We had our first visitor to the new house this weekend. Which was exciting. You know that feeling where you love something and hope others do too. Well that.
The joy of being here in Spain is the opportunity to look at new and different gardens. To look out for new ideas and new plants to weave into our new Mediterranean garden. It’s a huge learning curve and one where after only theee months I have lost a few plants on the way. The ground is hard. The climate harsh this summer. Hot. Dry. My visits here scattered.
So with our first visitor we headed off to the Alhambra We had been 18 months ago in April 2016 but it’s a stunning visit and one I will not tire of. Not yet anyway. An easy 1.5 hour drive away. The Alhambra is a series of buildings with the Nasrid palace the glittering jewel in the crown. One where you have an allotted time to visit.
The gardens when we were there in April were nice. I hate that word. Nice. It kind of means bland. Nice. So I was interested to see the summer planting. The colours. The smells, but slightly worried with this years extreme heat we may have missed it.
Tickets for the Alhambra are always sold out. There is no point deciding on the day to go visit. You need to plan. Your tickets. The entry time to the Nasrid Palace. Plan your trip. Thankfully we had. Tickets booked in May. The route planned with the assistance of my good friend Sally. Sally sat nag. We are rubbish as map readers so are happy to be dominated by the Tom Tom.
Water is a bit of a luxury here in Spain especially during the summer months. So I was surprised to see the gardens being heavily watered. At 10am. By watered. I mean Watered. Heavily. But when you walk around the vast and varied garden you can tell I’m not watering enough in mine. Even for drought tolerant plants. This years heat has been brutal.
But I have to say the planting is simply gorgeous. Stunning in parts. Colourful. Interesting. Plants I knew. Ones I haven’t seen in years. Simple. Interesting. A few I have to revert to Twitter for help in identifying. The planting so colourful that it reminds me of my parents front borders of the 1970’s.
There is structure. Carefully cut and structured hedging. Labelled. Please do not touch the plants. It’s yew. It’s poisonous. Something I’ve found a lot of the plants here are.
I was surprised to see roses. I don’t really know why – but I’ve been Surprised to see many things in the gardens here. Hollyhocks for one.
There has been an absolute stunner of a rose growing over the gates of the house opposite us. A gorgeous red. So full of bloom I had to go and check it was real. It was. This yellow rose in the formal structured beds was a stunner. I thought too yellow for Graham Thomas. But a beautiful rose dotted about over the gardens. There were a lot of standards. Giving height. Structure. Colour at eye level.
I haven’t seen Alyssum since it was planted down my parents front path in the 1970’s. Like lobelia a staple in gardens years ago – , which I have in window Boxes for the first time in years this year and has grown and looks well ,but like Alyssum seems to have fallen out of fashion for more blousy plan more unusual plants for the borders and window boxes. It was the standard bedding plant back in “the old days” along with lobelia, tagetes ,petunias, godetia, busy lizzies and begonias. Oh and red bedding salvias . Most of which were to be found in beds across the Alhambra. To be honest – it was a delight to see old friends.
The line for the Nasrid palace queues alongside some lovely beds. I love the orange colours in the garden but hate the smell of tagetes when you handle them. In a mass planting the orange of these are uplifting. Dotted under standard roses.
We came across this gorgeous plant. Planted as a mass in some beds whilst in others there were splashes of colour and in some more a riot of colour. An explosion. After a shout of ‘help’ on twitter it was identified as an euphorbia- euphoebia marginata Kilimanjaro. Thank you twitter folk.
They certainly know how to do colourful with their planting. More an explosion than planting. But it’s stunning. There were also beds of dahlias, statice and all manner of things. Salvias a plenty. What looked like a form of knautia.
Someone has been kept busy. The shape size and scale of some of the topiary was awesome. I have trouble trimming our hedges and I know if I tried to shape them I’d end up with such ugly shapes. Yep. I know. A bit like me!
It wasn’t all colour. The agapanthus in huge drifts at the entrance were going over. Flower heads turning into big fat seed heads. I think I’ve taken enough photos of aggies this year. There were some tall architectural trees. But an abcence of succulents unless I was too mesmerised with the colours that I. Issued them.
You can’t help but be in awe of the buildings here. The intricate craftsmanship of the decoration in the marble the woodwork and the history.
But the gardens are a surprise. A welcome place to wander and reflect the majesty of the palaces.
A reminder to me of the blaze of colour I grew up with in my parents borders – the planting of annuals where the concept of less is more was rarely understood. But it set me up for the love of colour. Of gardens and gardenning.
I can’t wait to go back again in the spring and to see what the bedding has been replaced with. I hope bulbs. Lots of them.
No it wasnt funny the first time said Ian. A grown man standing in the garden. Squeaking. Weed. Weed. I guess he’s too young to remember watch with mother. Bill and Ben the flowerpot men. With Weed . Behind the potting shed. Which looks nothing like the lovely potting shed of Karen Gimson. She knows I have potting shed envy. That I’m going to move into hers.
Anyway. As usual I thought it was funny. Obviously not. But I was here to weed.
