We weren’t quick out of the blocks on 12 April when the rules were relaxed. We couldn’t. We had hair cuts booked. Six months of cutting my own hair. It wasn’t my head that was lopsided. It was the hair.
But the day after at the crack of dawn we were off. It was strange. Packing the car. Actually driving over 20mph. Driving out of the Borough of Southwark. A motorway. A service station. Past Stonehenge ~ will be nice when it’s finished.
Finally singing the good old Peters & Lee song. “Welcome Home’
We had been away for nearly 5 months. Lockdowned in London. I’d planted tulips in haste in late November and crossed fingers that they would pop up. Crossed fingers that this year we may just get to see them. Unlike last where we relied on the generosity of friends and neighbours sending photographs. Watering the pots. By the time we arrived after lockdown 2 they had gone. The tulips. Not the friends and neighbours.
It’s amazing the difference ten days makes. Well. Ten days and sunshine. Cold nights. Some frosts. No rain. Georgie from Common Farm Flowers down the road said there had been no rain since 16 March. You can tell. Talk about dry. We are lucky to have a spring opposite the cottage ~ Jack’s shute. Don’t ask who Jack is/was. I haven’t a clue. But the water gushes unless it’s the end of a dry summer and then it’s a dribble. But the water is cool. Drinkable. And free. And great for watering the pots. I leave a watering can by the pots and kind people water them when we aren’t there!
Now I know that people say a weed is just a flower in the wrong place. Yes. The wrong place is in my garden. The weed. Mainly ground elder of which I must have the National Collection. Imagine. 5 months of the stuff. Romping away in the garden. No control. That question. Why don’t slugs munch on it. Or the rogue badger digging up the lawn.
We had dug out the ground elder from two beds during the period between lock down 2 and lockdown 3. Had planted up. Had put a cover over part of another border. Turned the key and left. The two beds weren’t bad. Anyway I had to clear one bed of the perennials. Well it wasn’t had to ~ I wanted to plant a bed of roses and agapanthus with some acedanthera amongst other things. These beds still had some ground elder but they were manageable.
We also hadn’t been able to cut back the perennials. To prune or just to generally tidy last years growth. So there was a lot to do. Trips to the dump. Decisions to be made.
We also had builders in which meant for 3 days we couldn’t really go out. Except to buy biscuits. Coffee and milk. My mother always said ‘ look after the workers and you’ll get a job well done’ We did. And we did. Apparently we have set the bar high. But as soon as they had gone we did manage to go out. Food shopping. A bit. But better still to a local nursery
Blooming Wild is lovely nursery with a great plant list and helpful friendly owners in Will and Lauren. All set down Cabbage Lane, a great name for the address of a plant nursery. The added bonus is that it’s not far from us.
I of course bought plants. It would be rude not to wouldn’t it ~ some Baptisia. Both the blue and the Dutch chocolate. Some geums, some cowslips which will hopefully self seed. I will be back. They have a few things on my list and will reserve them for me.
I also planted 80 freesia along the path ~ it’s an experiment but the ones I planted in pots in London two weeks ago are up and running. I planted some in Spain three years ago and to coin a phrase they are ‘blooming lovely.’ This year they have adorned our neighbours table as I have asked her to pick them. Which she happily does.
Just past the old loo with its broken door and ivy clad roof is a small sitting area with steps down into the river. At this time of the year you can cross the river with barely getting your feet wet. Don’t try it in the winter months. Steps have been cleaned. The seating area tidied up under the large spindle which last year was glorious. The bonus of not being at the cottage for such a long time is that things haven’t been pruned back. This old spindle has flowered brilliantly over the last 12 months and is set to do the same this year.
The two pots with tulips are a surprise as I potted up agapanthus in compost without fully clearing last years tulips. The lovely red Uncle Tom have pushed their way through. Amazing really as they haven’t been watered in months.
The old loo is due a makeover. New doorframe. A new lock but we are trying to keep the old door ~ some clearing of the ivy from getting under the roof tiles. I don’t have to say it’s not used these days. Trotting 120 ft down the garden to the loo in the rain wouldn’t be my idea of fun. I remember having to use the outside loo at my Aunts. In the dark. In the rain. Thanks. But no thanks.
Being down in the bottom of the U in the valley we are prone to catching the frosts which means we often lose the apple pear and plum blossom. Despite the late frosts so far it hasn’t hit. But who knows. Apples are usually fine but the plum usually gets it. That or the wasps and the birds getting the little fruit that does develop. I don’t mind feeding the birds but wasps aren’t welcome. Two years ago I got stung near my eye by a wasp and had to go to the minor injuries unit. Apparently at my ripe old age I was allergic to wasp stings. Not epi pen allergic thankfully but enough to make me look like I’d done ten rounds with Henry Cooper.
A singularly unattractive specimen which needed a tidy up. I missed the timing for pruning but a call for advice from insta friends helped. This rose bush gives plentiful pink flowers repeatedly through the summer ~ so it’s been pruned a little and fed. Underneath the rose Pulmonaria have gone mad and are covered in bees. Again had we been around it is likely that I would have cut them back a bit. Lesson learnt as the bees love them early in the season.
It’s a little surprising to find that some of the salvias are romping away and that the canna are starting to poke through Why? Because these are in the greenhouse which hadn’t been opened in 5 months. I bubble wrapped the inside in December, watered and shut the door only to be reopened mid April. So yes. It was a surprise. A pleasant one.
Salvia super trouper. Canna Annei. Canna musifolia and a couple more canna.
The boxes are the 5 new roses from Todds Botanics along with the 6 agapanthus to go in the new bed. Thankfully I got the delivery address right unlike last year.
As the days went on more and more tulips opened. The pots were full of tulip Brown sugar which stand head and shoulders above the others. The others will be out. Hopefully when we get back.
I have sweet peas growing in London to plant in Somerset in the middle of the rose bed. . Two things I’m rubbish at are seed sowing and plant labels. I must do better in both. I labelled the sweet peas ~ but!
The dahlia tubers I bought from Todds Botanics are popping through and will be taken to Somerset to plant out.
It’s back to the London garden and an easier time to sort things out. No lawn. All in pots. Tiny garden. Lockdown 3 has meant it’s manicured of sorts to a T. Ian would say with a nail scissors. It’s not.
But from now until September I suspect we will be up and down the A303. Then to tackle a Mediterranean garden where we have been away from for a whole year. That will be a whole new story.
The excitement of it. Another appointment at the Dentist.
I’ve never looked forward to a trip to the dentist as much as in 2021. Why? Because it’s a day out. Well not quite a day but most of it. Boy do I need one. This last lockdown has been a struggle. A mixture of the weather. Not seeing other people and engaging in everyday frivolities. Buying take away coffees and not being able to linger for the conversation. Being together in a household just the two of us. For 12 months. Usually we spend time apart. Different counties or countries. In 30 years we have never spent so long continually in each other’s company! But we are still talking even if Ian does say that most of it is nonsense.
