A tale of Three Gardens ~ part 1

The question or sometimes the Statement is. “So you have three gardens?” Often the reaction to the answer is ” that’s a bit greedy ” you must be loaded” ” are you mad”: but the answer is ” a little bit mad. Yes” Greedily loaded. “no”; the real answer is circumstantial ~ we never set out for three. Two yes. But not three. And yes it’s a struggle to juggle. At some point there will be two. Not yet. But there will. Only one of them is non negotiable ~ and we go through stages of which of the other two will be the second permanent with one today being a strong contender. But tomorrow ……

When I met Ian nearly three decades ago I was living in a one bedroom flat. No garden. Not even a window box. Ian moved in ~ travelling between his flat in SW london and mine in SE london was a pain. Realising that the papers for your meeting were across London became a pain in the posterior. That your suit was not where it should be.

Ian wanted to buy a house somewhere but we didn’t want to move in London and at that stage we weren’t sure if the relationship would last ~ Which now nearly thirty years later is hilarious.

So Ian bought the cottage so we could work in London and stay at the flat. Then head off to the cottage on a Thursday or Friday ~ us and the two cats. To a cottage furnished with second hand furniture and a decent sized garden. Ten years later we bought the cottage next door and to quote the Spice girls “Two became one’.

So if you want to be pedantic. It’s 4. The gardens were merged together so technically it’s one ~ I’ll stop as I’m confusing myself. And this continued for the next 24 years until we threw a spanish spanner in the works. Which added to retirement changed everything.

Though I had loved helping my parents garden when I was living at home I hadn’t had a garden myself for a long time. Finally we moved from the flat ~ now I’m not one for a massive change so we moved a couple of hundred yards down the road to a house and we have been here 17 years. See how I don’t like change. To a house. With a garden. Madness.

Those that know understand it’s more a patio garden here. Tiny. Though big enough for us to dig up a cooker ! ( yes, honestly) and all manner of things when we started to renovate the house.

The question I get asked is ” Are the gardens different? ” Umm. Chalk cheese and concrete come to mind. A cottage garden. A small patio garden and a hot Mediterranean garden. Somerset has fabulous soil. London I garden in pots. Spain. I garden with pick axes. In Somerset we have sufficient water. In Spain water is a luxury. We have some common plants in all three gardens. Agapanthus is the main one. Honeysuckle is another. Salvia Amistad.

The cottage garden

When we bought no 3 the cottage garden was in good shape except for a hideous hedge that had grown into trees at the bottom of the garden. Eventually they came out. The borders widened. Fruit trees planted ~ some do well. Some will be replaced. The plums are pretty non existent but the apples do well. Gooseberries. Raspberries. Red currants blunder through and need a good prune and a bit of tlc. This years crop sit in the freezer ready for a day of red currant jelly Making.

All we did when we bought no 4 was to remove the fence. It was that easy. I remember on completion day going straight out and started taking the fence down. Like an animal marking the boundaries.

View from the bedroom

These photographs were taken in July this year. Our first visit to the cottage in 6 months following lockdown. During lockdown we stayed in London but the grass was cut and some weeding done ~ trust me we have the National collection of ground elder and bindweed. No matter how much we have tried it comes back. And back again. Usually with a vengeance. ~ I’ve learnt not to stand too still for too long. Otherwise it’s up to my waist. I’d managed to prune the roses so we had had a good first flush. To be fair a number need replacing but that goes onto a list of things to do. Of which I have three separate lists. Obviously. And that’s just gardening lists.

We have a tsunami of golden rod. I hate it and I’m forever pulling it up and disposing of it. It’s fine in places. But. ,,,,,,, to be honest it’s got to go.

The garden has suffered over the last three years as I have split my time unequally but hopefully we are now in a pattern where we can get back on top of it. Funny that I’d said that at the start of the year and then look what happened.

I’d spent some time in February doing some work on the garden and our summer was planned. August and September in Somerset. How things changed.

View from the river

The garden falls down to a small river. Come the Summer you can walk across it and not get your feet wet. We are in a valley and after heavy rains the little Pitt fills up pretty quick. This picture is when we had the steps put in ~ a few years ago. It needs a bit of a tidy now. Can you imagine Ian and I sat here with a glass of wine on a balmy evening? I wouldn’t. It doesn’t happen. If you ever see a public display of affection I’ll slip you a fiver.

It’s usually me trying to get a phone signal standing on one leg on the bench waving my hands in the air. Not a pretty sight and not the thing to do when the bench really needs replacing.

I started to cut things back in July ~ but remember we hadn’t been here been for 6 months. Plants don’t stop growing in a pandemic! Especially in a wet Somerset garden.

WC anyone?

Need the loo anyone? The old loo 100 ft down the garden close to the river for obvious reasons. No signs of that today ~ Funny enough we have loos indoors.

The door needs repairing and that clump of Crocosmia splitting as it never flowers.

Ian’s not running away. Not this time. We worked hard as a team in February. I didnt throw my toys out of the pram once. Well maybe a rattle and a dummy but we didn’t stop. He did keep saying when are you off to Spain. I’d like to think he was just checking dates but in reality he knew once I was away he could sit and relax.

Umm. We were busy ~ so busy that my godson came along with his tractor to take away the garden rubbish.

But despite the neglect we have worked hard to get some normality back. A boot full of new plants from the plant stand at Ultimg Wick and our friend Phillipa Burrough and some canna and agapanthus from Todds Botanics together with some plants that have done well despite the neglect we have made a start. Next is to plant some daffodil and narcissi bulbs but bulbs aren’t great in the garden. The ground can get too wet. But il going to have another bash.

I am yet to see the result of the July work and planting as I’ve been away for over 8 weeks and I’m now in quarantine for two. But I have had some photographs. The friend who sent them mentioned the grass needed cutting and she would get onto it. Which is easy as it’s her husband who does it. I shall be back shortly and again it will be a week of gardening.

Thankfully we don’t have a front garden. . The cottage opens onto the lane with a small gravel border. In the spring it’s planted with tulips. In the summer generally geraniums but again this year it’s not been a normal year. So it was agapanthus. Did I mention I like agapanthus.

I did manage to plant the tulips in the Autumn. Ok. I admit it. I’m a bit of a show off. I plant all new tulips each year ~ all in pots so it’s easy. I’ve tried explaining to Ian that it will look good and he just raises an eyebrow. Until he sees them and I get the eyebrow of approval. If he saw the invoice for the spring bulbs he would raise both.

This year I had to rely on friends and neighbours for photographs and a friend who runs past the cottage most days ~ not because she’s scared ~ she’s a runner ~ who posts the photos of the tulips on Instagram and tags me.

This year we missed flowering in Somerset and in Spain. Sad but the joy the photographs from both gardens and the thoughtfulness of friends was heart lifting. Good friends and good neighbours are worth their weight in gold. So are fabulous bulbs from Peter Nyssen.

