenty of buds. This is a climber hidden under a clematis!

I’ve never been too successful with clematis. But this one has proved to be a winner.

The rain In Spain.

You know. They weren’t telling the truth when they said the rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain. We have decamped to the Costa del Sol for the Easter break. A friend arriving. Plans to do things. A garden to visit high up in The Alpujurra mountains. Costa del Sol. Where’s trade descriptions when you need them. Sol. Donde es Sol?

The rain in Spain

We are 610 m up in the mountains with a view to the coast. Unless the cloud has come down and you sitting in the middle of it and can only see as far as the hedge. This happens a few times of the year. Easter this year being one of them.

High up in the clouds

There has been sun. After the rains which have moved from the plain. Whilst the UK basks in sunshine and my social media is full of people enjoying the bank holiday in untraditional bank holiday weather. The garden visit didn’t happen. A two hour drive was too far to go to find it was chucking it down when we got there.

The view on a good day

We did manage a trip to Cordoba. A 2.5 hour drive from La Casa. We had been before on a two night stopover and had seen the run up to the patio garden festival. The Alcazar and the mosque cathedral. This time was to visit what we could in the time we had.

The Gardens of the Alcazar are a treat. I’ve found that the planting in these historic gardens are very British. British in that many of the plants we grow in the Uk. Roses. Antihrinums. Lobelia – which I last saw in borders in my parents garden back in the 1980’s. And in their hanging baskets.

Alcazar demolished Reyes Cristianos

I love the use of water in these gardens the long areas of water and the rolls that run along every where. They had a couple of beds which had largely huge snapdragons Really tall. Really colourful. Much taller than I have ever seen them grow in the Uk. And much earlier. The weather here has been patchy these last few weeks.

Another plant from my parents garden in the 1980’s! I’m always surprised at how well roses grow here in Spain. When we first bought the house I noticed the house opposite had a fabulous red rambler over its wall. It was spectacular. I had to go and check it was real. It was. There were a couple of beds at the Alcazar which had roses. Not much else but roses and whilst the planting was patchy the actual roses were stunning

I would like to grow Roses in an area of the garden but think I’ll stick to the only one I have. its a bit too British for me – and my plan here is Mediterranean with a bit of British!! So for now one lovely yellow banksia rose climbing the jacaranda tree. All of a sudden it’s burst into bloom and looks awesome.

Banksia rose -Competa

My only complaint is that for me the ideal rose is scented. Repeat flowering and if possible as an addition thornless. The yellow banksia is not.

Only being here part of the time means I can miss some of the flowering in our own garden. This year I have been lucky with the banksia.

Alcazar of Cordoba

The symmetry of these gardens is as you’d expect. Similar in style as the gardens at the Alhambra and the Alcazar in Seville. This year so far I have not been to the Alhambra. Maybe later in the summer. Tickets are like gold dust but are available last minute if you keep your eyes peeled. I love the planting there but again in the past has been very annual plant based.

The mosque Cathedral in Cordoba is an amazing space. I love the feeling of peacefulness and calm in the mosque and the simplicity of the architecture against the bling and pomp of the cathedral,set within it. A contrast to the walk through the Alcazar gardens further along the road.

The Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba

I did have time to potter about in our own garden. The sun. Rain. Sun. Rain effect has meant that it’s green. Very green. I can’t remember the agapanthus being as big as they are this year. The leaves appear huge. I hope that’s not a sign of big leaves. Small or no flower. I have started to feed them recently !

One of the sunny afternoons!

There is colour in the garden albeit a bit patchy. The ferns which we re potted a few weeks ago are growing well. There are six more spikes on the Strelitzia Reginae. The freesias from Peter Nyssen have been spectacular again this year and I’ve had success with succession planting. The last of them will have gone over this week. The dietes grandiflora – fairy iris has continued to flower and the new one I planted has also taken well now I know some people find the bottle brush to be a bit common. But I love it in a Mediterranean garden.

Last year I tried growing seeds direct into the garden with mixed success. Actually I am pants at seed sowing anyway and the results were as I expected. But. Flowers have appeared this year which have surprised me. Some Higgledy Garden sown calendula have appeared and look great next to the blues of the lavender. In a pot I have some Californian poppies. Both orange and white. They can only be Mr Higgledy sown seeds too.