Having bought our new Spanish house and having a new garden to manage and with spending more time there the garden in Somerset has been a bit neglected. Ooh. A lot of ands there.
It hasn’t helped that we have had sun. Rain. Sun. Sun. Rain. So the garden has grown. You can watch it grow. From the dryness of inside the kitchen window. Plants are taller. The weeds stronger. I maintain I have the national collection of bindweed. Hideous weed. The plant. Not the Bill and Ben character.
I’ve tried for weeks to get to the cottage. But every time I have a day or two it rains. It pours. Horizontal rain. Wind.Great British Summer. I’m a wimp. I’m a fair weather gardener. Don’t judge me. You know who I mean!
It’s sad to see that the garden isn’t as pristine as I usually have it. Pristine is the wrong word. It’s not a show garden. I’m not a gardener. I garden for me. I grow what I like. Where I like. But I usually have more time. The grass had been cut but there was work to be done. But yes. There were some lovely plants in bud. In flower. Seedheads. New beginnings.
The roses I pruned with Sara Venn earlier in the year were budding like crazy. The second flush of flowers coming through now. I had a great day with Sara and she taught me a lot about pruning fruit trees. Maybe I can persuade her to come to spain!
The apple tree we pruned is loaded with fruit. The best I’ve seen in years. We were a bit ( I say we – Sara ) worried about the tree with the red apples. But it’s done amazingly well. Some have been picked and brought home. The tree was supposed to be a Laxton superb. My mothers favourite apple. You can’t beat a laxtons she used to say. Well someone has beaten me. This ain’t laxtons superb.
Everyone knows I like a dahlia or two and I planted a couple of new ones this year – well more than a couple to be fair.
Bought and planted. Before I knew we would hopefully be on the move. Two have flowered beautifully. But. Hello. Cafe au lait where are you hiding? Not under the bindweed. Surely not. I first saw cafe au lait at Georgie Newberry’s Common Farm Flowers And fell in love with it. I have had so many suggestions over the last year for new dahlias I can’t keep up.
The dahlia bed was doing ok. The tubers I had left in had come through. Beaten off the slugs – and a couple were blooming lovely. Black Jack. Rip city. A couple of bishops.
There’s a couple of things I’m rubbish at. – gardening things. Staking is one. Always on my list. Rarely crossed off. Remembering when the plants get straggly. Or there is wind. The other. Labelling. I have had the intention of a plan. Labelling the plants. Putting them down on paper. A proper plan. So I don’t forget the names. It was a plan. But 23 years later it’s still a plan. I’m trying not to make the same mistake in Spain. I’ll tell you how I get on. In 23 years time
But thankfully I have the invoice still from Withypitts so have identified Peach Delight and Shooting Star.
The bees havent deserted me. The Echinops all a buzz. Two for the price of one.
The weeds are bad. So bad that I have a helper. Quite how Ian has decided to help I don’t know. Obviously there is no tennis on the TV But he has. I might have to turn a blind eye at his technique and the odd pull of a plant that is not a weed. Today he’s keen. Carry on regardless.
It’s amazing. Often there are plants which run away with themselves. This is one. I swear that this year it’s two foot taller than usual. I like them. Great for cutting but boy are they invasive or what!
The monbretia. Yes I know it’s all crocisima now. But my parents called it Monbretia and old habits die hard. This clump has never previously flowered. I mentioned it last year and moaned about it. Someone said that they always flower. This year the clump is flowering. Like crazy. Have indeed me anything different. No. Not that I can think of.
I planted an Emily McKenzie and it’s in bud. I’ll miss the flowers this year as I am away again.
The garden photographs well. Looks good. Even if I say so myself. But please don’t look too closely. Bindweed and groundelder are everywhere.
We have a grape vine at the back of the house. It catches the sun. But I thought that this year we had no grapes. They aren’t sweet and last year for the first year I picked them. Ate one. Even sourer than me. So I made grape and Rosemary jelly. Went down a bomb. So I started to hack the growth back – full of horticultural technique me – and lo and behold hiding under the growth were bunch after bunch of grapes. Larger than last year and hopefully with some Aug sun ( please ) they will get fatter and juicier. Chateau Pitcombe if wont be. But good old grape and Rosemary jelly again. And again.
Rhubarb. Not picked for ages. So I have. No need to force this rhubarb. Looks like I’d need to force it to stop. There will be rhubarb gin and rhubarb and star anise cordial. Some for next door for a crumble. The gin to add to the sloe gin supply gently brewing in the kitchen cupboard.
The poppies are over for another year. The seed heads are drying ready to explode and sow themselves for another year.
So now I ache. My back. My arms. I’m weeded out. But do you know what. Give it another three weeks and on my next trip and I’ll be doing it all over again. Whether I want to or not.
It’s the last week of July and after a trip to Italy and a quick whizz around two NGS London open gardens I’m back in Spain. The open gardens were fab – two very different London gardens.