These are some of the photos that were sent to me during lockdown. Good neighbours and friends ~ who obviously watered them through the weeks and months we weren’t able to be there. Using water from Jacks Shute just across from the cottage which has lovely spring water. Quite where it comes from we don’t know. I just wish I had a similar water source in Spain.

Previous year tulips

We have planted agapanthus this year in pots at the front of the cottage as we were too late for geraniums! Big tall white agapanthus which will be used again. We had ordered from our friends at Todds Botanics. I had a message from the courier. I called back and he said he had delivered the plants. I opened the door. Nothing. I called back. He was adamant he’d delivered. So he sent me a photo. He was right. To london and they were there on the doorstep waiting for me. Me. I was 125 miles away ! Schoolboy error. Mine.

To be continued.

Part2. London.

8 Weeks later

I can’t quite believe it’s been eight weeks since I arrived in Spain. After six months of being away from the Pueblo Blanco and the garden. When we bought La Casa we said we wouldn’t be here in August because of the heat, we did in 2017 as friends wanted to come and visit. 2017 was fine. 2020 was not. I like the sun. I like the heat. But to be honest there is heat and there’s heat. This year also meant that every time I stepped out of the gate on went a face mask. In extreme heat. Some people may look good. Hot. Sweaty. Posed. Me. Well I don’t look good at all. Try walking up la Rampa in late 30* heat. If I looked any way decent at the bottom ( of the Rampa ) I sure didn’t at the top.

But 2020,is no normal year. I arrived on an air bridge which two weeks later was taken away. There is no certainty in travelling this year at all.

Competa

It’s been a funny eight weeks. Five of them on my own until Ian arrived although there was,morning coffee and supper with the neighbours and supper in town with friends. I was there to garden ~ but try gardening in that heat. Watering at midnight or at 6am in the dark, trust me it’s not easy. When we moved in there were pick axes lined up in the garage. I thought. Hi ho hi oh it’s off to work we go. I now know why they are there. Outside the rainy period which is brief but often pretty heavy the ground is as dry and as hard as cement! Planting is nigh impossible. And you know when you read ” drought tolerant ” but really your looking for desert plants. This year well it’s been that.

I read my book constantly these days before buying anything. And take advice from the author who owns the garden centre just outside town. Back in February I bought a Colocasia mojito just as I was leaving. I asked if she would keep it in the poly tunnel until I was back in a month after returning from Mexico. She kindly agreed. Six months later it was delivered! She’d looked after it for us.

It wasn’t all sunning myself. Topping up my tan. It was none of that. Afternoons in an air conditioned room watching Netflix. With an occasional 15 minutes into the garden and then back inside. To lie down in a cold room. And I’m not joking. But I did manage to fill a skip. We had had the jacaranda cut back in March and the cuttings and branches had been left in the drive. There was an idea of cutting them up for the wood burner. That idea soon went out of the window. It was hard enough filing the skip before 8am and after 10pm. I wasn’t going to cut up wood as well.

Before anyone tells me. I know I shouldn’t have cut things back in that heat. But nothing had been cut in 6 months. Salvia were leggy ( I didn’t cut them). The gaura were leggy. ( they had been cut ) partly by someone who had been going in once a week to check the plants. But the Australian wisteria had gone bonkers and needed to be cut back from the gate. Some of the oleander were not only running away with themselves but with everything else. The yellow jasmine on the drive had gone bonkers. So I pruned. A little. ( lies. It was. A lot) on the basis that when I return to the UK who knows when I will be back.

Things needed repotting. The two ferns in front of the garage were by the pool. They had grown so large one had broken its pot so we had to re pot them. We bought the new pots ~ and I remembered not to ask the stupid question I asked in year 1. ” Are they frost feee”. But of course they were too big to go by the pool so 2.5/bags of compost each and they were placed in front of the garage. I don’t know why but the ferns gave f bonkers this Spring and Summer.

Having tidied the garage and kitchen beds and tidied the path it’s good for another few months.

I’ve had to remove one or two of the giant leaves off the Strelitzia Nicolai as you risked being smacked in the face as you came into the garden. I removed probably ten yucca shoots to give a bit more air and light from near to the gate and planted a few more gaura which have become my favourite plant this year. Inspired by a friends garden in Essex who has a gorgeous path planted with gaura I decided to plant some mixed with lavender along this path. The lavender was great for the first two summers but I replaced most of it as it had become too woody. Some has been fine. Some hasn’t. But the gaura has been gorgeous. Like little white butterflies hovering.

Gorgeous gaura

White gaura on the path. Red in the beds. Hopefully I will be able to cut them back properly and at the right time to get an even better display next year.

Salvia Oxyphora

I’d waited nearly 6 weeks for the flowers of the Salvia oxyphora to appear. The plant needed to have been cut back a bit but it was too late to do it this year. So the plant is tall and leggy ~ unlike me ~ but it was worth the wait for the lovely flowers.

The oleander has gone over earlier this year. There is still some flower about but a number of the plants have already started to form their magnificent seed pods. Long and thin they open up,as they ripen with fabulous furry seeds inside. I have cut a number of them off before they throw their seeds around the garden. Oh and thanks to everyone that reminded me. All parts of the oleander are poisonous. But then again so are so many of the plants in this garden.

Oleander seed heads

We have some pretty large agave on the roundabout that’s not a roundabout. I don’t want them to flower as soon as they do the large plant dies and I’m happy to look at other peoples plants flowering! These are spiteful devils. I’m sure they move when you are near and spike you given the chance.

Massive Agave

We seems to have been lucky this year. No nasty little processionary caterpillars on the three pine trees on the bank. They really are nasty little blighters and we get someone in to remove them as soon as we see the tell tale white nests in the trees. Dangerous to young children and to dogs. The caterpillars. Not the people we get in.

The garden still has some colour and interests which is surprising as it’s been so hot for so long and without rain. The flowers of the. Have returned. The gorgeous leaves of the nispero or loquat are standing high. The black aeonium is looking good but let’s not linger ba on the one dahlia flower. The smallest dahlia I have ever seen. Come late September and October the garden will get its second wind. The osteospermum will be back in flower as will the salvias.

There has been fruit. As well as the almonds. I haven’t picked the almonds this year. I didn’t want to venture into the area where we have them as it had not been strimmed and the dried grass and wildflowers are scratchy and itchy. Call me what you like.

But to be fair I have last years and the years before In the cupboard. We have grapes which have been picked. All 3 kilos and frozen. Who freezes grapes? Me. So I can make grape and rosemary jelly when I have time. It works. Back in February I picked the windfall lemons from next door ( with permission as Laura will read this) and sliced and juiced them for the freezer.

Waste not want not. This year I made more limoncello. That too is in the freezer. Along with the juice in ice cube bags! The figs were poor again. Well I suspect they’ve been and gone but there were a few. The pineapple guava is just getting the fruit. I don’t mind missing them. They are ok. Ish. But a friend described them as tasting like germolene. I think that’s a bit harsh. But as I hate the smell of gerolene and TCP I try and avoid both.