Dietes. Bottlebrush. Calendula/lavender and freesia
Higgledy Seeds Calendula art shades
Californian poppy

So I am about to order more of each. The Californian poppies – Eschscholzia californica – remind me of my parents garden. There was always a patch of these in the back garden which self seeded like crazy. I should be so lucky. If I recall I didn’t like the smell of them if you touched them. Thinking back my parents had some cool plants as I was growing up.

We were lucky to inherit some fruit trees, a couple of fig, a loquat and three pomegranate trees when we bought the house. This year the fig looks like only giving a poor crop. But they are delicious. If your around the day that they are ripe. All of them at the same time usually. The nispero are interesting. Big leaves. Small fruit that look bruised even before they come off the tree. I will collect them and probably make jam and remember to photograph them!

The almonds are plentiful this year – probably to end up in the kitchen cupboard with last years. The olive crop in 2018 was non existent. This year the trees are full of flower buds. So fingers crossed. The quince had one fruit on it last year. Yesterday I counted 28. Whether they will all stay the course is anyone’s guess. If they do there will be Quince jelly. Maybe even membrillo. If I’m adventurous. Two of the three pomegranates have never flowered. Last year one flowered and started to set fruit. But we had none so this year I’m taking my tickling stick [ a tiny paint brush ) out to the tree when the flowers open.

Orange blossom. Olive flowers. Pomegranate flower. Quince

Both orange trees are full of blossom and the scent as you pass by is absolutely amazing. These trees are only chest height and as I’m short ( short for my weight) you’ll realise that they aren’t that big. But we picked some of the last oranges this week to make a chocolate and orange cake.

The bank at the back of the house and the drive is one place full of colour. The rain has spurred the wildflowers and the yellow jasmine and the honeysuckle to flower like crazy. The yellow jasmine serves a purpose but as it has no scent it’s not one I’d probably plant is such a big area. But it looks good. The wildflowers are going strong. Along with the fennel which I’m cutting back like crazy.

The unruly bank.

The pelargonium I hacked early this year has started to flower again. I know I should have saved the cuttings. Next year. The grevillea stands at the gate. One is growing tall and elegant. Yet to flower properly. The other sits under a ball of privet – don’t say another word- and is full of flower. The white snowball viburnum – Viburnum opulus has started to flower but the heads are smaller this year and not as many. Maybe I cut it back at the wrong time.

When you look at the plants individually there is actually more colour than I thought. But spread across the garden. The white wall at this time of year is one of my favourites – Red geraniums and the scented pelargoniums both in flower at the same time.

Rain is forecast for the next three days. Then a period of decent sunshine which will bring the rest of the garden on in leaps and bounds. The dahlias I planted in pots as an experiment are doing well. The canna are a bit patchy so far. The colocasia black magic is yet to emerge but the colocasia mojito has three new leaves. Patience is a virtue. Not a virtue I have!

But wait I must. There is nothing Imcan do about the weather but wait and sit it out. Tomorrow’s another day. Another plant emerging. Another flower opening.

Garden and Wildflowers – Spain

I know I’m lucky to spend a fair bit of time here in Spain. We first visited here in March ’17. We spent most of our time in March ’18 on a road trip to Northern Spain – it was Semana Santa – but we have been here in Southern Spain for a fair chunk of March this year.

As well as being able to enjoy and work on the garden which with a spot of rain and some heat has run away with itself it has been great to see the start of a lot of the wildflowers on our own bank and the roundabout which isn’t a roundabout and round and about the area.

The colours and scents in the garden have been amazing. The freesia and the orange blossom together with the jasmine have filled the air daily.

The alliums are running away with themselves and everything is in a mad dash to grow. There has been a plethora of mimosa this year with the colour yellow as far as the eye can see.

The olive tree has started to form blossom and it looks that unlike last year there will be plenty. The same with the orange blossom now and the almond blossom before.

Orange blossom

The almond blossom has now gone and the almonds are growing very nicely thank you very much.

Almonds

I have repotted. Moved pots. Planted bulbs. Had a general tidy up. There is constantly things to do – not that I am complaining.

New pots.

But I have ventured up and down the access road. Down to the bins on the road and up to a house at the end of the access road. Trust me. Going down the hill is fine. Coming up to the house and beyond – I need an oxygen mask and a lie down. You can hear my breathing from afar. Well. Gasping really. But it is worth it. There are wild flowers a plenty.

