Hola Jardin Mediterraneo

So Christmas has been and gone for another year. So has New Year which was spent in Spain – a few days at the house and then a few days in Seville. If you haven’t you really should. It’s awesome.

Then back to Londinium to check on the builders – a quick trip to Somerset to check on the Estate Agents, a cuppa with the Flower Farmer and we are now back In Spain.

Sadly my old mans pass doesn’t cover all of the travel. I can only wish.

Having negotiated choices of front doorsteps, chosen tiles for the path and watched the front garden torn up we have left London with a bit of a bumpy ride with a keen tale wind to boot. A 2.5 hour flight where I didn’t get out of my seat once and was reminded of a bumpy flight decades ago where I had gone to the loo. Captain announced that everyone should return to their seats. Belt up. There was turbulence. There was indeed. I hadn’t realised I hadn’t actually fastened the door properly, i did when the plane went bumping along and the door flew open. With me regally sitting on the throne. That, in truth is the reason I rarely leave my seat on a plane. I was traumatised. For life. So I expect were the rest of the passengers.

So back we are. Driving up the wiggly road the first thing I noticed was that things were looking greener. Large green patches and swathes of yellow under the trees. It seems that we have had a fair bit of rain. Which is good news as I had left the irrigation system off for the last 10 days in anticipation. That and the fear of the water bill. Which hasn’t been paid by the bank and a copy of which we haven’t had, so I was hoping that we still had water when we got to the house. Hurrah. We did. Shame we had no electricity. A defrosted freezer. And the house was so cold! But it wasn’t long before the the fire was lit the wine open and the water heater on and I was in the garden to take some pics. I had bought a tripod. Mmmm. Best say nothing about that for now.

It was evident there had been rain. The ground was wet. Obviously. Things had started to move in the garden. Some bulbs were starting to poke through. Some I knew some I didn’t. If I was going to make a New Years resolution it might be label. Label. Label, but I didn’t and I haven’t. I know where I planted tulips and what they are. Brown sugar and Ronald in the pots. Belle Époque in the white wall planter. But they haven’t shown their face. Not yet. Another NY resolution might have been staking. It wasn’t. But today I have staked – well tied up the freesias that I planted. They have got really tall. They were the first thing we noticed last year when we were looking at houses. There was the delicious scent of freesias in the warm air. So I bought some. And much to Ian’s surprise. I planted them. All of them. Don’t tell him I have found some other bulbs – the stragglers I call them in the garage. Tomorrow. I promise. Not that I’ll tell him. I will plant them. Honest.

So the garden is getting a bit more colour. The garden is more a Spring garden. The heat of July and August oppressive and watering is not easy on ground that is as hard as a rock. So the cooler months bring colour. Not that there isn’t colour in the summer. Its just different.

This has been flowering constantly all year to be fair – needs a bit of a trim but the colour is a welcome one a grey day. Not that today was grey, sorry to mention that.

Another hard worker is the ostepsermum which is spreading like crazy. Turn around and another pops up. Great little fillers in a number of colours one of the few photos to be taken on that tripod.

Hello hello. Or Hola. We have one potted Bird of Paradise – strelitzia which is in the second flush of flowering. Today I counted the flowers waiting to emerge and there are 9. I love the colours and the shape and to have 9 on this one pot is awesome. Not to count a further 6 on plants there are in the garden which are doing Ok but not as large or strong as this potted one. I don’t know what I’m doing but whatever it is I am going to continue.

We also have a blue and white one – strelitzia Nicolas – which I have given a severe talking to. We had one flower spike last year. I almost missed it. The plant tries to pretend its a banana. It’s not. But the leaves are massive.

The lavender path is still flowering. To be fair it hasn’t stopped. I took advice from my gardening friends on Twitter and cut a few back really hard. I didn’t have the courage to do it to the whole path. But. The advice was right. The ones I did cut back ( hack) in November are doing really well. To be fair if I cut the rest back and its a disaster then I will just have to replant.

Now please don’t ask as I simply cannot tell. It’s top secret. So secret even I can’t remember. A recent purchase. A succulent. That I know. This is a bit that broke off and planted. I will look for the receipt _ I’m sure that I added it to my planting plan. Yep. Another failed news years resolution. An annual one. Label Label Label. Garden plan. There’s always 2019.

We had difficulty opening the gate yesterday when we arrived. The Australian wisteria – Hardenbergia violacea – had entwined itself over the gates and had started to flower. As bit earlier than I expected – its a lilac / mauve colour and actually quite pretty. It’s full of flower which I understand lasts quite a while not as showy as the English wisteria nor scented. A great colour though and perfect as its drought tolerant.

You may have heard me mention the roundabout. Which isn’t a roundabout at all. But a piece of land at the back of the house above the bank and across the access road. It has two figs trees, a scrappy almond tree and various succulents oh and sad Prickly pears. But since we had it strimmed last year the oxalis has taken hold and its about to become a sea of yellow. Is that a thing. A sea of yellow? I suspect not. But the yellow is a bit acid yellow. A few people don’t like yellow flowers. I will take all I can get on this bank. Believe me.

The bank at the rear of the house is steep and I’m mad to be doing anything on it. There’s enough to do in the main garden but I’m a bit of a butterfly. A rather heavy one at that but I tend to flit here there and everywhere in the garden., I need to be tied to a length of rope and allowed to garden in wherever that stretches to. But I suspect Health and safety would be an issue. My health and someone else’s safety. But the view from the bank is great. Provided you don’t stand behind the pine trees. Don’t get me started on the pine needles. There’s a reason they are called needles. They are everywhere. But the fallen pine cones are good for starting the log fire!.

