There and here. Here and there.

So I’ve been there. And I’m now here. Or. Here and there depending on how you look at it.

I’ve had a week back in London. A busy week to be fair. I try and pack a lot in wherever I may be. Whether it be here. Or. there or wherever.

The two spaces are so different. Not just the gardens but the culture. Where we live. The house in each. Where I eat. How I travel. I’d forgotten how busy Oxford Street can be. Even on a Monday. Out of school holidays too. I had to escape down into Bond Street tube this week to get away.

So back in London it was time to potter in our small (tiny) courtyard garden and to check up on the pots and window boxes at the front. We are lucky to have someone go in when we are both away – largely to look after the cats – but he’s ace with a watering can and hose. Bruce and Christine have been looking after the cats for the last 15 years and are brilliant.

Having had the front garden ‘done’ recently – new wall, new path, railings and new gate we decided to do some replanting of pots at the front. We bought two new standard bays. A bit of a cliche really but they suit the space. I bought two new pots from The Nunhead Gardner. Got them home and realised that once the bays were in the pots they would be too tall for the space. Surprisingly I didn’t have to take them back. Ian said that we should repot the agapanthus into them. And buy two more. Result!

I always have window boxes but as I am away so much these days I wanted something that didn’t need a lot of water. The garden is my domain and whilst Ian waters he’s busy and it’s not fair on him to have to come home and start watering. So again this year I opted for lavender. It worked well last year but this year I just used lavender. It looks good. Ignore the bins. I haven’t told Fred yet. But we are looking for some bin covers. Next door has a fab one with a green roof. But. It’s expensive and the sides are open. Defeats the object really. And Fred would sit on the plants anyway.

Now I love agapanthus. We have two enormous white ones and a very large small blue flowered one in the front. All needed repotting. Sadly one of the whites struggled through the winter and in parts had turned to mush. The first time I’d lost an agapanthus. The big blue had already started to bud up.

I’ve said the back garden is small. It is. Very. Everything is in pots. Some neighbours have small lawns. And I mean small. But I’ve seen them re turf every few years. There is not enough sun in some of them. So the courtyard is paved. Tree ferns, jasmine, honeysuckle, banana, agapanthus,clematis,mock orange all in pots. It’s a small space. So scent is important. Makes watering a bit of a pain but when we bought the tree ferns we thought if we moved we could take them with us -15 years later we are still there. It’s one thing that Ian really loves – the tree ferns. I was lucky this year. I didn’t straw the crown or wrap them as I was away when the cold spell hit and I panicked that we may have lost them. There are 5 in the garden. The tallest is about 6ft odd. But they survived and a feed of alpaca poo works wonders.

We also have flowers on the olive trees. Again both in pots. A strong link between Spain and London are some of the plants we grow in each. I don’t think I’ll be growing large agaves or prickly pears in London though!

This is a pic from two or three years ago taken from the upstairs window. Things have been moved. Things have been removed. Others added. But it gives the sense of the space. Or lack of it. I must take an up to date one. Preferably when the washing isn’t on the line.

It’s been an odd winter /Spring in the London garden. Despite having its own micro climate I lost some things I thought would be ok. Some survived where I thought the wet and the cold would certainly kill them. Nature’s odd like that. I had geraniums flowering all winter. But some of the agapanthus in the back courtyard also turned to mush. But that means more purchases! My tulips were pants. My London alliums pants. All down to the conditions. Not the bulbs as the same bulbs in Spain have been awesome. Oh. That reminds me. I must go and check on Allium Summer Drummer here in Spain.

It hasn’t all been gardening. There’s been doctors,dentists, Orthodontists. Who knew I’d be getting a brace in my retirement.

A bit of a MOT. You also have to throw in a bit of a NGS open garden as well don’t you? Two glorious open gardens in Dulwich Village whose greenhouse would cover my garden in Camberwell. Beautifully planted. Stunning roses with such strong perfumes. Glorious colours. A pond. Plants and the obligatory cake. It wouldn’t be NGS without cake would it? I love open gardens. Probably because I’m nosey. I love seeing what other people grow. What combinations. Take away ideas for my own gardens.