Last year I scattered about 2000 poppy seeds on the bank. We had. None. That’s right. Not one. This year we have three. Not thousand. Three as in 1.2 3!! bit I am not convinced these are the ones I sowed. Who cares. I have three poppies.

Poppies

Excited. You bet. Excited for next year. And the year after.

But the wildflowers are the gift that keeps on giving. They have started and will continue for ages. New ones will appear. The ones now in flower will form seed-heads. It goes on and on. Last year I bought a book – Wild plants of southern Spain by Tony Hall which with my book on Mediterranean plants by Lorraine Cavannagh have been my go to books for the garden and the wild plants.

Most I have been able to identify.

Bituminaria

The bank is overflowing with these beauties. A very pretty flower and a heavily scented leaf. If I’m right in its identification then the leaves should smell strongly of bitumen. They do smell strongly but I don’t quite get bitumen.

Now this yellow flower is everywhere. On the bank. On the drive. All over the slope as you drive down the wiggly road. A really pretty flower head. But so you think I have been able to find it’s name? Nope. I know someone will tell me.

Echium plantagineum and mallow
Purple bugloss

So this is an Echium plantagineum. Who knew? I didn’t. Well I think it is. I called it the pretty little purple flowers on the bank.

Not as many on the bank as I would like. Not yet. But there will be.

Perennial pea

I was excited to see these pretty pea like flowers in the garden. A friend said ‘ wait a few weeks and you won’t be saying that.’ They were right. They spring up everywhere. Through the plants. On the ground. Stand still too long ( not a chance here) and they will be using you as a climbing frame.

Yes. They are pretty. Very. Small flowers. But and it’s a big but. They are pretty prolific.

Lupinis angustifolius

These little pale coloured lupins were a real eye opener. I saw them first on our access road and pondered if they were actual lupins. Small. All of a similar size and colour. But they are. And lovely they are too. I shall be off to collect some seed when they go over.

This pretty bunch is not mine – not this year but I’m trying for next. It’s close by to the house and is full of little lupins. In the Uk I have never been able to grown Lupins. Slugs. Big fat slugs always got them.

Wild orchid

Last year we had a few of these on our bank. One in a tub with a pretty spiky agave. And one under the hedge on the drive. This is one of the ones on the access road to the house. Why? Because only one of the others has appeared this year. We have leaves but as of yet no flowers. Fingers crossed. We may yet.

Mallow

The roundabout which isn’t a roundabout is full of mallow. Pretty little ground hugging mallow. Add some yellow and purple of other plants and it makes a pretty damn good patch.

Galactites

These are spiky little blighters. The leaves rather than the flowers. Pretty variegated geeen and white leaves with a lovely lilac to purple. They grow like weeds on the bank.

My go to book also mentions Cistus. The grey leaved cistus. We have one large plant in the garden. But I realise now that last year I was pulling these plants out of the area where the almonds grown – so far this year I am leaving them be. They are so pretty then can spread as much as they like.

The flowers are produced each morning and as the day goes by they look more and more like crepe paper. I don’t think I have seen crepe paper since my school days! But they are pretty damn fine flowers to have in the garden.

I’m keeping my eyes peeled for the bee orchids that come up in a neighbours garden. For my few orchids.

Oh. And of course for the 1,997 poppies.

I may be a long time.

Six on Saturday – Spain again

The sun has been out. There has been little rain. And the flowers are running away with themselves.

You can tell it’s warming up and the sun is bright. Though early mornings and evenings are still chilly. But the succulents are starting to flower. These are on the dry bank and in a small circular bed under the olive tree. I forget their name and as I’m in a hurry to meet the Saturday deadline I’ll have to leave it there! .

Pink succulent flower

The banksia rose is such a small delicate thing. But climbing through the jacaranda it’s lovely handing down with its small but pretty little roses. The bids are teeny tiny. And this year there are a lot of them.

Banksia Rose

Last year I had one quince on the quince tree. Just the one. This year the tree is in full flower so I am hopeful. The flowers start a deep pinkish as they are in tight bud and then open to this lovely pink.

Quince Flower

We have two orange trees in the garden. One produced some decent oranges this year. The other none. But. And a big but. The blossom this year is amazing. Both trees are full of blossom and the bees are a buzzing. Hopefully like the quince we will get a good crop.

Orange blossom

The bank and the campo are full of yellow. The mimosa is in full bloom now as is my hay fever. There is pollen everywhere. Sadly the trees are getting a bit straggly on our bank and will need to be cut back pretty hard after flowering.