With the sun shining I set off with a little trepidation. Would the train be busy. Would I feel any pain. Would I need the loo.
But first a walk to the station through our local park and through Holly Grove shrubbery. Spring has really sprung. Maybe a little early if the forecast is to be believed but the flowers were out in abundance. Our local council maintains the park and the shrubbery and I have to say does a great job.
The train was um. Empty. Two people in the whole carriage. Three including me. The 10.11 to London Victoria. Yes. Not rush hour but still empty. I had two choices. Victoria or London Bridge. As it was dry and sunny I chose the former. That way I could walk to Wimpole Street using a different route to last week.
It was bizarre again. The station was quiet. Not empty but quiet. I headed up past Lower Grosvenor park and skirted the garden walls of Buckingham Palace heading up to Hyde Park.
I’ve never really stopped at this little park but to be honest I don’t usually walk this way. Yes. There’s a joke in there but I’ll move on. It was the shell huts that I saw which made me want to know more. After nearly 40 years in the city I can still be an excited tourist.
I did a little detour down a side street and past The Goring Hotel. It’s on my list for afternoon tea when we can go out and about again. Featured heavily when there was a royal wedding.
Because you can take your time just looking around and not dodging other pedestrians you see more. No elbows. No one walking at you on their mobile and bumping into you and snarling. Like it’s all your fault.
I once read that you should look up at the buildings. You get to see so much detail. But also to look around you. This great bug hotel ‘ The Goring’ on the wall opposite the main hotel would have normally been missed.
The perimeter of the gardens of Buckingham Palace stretch for an age. High security. Cameras ~ I did a little wave as I walked past. Not sure if anyone was in.
Buckingham palace occupies 42 acres and the gardens are Grade II* listed. I have been in the gardens once. Not over the wall I might add but had the excitement of being invited to a garden party. To be honest what I saw of the gardens didn’t excite me. But maybe I didn’t see it all. Maybe I was looking at the net curtains.
Your never far from a statue or two in London. What essentially is a roundabout at the top of Constitution Hill is the Wellington Arch. A grade 1 listed monument and is across the road from Hyde Park.
Through the arches and past Rotten Row which as well as being empty of people was empty of horses. This wasn’t the crack of dawn it was 10.45am. A time when usually traffic would be buzzing and the pavements full. I had barely passed half a dozen people on the walk past Buckingham palace walls to this point. It was the same through Hyde Park. Yes. There were people out walking. But not that many.
I’m beginning to think statues are like buses. You don’t see one for ages and then all of a sudden three come along. Straight into the park and there he was.
The 18ft statue of Achilles, the Greek hero of the Trojan War, commemorates the soldier and politician, Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (1769-1852). It was installed by order of King George III and unveiled on 18 June 1822. Looking a bit cold and grey there Achilles.
I would have killed for a cuppa. But I suspect the toilets were closed and to be honest I can’t have one without the other. Not these days. And the cold weather.
As I headed out of the park I remembered the war animals monument on Park Lane and headed to have a look. I am usually on the No 36 bus or before the congestion charge and ULEZ driving along Park Lane. As I was walking and not in a hurry I had the time to stop and look.
It was inspired by Animals in War, a book by Jilly Cooper and a national appeal raised the £2 million cost of the memorial.
Something I didn’t expect to find in Mayfair. The Mayfair Chippy. I’ll remember for another day. A take away to eat in the park. I wonder if they do mushy peas.
An empty Selfridges. Usually this entrance is busy. People going in. Coming out with yellow bags. Today nobody was going anywhere.
The usually busy St Christopher’s Place. Restaurants closed. Shops closed. Galleries closed.
So onto the dentist. A 2 hour appointment. The second in just over a week. But I needed the rest after the walk from the station. Time to plan my return walk, to think of a different route. Typical. I arrived in bright sunshine but as I left the dentist the heavens opened and it was raining cats and dogs. That’s a stupid saying isn’t it?
I headed down through Soho into Covent Garden.
Floral street. The child in me always thinks of Terry Wogan when I see Floral Street. Why? Because he sang the floral dance. Not that I was a fan. Of the song I actually liked him when he did his interview show. But guess what. Floral Street was quite. Very.
Past the side street of the Royal Opera House with the twisted bridge over the road. If memory serves me right this is where the stage door is. Decades ago I was taken to the opera ‘Salome’ by a friend who knew Dame Gwyneth Jones. The first and only time I went backstage at Covent Garden to meet her in her dressing Room. I’d forgotten that. How??
When I first arrived in London I was fascinated with Covent Garden. I’d meet people at The Punch and Judy. Friends and relatives visiting would meet here too. Watching the street entertainers. The crowds of people. The piazza would be full. Not today. Not even the pigeons were around.
There are some great displays as usual to brighten up the market area.
Past The Lady which has moved out of its london offices. I knew it had been around for ages. The magazine was founded by Thomas Gibson Bowles the maternal grandfather of the Mitford sisters. Bowles also founded Vanity Fair. The magazine has been produced since 1885.Ihaven’t had a continuoussubscription.
Down to the Strand and to Charing Cross. My destination to catch the train. But I had time to kill and wandered down Villiers street. These arches and the rainbow doors may not mean much to you. But to a young man from Cardiff in the early eighties they meant one of the largest nightclubs I had ever seen.
Your never far from a green space in London and just next to Embankment Station are Embankment gardens which are kept beautifully. The beds a bit municipal for me but you can’t beat the colours.
The feeling had come back to my face.I’d stopped dribbling so it was time to head back home.Nothing less attractive than sitting in the train looking like this. But there again. Who is looking.There’s no one around.
It will be busier for sure on my next visit into central London as it’s not scheduled for a month. By then we will have passed 12 April and things will be slowly opening.
Well unless I can justify another walk. Maybe on the other side of the river. Maybe.
Today was a day when I was going to escape. To escape from the routine of the last three months. Something different. So why was I excited. I hate the dentist. Not the dentist but THE dentist. Any of them. Ever since I was a child when the dentist thought it a good idea to spin me around on the chair. ( remember them?) and move it up and down. I admit it. I was sick all over the surgery.
That and the needles. But today I was putting on decent clothes. Realised I had to comb my hair and brush the cat hairs off my jumper. I was going out on my own. Just me. Headphones in. Old mans train pass. Even if it was only into central London. To the dentist knowing everything would be closed.
But. It was out.
Oh. The excitement. A train ride. All 15 mins of it. Masked up. In a carriage that was virtually empty and social distancing not an issue. Well it’s easy when you are in a carriage on your own. Train 2 was the same.