I’ve wandered through the streets of Wapping after a haircut. My old stomping ground when I worked at Canary Wharf and in Fitzrovia where I lamented the fact you can’t go to the top of the BT Tower as you could up to the early 80’s. There was s revolving restaurant and sightseeing platforms. Leased to Billy Butlin! Security concerns led to its closure.

So here I am back in Spain. A bit of a journey. Train stuck 5 mins outside the airport for a trespasser on the line. Stuck for 40 mins watching the panic on people’s faces as they realise they may miss their train. Thankfully I like to get there super early. I can’t stand the panic of rushing and nearly missing a flight.

Added to that the plane was nearly an hour late and I was sat next to someone who was too frightened to catch your eye in case you struck up a conversation. Funny that. I didn’t want to! Interestingly Ian’s flight tonight is already scheduled to be 30 mins late. 12 hours before it takes off. How does that work!

So. I arrive up the wiggly road at 11.15pm. Open up. Lights on. WiFi on. Then water the garden. I can’t see very much but I can smell. I realise even in the dark that the Jasmine Azoricum is in flower. A delicious smell. The honeysuckle is in full bloom. But just as well I watered late last night. Today the pump for the water deposit has gone kaput. So no watering today. Well maybe. The plumber had just been and is to replace a part. I called in the office at 10. By 1.30 he’s here.

So I think I need to bathe in citronella at some point as the mozzies are a plenty. I’ve bought a very fetching orange slinky citronella bracelet. It stinks. But the mozzies. – must have been the wet spring as last year I wasn’t bitten once. Well maybe once. But so far today I’ve been bitten three times. So. I’m not lazing around for long. There’s too much to do. I need to turn into my mother and get dead heading. There’s a lot to do.

Oh. And I need to buy a new hat. Either this one is too small or my head is too big. But the solar panel on the top of my head ( crown or bald spot) needs some cover. I hate hats. They make my head itch. But needs must. I may be a very long time.

Rain rain go away

We are back in Spain. Again. So soon after the last adventure. We arrived back. The suitcases arrived with us. We arrived at the right airport. The bad weather came with us too. Not the snow. But rain. It was raining when we left 10 days ago. To be fair it hasn’t stopped. We needed it. The reservoirs needed it. The plants needed it. But please stop. Right now. Thank you very much.

The hills are green. Much greener than I have seen them at any time me in the last year. Thos was taken as I waited for my Spanish lesson which continue. Who knew this time last year i’d be talking spanish weather. In Spanish. In Spain. ‘ Especially comments ‘Donde esta el sol. ‘Mucho lluevia’ ‘frio’

There are still things In not allowed to say. For fear of poor pronunciation. A slip of the tongue having me order something not on the menu. But Ive progressed past saying please and thank you.

It’s been a busy week. By coincidence – friends from Somerset were staying close to Malaga. Plus Old friends we haven’t seen for 12 years staying in Nerja. So there was a lot of catching up. Lunch. Checking out the house and garden. Moving in presents. Fizz and plants.

They liked Competa. And – It stopped raining for part of their visits. The sun shone a bit but its always bright in town. Its a pueblo blanco after all.

The plants I’d planted before we went back were well watered. The banana plants were fine. The mew agapanthus had settled well. The bulbs were pushing through fast. Tulips. Allium. Foxtail Lillies. The new little rosemary hedge on the path at the side of the house had taken. Rosemary does so well here. .

There are signs of Spring. Especially the spring leaking from the bank at the bottom of the hill onto the road. Water water everywhere. Much more and the plants may just drown. But there is colour. The freesias are a blooming. Great freesias from Peter Nyseen.

Ive never seen such long stems. Glorious colours too. The osteospermums have been spreading. When the sun shines – briefly so far- they all open together.

The pomegranates have started to bud. I had cut them back hard. They have lovely flowers but no fruit. I’m not convinced they are ornamental so lets see if we get any – just one would be nice- this year.