The house is nestled below. The large jacaranda tree towering above. I love the tree. The blue flowers. The awesome seed pods. But the flowers drop like crazy and the path is a lovely blue. But it stains the path. Not for long but you are forever clearing them up. The poor old prickly pears are dying on their feet. I remembered to wear gloves as I was close to the Popcorn Senna. Last time I touched it I rubbed my eye and had to go to the Pharmacist and get some drops. Not easy in Spanglais believe me.

This cactus looks like its got measles. I know not what it is but we have two of them. I think we have two anyway. Yes I know I should know the Latin names but I often struggle with the English ones. Throw in the Spanish name and I’m totally confused. This is the better looking one. The more photogenic. Probably poisonous as well. Like everything in this garden.

There’s a spiky lemon tree at the side of the house. I never knew there were so many varieties of lemons. But there are. I k pow because I have a book that says there are. This one did nothing last year but has some flower buds this. Just the two so far but that will be enough for a couple of gin and tonics. Along with the one lime and the two grapefruit we have growing. A pink grapefruit at that. We have oranges a plenty and we are looking forward to them when we are here in Feb. One of the orange trees has an abundance of orange blossom. The trick will be in keeping it going and getting this years fruit to set. Tips on a postcard please.

So a day and a half here and its been a garden fest of sorts. There is plenty of clearing to do. Leaves to rake. Some light pruning. Some choices of some new trees for the patch where we have the almond trees – which have no sign of flowering at the moment. A visit to look at plants. Not buy. That comes in Feb when we are here for more than a week. We’ve swept the terrace. Twice. Watered the tulip pots – yes. There has been rain but pots still need a drink – don’t they.

The electrician comes in tomorrow. I go to the Town hall to sort out the water bill. Friday we have logs being delivered. So No. We are not on holiday again! There is work to be done.

The Rain in Spain

Its a myth you know. The rain in Spain isn’t mainly on the plain. Well it certainly wasn’t on Sunday night and Monday morning. The rain and the wind was up in the mountains. Whistling around the house. Lashing on the roof. Overfilling the gutters. I know. I was outside. At 4am. Checking the gutters. Whilst Ian slept soundly through it. It continued as I drove him to the airport later. The rain. Not his sleeping. Am i complaining? . Not about the drive to the airport. Certainly not about the rain. We need it in Spain. For the garden. For the reservoirs. And we need more.

What it meant was that the ground was workable. With a spade rather than a pick axe. Time to finish the planting of the alliums. Plant some foxtail lilies. Move a plant or two. Which I did.

It’s still exciting seeing what plants are popping up around the garden. What’s flowering now. Whats to come. The excitement of knowing that there are bulbs coming up. When we were looking for a house back in March – was it only March! – some of the houses we walked past had the wonderful scent of freesia. So I have planted 50 around the terrace and the path. To add to those that there are already there.

I have planted tulips in the white wall planter. Last year in London I had a great display of Belle Epoque. So I have planted them here hoping for a similar show. Amongst the red trailing geraniums which continue to flower and which you can still buy and plant. So strange but they are better in the Spring – summer just gets too hot. A bit like me really. I’m a spring flower.

The pots have the lovely Brown Sugar and Ronaldo. I can hear someone moan. Not more pots. Yep. More pots.

The bank at the rear of the house was cleared in the summer. Largely as I was paranoid of fire and the temperatures were soaring. Which has meant that some of the plants that are there have been growing steadily now the grass and weeds have gone. I have moved some of the baby agaves to the bank in the hope that they will take. I think they are on their way. There are some massive ones on the bit i call the roundabout. Which its not. But is a piece of ground that we have behind the house and across the access road. We had that cleared too and it and the bank at the front of the house is now covered with oxalis. So the roundabout will hopefully be a blob of yellow. I’m slowly weeding them out of the the main garden as it will become invasive.

I’ve also been tidying around the various succulents generally whilst being stabbed by most. Checking the cactus. Even the cactus which we call a cactus but is actually a euphorbia. I have said it before. And I’ll say it again. I wasn’t a huge fan of cactus and succulents. But you can not love them when you have a mediterranean garden. In Spain. Which has many.

Someone remind Ian please I need new gardening gloves! I swear these plants see me coming and ever so gently move. To stab me at every angle.

The citrus are doing well. At one point in the summer I thought we may lose the orange trees. It was so hot. I watered. Never sure if it was too much. Or too little. But the fruit has set and will be ready to pick in the new year. Just as well we are there for a month in Feb! They are also now quite heavy with blossom. I can’t wait for them to open. A bit of a warm day and the scent of orange blossom. Bliss..

The pink grapefruit I planted is heavy with fruit. Well. Heavy with two fruit. Admittedly they are fat. We have one lime – not on the grapefruit tree. Obviously. We were advised to take off the fruit this year. But I had to leave one. The potted mandarin has a lot of fruit. I think it will be ok. Big schoolboy error when I forgot to check that the new pot had proper drainage. It didn’t. Whispers the last bit and hides.

The winter jasmine is just starting to flower. A welcome bit of colour. Such a shame there is no scent. I only realised there were buds when I found some fallen flowers. The garden has a number of Jasmine. Whilst I love the colour of this ideally I prefer a scented one any day.

There has been lots of colour in the garden – mostly leaf colour but the flowers are starting over.

The fallen leaves of the grape vine driving me mad. The lovely colours of the leaves of the non fruiting pomegranate. Lovely on the trees. Not so lovely on the ground. The unusual blue of the plecanthrus suddenly flowering in abundance. The berries of the myrtle. My huge excitement of the strelitzia all in bud. I have counted nine. I love the rich colours as the flowers get fatter and are getting ready to open.

Ive been out on the bank collecting fallen pine cones from the few pine trees that we have. The contrast of the pine and the sadness of the sick prickly pears. I have managed to save two at the side of the house. Which are pretty cool.

Tthe autumnal feel of the colour in the garden continues with the colours and seed heads. No doubt poisonous as everything that you seem to grow in a mediterranean garden is!