Jack Wallington garden was a revelation in what you can do in a small London garden. Great planting. Huge varieties and all plants labelled! Oh dear. Please don’t judge me Jack. I always forget what names. Let alone plants. But jacks echiums are giving us ideas for our new Mediterranean garden in Spain. Other plants Ideas for our small London garden. Oh. And it’s open again on 10 September.
So after an abscence of three week what would the Spanish garden have in store.? Well. Certainly drier than in London. I’d been panicking a bit about the heat. The temperatures are high. Even for summer. In the Andalusian hills. There is an irrigation system. And someone to go in and water. But…….
At the back of the house we have a slope. I’ve mentioned it before. The last time I went up there I itched for days. Was worried I’d encounter a snake. And we had an Italian experience. I don’t think I’ve mentioned that.
Was worried about fires so we arranged for it to be strimmed. I was asked. Why don’t you do it yourself – you’ve got the time. “Excuse me” I said. “Strimming an extremely dry slope in 30* heat dressed from head to toe in overalls.” Thanks. Maybe next year. So it was done. Not by me and looks so much better. The almond trees look better and there is a good crop. Quite what I’ll do with them is another question. . The figs are ripening and hopefully will be ready to pick when we have friends staying in the next two months.
The other side of the bank doesn’t look as great and needs some more planting. The prickly pears look like they are going down with a disease again this year. I know they were all cut to the ground last year and a skip filled between two houses. I’m hoping to have a mix of nespera, olives and some succulents dotted about. But the ground is as hard as iron. We need to wait for the rain.
Down in the main garden most of the plants were looking ok. Some are struggling in the heat. Even those that are drought tolerant. There are three areas to the garden. The main area at the front of the house. Three beds. A lavender path. Some citrus. Some pots. To the side of the house and ro the back two sloping beds. Cactus. Succulents. Stuff. The mandarin and lime that Ian wanted and are in pots are looking good. Plenty of mandarins. No limes this year. There will be next.
The pearly agave in a pot is looking fab. Particularly if you catch it in the right light. I’ve found another at the back of the house – I’m hoping they will flower.
When I left three weeks ago I thought the Stephanotis would flower and be over by the time I got back. Its in a large pot and has struggled a bit but there were still beautiful waxy blooms. As I tidied the plant up I found one single solitary fruit. I never knew that they could fruit – mind you I have only really seen them as pot plants. Indoors. Used in bridal bouquets apparently. Not mine.
They smell lovely.
I forgot to take a picture before I left – the fruit has changed a lot in a week. Apparently the black silky seeds can be easily propagated. Not by me I fear.
This border and the circle under the old olive tree is doing well. There are loads of olives. The strawberry mint I planted and which I thought had died is growing again. I didn’t think that even I would be able to kill mint.
The lavender likes me being away. I tend to overwater. So it does better when I’m not there.
I cleared a bit of the oleander next to the garage. And found a lovely plumbago. Struggling behind the oleander but the blue is lovely against the white of the garage. Now I know it’s there I’ll make sure it does well. ( right – as if )
The wall planting has one solitary red geranium flower – we are in between blooms. The scented pelargoniums are doing really well. I find them a bit boring. Insignificant flowers. But boy. As you brush past the scent is delicious. And they are pretty hardy in the dry.
I also found that there are six quinces on the quince tree. Well what else would you expect? But I was surprised. Now to see what I can do with them.
I’ve mentioned before that my mother was the queen of deadheading. Something she instilled in me. I’m not as bad as her – I don’t walk up anyone’s path and deadhead as I go. She did. But these little flowers drive me insane. I’m forever taking off the dead ones. I mean forever.
The agapanthus have finished and are setting seed. I’m going to let a lot self seed this year. There are a lot of plants. I have space for more. Don’t I? But I have been making a note of some really dark ones. There have been some great suggestions of new agapanthus for me to look at on twitter this last month.
It’s not all been gardening. I managed a day wandering around town taking some photographs. But the heat defeated me. I had to sit in the square people watching. That was so hard to do. For hours.
The sunsets are awesome and are something I don’t think I will tire of. Glorious from our terrace. The sun was so red and bright in the sky as it went down behind the mountains.
The town of Competa. A 10 min drive from the house. A glorious white washed Andalusian town. Nestling on the hillside.
So I’m home for just over a week and then back to Spain for three. It was supposed to be only a week in August but we have visitors coming for another week – and we can’t not be there with them. Not when it’s our two favourite boys arriving with their parents. Wouldn’t be right would it.
Ian will be there for a week as planned. Largely to drink wine. On 15 August the town celebrates its wine festival – NOCHE DEL VINO: – which starts with the wine treading on the Plaza de la Vendimia. Then goes on all night. Not that we will. We also have. A friend staying for that. But we are also heading to the Alhambra. In August. In the heat. But it will be worth it. It’s such a stunning place.
I also found some gardens that open near to Granada. Though we may not have time this time.
But. As I left the forecast for the end of this week is 41*. With night time temperatures of 24. Who know what I will find next week!! I’m sure I’ll tell you though.