Old London Town is eerie. There’s no getting away from it. The streets are quiet. There is little traffic. The offices are closed. There are a few shops open but it’s so sad. Will things ever be the same?
Leaving Charing Cross I need to head up to Wigmore Street. First past Trafalgar Square. In February just gone I celebrated 39 years of living in London. I remember my first day. 1 Feb 1982. I hated it.
I was homesick. I missed my family. I wasn’t going to stay. But I did and in those early years I walked and walked around London. Looking at the sights. The shops. Everything.
But in all that time I’ve never seen London as quiet. Trafalgar Square is usually full of tourists. And pigeons. But today it was virtually empty. Save Nelson looking down wondering where everyone was and when they would be back. Me too Nelson. Me too.
Heading away from Trafalgar Square I headed up Haymarket. I didn’t have to dodge the traffic either. Sad to see the empty theatres. The empty shops.
The Phantom must be so bored hiding in the basement of the Haymarket theatre with no one to entertain. These magnificent buildings empty desperate to return to business. To become alive again.
I often hop on the No 12 bus in Haymarket ~ destination the Plough though I get off in Camberwell. But the road is quite. The buses nearly empty.
A hopeful sign in a shop window. Things will get better. Return to normal but it will be a new normal. Patience is a virtue. Not one of my better attributes sadly.
One more time round Piccadilly Circus. Driver follow that bus. Another place that people usually congregate. You know. I’ll meet you at Eros. Outside Lillywhites. Today. You wouldn’t be missed in the crowd today. You’d stand out.
Heading up an empty Regent Street. Usually full of tourists. Of people shopping in the fashion stores. Window shopping. Me dodging the people who head straight at you like you are the pins on a bowling alley and they are the bowls. Me invisible to their elbows or umbrella. Not today. The only thing I’m dodging is the rain.
Hamleys. Usually crowded inside and out. Excited children. Parents holding onto their wallets ready for the onslaught of I want in the store. Today like all the other stores. Closed for the duration. Imagining lockdown Toy Story within those walls.
Up through Oxford street. Through Cavendish Square to Wimpole Street.
A 2.5 hr sit in the dentist chair. Im not a fan of dentists as I’ve said. After treatment I decided to walk back to Victoria Station to head home. To see how long it took for my face to regain its shape. For me to stop drooling. A significantly unattractive post dental issue.
Along Oxford street and down Bond Street or bling street as I used to call it. Full of fashion shops. Chanel. Gucci. Dolce and Gabbana. Hermes. Ralph. Bling jewellery. Tiffany. Cartier. An Auction house. But like everywhere else closed. Some forever. A lone girl skateboarding easily along the street not having to dodge pedestrians or large parked SUV’s.
The Burlington Arcade. A stunning arcade.
From the Burlington arcade website
‘Burlington Arcade opened in 1819 ‘for the sale of jewellery and fancy articles of fashionable demand, for the gratification of the public.’ It had 51 independent boutiques across 72 units, selling luxuries like hats, gloves and jewellery – it was notably the place to go for a bonnet. At 196 yards long, the beautiful covered shopping arcade was – and remains – one of the longest in Britain’
It is indeed very beautiful.Very fashionable. Quiet to walk through as everything is closed. Waiting to reopen when the route out of lockdown allows.
Across the road and past The Ritz. I’ve never been in the Ritz. I love the Savoy especially the Savoy Grill which is high on my list for my first return to a restaurant post lockdown. A haunt of ours for the pre theatre menu. Where we had lunch just the two of us after our civil partnership. Where 5 of us went for my 60th. Low key.
The Ritz Hotel and restaurants and ballroom are closed but the planters are full of joy. Of daffodils. Of hope of a return to doors opening.
Past the planters and into Green Park.
Green Park is a royal park and from the Royal Parks website
‘Rumour has it, back in the seventeenth century King Charles II’s wife demanded all the flowers be removed from The Green Park after she caught him picking flowers there for another woman. The park still has no formal flowerbeds but is riot of yellow in spring, when around one million daffodil bulbs are in bloom.
The Green Park is one of London’s eight Royal Parks and covers an area of just over 40 acres’
It’s a lovely walk from Piccadilly through to Buckingham palace. It felt spring like as I walked past swathes of spring bulbs. The Royal parks website says 1 million bulbs. I didn’t have time to count them. I had a train to catch.
I have often wondered why there were no flower beds like in St James Park. Now I know the rumour why!
A great view from the end of the park of the Queen Victoria memorial. Usually surrounded by people. Today just a handful. Taking selfie’s. Sitting down.
I didn’t knock at the palace I guessed they have had enough problems without me turning up for a cuppa tea and a digestive biscuit. The clouds were dark enough over the flag pole. They didn’t need me to add to their woes. So I didn’t. And headed off to Victoria.
Distant views of the wheel. Standing still. Unlike me who had to keep walking unless I seized up. I knew If I sat down I’d never get back up.
Victoria Station. A 15 min train journey to Peckham Rye. Past the building site of Battersea Power station. And home.
I can’t remember the last time we have spent so much time in one place. Certainly not in London. When I was working we would escape to Somerset most weekends. When I dropped to four days a week it was long weekends. We would travel. Visit family in Wales. In Scotland. Then came a new adventure. Spain.
Then all travel at first became restrictive. Then it stopped. I’m not complaining. It was necessary. It was our choice to stay in London. My main thought was if I should become unwell we were only 10 minutes from a major hospital. We could walk to the local shops. We are I know very lucky to have a choice.
The upside is that we have spent time sorting out things in the garden. No major projects but a bit of work here. A tidy there. Numerous trips to the local recycling centre. For those who have seen pictures of the garden in London you know it is small. I think it’s tiny and it is.
The top pic is the square ( ish ) patio area taken a few years ago. Add a side return and that’s it’s measure. Small. But full of pots.
We have had a major tidy up of the side return. The gravel was tired. Compost had been spilt so it was time for a clear up. It’s amazing what such a small job does to brighten up what can be a dark pathway. A small change but so Wirth the effort. But let’s be honest. There’s no much else to do. I’m so over cooking three meals a day. Making bread. Making cake. Marmalade.
Three trips to the builders merchants. Suitably social distanced to pick up bags of gravel. I’m not sure the builders merchants is as busy as usual. On day three Ian went to pay as the gravel was loaded into the car. One of the guys said hello. I see your back again. ‘ yes says Ian we bought 8 bags and need 4 more. Really said the guy. You’ve got enough then. You’ve bought 12 this week. He was right. Remember though. Ian is the person who when asked how long we had been together said ‘ oh. About 8 years. It was 20. Don’t ask him now as he will say with lockdown too long. Oh. And it’s 30 years.