Mimosa

I think the wild orchids we have at the back of the house are growing towards Oz this year. There are some leaves about but this time last year the flowers were out. Fingers are still crossed that they will flower. This is one from the banks of the access road to the house. There are also bee orchids suddenly showing their leaves.

Wild orchid

A tale of three gardens. Hola

It’s amazing how fast things grow when you turn your back on a garden. Weeds especially. I think we have the national collection of bind weed in Somerset.

I hadn’t done a winter clear as the ground had been too wet. We hadn’t been around much. And I’ve picked up a bit of mañana syndrome. But needs must and last weekend I knew I had to do one thing. Prune roses. They weren’t pruned last year at all. A fail I know but the year before was a good pruning. Especially as I had Mrs Shouty as a guide and mentor for pruning the apple trees and the roses. Mrs Shouty -= Sara Venn.

So I hacked the roses. Some are old. Some probably need to be replaced. I will review at the end of the summer to see what’s what after flowering. But I pruned. I got attacked by the curse of the thorns. I have had my tetanus jab.

I tidied up a bit – well I cut the perennials back to the ground and then the rain came. Lots of it. So it’s still there to be taken away. On top of the bind weed.

Yes. There is smoke. But it’s Ian burning paperwork. Old bills. There is a bonfire there ready to start next time. A great big bonfire.

We bought a mirabelle plum a few years ago. It has fruited. Now great at the beginning. Some years the frost got the blossom and there was little or no fruit. But they are delicious. This year there is blossom a plenty. But watching what ever storm was passing through on Saturday shaking the tree and scattering the blossom filled me with gloom. If it’s not the frost that gets the blossom it’s the wind. Hopefully there will be plenty of fruit this year.

There are benefits of leaving last years flowers through Autumn and Winter . The colour of this sedum is great. And I haven’t cut it back. Not yet anyway.

Oh. I was also distracted. By a dahlia talk at the local horticultural society.

It’s a different tale back in London. The only cutting back I’ve done is to the Melianthus major which was tall and leggy. So armed with information and a decent secateurs I cut it low. Fingers crossed I’ll get flowers.

The garden in London is different. It’s small. More a courtyard garden and is sheltered. We have a typical London micro climate. I still have geraniums flowering from last year and are gaining growth at a rate of knots.

The Bowles Mauve is budding up well and will soon have a lovely scent when it opens. It’s a solid little plant and does really well

I can’t believe we have blossom on the citrus in the garden. And lots of it. Hopefully a bit more sun. A bit more warmth and these lovely flowers will open and there will be an orange blossom scent above the chair. Not that I can sit and read there. It’s there for one reason. Well three reasons. It’s the cats chair. Well one of their chairs.

If I was surprised at the blossom I am even more surprised to see a couple of tiny small fruits developing. Fingers crossed they will get bigger. I’ve been out and poo’d my plants including the citrus. The first feed of 2019. Using Lous Poo – alpaca feed

There is growth on the clematis. Early I think but never the less welcome. It’s only in the last two years that it’s done well.

Ian’s not a gardener. But he knows what he likes. Tree ferns for example. It was Ian’s ides to have tree ferns in the garden. I didn’t expect to have 5. But we have and I love them. I need to feed these once I take out the straw from the crown!

But they have survived in the garden for about 12 years and last year I didn’t fleece them or put straw in the crown when the the beast of the east arrived suddenly. But they survived.

One of my plant loves is agapanthus and I’m lucky to have them in both the London garden and the one in Spain. Again they need a feed if I’m going to get a great big show off spectacle of flowers.

I have just bought agapanthus black Buddhist from Farmer Gracy for the Spanish garden which was delivered last week.

We have a lot of blue and white in the garden here and there. There and here depending where I am – but I’d like to introduce some different ones. The ones in the garden have self seeded here and there and spring up everywhere.

The tulips in the window boxes are through – I planted them late but are growing pretty fast. There are new colours this year. I didn’t grow any in Spain as the ones I tried last year were pants. That’s not a variety. It was the outcome.

The jasmine is almost to the top of the downpipe and is heavy with flower buds. You know those pinky red little buds that open to a fabulous white scented flower. Add a bit of Trachelospermum a bit later and you have a succession of scent. I lost one last year but the other two are doing ok. Add the scent of my straggly honeysuckle to next door’s rampant one poking over the fence and we have the summer scents sorted.