These last few months my feet don’t seem to have touched the ground. The purchase of the house in Spain and the excitement of the new Mediterranean garden has taken over. Things happened with the purchase far quicker than we imagined. We had our summer trips pretty much sewn up. Now to add more.
For the last five years we have had an annual trip in June, after RHS Chelsea of course, to Italy to stay with a friend an hour or so from Florence and close to Sienna.
It’s an easy drive from Florence airport – provided you can find your way out of the rental car park onto the Motorway. That’s the difficult part. Where we will have our first disagreement. Neither are map readers and Sally sat nag even gets confused. ( don’t even ask about the return journey. )
This year we did it. Straight out and straight onto the right road. No argument. No ‘ why don’t you bloody drive then’ just a quiet drive through gorgeous countryside ( once off the main roads ) through grape vines – not literally – past cypress trees – olive groves and very very dry countryside. If we think our ground is dry it’s nothing like the Med. a pick axe wouldn’t even work!
You’d think I’d be used to the long and winding roads after Spain. Not really. They still get to me even in such glorious surroundings.
I love the cypress trees so tall and majestic. Like sentries particularly when they line those long and winding roads!
The garden where we stay has some great pots – shame I couldn’t pack them and bring them home! Amazing lavender. Roses. With what seems the obligatory Italian plant. What I call ivy leaf geraniums. Pinks. Reds. And every shade thereof. Everywhere you look there are pots. Crammed full with colour.
We travelled to Pienza a renaissance town and is a UNESCO World Heritage site but is not too touristy.
The town is also well known for being the home of Pecorino cheese. . The street smells of cheese. Seriously. Smells of cheese. But the choice is amazing. Big cheese. Little cheese. Yes please. So we did and great cheese it was too.
The views from the centre of the town are breathtaking high up over the valley below but it is abundantly clear just how dry the soil is. The avenue of cypress so very Tuscan.
The light was spectacular – so spectacular we needed an Aperol spritz to take it all in! With lunch of course.
Luckily we found that La Foce a short drive away was open for a garden tour after lunch so we hot footed our way over to the house and gardens. La Foce gardens were designed by the English architect Cecil Pinsent for an extraordinary Couple the Origa’s and are glorious. Three distinct sections on three levels. A lot of structure. A lot of box – god help them if they ever get box blight. Very symmetrical. One layer all box and big lemon trees in pots. The lower garden is Visually stunning with extraordinary views.
It was very English. Lawns. Box. A wisteria walk which had gone over but had the longest seed heads I’ve ever seen. I’m sure the walk is spectacular if you get it at the right time.
There is a flower garden too which was difficult to photograph. Roped off and too bright. But some lovely salvia plants. Some agapanthus. . Lavender. A lovely border of Annabelle hydrangea.
The history of the house and its owners iris & Antonio Origa. is interesting. They created the garden over a period of 14 years and she wrote a diary of the gardens in the years of the second world wAr. Kindle here we come.
As I only had my faithful iPhone camera I will definetly be back to Pienza and la foce but don’t tell Ian. He’d tell me to la foce off.
Back at the house the wild flowers were out in abundance. . The lovely blue of the chicory a joy amongst the dry grasses and the oats that had blown over from the adjacent field. There was the cry of the deer in the thicket behind the house calling for the young who were bouncing around in the field. The sight of a big fat hare sat watching. The birds swooping down to the pool taking a sip of water the parents majestically. The fledglings almost dove bombing and getting a surprise as they took the water and moved off.
We lunched at La botega volpaia what must be one of my favourite restaurants. Not just because on a previous visit I had my belt caught up on the chair and had to be released by a handsome Italian waiter. But for the food and the ambience. Amazing pasta. The best chips. Peas in sage. Great views from the terrace.
The entrance to the restaurant has the most amazing Trachelospermum hedge which has the most delicious scent.
I had decided to leave my camera at home this trip so I used my iPhone. But we are back next week for two weeks. My camera is charged. The spare batteries are ready.
So I said goodbye to sunny Spain. Sadly left the mew Mediterranean garden and the heat behind to catch the delayed flight to London. Down the long and winding road. Again. This time singing to myself. Ian flew back a few days ago.
Nothing better than sat waiting to board the plane whilst an irate passenger berates rather rudeley the girl at the gate. Who smiles sweetly and let’s him rant. Well done I think. Then says. In broken Spanish. Thank you sir. I am Ryan Air. You are travelling British Airways. Boom. A deflated and embarrassed angry man.
We eventually depart. A full flight. An announcement goes over the tannoy. ‘Today we have a passenger flying with us who has a severe nut allergy. We will not be serving nuts. We would also ask you to refrain from eating your own nuts. ‘
Childish I know. But I collapsed into a heap of giggling childish laughter.
Did I say escape the heat. Huh. It’s hot back in London. Without the air conditioning and everyone complains how hot it is. Even me.
There is another constant. My love for agapanthus! They have gone crazy whilst I’ve been away. Combination of the heat and the feeding of Lou’s pooh in the spring. We had great leaf growth and I had thought I had overfed. But the number of buds has been great. Agapanthus that struggled to flower last year are bursting.
