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.
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.