Now I know I have moaned about the heat and to be fair I went down the mountain only once when I was on my own. Not because I was scared but because it was too hot and I was too lazy. But when Ian arrived he was more encouraging about getting out and about. As long as I was driving.

Twenty minutes drive down the mountain is Caleta de Vélez a marina and the main fishing port for the Malaga region. We usually eat at El Camarote with views over the marina and fabulous fish. Then a walk along the promenade toward Algarrobo. I love watching the fisherman lay out the nets and sew them to repair any breaks.

Oh. And the food is delicious.

Caleta de Vélez

One of the other places we usually take a drive to is down the other road. We have the windey and wiggly. People have their favourites. But we always head to Nerja. For a walk along the Balcón de Europe. I was surprised just how quiet it was this year. I know that we are in the middle of a pandemic but it’s did take me back. The little beach with the old fisherman’s cottage on the beach itself was being monitored. One person off. One person on. That’s social distancing etiquette for you.

Nerja

No visit would be the same without eating out either in the plaza Almijara which I did numerous times at my favourite Casa Paco. Where my dietary requirements are well known. Where the fabulous staff can order direct for me.

Or to El PIlon to see my friends Dani & Loli.

Mi amigos. Dani & Loli y El PIlon

Masks. Let’s talk masks. In Spain it was second nature. Leave the house. Teeth. Keys. Wallet. Mask. To be worn outside the house ( not in the garden obviously);whenever you went out. In the car if you were travelling with another household. In the shops. In the streets. And everyone complied. You rarely saw anyone that didn’t.

So we have made the best of our visit. The thought of quarantine doesn’t fill me with joy. But rules are rules and we will comply. 14 days is a small price to pay for 8 weeks in paradise.

Who knows when we will return.

Hello again hello. Spain 2020

I’ve been in Spain now for two and a half weeks. Alone. Ian should have arrived on Sunday with our friend Mary to a fridge full of food. Rose wine. Aperol. Now due to quarantine rules on return to the U.K. the decision had been made that no insurance added to quarantine wasn’t the risk to be taken. Best made plans.

You won’t find me in the garden for the next 10 days. I’ll be munching myself through the fridge. Not the fridge itself. But it’s contents.

Me ? I feel safe here. Safer than in the U.K? yes. I’m in an area where there isn’t a spike. Masks are mandatory. It’s become second nature when you leave the house. Teeth. Keys. Car keys. Wallet. Phone. Masks. Plural. In case you lose one you have another. To be worn as soon as you leave the garden gate. In the town. Shops. The bank. Taken off when sitting down for eating and drinking. Everyone is complying.

Oh. And at the garden centre where they have a fab sign that they have made.

Talking of garden centres. I’ve been. Three Clivias. An agapanthus. And a large strelitzia Nicolai. Maybe I should have worn the mask over my eyes.

The weather is hot. When I say hot I mean hot. Very. Too hot to walk on the terrace without shoes. This morning I watered the garden at 6am. It was probably dry within an hour. It’s that hot. It’s watering either at midnight or very early.

I haven’t done very much in the garden to be fair. A bit of cutting here. A bit of pruning there. Surveying the situation ~ a lot. But the garden is constantly changing. Things appearing this week that weren’t there last. Things that were there have gone over.

Let’s talk quince. Last year the tree was full. There were so many I was making quince jelly like crazy. The last of it is in the fridge and I was hoping I’d be able to restock. Well I may later in the year when I buy the fruit from a shop down the windey not wiggly road. In Nerja. I have never seen them for sale in the Uk. But maybe I just haven’t looked. I’m hoping it’s a fruit that does one good year then one bad year. It may also be the heat. This will be a constant theme. The heat.

I’ve missed the alliums flowering. Missed as I have been in lockdown London. What are left are the heads of the Alliums Summer drummer. This one nearly 6ft tall. Soon to be picked and brought in for the vase of last years dried flowers.

Note to self. Order more summer drummer from Peter Nyssen.

The citron “buddhas hand” has started flowering whilst I’ve been here. It’s an odd one. Not the most attractive of citrus but a very fragrant one. It’s segmented into fingers . Often crooked looking. No pulp. Often no juice. If any a little only. No pith. As in no pith. Used for candied peel. In salads. Whenever you need fragrant zest. The biggest problem I get is having the fruit to set.

Two years ago I drowned a lime tree. A foolish schoolboy error. I thought I’d put a drainage hole on the pot. Obviously I didn’t. It drowned. I re potted it and pampered. I have been lucky as It’s survived and this year is covered with limes. I’ll be making limencello if that’s a thing. To add to the limoncello.

I have been up to the back of the house where we have four almond trees. But I went at dusk. There aren’t as many almonds this year. They definetely a one year good one year bad crop. I have to admit I’m not too bothered. I still have last years in the garage and they are a hard nut to crack.

I’m not going to mention oranges. Well I have. We have two. Not trees. Oranges. I don’t know what’s happened this year. I am blaming the weather on everything.

The lantana is as tough as old boots. Again it’s appeared over night again. Three different colours and are not that well tended. Them the flowers appear and look great.

Ruella. Mexican Petunia. Never heard of it before but it’s such a pretty flower. The flowers last just for a day ~ I am getting one at a time at the moment but the plant is a decent size so I’m hoping for more to come out all together

We have a few different jasmines in the garden. ~ Jasminum grandiflorum is a bit scrappy on the bank but the scent is lovely. Jasmine Azoricum. Another lovely scent said to be lemon scented but I don’t get it. It is a native of Madeira. It’s a slow grower or it may just be the poor soil. Jasmine trachelospermum on the garage wall. Yellow winter jasmine ( not a favourite ) but it adds colour when there is little else flowering. And this one. Jasmine Sambac. A sweetly scented jasmine and used to flavour jasmine tea in China.

The flowers of the Society garlic are so pretty and delicate. Grown in the border by the pool and in a pot on the terrace. Tulbaghia violacea.

Said to be drought tolerant. Let’s talk drought tolerant. In this garden there’s drought tolerant and there’s drought tolerant. These like a bit of a drink to get good flowering in this garden.

Hello hibiscus. A gorgeous yellow flower with a gorgeous red throat. Another flower that has virtually appeared over night. Such a beauty. Grown in a pot on the terrace.

I planted these crocosmia from Peter Nyssen last year and they did nothing. But they have flowered this year in a place I can’t remember planting them. Maybe they did flower last year. Maybe I’d planted them in a different place. Maybe I should do what I’ve been promising myself. Do a garden plant list.

This must be the smallest Daucus Carota I have ever seen. It’s self seeded on the bank at the back of the house. It’s a small flower. Guess what I’m blaming. You’ve got it. The weather.

I thought I had missed the flowers on the scented pelargoniums. They are in the wall planter and the scent as you brush by is lovely. I may get a second flush.

I love the strelitzia we have in the garden. Both strelitzia reginae and strelitzia Nicolai. I missed the two flowers on the Nicolai. They are stunning flowers and to miss them this year was a shame. But there’s always next year. When I arrived the two flowers were well and truly dying. But they were so spooky as you walk up the garden path. It looked like a prehistoric monster. So unlike the beautiful black/blue white flower when it is in full bloom.

