Have I told you lately that I’m retired?

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

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

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

So what have I done?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Summer and NGS open gardens

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

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

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

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

The entrance to Choumert Square

Lovely colours in the Square

Great herbaceous planting

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

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

Camberwell Grove

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

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

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

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

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

The icing on the cake. The dahlia cake.

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

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

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

The cakes were lovely too.

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

Till next year.

      Here comes the rain 

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

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

Eye eye Captain

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

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

The access road to the house.

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

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

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

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

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

The large agaves on the roundabout

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

A hedge with a view

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

Brazilian sky flower

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


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

Nespera.

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

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


An unknown fruit – maybe a sloe.  


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


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

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


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

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

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


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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

We made our third visit to the Alhambra 

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

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

Trips to the Coast – Nerja & Torre Del Mar

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

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

Casa Verano Eterno 6 months in 

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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


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


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

We need to decide on the Prickly pears. 


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


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


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

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

 

Gardens. A palace and a celebration. 

Autumn weekends can be so lovely. This weekend was one of them. As a birthday – not just a big birthday – a massive birthday  treat I was taken to Oxford for the weekend by two of my closest friends. 

Celebration

Lunch at a mighty fine hotel, a day at Blenheim Palace and then supper with more friends in Woodstock. 

Yes.  Woodstock. And yes. The friends I went with soon got feed up with my childish comment ‘ you do know ‘ I’d say ‘ by the time we get to Woodstock there will be half a million strong’ …. it wore thin after a while. Unlike me. 

Lunch was amazing. Glorious food. Plenty of wine. Too much cheese. Can you have too much? Yes. Definetly. The need for a walk around the garden  after lunch at Le Manoir. 


It’s interesting to see how the gardens at hotels with restaurants work. Here there is a glorious kitchen garden – an amazing array of veg which is used in the kitchens. Together with flower beds and lavender paths. I’m glad to say that my lavender paths in Spain could compete. They have trimmed theirs back which I will do when I am back in Spain in two weeks time. 

Veg beds.

The greenhouses are open where you can  wander in and look around.  What I loved as well is that most things are labelled clearly so you know what you are looking at. A bonus for a novice gardener like me. 

Indian Borage
 
There were some pretty interesting things around. I had never seen snake gourds before. These ones hanging down from the greenhouse roof like well. Snakes. I hate snakes. Though at first I thought they were cucumbers. But. They were clearly labelled! 

Snake gourds

There was a great display of gourds and chillis in the garden teaching space. Amazing colours. Great shapes. 


Amazing selection of chilli’s

The flower beds were interesting too. We had missed the best as you’d expect as Autumn falls. But there were still some intersting plants and grasses flowering. We didn’t fully explore the gardens to be fair but what we saw was great. An excuse to go back? A long wait until my next significant birthday. 

Flower beds
Grasses and flowers
It was a great contrast of a weekend. Lunch at a 2 Michelin star restaurant and breakfast at a Premier Inn. 


A short drive after breakfast to Blenheim Palace. An imposing palace – birthplace of Winston Churchill and where he proposed to his wife. At this time of year the rooms on view of the palace are limited – in summer you can also view the private space. I will be back. I’m nosey. But the rooms are glorious. The artwork amazing. But I wouldn’t want their heating bills. 


The estate is huge – great trees, huge massive trunks that look like feet, a rose garden, the Churchill memorial garden. A massive lake. 

I imagine the rose garden in full bloom is awesome. Planted with just a few varieties. Iceberg. Peace. Royal William. A pink I didn’t get the name of. The first two grown in my parents garden in the 70s. Not these roses obviously. But they grew these varieties. I suspect that the ones here weren’t bought at Woolworths gardening section though.  


 My mother would have had a field day. I’ve mentioned before. She was an avid deadheader. She would have been in her element. I know it’s the end of the season but there were a lot of buds still there and if the frost stays away … at some point I guess they will need to refresh the beds. A lot of dead wood. Hopefully the pruning will cut it all back. 


It was a glorious walk around the Estate. A massive Estate. Amazing vistas.  Awesome trees. Water. Wildlife. Tourists! 