I wandered up to the roundabout. Which isn’t a roundabout at all. What do I find. A solitary wild orchid. I think we have some more at the back of the house. In the orchard which isn’t an orchard as it only has half a dozen trees. Fingers crossed. They are glorious and such a fabulous colour.

We have some pine trees on the bank. I love them. The fallen pine cones are a great starter for the log burner. But before we left last time i spied three nests of processional caterpillars in one of the trees. Thanks to Twitter I had read about them. Not these ones obviously but I was aware that they were nasty little blighters. And not for me to deal with. So there was a man that could. And did. And they are no more.

I love the garden after a bit of rain . And there have been plenty of times this week. I love the rain drops like little diamonds just hanging on the leaves. On the the flowers. Just not all of the time.

The cistus in flower in the bed behind the bank. A glorious bit of colour. The petals looking a bit like crumpled crepe paper.

The solitary lemon is getting fatter. The clivias are in flower or in bud. The wild sweet peas are wild. The Australian wisteria is still blooming lovely over the garden gate. I’m hoping that Fibrex Nurseries still have one when I get back for London. There is lavender along the path. Which may be cut back hard next week. I cut some back nervously before xmas and its done really well.

The ferns are happy. Other than the one I drowned. Don’t ask. Schoolboy error. My fault too.

The dodonea has some flower buds but i understand that they are pretty insignificant. But the colour of the leaves are pretty awesome.

The new gazania are flowering but would do better for being a bit drier. A bit more sun. But then again so would I.

The strelitzia continue to flower – this ones going over but the plant which is in a large pot has a further 6 flower spikes in various stages of growth. The ones in the garden have had their flowers bashed a bit. But I love them. Maybe one for the micro climate of our london garden.

When friends arrived on Friday they came bearing a plant. ‘We aren’t sure if you have one’ they said. ‘We bought it in the garden centre on the way up.’ No’ I replied. ‘ I haven’t but Ive always wanted one’ It was true. I wasn’t just being polite. I’d seen Echium at Jack Wallington & Chris Anderson’s NGS open garden and had said. I want. . Ian said No. you’d like. No I replied again. I want. So it has been planted on the bank. With the other 4 I dashed off to buy. You have to don’t you? They will look amazing when in full flower. So there are now five Echium fastousum planted on the bank. They will look striking in full bloom. Working on the bank is a struggle. Stoney. Steep. And in parts slippery. But thought of the tall blue plumes made it worthwhile.

Even Ian has been out in the garden. Probably looking to see how many new plants I’d bought. Oh. And to make sure I have planted them. Only three to go. Oh. And the seed to scatter on the bank. I was planning to do that yesterday but its been a bit too windy.

We are off on a Spanish road trip. To Cordoba. To Toledo. To Casares. To Salamanca. And back to Competa for Semana Santa. The Easter processions and celebrations are huge here and I haven’t seen one single Easter egg. So Bags packed. Raincoats in. Hats at the ready. And brollies. . Of course brollies.

Top tip. If you ever go to the Alhambra in Granada and there is any chance of rain. Take an umbrella. On our first trip two years ago it was entry price €12. Umbrella price €25. It was either buy or wander round like a reject from a wet t-shirt competition. The said umbrella. No one wants to see me in a wet t shirt. Least of all me.

Hola.

I admit. I was feeling a little bit smug. Not an interesting trait I know. But i was. I was off to Spain. From the cold of London. Where we have been having work done at the front of the house and the door step had a grille missing and the wind was howling through the cellar and up through the hall door. Hurrah I thought. I am off to Espana and I will be warm.

Let me tell you. No one likes Mr smug. So he gets his come up pence. He leaves on that jet plane. Knows when he is back again. He arrives in said Spain. And. As a punishment for his smugness his suitcase doesn’t arrive. Still hasn’t.

And its cold. Very cold. An unseasonal cold. People say they haven’t seen it this cold in years. Not since the snow 12 years ago. There is snow on the mountains. But that’s far enough away to look pretty. No snow in town and then there mountains are high.

I have ditched my smugness. But still no suitcase. According to the inter web and the airline website they have located a case that might be mine and they are verifying it. I am not sure why it is taking over 16 hours so far but if they want to try on my clothes, taste the coffee, out of the coffee set whilst perusing the photo book I packed then good for them. But please let me have the case soon. I have seeds that will need planting. Or reordering if they don’t arrive.