It sounds stupid to say but I found this cactus flowering on the bank as you drive down to the road. I pass it at least twice a day. But in the car. It’s on a bank I only go onto if I really have to. Not without a mobile phone and my nerve. It’s not for the faint hearted. I have twice slipped and travelled part of the way down. Trust me. It’s not a pretty sight. The bank or me.

But this cactus ~ name unknown has a simply gorgeous flower. With some more to come. Don’t get too close. It’s spiky.

Talking succulents. These were saved from the window sill by our neighbour. Absolutely roasting in the sun. Now placed somewhere more sensible they are doing well and throwing out flowers.

It’s not all sitting indoors watching Netflix with the aircon on. Surprisingly I haven’t left the mountain in nearly three weeks. But I have been into town to shop.

I’ve put the barbecue on to cook the fruit to have for breakfast with yoghurt.

I’ve eaten at the local restaurants. Drunk coffee at others. Shopped local and seen friends. So whilst I’m complaining about the weather it’s been brilliant to see friends I haven’t seen for 5 months.

With a potential quarantine if I return to the Uk they may be seeing me more than they would expect these next few months!

Post Lockdown ~ back to Spain

After nearly five months I’m back. Not in the words of Take That ‘ back for good’ but back for three weeks. Am I happy to be back. Well the journey was different. Did I feel safe? Yes. The airport both at London City amd Malaga were well organised. British Airways managed the boarding and disembarkment really well. No fighting for room in the aisles or people stuffing their cases into the overhead lockers. But all done civilly. Whilst wearing masks. I like this mask thing. You can’t see me scowling when people hack me off on a flight.

So I’m back. Singular. Ian arrives in two weeks time. We haven’t got to nearly 30 years by being together 24/7. We’ve coped like everybody else by lurching from one meal to another. Social distancing as usual. From each other. So we were determined to get our break from each other.

Did I cry when I arrived. Almost. I’d given up seeing the garden this year if I was honest. We have been lucky to have had it watered. To have things tidied. Cut back. But it’s never the same unless you do it. That sounds ungrateful. Which I’m not. Let me just say good neighbours are worth their weight in gold and ours are worth more than that. They have been exceptional. Not only with the garden but I arrived to the windows open the fridge stocked and the hot water on. I couldn’t ask for more.

I have sat and relaxed. To be honest the heat has meant that I have been unable to do much at all. There’s hot and there is hot. This week it’s hot. Very.

The garden is quiet green. The alliums are over and the heads of the Summer Drummer are drying nicely. They will be picked for the vase for the house. The drumstick alliums are in various stages of flower. Some half out. Some definitely over. Any others I’ve planted have been and gone for another year. Or they haven’t been at all.

When I left in February the Colocasia Black Magic was growing. Not well. But I hadn’t lost it over the winter. Now it’s leaves are large but aren’t as dark as I would like. It’s in too much direct sunlight so it’s been moved a little to get some more shade.

Colocasia black magic

I have moved the pots around and I have uncovered a colocasia mojito which I thought I’d lost. Small still but it’s alive. I also have an enourmous pot waiting for me at the garden centre. Bought in Feb I asked them to keep it for a month. It will arrive this week. I think I have the ideal spot for it.

Colocasia mojito

I was delighted that the straggly plant of Sesbania Pucinea still had some flowers hanging in there. Lovely orange pea like flowers followed by green seed pods which turn brown as they age. The seed pods are as fabulous as the plants. Especially as they are about to burst. I must sow some of the seed in pots to grow on for other parts of the garden. The height gives it colour at a good level.

Another lovely flower which is giving colour to the garden is the duranta repens. A gorgeous violet blue flower followed by golden berries, The berries appear provided the birds haven’t stripped the seed.

Duranta repens

There are a number of Oleander in the garden. White. Pink. & red flowers. I know these are poisonous and I am careful when cutting pruning and picking. But they are pretty tough and an attractive colour in the garden. And drought tolerant. You can guess that as they are a staple along the centre of the highways.

Oleander

We have one prickly pear cactus in the garden which I have been nurturing since we arrived. The cochineal fly has decimated these cactus in the Andalucia region and they are a sorry sight as you wind your way up the wiggly road. This one has done well and I worried that 5 months neglect would have seen it off.

But we have chumbos. The fruit of the cactus and commonly called prickly pear. These are edible and friends in the village were surprised last year that we had them as they are not as common as they were.

Opuntia

Chumbos

The jasmines are all but over. Some straggler flowers of the jasmine azoricum remain. The others have long gone over.

I think that the jasmine sambac which is so sweet smelling has a second flush of buds. Hopefully it will open before we leave again.

By the window in a pot is a lovely Stephanotis. It’s waxy white flowers and fabulous shaped petals giving off a heady scent in the heat of the day. I wasn’t sure if this would survive but it has and this year it has more flowers than the last three summers.

Stephanotis

Close to the sweet smell of the Stephanotis is quite a different aroma from the growth under the old Olive tree. A smell of curry. The Helichrysum italicum ~ commonly known as the curry plant has grown like crazy. I usually keep it well trimmed but not being here it’s overtaken everything around it. Will have the chop soon.

But sitting on the terrace this week having an afternoon drink with the neighbours I was asked if I was cooking a curry. The intense heat of the afternoon and a slight breeze had the waft of curry coming across the terrace. Not unpleasant for 30 seconds.

Helichrysum italicum

Along with the obligatory rubber plant my parents had a Swiss cheese plant as house plants when I was growing up. Throw in a Christmas and Easter cactus a maidenhair fern in the bathroom and that was the extent of the houseplants. I never expected to inherit a monstera in the garden though. I have seen some in La Concepción Jardín Botánico-Historico de Málaga and they are huge. This one hasn’t grown much in 3 years but to be fair I’m happy that it hasn’t. I’m not over keen but it can stay where it is. Maybe it will grow on me.

monstera deliciosa

The euphorbia candelabrum were Ians idea and are in pots on the terrace. I think we need to plant them in the ground on the drive. They have thrived but are slow growers. But I like them.

Euphorbia candelabrum

I’m also very happy to see the foxtail agaves doing well. We have three. This one which was in a pot when we moved in, a second that is in the ground at the rear of the house which is also doing well and one more that is small and in a pot. I really love the shape of the leaves and having seen one flowering down in Nerja virtually on the beach, the flower is awesome. A great big plume of flower is thrown out. I’m not sure if this agave dies after flowering or not. I need to check.

Agave attenuata

We have gone ferntastic on the terrace. We started with two. There are now 4 on the terrace.

Another two at the head of the pool. Two in the pool bed and one under the window. All are doing well. The smaller ones could do with potting up a size or two. If I have time ….

Hello Aeonium. I love these and my aim is to have a display like the ones at the front door of Ulting Wick.