The feeling of a great TV blockbuster drama unfolding as you walked around. The boat house. The lake. But I wasn’t about to do a Mr Darcy and emerge from the lake all moody.  And wet. I don’t do wet. I’m someone who has to change his swimming trunks as soon as I get out of  the pool. I can be moody. But not in a Mr Darcy way. I guess more Grumoy than D’Arcy. 


These were great big pots. Filled with black grass. As a friend on Instagram said ‘ I’m not sure about these. Look a bit like toupees’ – looking at them again. She’s right! But they did look great and I guess are pretty easy to manage. 


Autumn is here. The leaves are turning. The colours are fab on the trees.  Leaves are on the ground. For now. Crisp. Dry.  Gorgeous. 

By the time we got to Woodstock – I didn’t say it again. Honest. I won’t say it now. 

Have I told you I’m retired. 

Have I told you I’m retired. Oh. Yes I guess I have.  A lot. It’s approaching two years now. Two whole years. I am still getting asked. Aren’t you bored yet?  I always give the same answer. Bored. Bored? Only with being asked that question.

I have lists to get through. Lists given to me by Ian. Some things I have ticked off. Some still remain after two years. Like the loft. My theory is if it’s waited 15 years what’s another two. I have gardens to see. Workshops to do. Galleries to peruse. Oh. And add in a few trips to Andalucia. New plants and bulbs to purchase. 

I agreed, with myself admittedly, that I would have one day off a week. One day where it was all about me. Ian would say what’s different to the other 6. But I wanted a day where I could do what I liked. No home duties. No shopping. Just a me day. Admittedly some weeks I have two. This week was one of those weeks. Ok some weeks I have seven. Especially when I’m in the garden in Spain. 

I have had a a busy one. Involving gardens. A museum. A theatre visit. Making the most of a bit of late sun. In London. 

Yesterday was a good day. Starting in Blackheath with a pretty good bacon sarnie, a bus ride across the heath and down into Greenwich. It’s pretty surprising what you find when you have a bit of a wander. Aimlessly with you camera. And no sense of purpose. 

Having left Ian at the station I wandered along to the river. I used to cycle to Greenwich on my way to the office. Admittedly it was in a previous decade or two. I know that as at that stage I could and did wear Lycra.  So in some ways I was retracing old steps. This time not in Lycra. It wasn’t a pretty sight then. It would be shocking now. 

I used to go through the foot tunnel which is adjacent to the river. I was surprised yet delighted to find a small patch of planting close to the entrance to the tunnel. Even more surprised that it was not your usual planting , not the odd geranium here and there and bedding plants. Now. There’s nothing wrong with that combination. Planting is important. Of all kinds. But it’s great to find something different. 

Canary Wharf in the distance

The lovely planting adjacent to the Greenwich foot tunnel entrance

Having the  Piet Oudolf  garden near us in Somerset has made me a fan of this style of planting. But for me it’s great in summer and Autumn. I’m not a Winter or spring fan of prairie. Give me lots of Spring bulbs. Daffs. Bluebells. Tulips. 

 I love the effect of the planting against the harsh concrete and glass in the distance of Canary Wharf. Continuing colour into Autumn. With the drying seed heads. Canary Wharf.  The destination of my cycle rides. My work destination for 28 years. Now tthe  cycle rides are qin the dim and distant past. In later years I drove. Not through this tunnel of course. But through a different  one. 

The entrance to the foot tunnel at Greenwich

My destination of the day was the  Sky Garden at the Walkie Talkie building Fenchurch  street. But before my allocated slot I had  a bit of time to kill  so I had a wander. It’s easy to walk around London when you live here with your eyes closed and miss the things that are around you. To take things for granted.  Like the phone box and post box combination. Typically British. Very nostalgic. Since retiring I have had the opportunity to wander. Aimlessly and often. Here and there. There and here. Wherever here or there is at any given time! 

A George V postbox and the original immobile phone
I had wanted to go the Sky Garden for a long time. But for whatever reason I hadn’t managed to get a ticket. It’s free but you have to book a time and they only come in two week booking slots. I had booked for last Friday but somehow failed to get into town in time. Luckily you can change the time and day online and I was determined to get there. So I took the boat. From Greenwich to Tower Hill. The brilliant Thames Clipper. When I first started work in Canary Wharf decades ago I used to travel from  Embankment  to Canary Wharf on the original river taxis. It was the old days and traffic was light. There was a large boat. And a 12 seater which sometimes we were allowed to board. Things are different these days. A fabulous service where you can get a drink on board too! A great way to see the river frontage enroute  up the Thames. 