Did I mention that I am starting Spanish lessons. Well I am and I have. I have homework to do and verbs and tenses to learn. Yes I am tense! One hour one to one three days a week. I need to practise. Ian is worried ill get mixed up. Some words are similar but have very different means, and he’s bothered i will embarras myself. Mmmm so am I.

But I digress from the garden.

It’s amazing how the garden changes here so quickly. Two weeks ago I was lamenting the fact that our Almond trees were not in full blossom yet our neighbours was. I had blossom envy. But on our return we have some blossom on the three trees – no four – I found another today {careless of me not to have noticed before really} Each tree is at a different stage and I think that there are two varieties.

It’s a shame that its so chilly I am sure it suppresses the scent. The flowers are so delicate. So pretty. I picked most of the almonds last year and dried them. I have yet to taste. I will this week. If I remember.

The Australian wisteria over the garden gate is going great guns. I had never seen it before we bought the house, but then again there are a lot of plants in this garden I hadn’t seen before. Thankfully I have a great go to book to use as a reference which tells me that the plant is Hardenbergia Violacea. Drought tolerant. Will tolerate short spells of 0* – a bit like me then. But its pretty rampant and is a gorgeous colour. All I need to do now is cut a little back so I can actually open the gate.

I have tried to grow Foxtail Lily’s in Somerset to no avail. One year I planted at the wrong time. The following they didn’t appear. No I did plant them the tight way up. Well I think I did. So I bought 6 to plant here. Hurrah 4 have come through and are doing well. The other two well if I knew where I had planted them and labelled them I d know. But I am rubbish at labels. If they come through I will know then. But I am excited to see how they do. Two varieties. One is Cleopatra. The other is – I need to check.

The alliums are staring to poke through. Though where my tulips are is anyone’s guess. There are two just poking through one of the pots but this cold spell may shock them into a growth spurt. Fingers crossed.

Down on the access road and on our bank is a mimosa tree. I now know its a mimosa tree as its formed its flowers. Not yet yellow. Not yet in full bloom but definitely mimosa. We drive past it every day and to be honest I rarely walk that bit. So I am looking forward to it in full bloom. It’s a pretty sizeable tree and it is covered in what will be flowers. I understand that its not a great plant if you suffer from hayfever. That’s me done then and I need to stockpile the antihistamine. But some things are worth it.

The roundabout which isn’t a roundabout – its just someone’s (ME) childish name for a piece of land at the rear of the house and across the road is full of yellow oxalis and they look great. A bit of an acidic yellow but a welcome sight on the scrubby ground which has two fig trees which produce tiny tasty black figs – oh and the 4th almond tree which is flowering.

Remind me to stay away from spike. The unfriendly cactus. The needles look lethal – I am not getting too close. It’s on the bank on the way up to the house and again I don’t see it very often. Perhaps that’s the problem It feels unloved. I know nothing about cactus and I am learning pretty quick re succulents. I have to. The garden has many. Of both.

I planted 75 or 100 freesia in the garden and in Pots. I love the flowers and the scent but boy are they a pain in the proverbial. As well as a rubbish labeller I am also a poor staker. Yes I know Ive grown dahlias and they need staking. I am afraid I was rubbish at that too. I am getting better as I have tied the freesias so they don’t keep falling over like me after a sniff of ale.One of them is out already. Guess what colour. Yep yellow. But there are buds galore.

I had a bit of a panic this morning. It was cold when we arrived in the dark last night and I admit I had a late wander around the garden. But I couldn’t really check the two orange trees we have. When we left two weeks ago one was full of blossom. As well as hanging heavy with oranges. Not quite ready to pick, but nearly there. Had the cold spell killed off the blossom, had the oranges frozen on the tree. No. They are both fine. As is the single pink grapefruit which is scheduled for picking when two of the Dream Team arrive in two weeks time. Whether they like grapefruit or not.