I almost love the opening buds more than the full flowers. Or maybe the seed heads after flowering.
We bought two plants a good few years ago and put in a large pot in the centre of the front garden. Garden is an wxagatration. It’s an area at the front of the house. But this agapanthus never ceases to amaze me. There are loads of buds every year which virtually appear over night. Small light blue flowers. I keep thinking I ought to split them. Maybe next year. Maybe not.
The agapanthus by the front door were bought at Columbia Road flower market a few years ago. Cheap. Cheerful and have been great. This year they seem taller than usual so I will need to be careful that they do not snap off. Or get picked like they did a few years ago!
I know that this one will be the darkest of them all. The tell tale signs of the bud give it away. It’s a really dark colour – like a black almost.
But like Spain a lot will open whilst I’m away which happens every year! The good thing is that they have a good flowering period. Oh. I’ve just found a self seeded one about to flower in the orange tree pot.
The back garden is small and I mean small and has to incorporate everything. Like a washing line amongst the plants. All the plants without exception are in pots. The tree ferns.a couple of olives. An almond tree. Easy to move around. But a pain to water.
An empty chair. Usually occupied by one of the cats but it’s too hot for them. They are sprawled out behind s tree fern.
I have always had window boxes. I think it’s an inherited thing. My parents did hanging baskets. Hanging at their front door. A bit of a show off with next door as to how could have the best. . So I like to have the front looking good. I maybe have missed one or two years where I have had a break but this year I decided to go back to the good old geranium. They were great in the pots in Somerset last year and went on right into the autumn only being moved to make room for the tulip planting. Which I also did in the window boxes here for the spring.
This year for the first time I added some lavender to the boxes with the geraniums and it’s worked really well. Even if I say so myself. I also used good old lobelia for the side boxes something I haven’t planyed in years. My parents always grewv it along the front path accompanying allysum which I don’t think I’ve seen at a garden centre or nursery in a very long time. That and the good old Busy Lizzie! Their garden was a homage to the planting of the time. Lobelia. Allysim. Petunia. Tagetes. Godetia. All grown from seed.
Gardening in London is a challenge. The garden is small. There’s lots I want to grow but can’t. Dahlias another of my loves are rubbish here. We get overrun with snails. Not slugs. I have one climbing rose. A lovely David Austin bought my a good friend of mine Emma. As a thank you for staying at the cottage.
But the upside is that we have a sheltered garden where most years we don’t have to cover the crowns of the tree ferns. Tracheospernum grows well. Jasmine grows like crazy up the drainpipe out of a ridicously small pot. A black bamboo whist scraggy is over 10 foot tall.
There have been disappointments. As the garden is small I like to have some scented plants. The jasmines flower at different times and the smell of both is very very different. So I bought a Philadelphus to add to the mix. A belle etoille which we have had in Somerset. Gorgeous smell. White flower with a purple throat. But it appears that it’s not what I got. Pretty. But plain white with little scent. Annoying. It will have to go. It’s not what I want and I don’t have room for mistakes!
The email has arrived from Peter Nussen re Speing bulbs! Oh. Lordy. I’ll have to make decisions for next year soon!
So here we are. Back again. This is the time that we were expecting to collect the keys to Casa Verano Eterno. But the transaction was completed two weeks early. So we are back. Ian for a short visit. Me 10 days. Hurrah. Ian has reluctantly gone back to London – the joy of retirement means I can stay a little longer. Oh that hurrah wasn’t because Ian has gone back. But that we are here again. He has become the gardeners assistant.
The road to Competa gets no less windey each time we visit. Nor less beautiful. The sight of the mountains as we drive up is truly spectacular. I’d take a picture. But I am driving and as I have started I will finish. But I will take one. Eventually. Ian says look at that. Look at this. I see nothing but the long and windey road.
A week is a long time for a garden. I had worried that the timers wouldn’t have gone off. I knew that the pots had been watered as I was sent a pic of the estate agent and friend at the house. Watering the pots. They were fine. As was the watering system.
The garden has been largely planted for drought resistance plants so it doesn’t need much. I was greeted with one of my favourite plants bursting to flower. The garden has a lot of agapanthus. Some I suspect have seeded but I am not complaining. I love them so I am more than happy that they are here. Next year I will have to smuggle some poo in my bag.
The lavender path is holding up well. I have a tendency to overwater and I know i can’t do that with lavender. Nor should I.. especially as the cost of water here isn’t cheap.
The jacaranda tree is in full bloom and is best seen from a distance. Or looking at the floor as it is constantly dropping its flowers. Is it romantic to walk on a flower covered path, swathed in blue flowers. No its bloody well not. It stains the floor and i have been sweeping up on the hour.
Slight exaggeration there but I don’t need a workout. I’ll get a wash board stomach yet and get rid of the washing machine and tumbler drier one that Ihave now.
I was never a fan of succulents – ! but having a new Mediterranean garden i am going to have to get to like them. That and Cactus. There are a few prickly pears in the garden ( maybe Ian and I will. Be know as the prickly pair – we are grumpy enough).