I digress. Which I do a lot. So to the Sky Garden. Situated on the 35th floor of 20 Fenchurch Street. 



Yes there is a queue for the timed entries. Yes there is airport security as you enter. But boy it’s worth it. 

View to the outdoor viewing platform

The views from the viewing platform and from inside the building are stunning.  London sights. St Paul’s. The Tower. London Bridge station. The London eye. 

There is a great cafe with some awesome cakes.  Hot coffee. Suitable for all the gardening fraternity who seem to like a bit of cake. Me included. 

Awesome cakes. Fit for a gardener

The planting is interesting. People know I am a bit of a fan of tree ferns. Of Agaves. Succulents. There are plenty here amongst a lot of good planting. 

I loved seeing a couple of pearly / foxtail agaves which we have in our garden  in Andalucia. 

Foxtail agave

The tree ferns were pretty spectacular too and there were a lot. 

Ooh. How I love a tree fern or two

I had been to the Crossrail roof garden the week before ( yep on another day off). I love that garden. The major difference to me is that there you walk through the garden. At the Sky  garden you walk around the periphary.  The planting hangs down two sides and you walk around it. And look up to it. Does that make sense?  It somehow feels that you are part of the planting at Crossrail and they have some cool information boards on the planting. 

The Sky Garden is a great space and I wonder how  the garden will evolve. It’s an oasis  in the city and worth a visit for sure. For me the views take over from the garden as they are spectacular. I found the garden secondary to the views. 

Roof top gardens in the City of London

It’s amazing what you can see from 35 floors up. These are two fabulous looking roof gardens on city of London rooftops. I have no idea of whose buildings they are but it’s great to see the diversity and greenery in the city. You would and do walk past these buildings with no idea what’s above you. 

St Paul’s. City Hall Tower of London London Bridge station

You often don’t realise how green the city is. Greenery splashed wherever you look. 

So. It was last week but I’ll include some pics of Crossrail place roof garden. It’s an amazing quiet space in the hustle and bustle of Canary Wharf. Canary Wharf is an amazing place. Yes. Concrete. Glass. But tee are some wonderful,diversions. Green spaces. Art. Sculpture. They do a great guide to Art on the Estate  

Crossrail place Roof garden Canary Wharf

There are a lot of green spaces around the Canary  Wharf estate beautifully maintained and an oasis. It’s definetly worth a visit. Despite having worked on the Wharf for 28 years I am still a huge fan! 

Green spaces and a piano at Canary Wharf
Earlier in the week I had wandered into the Wallace Collection A free entry museum in Marylebone. An excellent collection and a fabulous gallery. As usual I found a flowery picture to send to My friend Georgie Newberry


A nice autumnal painting by a Dutch artist. 

Next weeks another week. And another garden. We are off to Blenheim  Palace. With my camera of course…..

Highs and lows of Summer ‘17 

So I’m back in London. You can tell I’m in London. I am wearing long trousers. And socks.  The garden here is looking tired. It needs a bit of a haircut. A bit like me. The lavender in the window boxes want s great whilst it lasted but is failing fast but the red of the geraniums and the blue of the lavender was a striking combination this year. The geraniums are still blooming despite the voice in my head telling me I should have been deadheading.  

The geraniums still going strong in London
I have left behind in Spain a  garden that is still dry. Is pretty green in parts with some glorious seedheads dripping future plants across the garden. Agapanthus and jacaranda being the two biggest culprits. There is a lack of colour. Yes the plumbago is still blooming. There is the odd flower on the oleander. The white oleander, the pink has none. The yucca is flowering, but is about to go over, jasmine has some flowers dotted here and there but its more a spring and early summer garden. When we wee viewing in March the scent of freesias was noticeable as you passed by, Needles to say my bulb order will include freesias.  

Agapanthus seed heads in Spain

This summer has had both highs and lows for me. The biggest high finally finding and deciding in a heartbeat that the garden and the house – see what came first- in Andalucia was right for us.  Seen and bought In a matter of 8 weeks.  Any regrets? Four months in – not one.  A huge learning curve, well really  more like a steep ascent up the highest mountain, on foot with a huge backpack,  but great fun to see what has appeared so far and what will appear in early spring. Add the challenge of watering and you get the picture.