Aeonium

I have had a move around of pots and the garden furniture to get as much shade from the overhead umbrella as is possible.

A walk to the roundabout that’s not a roundabout. Oh my. I’ve missed the wildflowers and weeds. All now dried to a crisp. Except the oleander and a couple of bit fat agave. I forgot to check the fig tree. That’s saved for another day.

There are some flowers seed heads. on one of the small succulents.

There are drying seed heads on most of the wildflowers.

It’s great to be back. Ian arrives in a weeks time with a friend of ours for 10 days. I need to concentrate on getting things ship shape before they arrive.! I have made a start.

For now. I’ll sit and chill.

Six on Saturday Somerset.

We have finally made it to Somerset. I was last here at the beginning of February when I tidied the garden. Cut some things back. Looked at the tulips slowly poking through.

Now I’m back after nearly 5 months. The tulips are over. The bindweed is strangling the plants and things have had sun rain sun rain so have run away with themselves. And everything else.

But there is colour under the bindweed green.

One of two honeysuckles in the garden. This one actually hangs over the fence from next door. But I’m not complaining. It’s very different to honeysuckle number two.

This one is honeysuckle Graham Thomas and goes crazy every year over an arch. It has a fabulous scent.

Hello Astrantia. These grow so well in the garden that I need to get some more. When we moved here we bought Astrantia Hadspen Blood from the old Hadspen garden. A fabulous garden with a wonderful nursery run by Sandra and Nori Pope. The gardens are now the Newt in Somerset.

I’m so glad this has survived. The lovely echinops which will be full of bees tomorrow.

Pink roses. This rose bush never fails to deliver. I pruned it late and hard this year and still it flowers and flowers. It’s be in now for years.

We also have currants. The black currants are over. The gooseberries hanging on a little. A few red gooseberries which are so sweet I can eat them off the bush. But we have masses of Red currants . As well as weeding and tidying there will be red currant jelly making I think.

Lockdown Walks

We arrived back from 3 weeks in Mexico just as lockdown went into operation. Three weeks of walking  and sightseeing. Climbing mexican pyramids, looking at art, eating   and garden visits. Then back to a walk once a day, and those 20,000 daily steps soon dropped. Massively.

But we found our groove pretty early on as we pushed ourselves to go on a daily walk. Trust me. Some days it was a push. Even if it meant just a walk around the block admiring other peoples gardens. Not that I’m nosey. Not much ~ that’s why I love NGS open gardens. But after living in the area for over 30 years the walks introduced me to places I had only skirted around before.

Yes I had been to Peckkam Rye but did I know before lockdown that there was a lovely garden in the centre? Did I kow that Brockwell Park in Brixton had a magnificient walled garden? Had I heard of Russia Docks, that the walk at One Tree hill was lovely.? No.No.No.No.No.

Well I do now

Take Peckham Rye park. A good walk through the back streets to get there for us. Across the common where people are working out, where mothers are walking with their children, joggers and cyclists  Across to the centre and to the garden  A garden with a lovely wisteria walk. A Japanese garden. The Sexby garden. A lake – who knew? Everyone I suspect except me.

 

 

Brockwell park

I drive past the park often on our way to friends or on our way to Somerset  I lived close to, the park in 1982 and have been in a few times since. To the Lambeth Show, to Pride celebrations. But why hadn’t I ventured further into the park and found the walled gardem. In lockdown we have all been looking for that extra something. In my case it was often four and yeast but also stretched to new gardens and parks to be able to wander and get that fresh air.

 

Beckenham place park

This is one that simply wasn’t on my radar. Not a clue until a friend mentioned she had been there in an instagram post so I looked it up, About 7 miles from us it was once a golf course and now a new municipal park. Helped with a £6M lottery grant the 96 hectare site has been remodeeled into a recreational and natural park  boasting a 45m wide wild swimming lake and you can still see the bunkers. Not in the lake obviously.

The grounds include a georgian mansion built around 1773 and which is currently being run to hold arts events, yoga classes with a bar in the basemet but all on hold at present because of COVID 19.

Add a pretty garden and outbuildings housing a cafe and you have a fabulous walking place and with 96 hectares you don’t feel that it is busy.

Russia Dock Woodland

Another one off our radar. Russia docks was a working dock in Surrey Quays and was used to import soft wood from Sweden and Russia. The docks were closed in the 1970;s  and were planted as a woodland of 34 acres in 1980. It is a lovely woodland park which also includes the Stave Hill Ecological Park.

There are areas of wildflowers and a lake along with the lovely woodland walks.

 

Horniman Museum Gardens

Another one we had driven past as we winded our way through East Dulwich and beyond. We have walked through the gardens a nuber of times in lockdown and they like most gardens change on a daily basis. With 16 acres and a stunning view over London the gardens were some of the most colourful during lockdown and are educational as well as visibly gorgeous.

 

 

 There have been others. One Tree Hill. Burgess Park and Greenwich Park. A walk over Tower Bridge and through St Katherines Dock. A walk along the Thames to view the floating gardens as the Downings Road Moorings or Garden Barge Square, the gardens  can be viewed from the shore at  anytime but for a close-up view, you’ll need to visit on a NGS open day.

 As gardens have opened we have been to RHS Hyde Hall. To Nymans National Trust. Lockdown has had some benefits. We have found and re found local parks and gardens. Hats off to Southwark Lambeth and Lewisham councils.

Bottoms up.

 

Twitter. @pitcombe

InstAgram @pitcombe123

 

 

Six on Saturday.

My first six on Saturday for a while. We are still in lockdown London having followed the guidelines.

Did I mention I like Alliums. Probably. Definitely. This year is a good year for them in the garden here. This is the tall white made even taller as its potted in an old chimney pot.

The fabulous red trailing thyme which I bought from Pepperpot herbs and which had become a firm favourite. In a window box. In a little pot on the garden table. The bees love it as much as I do.

A canna with no name. Tall. Only one flower as the others blown away in the wind. A species canna I believe. Very pretty and I’m hoping for more flowers.

Gorgeous Gaura. New this year and bought from Burncose. I fell in love with a gaura path at Philippa Burrough open garden last year. It’s a lovely plant

with little butterfly like flowers dancing above the other plants.

Another Agapanthus. This time one of the blues. There are more blues than whites in the pots.

As well as agapanthus the front pots include Canna. I love the dark leaves of this one. There is one darker in the back garden but the leaves are as lovely as the flowers which will come later. Probably when I’m not here in London!

Lockdown in London

What a difference a week makes. One week we were in Mexico City slightly (me hugely) worrying if we would get home. Normally I wouldn’t have minded being delayed for a month in Mexico. But not in the current climate! I had visions of being locked down there unable to get back. Other guests at the fabulous b&b from Canada had been advised to return. Airports were closing. Flights cancelled. Choices limited. But thankfully our flight was fine and we arrived back to London with a week or so to spare before we went into lockdown. Phew.