There are some great big triffids on the bits of a hill that’s ours. Bit grand really but its across the access road and has a few fig trees on it and is basically scrub. It will stay that way too.
Ian also picked out some plants. I thought they were cactus. But they are euphorbia. Euphorbia candelabrum cactus . to be precise. News to me. I have potted them and they will probably stay at the front. Another with a poisonous sap.
The garden has a lot of interesting plants and its a huge learning curve. I’d only just got used to my cottage garden planting! I have arranged for someone to come in in Sept to talk plants. Pruning. Some new planting. I have also discussed spring bulbs – there are no flies on me – and my order has to be done before the end of July. They stocked some of my wish list last year and I have requested Brown Sugar to go on the list. Plus alliums. I need to check that they will grow. It’s odd. There are things growing I wouldn’t have thought. There is a great show of hollyhocks on the drive into the town. I have bought two to grow in for next year. Hopefully they will self seed
Twitter is a wonderful thing you know. As well as being pretty rubbish. But that and Instagram when you need a plant identified is awesome. Like the Daucus carrot. Thanks to Phillips Burrough, Sara Venn and Georgie Newberry. I know know what this plant is growing on the bank at the rear of the house.
There are other things I don’t know. Lots of them. But I will before the decade is out. But something else I don’t know What it is.
Rather stupidly last time I was here i went up onto the bank. In shorts.. never ever again.. My legs were as itchy as hell. Not only the moziies had attacked me but I had a reaction to the grasses that were there.
Unlike the man who was weeding the bit of ground outside his house as I drove past yesterday. He was in the shortest shorts that could almost have been budgie smugglers. . No shirt. Flip flops. His skin as red as the shorts he was wearing. Spraying weed killer. In the heat of the day. Weed killer obviously doesn’t affect beer bellies. It may even enhance them. I’m not about to find out.
But I had to stop the car as I was laughing so much. I didn’t dare take a snap. But the vision is in my head. Protective clothing. Never,, health and safety. Never. So I have safely arranged to have our bank strimmed by someone else. The weeds and grass are as dry as. I’m hoping to grow some wild flowers there. It’s not a meadow. It’s a slope. An incline. Dry. Rocky. So maybe poppies. And more cacti. More succulents. Some more almonds and olives. Sounds grand but there are three almond trees loaded with nuts. .
Things are dying back. Things are coming to life. I have had a mother moment and spent most of yesterday dead heading. A snip here. A snip there. Just like she used to do. I’ve said it before. In her own garden. And if she walked up your path she couldn’t resist deadheading a rose or two. Irritating that. The garden is not somewhere you can burn the cuttings. It’s too dry. So no bonfire here.
We collected Ian’s lime tree which is now potted up and ready for the watering to establish it. It will fruit this year but we will take them off and wait until next. Not so the manadarin which is going great guns so far as are the two established orange trees.
.Talking guns. I asked what the black and white sign was outside the gates. Apparently is a no hunting on this land sign. Great I can safely take my shirt off in my own garden without the threat of great white whale hunter appearing as I get in the pool,
Which I have done. As its now warmed up enough for me to get in. I am a bit of a big girls blouse with cold water to be honest.
I also went on a rescue mission. I rescued a lemon. Forget driving over lemons. Try crawling on your belly in the border under yuccas to retrieve the one and only lemon that you have in the garden. Which has dropped off the tree when you weren’t looking. But you were determined to retrieve it.
I was determined that it wasn’t going to waste so it will sit in my gin and tonic this evening. Not the whole lemon. I will remember to slice it. Or as I found an electric juicer in the cupboard I could juice it. But really? Gin sounds better.
We had a business day on Monday. Off to the bank in Nerja as they had cancelled my bank card. Here two weeks and it gets cancelled. Only because I hadn’t signed a form. But I emailed on Monday early and saw my personal account manager at 10am. Excellent service and I signed in about 46 places and got my card reactivated. Then onto the lawyer to sign the insurance papers. A two hour wait before I had to see the notary meant a little bit of a shopping. So. A bit of pool art in the name of Nemo. Placed at the pool side and looks great. Great colours but be careful. It’s tin and gets hot. Behind it on the rails is a lovely Jasmine. Jasmine Azoricum. The smell is just gorgeous.
A trip up to Frigiliana to see an artist that we had seen previously and two pictures later we were on our way to the notary, who this time hadn’t disappeared to Rome. A swift flick of a pen and my will was signed.
So surprise surprise I have been busy snapping away in the garden. Partly because I can but also so I have a record of what’s what. I am not here for a month and the garden changes so quickly.
I’m pretty miffed that I will miss some of the agapanthus at their best as well.
But the main thing is the stephanotis that is just about to burst next to the front door. I swear they weren’t there a week ago. I’m sure the smell will be fab and there are loads of separate buds. Ah well you can’t win them all.
I have deadheaded some little blue maugerite type plants which I think flower continuously so hopefully they woill be awash with colour when I am next here. I have admired the black or blue bird of paradise yet again. It’s a real bee magnet.