Things then get moved around ~ the plan to replace the small plastic covered store with a new one. Which instead meant an addition. Moved to give the path a better sight line. Bearing in mind the only people to see the garden in a year has been us and the cats it wasn’t something I was that bothered about. But Ian?
Don’t look at the window sills. I know they need paining. It’s on my list. Made by Ian but we need some warm dry weather. And for the tulips to be over.
Another delivery of Dalesford compost and a bin to empty the open bag into. That way it just may stop me getting compost all over the gravel which then compacts and you don’t get the crunch when you walk on it.
The window boxes are planted with tulips. Don’t ask me which ones as I don’t know. I had some ‘leftovers’ from the main plantings here and in Somerset. But who doesn’t like a tulip surprise?
There’s been time to move pots around. To top dress the pots. A bit of a feed. There’s always a use for old chimney pots. The agapanthus are poking through. Some canna are showing that they have survived the winter. I’m hoping that the cold freezing weather has passed but after yesterday’s hail who knows.
The plants are just coming through and it’s nearly time to poo my plants. I’ve had a delivery of alpaca poo feed from Lou Archer and will start on my feeding Fridays soon. I do feeding Fridays as it serves as a reminder for me. I then remember hopefully when I’ve done it. Trust me though. As each day has merged into one and we have lurched from meal to meal to day to week. It may just be a struggle.
This agapanthus is ‘ agapanthus don’t know’ as are many of them in the garden. I’ve said it before I’m a shocking labeller. But ‘don’t know ‘ seems to be a popular name.
Not a great pic but if you put on your specs or get a magnifying glass you will see a green shoot of canna starting to romp away. The great thing about these chimney pots is that they give height. Downside is that the pots need regular feeing and that they can’t spread.
Another chimney pot plant. This time an almond. Planted probably 15 years ago. Occasionally looks a bit sad if it needs a bit of water but at this time of year it’s about to open its blossom. Which no doubt will end up as confetti in the wind.
It’s such a pretty pink blossom and nothing like the ones on the bank in Spain which are larger. White with a pink hue.
The citrus tree has been moved around a fair bit. But it’s flowered in Winter. Survived the frosts and bitterly cold winds. Now it’s setting fruit. Don’t get too excited as they are the tiniest little citrus I did ever see. But. They are setting in a cold london garden. Don’t hold your breath for a delivery. So small I’d post them in a matchbox.
Another chimney another plant. I lost an aeonium over winter. Of course it was my fault as I didn’t cover or bring it in. But then I haven’t done that in years. But when one plant dies another has taken over. A self seeded digitalis I think. I don’t know when I last had any in the garden. But it’s growing well and I have a few more growing around self seeded into other pots.
The red trailing thyme is going great gums and I shall be getting more from Pepperpot Herbs for the summer.
I’ve removed the fleece from the tree ferns. And put them back on again. And removed them again. I’m hoping for the last time as I can’t see any frost forecast.
If it was up to Ian the garden would have so many that we wouldn’t be able to move. It’s the one plant he never says ‘ don’t you have enough’.
Jasmine officinale planted in a teeney weeney pot compared with its growth. But we are only in March and it’s full of buds halfway up the drainpipe and Ian is convinced Cyril has his drey in the foliage. Yes. There is a funnel stuck in the pot. Why? I find it easier in these small pots to water through the funnel especially if it’s dry and for putting in liquid feed.
The scent from this jasmine will fill the house with the first floor bedroom window open. I love the smell some people don’t but for me scent is a driver in such a small garden. I’m about to plant freesia into pots for both the front and back garden.
Another jasmine is full of buds this year. Probably because it heard me say that this was its last chance. It’s jasmine clotted cream and I had high hopes for it. Maybe as high as the one at the other end of the side return. But no. It’s been a poor performer until this year where it’s full of bud.
The clematis has started to spring into growth. I hate trying to train them with their brittle stems. How many times have I broken what I thought was a dead stem to find a mile of growth chopped off. It’s growing through a large container of salvia hot lips. I never mind cutting that back as you get the scent of the leaves as you do.
Some people don’t like hot lips but it’s a great filler and flowers for months right up to the first frosts. In this garden that’s late. Very late.
I’ve hacked the salvia back hard as I have the Amistad. I’m not convinced Amistad has survived though which is disappointing as it was still flowering in December.
The front garden is small. I’d love to have a long front garden like my parents garden at the house where I was born and grew up. At first the borders were full of roses. Mostly bought in the garden department at Woolworths who in their day had a great selection. The names of which I can still remember. Superstar. Iceberg just two.
Then they got old ~ the roses ~ my parents later. They dug up the roses and planted spring bulbs to be followed by annuals which they grew themselves. Hours and hours spent in the greenhouse that they had bought for me and never wanted. I’m like them. They loved to have a lovely front garden. Loved people commenting on it as they passed by. In competition with Den & Blem next door. The garden was certainly colourful but the endless pricking out. Patience. Smoothing I didn’t inherit from my parents.
I digress. Back to lockdown london. The front garden is also pots. Lockdown meant I had bulbs destined for Somerset. They may have been destined to travel. We weren’t. Not in time to plant them anyway. The tulips were planted in haste in between the release from one lockdown to the start of what we hope will be the final one. They are up and romping away. Apparently. As I planted them in November. Nearly 4 months later we haven’t seen them.
But not the daffodils and narcissus. I’d planted a few around the greenhouse. That’s as far as I got and brought them back to london. So I had to find some pots. Some I had. Some I’d bought for the first lockdown.
Pots were hard to get hold of in lockdown 1 but the local ironmonger had buckets. So I bought buckets. Quite a few. They now have tulips in some. Alliums in another. I know. Alliums in aluminium buckets. But needs must.
There are tete a tete in another. When the bulbs finish I will replant them with annuals for the front. Well that’s my plan. Best laid plans and all that. Strange mentioning plans aQs we haven’t had any for 12 months.
The tulip pots at the front are doing really well. Three large pots of Hocus Pocus. A tall bonkers tulip from Peter Nyssen. I loved them last year and unusually for me have planted them again in the same points. I like to change things around every year.
The window boxes are also coming through well. I had a plan. A colour plan but it went a bit by the wayside. I planted more at the cottage than expected as I’d bought more pots. So my colour combinations may be a bit a bit different this year. But what I do know is that if they all flower it will be colourful.
I love this tulip. Planted both here and in Somerset it just makes me smile.
The large evergreen agapanthus have survived the cold and wet winter. They will be fed in the next few weeks. The canna have been potted into larger pots. Canna Annei was superb last year and I will buy a new red to go out there too.
For now it’s green. Very green with a splash of yellow. Hopefully by April it will be awash with the colours of tulips to be followed with a summer splash. Now that’s soothing to look forward to.
I’ve done all three. Though the visit of a certain pandemic in 2020 put a halt to most things for the year and so far this.