Its not been all work. I have stopped and sat and admired the garden. Ate chocolate biscuits. A whole packet. To myself.

The groundwork and major planting done by the previous owner. I’m just adding things and tweaking to suit our use. To suit the lack of water and the fact we aren’t there full time. It does feel like it though.

We also managed a walk out along the road. Its just that once we are behind the gate we rarely move. Well out of the garden. I do actually move. But venture out we did. For a walk. And the views were great. We found quince fallen from the tree just off the side of the road. Makes note for next year to add to the six fruit we had in the garden.

Looked back at the house from a different angle and realise that we are well hidden!

So I am excited about the Spring. The bulbs. The colours. The almond blossom on the three trees we have. The fig trees getting their leaves back. The nespera fruiting and being able to pick them this year. The soon to be planted new pomegranates near the almond trees. To plug a gap.

The excitement of not quite knowing what the garden will bring from now until May when we will have done a whole years garden cycle.

The town is gearing up for Xmas. We had the fair at the garden centre. A great place and the owner is the author of my go to book for identifying the mediterranean plants in the gatden. We have had the fair in the town. And the town itself. Covered in poinsettia. Which I view often as I sit in the Plaza Almijara drinking coffee.

The steep road up to the square has a wall covered in bright pots. Filled with poinsettia . With more along the railings. I like the plants. But only for two weeks over Christmas.

I have closed the gates at the house for another two weeks as we head back to spend Christmas in London. To return for our first of what I hope will be many more New Years.

Have I told you lately that I’m retired?

So here I am. At the end of this month entering year three of retirement. Year three! How has that happened.

I still get asked the same question I was being asked after 6 months of retirement. What do you? Aren’t you bored yet? Go on tell me you are.

Sorry guys. The answer remains the same. I’m only bored with the same old question. I don’t have time to be bored. My feet don’t touch the ground. And no. It’s not because I’m always on a plane.

So what have I done?

Year two has been very different to my first year. But I’ve also done a lot of the same things. Yes. I’ve continued my Manny McPhee activities. Picking up the 14 year old from school. Taking him back to the cottage where this year he lolloped on the sofa with his mobile phone glued to his hand. Texting. Snapchating. Yes. He’s got himself a girlfriend. I feel old. Only feels like yesterday I was bottle feeding him! Which I like to remind him. To embarrass him. Mind you I’m embarrassed. I look like I’ve eaten him. I’m huge!

I’ve taken next doors 5 year old to infant school for the first time. Joined the school run of parents on the drop off and pick up at the school gates.

Chasing her down the road as she takes her scooter with her. Realising I need to get some more exercise as I am out of breath. A chattering five year old who is more entertaining than some of the adults I encounter. Her vocabulary is awesome. Who gets excited when uncle Ian surprises her and is at the school gates to pick her up as well. Learnt she only likes strawberry and chocolate ice cream and jelly with no fruit in it. But loves the sausage rolls I make.

We have had tea with the boys. They have visited. Stayed over. Visited us in Spain. All of which is challenging when you don’t have kids. But it’s fun.

It’s been a year Of decisions. Making yet another life changing decision in buying a house in Spain. Deciding to sell the cottage in Somerset after a joyous 23 years.

You know when the time is right to do something. And the time was right. We fell in love with the new Spanish house and the start of another new adventure began.

I’ve gardened in three different gardens this year. All challenging in their own ways. Somerset because I haven’t committed much time to it. Spain because of the change in plants. The soil. The weather. London is less of a challenge because it’s so small. Juggling all three and three different growing conditions has been interesting. To say the least. But there were tulips in London and Somerset and today I collect bulbs for the new Mediterranean garden here in Spain. I am loving the new Mediterranean garden. A lot. I’m sure you can tell.

I have spent days at Common Farm flowers. Being the junior on busy days for Valentine’s Day. For mother’s day.

And a big white wedding. Not mine. That was low key. Us two. Two witnesses no fuss. . Working with the dream Team. Georgie. Sharon. Lorraine. All of us presented us with a mug by my lovely friend Lorraine. I so love my days at Common Farm. It’s hard work. Being an oldie. On your feet all day. But…. it’s such fun and I’ve learnt a lot.

Days out with friends. An awesome birthday lunch for Georgie with Lorraine – a day out treat for the three of us.

Lunch in bath with Georgie Nic and Sara on a wet and windy day. But such fun.

The annual trip with friends to RHS Chelsea and meeting up with the poo lady. The lovely Lou from Lou’s Pooh. Especially lovely as she used one of my agapanthus pictures for the label of the agapanthus feed launched at Chelsea.

I did RHS Chatsworth with my friends Mary and Ann where I met up with an old friend who had moved out of London. Will I go again? Not for a while. Too far. Needed some more organisation. Our lunch or not as it turned out was chaotic.

Ian and I think we celebrated 25 years together this year but who knows. Because we don’t. Could be 25. Could be 26. Whatever it is it’s a b—–y long time. Who’s counting. But another milestone.

I’ll tell you when I catch up with him. He’s still walking ten paces in front. So much so I made him a book!

I had a big birthday. Well not big. Huge. You know when your a kid. 60 is ancient. Well it is. And it isn’t. 60 is the new 40. And there are days when I feel ancient. Look ancient. Talk nonsense. Ian will say that’s normal. For me. At least my prescriptions are now free.

I had a birthday supper with friends at the Savoy. Flowers delivered to the table from Georgie and the team at Common Farm flowers. A fabulous evening. I love the Savoy Grill. Great food. Awesome atmosphere.

I was taken to lunch by two of my closest friends to Le manoir which was fabulous, an amazing lunch and a wander around the garden. Back to the hotel to watch Strictly. An ideal day. Fab food. Fab company. Wine. A full stomach and Strictly.

Then we had breakfast the following day at the Premier Inn and a trip to Blenheim. An awesome treat. All of it. Le Manoir. Premier Inn and Blenheim.