So I am in the square again. It’s Thursday and there will be no horsemen riding by. That’s a Sunday. Ive decided to have breakfast on the square. watching. Observing. Practicing my Spanish. Ian’s worried that I will repeat the phrase that came out wrong when I was doing my homework last week. Speaking into the iPhone app in my best accent it was translated back into English as long penis. Quite what I was asking for I don’t know as i collapsed into a quivering heap of laughter. So Far the only potential issue could have been when I was looking for Salvias and asked if they had hot lips. I kept a straight ( yea I can do it) face and carried on.. they didn’t by the way. so i bought two others. And yes they have been planted.
So. Off i go to the hardware place that is always full of builders and workmen. I must try not to embarrass myself as I’m only getting keys cut. Maybe.
Two More days and then back to my window boxes and tree ferns. Retirement is hard.
So there have been no more embarrassments. No mishaps. Well I did break the sun umbrella but hey. Anyone can do that. I’ve even been back to the petrol Station and all was ok, no laughing at me today But I suspect that’s only because it was a different shift. I have a funny story about firemen and a different shift, but that’s for another day. And it doesn’t involve me.
Oh I nearly forgot. One of the lights on the terrace in the garden wasn’t working. I spent two days looking for the light switch indoors. As well as keys we have numerous light switches. And plugs. All the other lights came on. This one looked different. But it wouldn’t work. Ok I thought. I’ll have to replace the bulb. So eventually I lift the cover. No bulb. I then realised it was the hole for the washing line pole! So hey ho. I did some washing.
So I am now 6 days into our first visit. Ian’s been and gone. Flew in on the last flight into Malaga on Friday eve. From London City which has to be my favourite airport. Flew out again on mon Pm. A real flying visit. Me I leave tomorrow. On a jet plane. And I do know when I’ll be back again. In a weeks time. What’s bringing me back to London. RHS Chatsworth!
So late Friday night we wound our way up the windey road at 2.30am. Ian hanging onto the car door as if he was scared. I know i was. It was dark. The road is windey. Twists and turns more than Torvill and Dean in Bolero. You need travel sickness pills at the best of times. And a clean pair of pants. There is only so many times you can sing the long and winding road for it to be funny. We arrived to total darkness to get into Fort Knox. I know I’ve mentioned keys but there are 4 locks to get into the house. Try doing that when you are tired. In the dark. Not knowing which if the trillion keys to use. And in not exaggerating.
Well not quite in the dark as the whole of the valley was illuminated with the path lights the wall lights the tree lights and all shining off the top of my baldy spot. To me it’s a bald spot. To others it’s a thumb print.
The lights – All attracting the mozzies. Some men are babe magnets. Some men are bloke magnets. Me. A mozzie magnet. Lights go quickly off. I haven’t sprayed. Why can’t Hermes bring out a mozzie repellant cologne.
We awake early on Sat. Just a few hours sleep. Excited to explore the garden. The town.
The garden has been a delight. Each day finding something new, something unknown and then going back to what Ian has described as the most expensive bloody book on plants to try and decipher what we have. Little does he know. But it is useful. A book by Lorraine Kavvanagh on Mediterraneanean plants. With pictures.
I like a picture book. Reminds me of Watch with Mother and other tv programmes. Of my childhood. Picture book was on a Monday. Then we had Bill and Ben and Little weed who must have been the first TV gardeners. As usual I digress back to childhood. I wont mention anything about Andy Pandy Looby Lou and Teddy bear. Or even the Woodentops as only people of a certain age will understand. Others will think I’m mad.
Looby Lou. Sounds a bit like me meeting – The poo lady – Lou’s poo at RHS Chelsea. Even if she wasn’t holding a bag of compost tea with MY agapanthus pic on the label. I can’t believe I didn’t bring some out with me, (I’d been paid in pooh for helping with the label) A poo smuggler. Anything to declare Sir – only a bag of s—t occifer! Oh and an awful pic of me to boot.
Back to the garden. Now I don’t drink. I don’t smoke and I don’t go out with women. So I buy plants. Ian will say I don’t always plant them but I am getting better. So it was with some surprise he mentioned that we should go to the local garden centre run by the author of that ‘bloody book’. Did i want to go? stupid questions need no answers. But I wasn’t buying anything. I didn’t. Ian bought two great big fat ferns, two big pots. A 7 year old mandarin tree that will fruit this year. Anothger big pot. Which they kindly delivered that afternoon with soil, peat free compost and some organic worm fertiliser Despite Ian being confident we could get it all in our hire car. I said no. They said they deliver. They followed.
So here for two days and already on the plant run.
Oh and we were given a copy of an interesting book on Citrus written by Lorraine. She also does a garden consultation Which I think will be useful and hurrah. Ian agrees. It will enable me to write down what plants there are in the garden now. One for next time.
So to the garden, The garden around the house itself isn’t huge but beautifully planted already. There is a slope at the back and a bit above the road but for now I’ll mostly ignore it. It has been ignored for years. The direct bit behind the house is planted.Srought tolerant. Some succulents. A rogue bougainvillea. A couple of almond trees. Covered in almonds. Need to look when to harvest. .