I spent most of the Summer of 2015 at the cottage, spending time with my godchildren. Friends. Visitors. Summer was great. Plenty of gardening. Summer turned into Autumn. Into winter. I remembered that the winters and Springs were wet. The garden impossible to garden under water logged ground.
Ian and I traveled to Spain in March 2017.
We were booked to stay in a Pueblo Blanco ~ Frigliana for a week. We planned to view some small townhouses in the area. We had wanted a bolt hole abroad but originally in France. In all the years we looked we hadn’t found anywhere where you feel in love with the place. Latterly we had looked at Spain. Our B&B accommodation fell through at the last minute and had to find somewhere else. We ended up in another pueblo blanco. Competa and fell in love with it.
We had a list of properties to view. Things ticked. Cross ticked. Agreed on. Or so I thought.
My wish list: a town house so I could walk to the shops and restaurants. A terrace. No garden. No pool. So we viewed exactly what I wanted. Ian said we should view some houses in the campo. Which we did and none filled me with joy. Until.
Ian had seen a property on line and he said. ‘You’ll love the garden” I wasn’t convinced not because I didn’t trust his judgment. But it was 10 mins drive from town. It had a garden. It had a pool. It was one bedroom less than I really wanted. But there’s one thing I’ve learnt after over the last 25 years. At least go and see it. Then you can say no.
The reality. We arrived at the house. The drive there was fine. Yes some dodgy corners. The access road was concreted. Tick. All plus points. We parked up and approached the gates. Entered the garden and walked up the curved path with lavender borders looking at the view. Ian turned and simply said. ‘You don’t need to see the house do you. Your minds made up.
The owners had done a fantastic job on the garden and the house. To be fair to me at that point the house was irrelevant.
We viewed it in March and rather aptly we were at RHS Chelsea show when we heard from the agent and now friend that contracts had been exchanged. I flew the next day to collect the keys and after nearly four years I still get the same feeling each time I arrive at the house.
We have changed some things. Some plants haven’t worked for us as we aren’t there all the time. There are drought tolerant plants and there are drought tolerant plants. The seasons are different. Each summer different to the last. Wetter autumns. Drier summers. No two years have been the same.
The garden is a number of parts. The drive. The main garden. The bank adjacent to the bathroom and bedroom. The rear bank behind the house. The upper bank. The lower bank. The roundabout that’s not a roundabout. Each has a different kind of planting and thankfully the banks look after themselves. Sort of.
The drive has oleander on the right as you drive in and on the other side is the bank,where there are a couple of magnificent pine trees. Some large agave. Creeping Rosemary, a honeysuckle, a mimosa and some dying prickly pear.
The bank is steep and whilst it’s stable I’m not. Not on a dry bank. One two occasions I have been stood on the bank one minute planting some creeping rosemary. The next sliding down the bank on my bottom.
Instagram reminded me that the oleander in all its parts is poisonous. But it does well and the colours are glorious and the seed heads on some pretty amazing.
For now ignore that wall and the access road. That’s another story which I’ll come back to. That’s if you are with me until the end. Brace yourself. I’ve had to limit the number of photographs.
The pines gave me the first experience of the nasty little blighter that is the processionary caterpillar. Nasty evil little caterpillars all marching in a line. Coming down the trunk from white nests in the trees. Dangerous to dogs and young children. We didn’t have any last year but as soon as we see any we have someone in to remove the nests which have to be taken away and burnt.
I love the gates. Little things please little minds but I love them. It’s like stepping into a secret garden. At this time of year the glorious purple of the hardbengia vilocea hangs over the top and is full of bees. I’d never seen one before ~ the plant. Not the bees obviously. But it’s become a huge favourite. I am trying to grow one in the sheltered garden in London.
The gates take you into the garden and the curved path up past the garage to the terrace and the house. Have I said I love the path? The curve of the path is amazing as it moves the eye to take in the various angles. To the right along the garage I have added clivia and freesias to the existing planting. There is a small ~ in comparison to the one on the other side ~ Strelitzia Nicola. Which I first thought was a banana. Massive leaves. Tall. Leaves ripped in the wind. The smaller is yet to flower.
But I think I gasped when on one visit I looked up at the larger plant and there was not one but three beautiful black and white birds of paradise flowers. We have had flowers three out of the 4 years we have been there. I bought another for a different part of the garden which I may regret it as it may be a bit exposed. We are 700m above sea level up the mountain and wind can and does swirl around the house. But the views to the coast of Málaga are outstanding. On clear days and dependant on the time of year you can see Gibraltar and/or the coast of Morocco.
To the right and on the bank further back of the flower is a bottle brush. I’ve never been keen on them after someone once commented that she thought they were vulgar. To be honest in the right planting the colour against the blue sky is amazing.
In this bed are some tall yucca. A rather tall jacaranda which is beautiful when it flowers but a nightmare when it drops its flowers which stain the path Last year we bit the bullet and had it cut back. The additional light we got was amazing and despite a hard cut back it’s romping away. I was told we would kill it. My reaction. If it dies it dies but it needs to be cut back.
Another of my favourite flowers is the pineapple guava. ( Feijoa) Beautiful flowers and a small fruit later in the season. They are a bit of an acquired taste. I don’t mind them but a friend who was staying said they tasted like germolene! Just as well they don’t smell like it. Two pet hates. The smells of germolene and TCP.
I have had issues with the lavender path. I’mmsure it’s because I’m not there all the time and it’s not covered by irrigation but I’ve had to replace half. Instead of replanting with more and after falling in love with yet another path I planted white gaura. After seeing a gaura path at Ultimg Wick I decided that I wanted to include some here. I planted it’s in 2019 and it has been a success inter planted with the lavender.
The jacaranda has a banksia rose growing up into the branches along with some honeysuckle the scent of which is amazing on a warm evening. The rose surprises me as i didn’t expect to see it doing so well here.
You can just see the caterpillar like salvia above the lavender.Salvias do quite well here. I have a couple of Amistad. This salvia Leucantha and salvia oxyphpra both do well.
To the right of the path beyond the garage is the larger planting area. More yucca. A nice variegated which I prefer. The small olive has been moved as it wasn’t doing so well. There are some small date palms. Agapanthus ~ now that’s a surprise. Lots of osteospernum. Last year I managed to get there in August and I planted a new Strelitzia Nicolai along with a melianthus major.
At the end of the path is a raised bed with a large olive tree. Is it ok to say I don’t like olives. Except the ones from this tree which I pick when black and salt them.
Underneath the olive are three curry plants ( helichrysum italicum ) which definitely smell like curry in the heat of the day with a insignificant yellow flower. All around this bed and in the raised bed are osteospemum along with succulents.
The previous owners sent us some photos of the garden when the renovations were being done and before the planting of this area. I love seeing the before and after of any project.