I was crowned the birthday princess by Ian’s sister. But not in public. Well. Not where I can be seen by anyone who knows me.

I had the best present ever. My over 60 oyster card. I have been round and round on the circle line. All day. Why? Because I can. And it’s free.

I have been to exhibitions. To art galleries To the Hockney. To the BP portrait exhibition. To friends exhibitions in Somerset. To National Trust properties. To NGS open gardens. Saw lovely planting. Ate cakes.

We travelled to the Highlands on the Caledonian sleeper. Which was fun. Stayed at an awesome place Ardraich which had an awesome garden. And a stunning camellia hedge. Oh. How I loved that hedge.

I have had lunches with old colleagues. New friends. Old friends. Chatted to new friends on social media who have helped with questions on my new garden. Travelled back and forth to Spain. A lot. Spent our annual long weekend in Tuscany with friends. Followed by another two weeks. Visited Sienna. The cathedral. Fabulous gardens. Amazing food. We have visited the Alhambra twice, seen some fantastic theatre, visited Kew at Christmas to see then fabulous light show.

Wandered everywhere. Camera in hand. Snapping. Irritating Ian. But loving it. The snapping. Not the irritation. Oh. And you may have noticed. I’ve blogged a lot.

So. The question is. Am I bored yet. Do I regret my retirement. What do your think?

Ps. Remember that list of Ian’s right at the start of this journey. Don’t tell him. But I still haven’t sorted the cellar or the attic. I haven’t had time!

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Summer and NGS open gardens

So summers over and it’s a time to sit and reflect. A time to go through the mountain of photos I have taken over the summer. My own garden and the gardens of others. One thing I’ve been thinking of is the National Garden scheme visits that we have done this year. I’m a bit of a nosey one me. That’s why the NGS open gardens is a dream. I get to see other people’s gardens. Get ideas. See new plants. Take photos. Oh. And eat cake. There is always cake.

This year I didn’t manage many. I missed some which I have been desperate to see. The garden at Ulting Wick. I missed the tulips. The thousands of tulips which looked magnificent. Then I missed the later the openings as I was away both times. The 2018 dates will be in my diary. The one I bought today.

The ones I did see in London were all very different and all were in South London this year. Choumert Square in Peckham is a treat. The Peckham peculiar has 46 facts on the 46 cottages that comprise Choumert Square.

The square opens every year for NGS and despite living in the area since 1987 this is the first year I have managed to be here for the open day. On saying that can I admit to sneaking in and taking a peek occasionally. The open gardens is a bit of a fair day. There are cake stalls there is honey for sale. Plants. And a general feeling of great friendliness.

The entrance to Choumert Square

Lovely colours in the Square

Great herbaceous planting

The gardens are small and are all at the front of the cottages. At the end of the rows is a small communal space. It’s a lovely friendly place to live and the planting in the gardens is so all very different.

From Choumert Square we ventured to Camberwell Grove. One of the best if not the best example of Georgian houses in London. I’ve always wanted to live in this street. It’s a lovely wide tree lined street. The garden open here was very different to the Choumert Square gardens. A long oasis with a view of the spire of St Giles church at the end of the garden. The garden is covered in roses and colour with a lovely artist studio in the garden. Lots of lovely perennials in the borders adds stunning colour.

Camberwell Grove

Altogether a very different garden to the ones at Choumert Square.

I have followed Jack Wallington ( not literally) but on social media for a while. Jack and Chris had taken part in the Monty Don series Big Dreams Small Spaces and I’d remembered their story. It’s still on you tube if you want to take a look. It’s really interesting – Series 2 episode 2. A small garden in South London crammed full of plants. With a fern wall. So I was excited to see the garden and to meet Jack and Chris. The weather in the run up to the opening wasn’t great but the Sunday was dry and fine. Oh. And what a garden treat. Yes. The garden is small. But the planting and the variety of plants is awesome. Jack was on hand to answer questions. Which I asked and he answered. The plants were labelled and there was a plant list. Oh. For. A plant list and labels in my garden. And clean nails.

I loved the Echium and I’m looking for some for our new Spanish garden. Everywhere you looked there was something different. Astrantia. Dahlia. The fern wall which I had seen Jacks father making the supports for in Big dreams Small Spaces was brilliant. I know Jack can tell you the number of varieties on the wall. Did I get any tips?. You bet I did. I think of Jack as Mr Dahlia. He grows some huge dinner plate Dahlias on his allotment the photos of which are amazing.

Ps. Jack. Perhaps there should be an open day for your allotment!

The opening of gardens for the NGS is synonymous with cake. You can always get a decent bit of cake. Now there’s decent and there is extraordinary. The cakes at Jack and Chris’s were a visual delight as well as delicious. If there’s a prize for the most beautiful cakes then this is the winner. Oh. And for taste.

The icing on the cake. The dahlia cake.

I loved Jack and Chris’s garden and my one disappointment was that I was unable to visit for the second days opening the following month when more of the Dahlias were blooming. But I’ve seen the photos. Lots of photos.

Jack mentioned another garden that he thought I’d like which was open a few weeks later. Another one local to us in Grove Park. The garden of Clive Pankhurst. When you look at the front of many of these houses you can never expect to find such delights behind them. A garden full of exotic plants. Bee hives. Ponds. Lovely seating areas. A huge garden with lovely walkways. The owners have been able to buy some of the neighbouring gardens when the flats next door were developed. Where I found out my own next door neighbours mother who I see almost daily lives. So she gets to see the garden all year long.

I loved the garden and the planting. The variety. The colours. I also had some ideas for our own garden. That’s the joy of the NGS open gardens. You get to see plants you don’t know. Planted In situations you wouldn’t normally think. I’d never have thought of Echiums for a small garden. But they work. Really well.

The cakes were lovely too.