Had we had time we would have decamped to the cottage in Somerset. But in reality and in retrospect staying put has been the best decision. We can and do walk to the local shops. We have a brilliant butcher. Greengrocer. Pharmacy. All within 10 mins walk. We also have Kings hospital close by in case of emergencies.

I so wanted to start the dance from The Full monty in this queue on Saturday. Could you imagine Ian’s face? Especially as one of the debit card transactions was declined. You know the ones. They decline. Send a text to check and say you have to confirm in 2 mins. You don’t get the text until 10 later. Worse thing was I’d left my wallet at home and was using Ians card. I was in the shop. He was outside.

I’ve used deliveries from our local farm shop in Somerset. From our local coffee roasters in Bruton. We haven’t wanted for anything. Well that’s not quite true. The occasional bag of flour. And a week on my own (there I’ve said it). Whilst waiting at the airport to fly home I ordered bags of flour online and I will continue to use them post lockdown. However that may be. I will also at the end of lockdown have that week on my own.

The major benefit of lockdown is that we have been in one place for longer than I have been in the last 5 years. The opportunity to spend some time in the tiny garden here. Rather than there. Or there. It is tiny but I’m so glad to have some outside space. The other benefit has been seeing the tulips slowly open. Then boom. An explosion and a riot of colour. Normally we would have been away at this time of year for Easter. Easter is huge in Spain with the Semana Santa celebrations in every Pueblo Blanco and town and it’s amazing to be part of the community for these festivals. Oh. And I love our little pueblo blanco.

I have filled my Instagram timeline with tulips. More tulips. And even more tulips. I make no excuses as they have been amazing this year. My brother told me ‘ at least you’ll soon move onto agapanthus’. I will but I will be missing the allium segment, and the explosion of wild flowers on the roundabout which isn’t a roundabout in Spain.

I get my tulips from Peter Nyssen where Karen is one of the most helpful people you can find. Last year we saw this tulip at Phillipa Burrough’s open day for the NGS. Phillipa is an inspiration and I love her garden both at tulip time and for the summer explosion of planting. This tulip ~ not this actual one obviously ~ was in a pot by the greenhouse. I fell in love with it. Tall. Big. Bonkers. I knew I wanted to try it in pots for the front garden here and in the cottage pots. I also planted a few in Spain which flowered, but tulips never flower as well there. We don’t get that cold snap in the Autumn.

I added Tulip Uncle Tom to the pots which is another one I hadn’t grown before. Turns out it’s one I will grow again. A lovely peony type with a shiny looking petal in deep red. Opens up beautifully.

Tulip Uncle Tom

I also used it in the window boxes and the colour selection has been great. I’d like

To say it was a considered and measured plan. To be honest the tulips sat in their box in a spare bedroom and I planted late again. So come planting I first took the box to Somerset and planted the pots and brought what was left back to London.

I haven’t grown Angelique for a few years as I found it had lost a bit of its charm but I decided to give it a go again. Sometimes you grow the same one as you know it works. It’s been a corker in the window boxes but is now going over. One for next year but not for the window box. I have to change them year on year.

Tulip Angelique

The window box combination are all of a peony type which I particularly like. When they open fully they are all big, blousy and a bit of a show off. Belle Époque, Uncle Tom, Angelique and Copper Image. In lockdown and because we have been here more and on the front garden the comments have been brilliant. Except the comment by one passing couple. Lovely roses he said as he continued walking. I didn’t get the chance to correct him.

Tulips hocus pocus opened slightly later than the others and has lasted slightly longer. It needs sun to open fully but when it does it’s pretty large.

Tulip Hocus Pocus
London tulip pots

As well as planting here in London I plant tulips outside the cottage in Pitcombe. I planted in late November and December and the last time I was there, just before we left for Mexico, they were growing but not open or anywhere near it. Sadly with lockdown there was no way we were going to see them. But worry not. Our neighbour has watered them. Our friends when out walking and passing the cottage watered them ~ we are lucky that we have a fresh water spring called Jacks Shute for them to get water. So there has been socially distancing watering!

As well as the generosity of friends and neighbours we have been so fortunate to be sent photographs. To have Instagram posts. E mails and what’s app messages. It has brought us such joy in seeing them in the photographs even though we couldn’t see them in person. You can’t beat good neighbours and friends.

The cottage tulips.

Pitcombe tulip pots

Now all I need to do on the tulip front is to decide on the tulip colours and combinations for next year. I have made a start on my list with new colours and new tulips recommended to me by various friends and gardeners but no doubt I will change my mind. Just the once or twice before during and after ordering.

Back in London Ian said at the start of the lockdown ‘at least you won’t spend as much’ But at the end of the first week he muttered. ‘How many more deliveries are you expecting’ Today he said is that the last of the orders. No. I said. We have one more tomorrow. Then remembered the herb order for next week. What he doesn’t know is that as soon as we get to go to Somerset we will be starting all over again.

It’s been an opportunity of being in one place to do the things that have been on the “to do list” for a while. So paint was ordered. Floor paint. Paint for the window sills. Paint was delivered. Week 6 it’s still unopened. I need to move the window boxes after the tulips have finished and before the summer ones are planted. I have no excuse for the floors. Except diversion tactics. I’d rather be in the garden.

Plants have been delivered. Gaura from Burncose. Herbs from Pepperpot. Perennials from Todds Botanics. Hardenbergia from Fibrex. That’s it I told him. No more. Then a 4ft tree fern arrived from Todds.

4ft tree fern log from Todds Botanics

The one delivery he didn’t comment on. But the one thing he’s got involved in and had me moving half the pots around the garden to accommodate ‘his’ tree fern. We have yet to plant it. But he’s decided where it’s going which meant moving two others around in the bargain. I have said no more.

The garden is tiny but is packed with pots. A large oblong planter of narcissi. Much later than usual and only now going over. Quite what I’ll put in there under lockdown though is yet to be determined. But will depend on what I can get Ooh. I’ve just remembered. I have another plant delivery. Salvias from Middletons.

I will move the tulips and narcissi to the Somerset garden which needs some TLC. It looks like we may be spending the summer there. We have a lot of work to do but needs must and if we are unable to travel then we will make the most of the time.

We have one single climbing rose in the garden in a pot which blooms like crazy. The jasmine was planted in a small pot and is now 25ft up the down-pipe. The scent from it is stunning on a warm evening. This will be followed on with jasmine clotted cream and then traechospermum with its gentle star like flowers.

But it’s not been all gardening. We have lurched from one meal to another. Breakfast merging into lunch then into supper. With snacks all the way through. The builders are on notice to widen the doors after lockdown. Here and there. There and here. I’ve gone through three stages of clothes. Fat fatter and enormous. There has been cooking. A lot of cooking. And eating. Menu planning. Shopping.

I think Ian and I invented social distancing. We have been practicing it for years. On our walks for sure. We have taken it to another level with Continental social distancing. One of us in the Uk. One in Spain.

The cats are confused. Why are you still here? Any chance you can go out for more of an hour a day. Go away for a week or two. All this attention is a bit much. Your getting under our feet.