Casa Verano Eterno – House of Eternal Summer

The low – the acceptance that something had to give and after 23 years it was the Cottage in Somerset. The cottage is on the market and we will be sad to be moving on. But for one last season I was able to garden in all three gardens. All very different. All challenging in their own way. The wet West Country. The dry villages of Andalucia. The space restraints of London.  Different environments. Different plants. Different requirements. 

In Somerset I had to forgo  some of my favourite plants this season. Dahlias. I have only grown to love them in recent years and now I am deserting them. I will not be able to grow them in Spain and the garden in London will need some rearranging to accommodate. But having seen  Jack Wallington & Christopher Anderson’s  garden open for NGS I think I may be able to do it. Not quite as spectacularly as Jack thats for sure, his Dahlias are huge and gorgeous. 

Somerset Dahlias

I have loved the new Mediterranean garden as those who know me have been inundated with pictures, words a bit of a blog  and stories of our trips there. Getting to grips with new plants. With new soil. The constant heat – I don’t know about the plants but at times I have wilted. In the shade! The joy of seeing what was in the garden. The excitement of being away for two weeks and finding new plants when I returned. New colours. New  Scemts. The range of plants is excellent and the previous owner had an eye for detail.  Some will need to change to take in the fact that we are not there peramanemtly. Some additions,  More agapanthus more succulents. Some Mediterranean wildflower seed for the banks. A chop for the prickly pears to see if we can rid them of disease, a lesson in citrus. 

Then coming back to London to my window boxes. My small patio garden at the back of the house. So very different to Spain. Tree ferns. A black bamboo. Salvia, Monarda. A bit of lavender. Oh. And more agapanthus. Delighted to find that the agapanthus in Spain self seeds as easily as have the London ones. 

The ‘expensive ‘ book Ian commented on when I bought it has  proved invaluable to identifying a lot of the plants. It also helps that the author Lorraine Kavannagh has a  Garden centre – Competa  just outside town. Something I didn’t know when I bought the book.  Needless to say we have visited. On more than once occasion.  I have also bought another book. Wildflowers of Southern Spain. That’s my reading material for my next flight. In 3 weeks time and will prove invaluable for the Spring months. 

 


Back in London I have ordered the tulips for this years window boxes and pots. I like to change the colours but cannot move  away totally from the lovely Brown Sugar. First seen at RHS Malvern and grown for the first time last year. I have ordered a delivery of Alliums, freesia and Chionodoxa for Spain. All from Karen at Peter Nyssen  who is so generous with her time and help. Especially with those of us who know a bit and need some guidance.  I always say that I garden. I am not a gardener per se and Karen is so helpful with suggestions of what to plant whenI need some help,  So my orders are in and no doubt I will add to them as I remember things I’d like. I’m hoping that by the time the Alliums arrive in Spain the ground will be easier to plant. Fingers crossed  there will have been some rain. Otherwise it’s hi ho hi ho it’s off  to work  I go – with a pickaxe. Which in fact I have in the garage full of tools we bought with the house. I now realise why there is a pickaxe there. 

The planting of the bulbs in London will be a more sedate and easier affair! There is no major worry of frost in Spain ( he says glibly) but I must collect some straw from the local farmer in Somerset to put in the crowns of the tree ferns in London.  I didn’t last year and was lucky. We seem to have a micro climate in the garden here which they seem to like as does the little olives and the banana.  We had geraniums still blooming one a first floor window in January. 

  The back garden London
Our Cottage in Somerset is to be sold. I have loved having a typical Cottage garden – foxgloves,roses,clematis,poppies,honeysuckle fruit trees and a bit of veg. But all good things, like plants, has a life cycle and our time in Somerset has been wonderful. I have made so many gardening friends there and have had the opportunity to see some amazing gardens. But the new adventure is exciting. Hard work but fun. When I know what I am doing it will be even more fun, There will be mistakes. I have already made one or two planting errors. But thats part of the fun. Isn’t it

The garden in Somerset

So I head into Autumn with an air of excitement. New bulbs new choices for London. New bulbs and a wonderment of what’s to come for the Spring in Andalucia. 
Who said that retirement would be boring.