Next year I will be taking a notebook when I visit any NGS garden. My brain goes mush and I forget the names of the plants when I leave the gardens!

Till next year.

It’s not all about the garden 

Being in Spain isn’t just about the new Mediterranean garden. Though at times that’s how it feels. It’s all new to me. The plants. The soil. The weather. Oh. The weather. I do like a bit of sun. But not in July or August. It’s too hot. And I never thought I’d say that!

But there have been visitors. Which I love. Which means we have to explore. And explore we have over the last 6 months. Trips to the Alhambra. Twice. Trips to the coast. Numerous. A trip to Malaga.  Oh. The trip to Malaga. Where  I parked in the car park of Cortes de Ingles. And walked into the old town. And where I couldn’t find the car in the car park when I got back. Had to retrace our steps back through the store. You could smell the fear. A hire car. Whose registration I don’t know – yes it’s on the key fob I know but in the panic I forgot. We eventually found it. After half an hour. By which time I was ready to cry.

So we bought a small house in Andalucia. In Competa. Up a long  and winding road. In the hills. By now you will know it has a garden. A lovely Mediterranean garden which I have bored the pants off everyone with twittering instagramming and generally talking about it. Even in my sleep. A style of house I didn’t want. I wanted a town house. A terrace. No garden. No pool. A walk to the bar. To the cafes. Which is the total opposite to what we bought.

Casa Verano Eterno. – House of Eternal summer.
We were also due to be based in Frigliana another white washed village  but the owners of the B&B we had booked cancelled a few days before. Not  because  we are bad guests but because they had a family crisis.

So Ian did his research and we booked into a fantastic B&B in Competa –Casa b Run by Carsten and  Bente who’s hospitality and breakfasts are incredible.  But  being based in Competa it gave us a lot of time to explore the town.  

The view at Casa B
Where is  Competa? I asked the same question to Ian when we booked to visit in March. It’s just over an hour from Malaga and and hour and a half to Granada and the wonders of the Alhambra. It is the jewel in the crown of the whitewashed villages. It’s breathtaking on first sight. Surrounding by the mountain ranges and is that type of place which you would say has a lovely feel. Which it does. The town has everything you could want. Great places to eat. Pharmacies. ( important when you get a swollen eye!). Bakeries. Fruit shop. Great places to eat and watch the world go by.  Wine shop with lovely local wines.  An amazing ironmongers. A petrol station. A kitchen shop ( heaven for me) and excellent friendly service from everyone. The Estate Agent we used  has guided us through the first 6 months with a general ease.

Competa

In August every year is the Noche del Vino – the night of wine. It’s an enormous annual  event in the town and there is a lunch cooked and prepared in the Plaza de Vendimia.  The  grapes are crushed by the Mayor and the lunch is served – Migas.  To be honest. It looked a bit like gruel. It’s olive oil and fried breadcrumbs. Add plenty of local wine to wash it down. Which is good. We were wimps and didn’t stay up to watch the flamenco dancing. There’s next year.


It is a lovely  white Andalusian town. High on the hill. And with its own lonely goatherd. Where the man and his goats wanders across the hills from side to side. You can smell them before you see them. A whiff of goat is not to be forgotten. Ever. And I love it. Hugely. The town. Not the smell of goat. Which I don’t by the way. The mountains are high. And no. I haven’t had a Maria  Von Trapp moment  running up the hills. Singin I am sixteen going on seventeen. More like 60 going on 70. If I could get up the hill in the first place.

Eau de la goat
I can usually be found in the square of a lunchtime. At my favourite place Casa Paco. Or in the evening to be fair.  Or at any time of the day. It’s friendly.

Plaza Almijara Competa


We are lucky to be able to get to the coast in no time at all –  should we wish to. Which we do occasionally.  Thrty minutes  down the wiggly road you get to Torre de Mar.  A long beach with a very long promenade. Which in the summer is busy. And I mean busy. Out of season it is lovely. Much quieter and the cafes are still cooking their sardines on the beach in boats on coals.

Torre Del Mar
Edit
Sardines cooked on the beach
Beach umbrella for one

Down the opposite road from the house. – the windy road rather than wiggly – you get to Nerja and further beyond the Costa Tropical. That’s a new one on me. Costa Del sol. Costa Brava yes. But never Costa Tropical. I was taken for supper to a lovely restaurant La Barraca on the beach at playa de Cantarijan. In the summer the beach and restaurant is only accessed by bus down a hugely steep hill. At night you can take your car down. I’m not sure I will. It’s very steep. Oh. And it’s one of the areas famous nudist beaches. We went at night. And ate. Fully clothed. Me. Naked. With mozzies. Never. The food and beach is great.

Restaurant La Barraca

It’s in a natural park and there is the fear of fire. You can drive down in the evening. I keep meaning to take a ian there. Maybe  next time.

We hadn’t explored Nerja much until I had a friend staying this time. To be honest it was complete noseiness on my part. Some friends have said they are coming to Nerja early in 2018 and if we were here we should meet up. So i went in search of their hotel. And found a new part of the town I didn’t know was there. Lanes of Tapas Bars and a nice long beach.

The beach at Nerja

The boys are back in town
Nerja

Ian has a weird desire to go to Torelominos. Which we will do. Just for a look – it has nothing to do with the IKEA close by. Honest.

There are hidden gems we have yet to explore along the Costa  Tropical. To explore beyond Malaga on the Costa del Sol. There’s MIjas. There’s Marbella. Worth a visit when we have friends staying. 

There have been a couple of trips to The Alhambra . Visitors say ‘are you sure you want to go again ‘ the answer is always yes. It’s an awesome place to visit and its a bargain. A day visit with entrance two the Nasrid Palace is one €14.95 euro. The Nasrid Palce is awesome and I want to go and visit at night.  The visit is worth it just to see the beauty of that palace. This weekend we visited in the rain. And boy did it rain. 