Photographs from previous owners
Two years ago we added large pots of ferns at the end of the path. I guess they shouldn’t work. I think they are in too much searing sun. But they do and have grown massive. These have recently been tidied up a bit and will be fed to bring on new growth in the Spring. They have become a feature and what started as two have grown in number.
I said I wouldn’t have any pots on the terrace. We wouldn’t be there enough. They needed watering. Water was expensive. Umm. Something went wrong. We have pots. Lots of them and we have help in watering them when we aren’t there.
A fabulous colocasia black magic. A colocasia mojito. An alocasia. More ferns. One of my favourite agaves. A big fat foxtail agave, ( Agave attenuate) A pot of society garlic, ~ (Tulbaghia Violacea) and for Spring, pots of deliciously scented freesia.
Over the terrace is an old grape vine which gives some shade in the summer and stains the floor and chairs when the birds treat themselves to the grapes. I pick the grapes and make grape and rosemary jelly. Lots of it to add to delicious Spanish cheeses along with quince jelly from the one tree we have.
There are of course pots of agapanthus. A pot of Strelitzia Reginae which flowers for months. Usually most of the months when we aren’t there.
The terrace has a white boundary wall with a long planter built in. The planting in here has changed each year. We have some great scented pelargoniums in there now. I add some annuals when I can and dependent on when we are there in late spring to plant. One year it was all red geraniums which against the white wall and the blue sky’s was a joy. Who knows what it will be this year! I quite fancy creeping red thyme.
The chairs have been removed and more ferns places there which was just as well as we weren’t there a lot last year. Or so far this.
The edge of the boundary which looks down to the access road bank and to the coast has a small border. It has two orange trees which fruit sporadically. I’ve experimented with the other planting trying to get it right. I still haven’t got there. One year it was alliums which did really well in year one. Year two was a disaster. Then it was ferns which I’ve now moved. The latest planting is society garlic.
To the side of the house is another planting area. One that needs little work and behind that an area with four almond trees. Not quite an orchard. Not yet. My plan is to add a few more fruit trees. Ignore the small citrus. That died.
The almond trees will be in flower now (Feb). Years one and two I picked them and dried them. You need a sledge hammer to open them. But the almond blossom is stunning.
We have two large pomegranates on the bank which have the occasional flower at which point I can be seen jumping for joy. The fruit sets. More excitement. Then it drops. Every time.
The lower part of the bank has succulents galore. A Swiss cheese plant. Wildflowers. Jasmine. Agapanthus. One of my favourites which I’m hoping has self seeded and taken is the sesbania punicea. A pea like flower on a spindly small tree. The seeds after flowering are pretty spectacular too.
My pride and joy which up until COVID struck was the one prickly pear we had managed to keep almost free from the cochineal fly. We even had it fruit. Sadly I think by the time we return we will have lost it. When the fly hits it devastates the cactus. I won’t be deterred. It will be cut right back and we will grow it again.
The rear of the house is a steep dry bank that follows through to the drive. Believe me it’s steep. The access bit has wild orchids. I’m pretty jealous though as a friend has bee orchids. I may have to persuade her to let me have one.
The higher part has a large brown fig. Two loquats with their fabulous big leaves. I’m not a fan of the fruit to be honest but the trees look good. The flowers are scented but I’m never close enough to smell them.
On the lower bank there are agave. Rosemary. The bottle bush. Some rogue allium planted three years ago which have continued each year. Carpobrotus Edulis creeping down the bank. Various succulents.
Remember I mentioned at the beginning the roundabout that’s not a roundabout. Well. It’s not a roundabout. It’s a piece of land across the access road and is an incredibly steep stoney bank. It has a couple of large and I mean large agave on the bank. Two scraggy fig trees and in Spring is carpeted with yellow oxalis. A real acid yellow colour. I won’t admit wanting to run down that bank pretending to be Maria Von Trapp singing the hills are alive. In the summer months it is full of Spanish wildflowers. I’ve bought an excellent book ‘wildflowers of Souther Spain ‘ by Tony Hall. It’s been great to be able to identify what we have.
The garden is so completely different to both the London and Somerset garden. As dry as Somerset is wet. But there are similarities in each. There are agapanthus in all three. A grapevine in two. Lavender. Rosemary. I have tried dahlias in all three. Somerset is the only successful one.
The garden in Spain is a new adventure which has been halted. The garden is watered and we now have help to keep on top of it until we can return and return we will. Until then I get regular updates.
We were lucky to take over an established garden but changes are slowly being made. Nothing drastic but ones to fit in with our lifestyle. I’m ever thankful to our friend Lorraine Cavannagh at Viveros Florena to whom I go to for advice. When we moved I bought a book on Mediterranean plants. To be honest I bought it before we moved and I had no idea then that she was local to the house. She also has a citrus book which we have. Lorraine will let me know when she has something arriving that she thinks I will like. Last year I bought a large colocasia mojito in February just as we left for Mexico and arranged to collect it 5 weeks later. That 5 weeks was 5 months!
There are too many plants to mention but here are a few of my favourites otherwise I’d waffle on and on!
It’s been a while. But somehow in lockdown 3 I’ve lost my mojo. Not quite where I lost it because to be honest I haven’t been anywhere to lose it! The local shops. The local park and I’ve been back a fair few times looking for it. The days are now getting lighter the weathers getting. wetter and colder and I’m dreaming of Spring & Summer days, new planting and maybe just maybe a little travel. Oh and losing the lockdown biscuit belly.
Back to business. It’s been said before I know. Three gardens is just greedy. Well it’s not what was planned and it’s not forever. At some point there will be two. One is not under discussion it’s a given. But for now it’s juggling a tale of 3 gardens.
I hate change. This week we have new neighbours. I always stress about changes. Good neighbours are a vital ingredient to harmony. Our neighbours careers take them away for a few years at a time and then they are back. This is their second overseas visit since they have been neighbours and we miss them and their children. I miss baking for the children. I miss the phone calls ~ ‘we are running late. Can you pick the kids up from school? Can you do the morning school run.
We originally lived in a top floor flat. No garden let alone three. We then bought a house 8 doors down the road ~ which only meant we changed post code and telephone exchange. Bonkers really ~ we couldn’t take our land line ~ remember them? Even more bonkers is that the centre of the road divides the polling. The opposite side of the road votes in a hall in the road. Our side three streets away.
The house and garden was a bit of a mess to say the least and once in there was that moment when you think Um. Why? are we mad?
The interior of the house was multi coloured. You needed sun glasses to get through the front door. But as expected we started work on the garden pretty quickly. There was a low wall behind us to a property where the ground floor flat kept a pretty angry dog who could and did get out of the garden into ours. I recall,the owner being angrier So speed was of the essence. There were issues with the low wall which was solidly leaning into our garden but getting it removed and rebuilt would take to long and we weren’t sure whose responsibility it was. Sometimes boundary issues are just not that clear.