I’m missing the garden in Spain as well as our Spanish framily, but we keep in touch with face time. Messenger. What’s app. It was three years ago this week that we signed the documents to start a new adventure and it seems like only yesterday. So much has happened in those three years. Visitors. Friendships. Gardening.

Our friends and neighbours in Spain have had it harder under lockdown. Much harsher. Not allowed out for exercise at all. One person to go shopping. Fined. Military patrolling the Pueblo blancos.

But they now have a plan. This weekend they were allowed out to walk – restricted to 1km to their home – no driving to a spot then walking ~ and the restrictions will be progressively lifted over three phases. Quite when we will be back is uncertain. But the certainty is we will in whatever way is allowable.

I’d planted a lot of new things in the garden. Things I won’t see this year. The new gaura as part of the lavender path. New alliums. New salvias. I have had photos and a video sent. I’ve heard the elusive black and white bird of paradise Is about to flower ; last year it didn’t. This is it in 2018.

But. We’ve have stayed at home. We’ve social distanced. We’ve clapped on a Thursday. We have washed hands. Smothered ourselves in sanitiser. Social distanced. Followed the rules. If we have to do that for a few more weeks then so be it. We are lucky. We are here. We are healthy.

The only question is. Which one of us will go mad first. The jury is out.

Adios Mexico City. Hola Guanajuato

Peter Paul and Mary once sang ‘ Leaving on a jet plane , don’t know when I’ll nee back again.’ Well this time I wasn’t. And I did. No jet plane for us on the journey North to Guanajuato. And. I knew when we would be back again. In roughly 10 days time via Oaxaca.

Yes. Ian had said that the journey would be better by bus. 5,5 hours. By bus. He’d done his research and decreed that the best bus to travel on was ETN. So we went and booked days in advance. Asked for the best seats which were upstairs and at the front. I also did my research and asked if they used the toll roads. Why? I’d heard you were less likely to be held up,if you used the toll roads. See. My paranoia was still there. But. The journey was easy. Comfortable and the bus was quiet and added to that we got to see the countryside. When I wasn’t snoring.

I’d never heard of Guanajuato. I’d looked it up and read a bit but Ian had said I’d like it. Greta photo opportunities he said. So I did what we all do theses days. Hashtag Guanajuato.

Guanajuato was a wealthy city in Mexico famous for its silver mines and at one point accounted for two-thirds of the world’s silver production at the height of its production.

Ian had booked the accommodation either with Airbnb or Home Away. Not Home and Away ~ that’s totally different. It had all been done months before and I had forgotten what was where. Oh boy. Did he hit the jackpot with this accommodation.

Entrance to the house

The entrance hall from the street lead up to the first floor. Filled with tall columns. A skull. And an atrium full of plants. I mean full. A lovely house overlooking the plaza.

The roof terrace
Garden ideas

But for me the piece de resistance was the terrace. Boy. What a terrace. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. I couldn’t remember seeing this on the itinerary. Filled with plants. In pots. On top of Columns. So many ideas to take away with me on and if I ever left the house.

Breakfast

Perfectly situated to go to the bakery for bread and pastries for breakfast and for fruit. But. There were things to see. Places to go.

Guanajuato City built its wealth on mining and silver in particular. Getting into the centre is an interesting experience. After being dropped off at the airport you ave to get a taxi into the centre. But to do that you have to enter via the underground tunnels which are too low for buses and it’s one way in and one way out.

It’s a colourful city with narrow one way streets and small roads with a lot of steps and small alleys. We stayed on Plaza San Fernando where cars weren’t allowed.

Colourful houses

The houses are definitely colourful and so opposite to the Pueblo Blanco’s in Spain. Guanajuato is a world heritage site and apparently it’s illegal to paint the houses in any other colour. I ant find why they were painted in the first place but maybe to identify them. But colourful they certainly are. Viewed from El Pipila after taking the funicular they are an abundance of colour shape and size with an obvious view of no planning controls.

El Pipila is the nickname of a local hero and was famous for his heroism at the beginning of the Mexican war of Independence in 1810. The base of the stud is where us tourists go to get the best pictures of the city. You can climb the steep steps instead of using the funicular. Guess what. We didn’t.

The streets of Guanajuato

Like Mexico City the streets and squares had trees. I particularly loved the way that many of the trees were cut and shaped to provide shade for the benches below.

Shade topiary

Wha a great use of topiary.

Bus porn

I’ve never been a bus nerd. But these buses were amazing. Classic. Old fashioned and plentiful. I say that like we used them. We didn’t. But I loved the shape and style and the way they wrote the destinations on the windows in what looked like windowlene!

I was surprised to find such a beautiful theatre right in the heart of the city. I don’t know why really but I did. The Teatro Juárez, a stunningly beautiful facade and interior which was built between 1872 ~ 1903. We were lucky enough to sit in on a mornings orchestral rehearsal when we wandered in. The auditorium was stunning with fabulous acoustics. Sadly the facade was heavily graffitied when we were there during the women’s march. Very sad as graffiti is never the answer.

Orchestral rehearsals

The presence of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo is everywhere. But especially in this city as it’s the city of Diego’s birth. We had to go visit his home which is now a museum ~ not as interesting as Casa Azul but informative. The ground floor where photos were allowed were the living areas. The upper floors now galleries where no photographs we’re allowed. The house has many of Rivera’s early works which were interesting but if I’m honest I liked the large murals more.

I really loved the way they shaped these trees which I understand to be Indian laurels. Cut to shade the benches below them. Needed in the heat of the day and one thing that surprised me was the amount of greenery in both Mexico City and again in Guanajuato.

Ex Hacienda San Gabriel de Barrera

We took a cab ride to the mansion and gardens of Ex Hacienda San Gabriel de Barrera The mansion was part of a mining complex and is open as a museum where you can see the living parts of the house. The gardens are large and are set in themed areas. An English garden. The Italian garden. The Mediterranean garden. All interesting in their own way. But it didn’t take my breath away.

We visited the most visited museum in Guanajuato ~ Museo de las mommas de Guanajuato. I did take some photos. But to honest the place freaked mo out.

The Museum  has a large number of naturally mummified  bodies. These were interred following a cholera outbreak in around 1830. You can see facial expressions and some mummies still have articles of clothing intact. And hair. It wasn’t one of the highlights of the trip but was full of Mexican families ~ the mummies are part of the national culture. But ~ Not for me,

You always need cake & biscuits

I needed cakes and biscuits when we got back to the house. There was a fabulous bakery close to the house where we went to buy pastries and cakes. Next door we could buy fresh fruit. You have to know where these places are. Don’t you?

Take away fruit

I loved the house Ian had found. The terrace was amazing and full of lovely plantings. The pots were really interesting. Pots on the top of large pieces of tree trunks. Glorious colours. Strange to see some British annuals amongst them. Allysum for one. I hadn’t seen that since my parents garden in the 1980’s.