But the skies were kind to us and we had enough of a clear spell to do the outside.

The drive to Granada is easy and we have earmarked a weekend to stay overnight and explore the town. It looks fabulous. It’s too much to do The Alhambra and Granada town in one day. Unless you are on a tourist trip doing the whole of Eure in a week. Which we are not.

Granada a view from The Alhambra
Of course i have managed to look at the gardens at The Alhanbra on each visit and i have done a bit of a blog already about my August visit. Link to that is here.  A friend has reminded me about the Botanical garden in Malaga. That’s been added to the list. That’s what I love about social media. People tell you things you didn’t know. There are some gardens open in and around Granada so some forward olannning is needed for next year.

This visit  the  general life gardens at the Alhambra  remained colourful but the flowers were going over. I do think that even when not picture perfect the flowers look good. I was still surprised at the planting. In August I thought that the planting looked pretty English.  There were plants I hadn’t seen in a while. Some my parents had grown in the 70’s. Those tall red bedding salvias for one. A lot of orange tagetes. Some plants I want for my garden next year not the previous two but a fabulous euphorbia that was fantastic against the orange. 


There was an abundance of agapanthus the flowers of which I had missed. Come to think of. It. There were no seed heads to be seen when we were there this time.

Colours in the Alhambra gardens Nov 2017
Malaga is interesting as well We will be there for New Year and apparentky they decorate the town at Xmas. Will be interesting to go and see. My friend Helen and I did the Cathedral this time and it was interesting. Shame my pictures weren’t which was disappointing. Must have been all that incense wafting about! There is always a next time.  But at about €6 Euro it’s a bargain.

Street in the old town Malaga

The colours of some  of the houses in the old town are fabulous. We need more time to explore. The Picasso Museum is earmarked for the December trip. As long as I’m not Picasso’d out. I have seen a fair few PIcasso exhibitions these last 18months  but I’m sure the museum here should be fab.  If not there will be more Tapas time.

What  I also find interesting here is the cost of entry into the places of interest. By interesting. I mean how inexpensive it is to vist. Unlike many in the UK.  We have two days in Seville with friends at New Year  which we are all looking forward to. We are so liucky that there is so much within easy reach to visit. Cordoba is on the list for 2018 as well. We have yet to decide whether we drive or let the train take the strain.

But I pinch myself regularly just as to how lucky we are to have such wonderful opportunities.  I didn’t expect retirement to be so exciting   So varied. And such fun

So. It’s not all been about plants. There has been food. Tapas. Of course. An amazing Paella at El Pilon,  a lunch of avacado and spicy prawns at Casa Paco. Food to fuel the gardening. I can’t help myself.

Paella at El Pilon
Toasted avocado and spicy prawn at Casa Paco
For me learning a new language is hard. Last week I learnt a few phrases to introduce my friends to the waiter at the restaurant that we use. A lot. All was well. He understood what I had said. Corrected one word. Then bingo. He replied and my face was like a rabbit in the car headlights. I got the first and last word of the sentence. Nodded my head said Si a lot. And smiled. They need to speak to me like some peiople speak to them. Slowly. Very slowly. BUT I am determined to get there but be prepared for some disasters. Ian is doing brilliantly and we are both looking to arrange one to one conversational classes when we are there. 

I am so looking forward to the next 6 months. the garden is already showing the start of the growth of the bulbs – back to the garden – I know.  it’s exciting to see what will come through.  I have planted alliums. Freesias. Every time I return something new is in flower. In fruit. We have Seville to look forwards to. A trip to Malaga –  suppers with friends. Another season. 

No doubt I’ll let you know. 

      Here comes the rain 

Well I’m back. Not as Gary sang Back for good. But for two weeks. To be honest I’m approaching the last few days of this visit. And the rain that was forecast has arrived. With a vengeance. We drove into town last night in fog. Friends gripping the door handles as we drove along the bits of road where there is a sheer drop. A lovely supper  and it was clear by the time  we left but with thunder crashing in the distance and lightening cracking away. . We just managed to get the cushions off the garden furniture before the heavens opened and the storm hit the mountains. Boy. Did it rain. It persisted. All night. And was pretty torrential. Am I complaing? No. I have planted bulbs seeds and some plants this week!

 I have also made a huge school boy error. I dont like gardening in gloves. Somehow i have rubbed my eye after planting and its swollen. I kook like I’ve done 5 rounds in a boxing ring which is stupid. I wouldn’t even get in the arena. A quick trip to the pharmacy. A bit of Spanglais as neither she or I spoke the others language and I had antiseptic eye drops. Lesson learnt? I doubt it. 

Eye eye Captain

In between visitors I have been cutting back,  pruning, tidying. Unlike Somerset there is no real weeding to do. No ground elder. No Bindweed. But an enourmous amount of leaves from the fruit treees and fallen olives. The olive trees are heavy with olives. ( obviously) and I fear they will all go to waste.

I have taken the opportunity of tidying the bank. Climbing up and like a mountain goat. Well thats how our neighbour described my efforts. A bit of lopping here. A hedge cut. The access road to the house was once a dirt track, now thankfully concrete and easier to navigate. The bank on our side has some large trees.some scabby prickly pears and cactus bordered by a hedge and the smattering of oleander along the drive. I have scattered poppies on the bank. Let’s see what comes. I have struggled to get native Mediterranean wildflower seeds. But I’ll continue trying. 

The access road to the house.

I have cut back the oleander from the gate to expose the two pillars that are there -if they are there why not show them! I have also been tidying the opposite bank behind the house and to the front. There are a couple of pines  which are protected in Spain. Not that I’d want to.

 I have cleared a lot of the pine needles so that any wildflowers that may be lurking in the ground have a chance to appear. But I now understand that the pine needles are a good mulch! A bit late as I have collected barrow loads of them. But I still have a barrow full. 