Well at least it is a blank canvas said Ian. Blank canvas ! It certainly was. One where we dug up a complete cooker and various other ‘stuff’ that had been discarded. What soil there was was dead. Even weeds wouldn’t grow.
The garden is small. The houses are tall and the garden really only gets decent sun when the sun is high in the sky which is for a short period in the year and in the afternoon.
Over the years we have seen one house lay a lawn every two years. It’s a waste yet they still continue. But first the fence. Then the paving. In such a small garden it’s difficult to grow directly into the ground so we decided to grow everything in pots. One it would give us height and the give plants a chance of at least surviving. It meant our choice of plants were maybe not my first choice. But that was no bad thing.
As well as the small square space at the rear of the house we had the side return which also needed work. This was such a different project to the garden in Somerset. We were still spending our week in london and then at weekends we piled into the car, us and the two cats and spent the weekend in the garden there. So we wanted something that needed less work but yet held the interest for us. Somewhere we count sit with a glass of wine. Read. Relax.
The garden took shape gradually as we slowly looked for planters. For plants. For ideas and inspiration. From my Instagram posts people know I’m a huge fan of tree ferns. I have to be honest. They weren’t originally down to me. That was down to Ian. He decided he liked tree ferns and that was the start. We bought another last year. I’ve said it has to be the final one. It’s a small space yet we have six.
We were so pleased with the start of the process but it still looked empty. But Ian had other ideas ~ more tree ferns. This picture was taken 16 years ago a year after we moved in. How things change. One of the reasons that things went in pots was that we didn’t intend to stay here for ever. Said the man who doesn’t like change. We made offers on two houses during the last 17 years and missed out on another. So we stayed.
Looking at the photograph now I see hostas. I have never grown them since. The garden is a slug and snail magnet and I’ve learnt what I can and what I can’t grow. It’s a typical london micro climate and because if the size shake and light levels it’s been a huge learning curve. I maintain I”m not a gardener. I garden.
The house is taller at the rear than at the front. Two stories at the front. Three at the very back. This photo was taken from the top floor bedroom at the beginning of the adventure. There are others at varying times.
The last photograph was last summer. I know as we had a move around of two tree ferns to accommodate the new one. It was also agapanthus bud time and I can see a pot of red trailing thyme on the table from Pepperpot herbs . A great lockdown find in 2020 and one we will use again and again.
This one was taken last week which shows just how green the garden is in mid winter. The trunks of the tree ferns are wrapped. Straw in their crowns but some years I haven’t bothered. Last week Ian was out shaking the snow of the tree ferns. The canna still have some leaves hanging in there.
The planting has changed a fair bit over the last 17 years with a couple of constants. Tree ferns. Agapanthus and latterly cannas. Oh. And salvia hot lips which goes crazy and salvia Amistad which is still flowering in January. If I find something isn’t working then it gets taken to Somerset if it will tolerate the wet and cold winters.
We have a small citrus, currently flowering and two wispy olives. An acer. A kind of flowering almond planted in an old chimney pot. . Fatsia spiders web. One climbing rose. Jasmine of three descriptions one of which clotted cream is on a stay of execution. I was going to remove it last year as it had flowered poorly. Last year it went crazy. The trachelospermum by the back door planted because it reminds me of a trip to Italy. A discarded house plant of jasmine planted in a small planter is now 20 feet up the drainpipe and scents the house in summer. A honeysuckle planted in an old chimney,pot. Throw in some annuals for colour and that’s it.
The joy is that the three gardens are markedly different. London full of exotics, I forgot the banana and bamboo, the bamboo canes cut last year and used in Somerset. Somerset very much a cottage garden. Perennials. Fruit trees. Grass. Spain. Drought. Tolerant planting. Succulents. Cacti. Strelitzia both Reginae and Nicolai a great olive tree. Almonds. Oleander. . I’ll save the rest as when my mojo is fired up I’ll blog about that garden
Back to now. Being in pots everything needs a good feed and I’m a fan of using alpaca poo from My friend Lou at Arches at the Larches.
A handful of alpaca in the crown of the tree ferns and a regular liquid feed along with a little of the same for the agapanthus. Which reminds me they need splitting although I say that every year. A change of compost when replanting and a topping up regularly using peat free.
We do need to replace a lot of the pots ~ Ian still says the tree ferns come with us when we move. Good luck.
The front garden is also small. This photo was taken not long after we bought the house. I know as we installed a new front door pretty quickly after the move. Why? Wouldn’t you have done the same? This was indicative of the interior and a muted colour!!
The breeze block wall has gone. The path replaced and a new gate. The front has had more and more pots added over the years with changes in Spring for tulips and perennials and annuals for summer.
Early days window box. I’ve always been a glutton for colourful window boxes. This would have been around 15 years ago.
In 2019 it was gaura, agapanthus and canna. Some plants are in all three gardens. Gaura is now one of them. We have agapanthus in Spain and in the london garden. Last year I also planted them in Somerset. Oh. And I’ve planted canna in Somerset.
Each Autumn I plant up the window boxes with tulips. This year the colours are predominantly orange and purple with accompanying colours. Last year it was all,peony type doubles . I have planted pots of hocus pocus again this year. I describe them as bonkers. Tall. Loud and lovely.
There are two unnamed large pots of white agapanthus. I mean the agapanthus are unarmed not the pots. But they are strong. Very tall and look magnificent when in full bloom.
The one in the first photo below is Agapanthus navy blue. A variety I bought two years ago from Todds Botanics
When you have a new path to match the cat
The garden will continue to evolve whilst we are here. This year we will replace some of the large pots. 17 years later the metal pots are rusting at the base. The agapanthus like me have grown larger. For them it’s the alpaca feed. For me it’s lockdown.
The window boxes have been planted with tulips for Spring. I have my eye on new canna. Some existing will be moved to Somerset. Some large perennials will go too. I have sights on some wispy grasses. I promise to put the correct delivery address on orders this year.
Last year I ordered a number of large agapanthus for Somerset. But failed to change the delivery address. A message from the courier saying he had delivered and left then outside. I looked and there weren’t there. I checked my invoice and yes. Delivered to london.
A 2.5 hour drive back to find they were indeed in the front doorstep. To stuff the car full and drive back. I had no one but myself to blame. Mark at Todds Botanics knows I’m a numpty and now double checks with me.
Not surprisingly it looks like we will be spending more time in the London garden this year. We are lucky. The garden may be small but it is outside space and in lockdown 1 & 2 was so very well needed. Oh and those coloured chairs you see aren’t really for us. But for the geriatric cats who believe they are theirs, we have to use the steel chairs which have now lost the padded seats.