The garden starts with a fabulous lavender path. Trachelospermum at the gate, big succulents, a jacaranda and yucca. The jacaranda flowed are lovely. But you have to be at a distance or above to appreciate them. My appreciation is the flowers on the path. Fallen from the tree. . A bougainvillea which is just getting going. A big fat olive tree – which is full of flowers and will hopefully fruit. Quite what we will do with them is another thing.
Some lovely Salvia – which last well in a vase!
Thwre will be more salvia now i know that they will survive. I have my eye on two already for next week when i am back.
We have a hedge. I was told what it was. But again I forgot. It needs trimming to keep it low for the view. To the mountains. On a good day to the coast. On a very good day Morocco. There is a hedge cutter in the garage.
The plant colours are bright. The ground hard as iron. You need a pick axe not a spade. I did wonder why there was a pick axe in the garage but I didn’t dwell on it! I will annoy Ian when I use it ~ as I put it on my shoulder and sing hi hi hi ho it’s off to work I go. Snow White I’m not.
But I managed to dig a hole – usually I am digging myself out of one – to plant the lions ears ( leonoris Leonurus) I bought on Saturday. I lied. I did buy a plant.
There’s also a lot of sweeping. The flowers from the olive trees are falling. The leaves from everything are falling. So my exercise so far has been tonsweep. Almost hourly. I’m getting a bit OCD. How many calories can I burn off with each sweep? Who knows. To be honest. Who cares.
I have never really been into Cacti or succulents but the garden has loads and in the right place they look fab. Gawd knows what i do with them but for now I will just admire.
I do love this prickly big ears though. A number of these were attacked by a bug last year and I have been tol;d that you can slice them right down to the base and they will come back again. I have visions of it attacking me when I do. So i may find a man that does. Cut back Cacti that is.
There are things in the garden which I know nothing about. Like this succulent or cacti, It’s about to flower but I suspect that it will be in full bloom whilst I am not here.
I was told today that there were wild orchids on the slope although they had finished blooming. Blooming marvellous . I have to wait another year and they are in an area that I want to strim. Do I want to do it or is there a man that can. It’s on a slope. I’m bound to fall over. I’ve learnt that I shouldn’t go up their in shorts. Not because I’ll frighten the neighbours. But the grass and weeds make my legs itch like crazy. Singularly unattractive red scratch marks When wearing shorts. Along with big red mozzie bites. Not a great look tonne showing whilst sitting on the square drinking a Diet Pepsi.
There are a lot of orange and purples in the garden. On trend again then following RHS Chelsea last week. This is a gorgeous tree with very lovely flowers just growing next to the garden path.
So I ventured back to the garden centre – this time alone – Viveros Florence. Ian sent me.To get some more compost. , They know what they are talking about.. Can give advice. I was here for compost. But I also had to wander around too,, Didn’t I? I bought some strawberry mint to go in the alcoholic drinks some lemon balm – which we have numerous clumps of in Somerset and some lemon grass. On a further look I find two huge clumps of lemon grass in the garden already. Great for my coconut and lemon grass cake!
Ian had said he would like a lime tree, What he didn’t say was what lime. A lime is a lime isn’t it. Nope, there’s your lime. Then there’s your kaffir lime, three times the price of the ordinary. The lime where your use the leaves in curry dishes , then there are the trendy limes used by TV chefs, I was told the names. I forgot them,, What’s wrong with an ordinary lime. For a bottle of Bud, oh I remember one. The Australian finger lime – caviar lime fruit. A new one on me apparently being used by chefs. But I may buy one. I see that you can get them in the uk Australian finger lime Uk – it doesn’t look like a lime at all once cut.
I asked about tulips. Yes I can grow them here. Was shown some of the ones they had last year and was told if I wanted anything in particular let them know in September and they will order them for me. Yep. Brown sugar please. Do I have a list. Thanks to the recommendations and suggestions I have had uh. Yes. You know who you are who keeps adding to my list.
They stock some beautiful Iris. A simply gorgeous iris burnt toffee and a stunning dark blue. Heads home to look for space. They order daffodils. Hyacinths anemones. Lily’s , foxtail lilies. So I think that I will be back. To plant for spring.
There is wildlife in the garden though i am a bit of a wimp to go up on the bank too often , I don’t know what may be lurking in the vegetation. But there are bees a plenty, birds a plenty. A couple of lizards. And a big b—-r like this came buzzing past me as I was taking photos.
I head back to London tomorrow. To my small lovely patio garden. So very different. But equally as lovely. But I will be back next week! Hopefully To more sunsets.
So today has been about the watering. I have sat down with the plan of the formal garden bits and marked up the pots. The frequency of watering which I’m panicking about. And the frequency of the timers. But I’m back in a week. I’m also writing on copy no 2 the various plants that I know. To add the ones that I don’t when I do.
So. That’s it for now on the Andalusian adventure.