I love seeing the garden at different times off the day as the light is so very different. Except the dark. It always looks the same. Dark. This was taken from the area where we park the car. Pines. Cactus. It’s a favourite of mine. 

The bank at the rear of the house.
A barrow full of needles

I’m yet to attack the roundabout  – that piece of land we have across the road other than to cut the tips of the end of the agave leaves that were threatening to stab anyone that walked past. Not that many people do but like a Boy Scout you have to be prepared,
There are some pretty big  agaves at the bottom and a number of baby ones growing. I need to dig the small ones and to replant. Something else to add to my list. At least this list is my doing and not the ones that Ian gives me. To be fair. I should say lists. There are three. Some are being reduced. Bit the attic is still to be tackled. 

The large agaves on the roundabout

I have at long last – 5 months in – managed to cut the hedge, its been so hot that the growth has so far been slow but I was warned not to cut it in the heat. Or it may die. To be honest so would I if I’d tried in the heat of the summer. I needed little excuse not to cut it. We have a hedge cutter but the route from plug to hedge is a long one. Around the edge of the pool. Which I could see as a recipe for disaster for me. So I tried to get a cordless one. Hmm try getting a cordless anything here along with a string of garden solar lights.  Total fail. So I ventured on, and managed with a bit of stretching and cursing to have cut it. Please don’t venture to the side on the bank. It’s not pretty.  I have also trimmed a bit of height off the trees in front of the hedge. Thank goodness for the big lopper.  The view to the coast is a bit clearer. Especially when I Put on my glasses. 

A hedge with a view

The town had 24hrs of rain the week before I arrived and it shows. The drive up looked a bit greener. Flowers were back out in the garden. A bit of colour. This Brazilian sky flower has been constant all sunmner. Throw in a background of yellow and bingo. Colour. 

Brazilian sky flower

We have a bourganvellia growing next to the garage. It hasnt done very much in terms of flowering despite my govong it a good talk to and some encouragement. But there is one on the bank. The dry bank. No water. No attention. Dry. Sunny. And blooming lovely. Framed by the fig and the Nespera. 


Talking of which the two trees that we have on the bank are flowering. They also have a nice scent. I was pretty surprised  to see the flowers as i thought it a bit early. But apparently not. I’m hoping for some healthy fruit next year. Which no doubt will all come at the same time. Like the figs. 

Nespera.

I thought that we had little or no fruit on the pineapple guava. But once again I’m proved wrong. Apparently they are ripen when they drop. So I have been collecting some every day. I like the taste. One of my visitors said they tasted like wait for it. Germolene. I hated the smell of that growing up. Along with TCP. I once worked with someone who I swear used TCP as an after shave. 

Pineapple guava
The rest of the fruit is doing well. The oranges are ripening. Again I thought we may lose the trees in this years extreme heat. But there will be some ready for Xmas. There are two pink grapefruit. Still there. Still getting fatter.  


An unknown fruit – maybe a sloe.  


The 5 quinces remain and are getting uglier by the day. If I have time I will make that quince jelly I’ve been meaning to make. For ages. I think I’m being told to do it. One big fat quince has dropped to the ground. 


The succulents are doing well. There are small ones appearing everywhere. I need to move some of them as they are in the wrong places. 

I have moved the two cactus. I know that they are Euphorbium  but Ian bought them as he wanted cactus. And they do look greatagainst the  White wall of the house.  . 


You can tell we have had rain. These have suddenly unfurled from the tight coisednuo balls they were on our last trip. Looking glorious and majestic in the border. Not likethe  aliens they looked like before.  

I’m seeing new cactus I haven’t noticed before. 

A view of the border at the back of the house. It’s pretty steep. 


All of a sudden there are plants appearing in the garden. That’s the joy of a new garden. You never know until you get to the end of the first year what you will find. 


I’m very excited with the bird of paradise plants. We had some flowers in the summer but they seem to have gone mad. 

There are a number scattered around the garden. One in a pot. Most have their Autumn flower spikes. The one at the side of the house strategically placed outside the bathroom window has theee  large flower spikes forming. The one in the pot  has three as well. And the ones in the flower bed have another three between them. To be honest. I wasn’t expecting that. But they are fab. 


The good old lantana continues in the rear bed to give some welcome colour. The one in a pot had suffered a bit but has been cut right back and is sprouting new growth already. I have a policy of hack back and wish for the best. If it works. Bingo if not then there’s a shopping opportunity. Talking of which. 

I called into the garden centre last week on my way into Malaga. . And ordered a load of plants for collecting later in the week. Which I did. And filled the car. Can’t you tell Ian wasn’t here. He would have said ‘do you need all of those plants’.  Yes. I do. And more. 

Have plants will travel
  Some new lavender. Verbascum. Plectranthus. A plant whose leaves and flowers smell like popcorn. It really does. Senna didymobotrya. Oh and like so many of the Mediterranean plants is poisonous. Probably that’s what I rubbed into my eye! 

I have cut back some of the lavender not being brave enough to do it all. I have replanted some slightly lower on one side of the bed so the lights to the gates shine a bit brighter for now. Yes I know. I should have taken the hose away to get the perfect picture. But it’s not perfect. The garden the blog the pictures are all a work in progress!! 


There is still plenty to do. But it hasn’t all been gardening. We have had friends staying. Which means trips out. To the  Alhambra. To the coast. To eat. 

We made our third visit to the Alhambra 

The gardens are going over but there is still some great colour. 

Flowers at the Alhambra
A day at the Alhambra
Granada from the Alhambra
Oh. It’s November. The mornings are chilly admittedly. But when the suns out it’s glorious. So you need a trip to the coast. And we made a few. Nerja. Torre de Mar. For lunch. For a walk. 