Plants on the terrace

The lovely Jardin de Union was a central square surrounded by cafes and restaurants and parading singers. Another lovely green space in the centre of Guanajuato. A little bit too busy at night but a great central point to sit and people watch.

After five days it was time to move on. A flight to Oaxaca via a three hour stop over in Mexico City. Adios Guanajuato.

Hola Mexico = Mexico City

When Ian suggested a trip to Mexico I have to admit that I wasn’t convinced. Yes. I like a holiday or two but this was different. It was Mexico and the plan was that we would be away for nearly three weeks. He was also planning we visit three places in that time. Stay in Air BNB or similar and for one journey travel north from Mexico City on a bus. For 5.5 hrs. Friends didn’t believe the bus bit.

People kept saying to me before we went. Be careful. Ian kept saying be careful with your camera. Not conducive to calming my anxieties.

What I didn’t expect that this was probably to be our last trip for quite sometime.

But ……..

Hola Mexico City.

We arrived early evening to a glorious welcome from the sky as we approached the airport. Early thoughts on what I saw. It’s a bloody massive city. By massive I mean massive. Getting through immigration was easy. Finding a cab to take us the first accommodation was easy. But I don’t think I have ever seen so many cars in my life. The road out of the airport was a car park. But the cabbie was friendly. Chatty. Thankfully Ian and his Spanish was a huge help for the whole trip. I added a bit here and there but it was Ian who did most of the talking. That in itself is a huge role change. Me. I usually talk and talk. Mostly about nothing at all.

I hadn’t looked at the accommodation that had been booked in ages. The trip was planned late last year and I had little idea where we were staying. I’m not sure if that was intentional because I was unsure. But apartment number 1 was great. I say apartment but it was a cross between an apartment and an art gallery. Up on the 14th for of a building with 24 hour concierge service we were met by the owner and the property manager and shown around. A small but beautiful apartment. Small balcony with views over the city.

We were then shown the art room which was unexpected. The room furnished with art and sculptures by local artists. It took my breath away. For a lot of reasons. .

I didn’t know what to expect from Mexico City. Ian had done the homework. Had a list of places to visit. Museums. Art galleries. Parks. Even pyramids. Who knew that Mexico had pyramids. I didn’t.

One of the places on our list was Casa Azul. The house where artist Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera lived. I didn’t know much about either of them before we left but a number of friends had mentioned them and said that it was a must see.

Casa Azul

I think I could see why it was called Casa Azul when we approached it. It certainly was blue. Very blue. It became even clearer when we entered that Ian had received the email. You know. The one saying today’s the day your shirt should match the paint colour.

All the blues

He definitely merged into the background. He made me take the photo quickly as he kept saying. Quick. People are looking at me.

The house was beautiful ~ you know one of those houses you say without hesitation. I could live here. I didnt know that at that one point Leon Trotsky had stayed there before he bought his own house just around the corner. A house visit and a history lesson all in one.

Outside the kitchen Casa Azul

It certainly was a colourful house. A stunning studio and a lovely peaceful shade garden.

The studio was a beautiful light space and you could imagine the artists painting here.

The studio at CasaAzul

I loved the brugamasia against the blue wall with the colours of the strelitzia in the garden. Both striking and looking that they had been planted for the special effect.

The colours of the garden Casa Azul

Leon Trotsky’s house was a short walk away and totally unassuming from the outside. In fact the inside was pretty basic. What you did notice were the high walls surrounding the house. Not surprising really. It was here that an attempt on his life was made resulting in his death.

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Leon Trotsky’s house Mexico City

Two very different houses. Two very different gardens. Casa Azul brightly coloured. Shaded. Trotsky’s open with a birds eye view of the high walls. Yet peaceful.

Did I mention pyramids. Who knew they had pyramids in Mexico. I didn’t. To be fair if I knew then what I know now I may have just avoided them. Yes. They were fabulous but worth nearly having a coronary? To be fair. Probably.

Pyramid of the Sun

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Teotihuacan is 40 km out of Mexico City,and is the site of the most important pre Colombian city in Mexico. Building began around 200 BC and at its peak was believed to house 200;000 people. The main pyramids are the Sun and the moon and unlike Egypt’s pyramids are solid.

We climbed the Sun pyramid. I say we climbed it. Ian managed to get to the top. I managed half to three quarters of the way. Stopped as I thought I was going to die and went back down. Going down was even worse to be fair ~ I never knew I had a heart ~ but something was beating so hard that it nearly popped out of my chest. Talk about being dizzy. A little bit sick and terrified. It is after all 143 ft high. Up dodgy uneven steps. At an altitude of 7,000 feet.

I know it mind sound stupid but I hadn’t even thought about altitude. Not until the tour guide mentioned it!

We stumbled upon a tourist fair in the main square on Sunday. A square is an underestimate. Another massive area ~ called Constitution Square or Zocolo you could imagine huge armies marching and great ceremonial events being held here. Our visit had none of these. They must have missed the email saying we were arriving. What we got were a huge amount of stalls with Each area of Mexico represented!

And dancing.

The colours were fabulous ~ this group was from Oaxaca which was stop no 3 on the trip.

What a difference a couple of hundred yards makes. Just off the square and next to the Cathedral. You don’t expect to walk out of the cathedral and into groups of exotic looking dancers with scary masks and headdresses. Called Conchero dancers with an interesting history of Aztec and Christian mix.

Next stop. A museum. I hadn’t heard of this one but it was on Ian’s list. A collection of 66,000 pieces donated by a Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim and housed in a fabulous space The Soumaya named after his late wife. A beautiful building and in the inside a bit like New York’s Guggenheim. All circular walks up to each floor. An amazing collection of art and statues with the largest collection of Rodin outside of France. It was breathtaking in its simplicity and beauty. The building itself looking like a twisted top hat.

Soumaya

Rodin’s The Thinker

Rodin Rodin everywhere

One of the things that struck me about Mexico City was just how green it was. Chapultepec Park is huge and it received the International Large Urban Parks Gold Award and was named the best urban forest in the world.

Covering 1,695 acres it includes Chapultepec Castle which overlooks the park, the Botanical gardens and huge swathes of trees. The views from the castle are pretty amazing as you look out over the city and see a sea of green. The roads have planting on the sidewalks and many have planting along central reservations.

Green Mexico

Another lovely building is the Palacio de Belle Artes which houses one of Diego Rivera’s most famous murals ~ Man at the Crossroads. This was commissioned by Rockerfeller but when Rivera refused to omit Lenin from the artwork it was painted over. I have to say the Mexican mural art really fascinated me. It was recreated for this museum. There is an interesting back story to the whole fiasco.

There were other pieces by Mexican moralists which I found fascinating. One I really liked ~ David Siqueiros was involved in a failed assassination attempt on Leon Trotsky. Another fact I learnt!

Mexico City was fabulous. A real surprise and full of amazing museums , friendly and polite people. There were so many photo opportunities.

Having survived the big city our next trip was the five and a half hour bus ride to Guanajuato, a smaller and courful town north of Mexico. Tickets bought. Bags packed. Taxi booked.