Spain is weeks ahead of London and Somerset. In Spain the jasmine is out already as the weather has warmed up. Though I see we have two weeks of rain coming. Last March was wet. Very wet. So far we have had a dry spell since October when the reservoirs filled to the top. Great for the garden. Great for the reservoir and our storage tank. But…..

The freesia are brilliant again this year. Bought from Peter Nyssen and shipped to Spain – they look and smell fantastic. I must try some in pots in London next.

It is such a contrast between the three gardens – which I will admit is one too many. Somerset is at the end of a season and the start of another. It needs a good cut back. London had a central city micro climate and its small and sheltered. There is no way I could grow tree ferns in Somerset or Spain.

Spain is obviously very different. Whilst we are 650 m above sea level in the cooler mountains the season is well under way with colour and scent in March already. Plus we have plenty of green with the agave dotted around the garden.

The almond blossom continues. Ours had been and gone and they were pretty heavy with flowers. The mimosa is starting to come out on our bank. In other gardens it’s over already. I’ve seen the leaves of the wild orchids poking through and the bee orchids in a neighbours garden. We had thought we may have lost some as we had

There’s enough to keep me going for now. There are lists. And lists of lists. My lists. Ian’s lists.

I have some more things to plant Colocasia Black Magic. Bessara elegans, Watsonia peach glow, Roscoea purpurea, Anomatheca laxa, Lycoris radiata to start and some Canna. These are for Spain and came from Farmer Gracy – great find.

I bought , on Ian’s instruction a big colocasia at the localmspsnish garden centre to add to the Mojhito that I bought last year.

Don’t tell Ian but I’ve got Canna on order from Todd’s botanics for London as well as some new white agapanthus.

There’s no peace for the wicked.

Six on Saturday 2/3 Spain

The weather has been good this week. Some chilly nights and early mornings but the daytime temperatures have been good.

Things are suddenly shooting up and there are buds forming and new flowers opening. But we haven’t had any rain here in Andalucia for weeks. And there is only a drop forecast for next week. Which as we know can change daily.

Strelitzia Reginae

The Strelitzia Reginae continue to delight. The one in a large pot has one open flower with four more in various stages. The ones planted in the garden are not as large and flower less frequently. This is one of those that is flowering now. There are a further four spikes in various plants to come so there should be a succession of flowers for a few months. They are such a beautiful flower. The Strelitzia Nicolai shows no sign of flowering yet. But that flower is not on a spike it just appears from the side of the plant.

Colocasia

We saw this Colocasia at the local garden centre stuck in a corner where we were getting a coffee. Asked if it was for sale. It was so home it came. For now it’s still in its pot on the terrace. But the leaves are large and very lovely. It may just stay there.

Cistus

The flowers of the cistus have started to come out slowly this year. A lovely colour and they look like crepe paper. Eventually there will be seed heads. But for now I’ll enjoy the flowers!

Monstera

Now I have to admit I’m not a huge lover of the Swiss cheese plant. We always had one of these and a rubber plant as houseplants as we were growing up. But this one is planted in the garden. It’s doing well so it can stay and I’m getting to like it more. There are massive ones in La Conception gardens in Malaga ( Botanical Gardens) which are growing in the shade. I don’t expect this one to get that big.

Orange blossom

We have two orange trees in the garden. Last year one had no fruit. The other had a moderate crop. There is blossom on both trees this year. One more than the other but there are loads of gorgeous white flowers. The scent is already lovely but when the majority opens it will be awesome.

Foxtail agave

This one sadly isn’t mine. It’s a photo I took when we were at the beach yesterday. But we have three Foxtail Agave in the garden. Two in pots and one in the garden and they are a big favourite of mine. But I was instantly struck by the flower. I have seen them dotted around but haven’t be able to get this close to one. It’s simply stunning.

Six on Saturday 23/2

The garden here in Spain has a lot of Osteospermum. All brightly coloured and many which have self seeded. A welcome sight at this time of year.

I was at the garden centre locally this week to pick up some soil and compost to do some re potting and was about to pay for it when I saw a batch of Osteospermum that I hadn’t seen earlier in the week. And which caught my eye.

So As they are so very different to the ones I have in the garden already I just had to have them. Didn’t I?

They are now awaiting planting.

I understand that when they self seed as no doubt they will do they will not seed true to the existing colour. But hey. As long as I keep the originals going I’ll be happy!