Trips to the Coast – Nerja & Torre Del Mar

So Ian and the visitors leave today. I have one full day left on my own in the garden. To move the prunings from the pomegranate. The lavender. To plant the rest of the alliums. To go collect the tulips I have ordered for the pots.  Ready to be planted on the next visit. To hide  them in the fridge from Ian to give them a cold snap before I plant. 

It’s getting colder. We had our first log fire in the new house on Saturday I’m sure there will be more when I’m back. In 12 days time!

Casa Verano Eterno 6 months in 

Has it only been 8 months since we viewed the house and 6 months since we collected  keys and started this  new adventure. Yea. It is. And so far what an adventure. Has it been worth it? Do bears …….


I have photographed. I have blogged. Wittered. . Instagrammed. Rambled on. And on. But I’m still not bored. You may be. I’m not. Asked how it’s going i smile and simply say fantastic.  Because it is. And I absolutely love it. 

We’ve had visitors. A lot of visitors. Which I love. We have more coming this month. Our friend from Somerset. My London neighbours – friends for nearly 30 years. Friends have been with the boys. Who spent the whole week in the pool- the pool I never wanted. Which is in the garden I didn’t want.  I wanted a townhouse. With a terrace. No pool. No garden. In the town. Which isn’t what we found. The moment I walked through the gate my mind was changed. Instantly. Because of the garden.

The  garden is a challenge. We are not there all the time. I worry, but I would worry if there was nothing to worry about. I worry about the watering. About losing plants. About planting. But that’s all part of the challenge. The garden will change. Will adapt to the way we can use it. For now anyway.  The plants are largely drought tolerant but the weather has been hot. Even for Spain, so its been an interesting time to take over an already established garden with Succulents. Palms. Bird of paradise. Agapanthus. Plants I know. Others I don’t so I have to reach out to my twitter gurus for help. And they never let me down.  The watering system works ok. And when it doesn’t it gets fixed.

We are slowly getting things together. Realising what we need. What we don’t need. Where to eat. Where to shop. The town has a great square. You can find me there often. For breakfast. For lunch. For dinner. My place of choice. Casa Paco

My Spanish is still pants. Ian can hold a conversation – he’s getting on great guns. I’m thinking of a crash course. I get by and do try. I haven’t embarrassed myself too much. But even Ian with his progress can get it wrong sometimes. He ordered a roast polish person at our favourite restaurant recently. Thankfully. It wasn’t on the menu. 

The ground is still rock solid. I need to plant the alliums which have arrived from Peter Nyssen. A big  box of lovliness delivered diret to Spain, How convenient is that!


I’m looking for some wildflower seed to scatter on the bank behind and in front of the house, I want to have an explosion of colour in the spring and early summer. Having cut  back the banks for the first time in 6 years I’m hoping there will be some wild flowers there already. 

 I have tulips from our local nursery to collect and plant in pots for the front of the house and the terrace. I have ordered Brown Sugar again this year. They were simply gorgeous last year in London. And Somerset. . I have a hedge to cut which I have left all summer as I didn’t want to kill it. I may just have to do some acrobatic movements to cut parts. Parts of the hedge. Not my body parts. I hope not anyway. 

So my next visit – next week will be a busy one. Rain is forecast for two days this week but I suspect not enough to be able to plant easily. I don’t like bulb planting at the best of times. Its backbreaking and my bones creak as it is, but at least it will still be warm. And dry. Oh. And try getting a bulb planter in Spain. A long handled one that will get through concrete soil. 


Another challemge is pruning. What and when and how. We have a couple of pomegrante in the garden. Apparently they haven’t fruited ever, so they may be ornamental.  But ornamental fruit in a large garden. Why? But our neighbours have some which do. Fruit. I have pomegranate envy. Who would have thought that 6 months ago I would be thinking of fruit like this.  Admittedly the neighbours have  small fruits but fruit never the less, I want them too. But then I want everything. And now. 

There are a couple of figs with delicous black figs. Its a shame that they all ripen at the same time! There are only so many you can eat. For many reasons. There are a couple of loquats, whch again have a short season for fruit  oh and not forgetting  the Almond trees – none of which I have any experience of. I need to read up on Plumbago, jacaranda,lantana and bougainvillea. And on citrus. On palms. On yucca. 


I don’t want to prune and then find I have no flowers or fruit next year as the plant flowers on the previous seasons growth. Fatal error…


I need to realise  – oh and accept – I can’t grow all the lovely things I curerntly grow in the Uk, but have  to adapt to a new Mediterranean planting.  As I said. I want it all. I’m surprised at how well I have coped with change. 


I’m going to be bold with the lavender path. Its gorgeous but has become a bit straggly  in parts. So I have seen people recommend a hard cut back provided there is some new growth. I did two before I left last time and planted two new ones as well so I will see how they have fared. If it doesn’t work then I will replant the path. 

We need to decide on the Prickly pears. 


They have been ravaged again this year with cochineal fly. I have saved one by washing it down and removing the fly before they can take hold. but the ones on the bank are sad. They were all cut back two years ago in what sounds like a sceme from a horror movie. The red of the cochineal getting everywhere. I think I will find a man that does! Because this man won’t. 


It’s not all been gardening. There has been some leisure time. A sit on the terrace. A drive down the wiggly or windy road – there are  two options takes us to the coast. I’m not a great lover of laying on the beach soaking up the sun getting sand in places I can no longer reach. I get bored easily. But the coastline is gorgeous and we haven’t really explored it much. Nerja is a short drive away. 


 In the other direction Torre Del Mar. Both very different.  Except for the weather. And people on the sun loungers. All lined up in rows. As the sun moves so do the loungers. Except at 1.30 there is a mass exodus of people. To the little bars serving sardines being cooked on the beach. 

So I forgot that this blog was sitting waiting to post. I’m now here. And it rained last week. One set of visitors have been and gone. I’m waiting for the next and for Ian. There has been planting. Excursions. But I can’t stop. I have plants to collect. But don’t tell Ian.