But the garden was a doddle compared with the house interior!
We have managed to spend more time in Somerset this year as travelling to the house in Spain hasn’t been easy. From this week international travel other than for business is banned ! What has been worse is the quarantine on return. I went to the house as soon as the air bridge was announced only to find it was just as quickly removed.
What was meant to be three weeks away to check the house and garden turned into eight. If I was to return to a quarantine I might as well stay as long as I could. Quarantine is harsh and I found it more difficult than the 3 month lockdown. But. It was a price I had to pay for the trip and I followed it to the letter. It was my choice to go away. I’m in no hurry to quarantine again.
I digress. We have spent more time in Somerset this year despite lockdowns and have just returned to spend lockdown 2 in London. It sounds like a movie but I’m hoping it stops at number 2. No prequels. No remakes.
It never ceases to amaze me that there are still places within an hours drive from the cottage that we still haven’t visited. To be fair we have only been there nearly 30 years.
We made a first trip to Forde Abbey and gardens – only a 50 minute drive away. I had seen Instagram posts from friends and decided that as we couldn’t get into Stourhead ~ it was half term and fully booked (like a number of restaurants we tried) it was an opportunity to try something new. It didn’t matter that the weather was wet. At times biblical rain ~ it was well worth it.
Expectation for the perennial beds wasn’t huge. It was the end of October. Things weren’t at their best. We were yet to have a frost but there had been a lot of rain with strong gusts of wind.
But I wasn’t expecting to still see beds of dahlias with such colour and vibrancy. Yes. Some of the perennials had gone over. You could see the Tithonia had seen better days.
But oh. The dahlias. Still standing tall. Still showing that lovely colour and shape.
I could only imagine what the beds looked like at the height of summer but I will definitely be back and hopefully the Abbey will be open then. We also didn’t get to see every bit of the grounds. Another excuse to visit and I didn’t get to see the swinging seats made by Sitting Spiritually. They were the first large stand I remember from my visits to RHS Chelsea. Always in the same spot on the corner opposite the first show garden you saw as you entered the grounds. I promise I will look them out when I’m next at the Abbey.
I must get that Sound of Music ear worm out of my head from the song sung by the Nuns. ‘ Maria’s not an asset to the Abbey ‘
We were told not to miss the fountain which would be going off at midday. Apparently it was not to be missed. The centenary fountain at 160 ft the largest in England. Set in the Great Lake with the mermaid statue it didn’t disappoint. But it did soak those standing down wind. It was more luck than judgement that we were on the opposite side. Surrounded by beautiful autumnal colours and the main house it sure was a spectacle.
In contrast to the herbaceous borders the Bog garden with its streams and bridge was dramatic. Even with things dying back the colours of Autumn were amazing.
A huge variety of trees have been planted in the grounds. Beautiful bark, stunning autumnal leaves and a golden carpet to walk on.
More late Autumn colour in the borders ~ I fear that this week the impending frosts will have a major cull of the plants. Another season over. Lovely Deep colours of Salvia Amistad along with persicaria. The borders and beds such an inspiration for ideas for me for next years planting.
The vegetable garden was looking good. Brassica city and full of lovely healthy looking vegetables with an amazing back drop of the house.
The Abbey is privately owned and is a formerCistercian monastery with the gardens grade II listed.Forde Abbey is Grade Ilisted.
Day 2 was a very different day. A trip to the coast to one of my favourite beaches with a fabulous beach restaurant for lunch. Two years ago we were here a week later when we sat outside for brunch. Not this time. The wind was blowing a hoolie. When we sat down for lunch the heavens opened and the rain was biblical.
The Jurassic coast though we saw no dinosaurs. I remember telling my god kids we were off to the Jurassic coast. ‘ is it like Jurassic Park ‘ they asked. A bit was the reply but the dinosaurs are away at the moment. Burton Bradstock is perfect. A National Trust car park. A great beach cafe Hive Beach Cafe and a restaurant and boarding house on the cliff above ~ the lovely Seaside Boarding House
The sea was rough. When I say rough I mean rough. Brutal waves. High waves and nobody was in the sea. Surprise that. It certainly was bracing as we walked up onto the cliff top. There is sometimes a bonus to being a little on the heavy side. No chance of the wind taking you over the cliff. But it amazing how many people walk either too close to the cliff top. Or too close to the cliffs on the beach. You can almost see which bit of cliff is next to fall into the sea.
I think I’d be a bit worried sleeping here. I doubt I’d sleep when the weather was as rough as it was when we walked past. The little seat we say on looking at to sea was no more.
Um. This sign was on the gate into the public right of way through some scrub land. Did we walk through it? No. Never. I have a pathological fear of snakes. Why wind myself up and have a coronary.
My fear stems from my childhood. When walking through woods in west Wales down to beach at Pwll Ddu my father grabbed my collar and yanked me back off the path. An adder was sunbathing across the path and I was about to step on it. Now I’m a big scaredy-cat. At an office event held in the reptile house at london zoo I could be found with my back pinned against the wall as far away as possible.
After a bracing walk. Lunch at Hive Beach Cafe. Well worth the drive down.
The final day out was a short drive to Shepton Mallet. Well a longer one than usual due to the never ending road works. Kilver Court gardens are a revelation. Many people just visit Kilver Court for the shopping adventures but are unaware of the gorgeous gardens behind. They shop. They pack the cars and retreat. I admit. We’ve done the same but I remembered visiting one autumn previously and remembered the fabulous colours.
The gardens have an amazing backdrop of the 27 span Charlton Viaduct. Once a working viaduct for the Somerset and Dorset Railway and beautifully maintained. It’s a grade II listed structure.
The gardens gave an interesting history ~ established in the early 1900s by industrialist Ernest Jardine as a recreational space for workers at his lace mill. Since then, they have passed through owners including the Showering family (of Babycham fame) and Allied Domecq. Roger Saul bought Kilver Court as a headquarters for Mulberry in 1996. The gardens are a delight. The herbaceous borders inspired by the colour gardens of Santa and Nori Pope from Hadspen gardens were coming to the end of their seasons best but you could see Thor beauty still.
The lake and the rockery designed by a Chelsea gold medal winner adds to the beauty with the autumnal colours spectacular this year.
It’s a three and a half acre garden which packs in a punch and features in the new book by Abigail Willis. ‘ Secret Gardens of Somerset’
To round off the visit. Lunch and a hot chocolate in the cafe. Brilliantly socially distanced.
The colours in our Somerset garden are no match for the two gardens we visited this week!!
Autumnal colours of the spindle berry
I thought there would be no garden adventures for the next month with lockdown no 2. But. Hurrah the gardens of the RHS are open so I have booked our tickets for Wisley. I now need to look at the NT gardens. If they are open then that’s another day out.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!