This morning is the taste test. But it needs to warm up before eating. Just a tad. . But it looks good enough to eat.

Before I came away i made Seville Orange gin – the recipe a post i saw from Otter Farm and on their FB page. I managed to get the oranges at a local shop in Peckham. Local to me. Not to the oranges obviously. Try getting seville oranges in Spain. Little chance. Exported to the UK to make marmalade!

We have a second tree which I believe the oranges to be slightly bitter so after a taste test this week I will see if they will be ok to immerse in a vat of gin!

Today will be a bit of pruning. The neighbours have cut back a lot on the boundaries and its amazing the extra light you get even at this time of year. I may be a while …..

Seeds Succulents & Stuff

So the end of another break here in Spain. The week has flown by. Its been a busy one. It’s not always a holiday! This week its been plumbers. Electricians. Sorting out a bill at the Town Hall.

But in all of that there has still been time for the garden. There is always time for the garden. Isn’t there?

Its now 8 months since we picked up the keys for the house and there are still surprises in the garden. New plants pushing through the soil. Now easier as there has been rain. Bulbs I planted poking through looking for a bit of sun. Seed heads appearing. Like the jacaranda seed head I found open on the path. I had seen a lot of them in the Autumn. But none open. It looks a bit like the mouth of a fish! A real hard outer shell.

The Oleanders had thrown long seed pods which were turning a dark colour on the plants. I had never noticed them open before. This one is fabulous. Absolutely stunning. Fluffy seeds. Probably looking its best against a gorgeous blue sky. I’ve hastily cut all the pods off as they self seed like crazy. And I have enough. Well unless I can get that lovely peachy colour.

The garden has some interesting succulents. Aloe. Agave. Succulents I have no idea of their names. Some have flowered. Some are yet to flower. They are spiky little blighters. I have been spiked. Scratched. A little bit of advice. Dont bend down anywhere near them. They move. I swear they move. I uncovered one from under a honeysuckle – it amazes me. Honeysuckle and succulents together.

I found a swathe of these under some vegetation on the bank. We have some in the main garden – but thenbank has a lot. I now know that they are a form of Carpobrotus – which one though still under discussion. Thank you Barbara Segall and Michele Chapman!

This is an euphorbia which I always think of as a cactus. Which its not. Its Euphorbia Candelabrum. An euphorbia. Not a cactus.

I can’t help but think that the flowers look like some dodgy presidential hairstyle.

I have been thinning out the thug. A lovely smell as I did. All clean and lemony. . But its a thug. There are two plants in the garden. Big fat clumps of lemon grass. Great for cooking. Great for a cake. Coconut and lemon grass cake recipe. . On my list for next visit. One we were taught at Ballymaloe cookery school on a short course and is a real treat. Ive enough lemon grass to feed the 5,000 though.

I went with a friend to see an old house that hadn’t been lived in for 20 years. After a look around the house – great potential – I had to look around the garden. As you do. This caught my eye. He said ‘ wild jasmine’ I said i’ll take a few cuttings if you don’t mind. He didn’t. So I did. Its a bigger flower than the yellow winter jasmine we have already. Flower is a bit more of an acid yellow and looks a bit like a double flower. So I have some rooting in the garage. Not as in the garage but in pots in the garage.

I have had almond blossom envy. Our neighbours tree is full of blossom. Ours is full of. Well nothing. We have three tress at the back of the house. They are bare. But we had a lot of almonds last year so I am hopeful. In the meantime I see these as I leave the house. For now. Thats enough. .

So we head back to London. I have a flying visit to Somerset. Then we are back here for a month. Spanish lessons arranged. Visitors arriving. More gardening. Maybe a visit to the Alhambra. Again. Or Ronda.

The freesias are in bud. Surprisingly the alliums are poking through. Some are way way advanced. There is no sign of the tulips though. Perhaps I planted them upside down.

I hope my aching joints and my dodgy back will be ready for another round with the bank when I get back. I have divided some yuccas and planted them and I have some wildflower seed to scatter. What I don’t miss here is bindweed which was the scourge of the garden in Somerset. Here there are other challenges. The heat. The dry ground. Finding good, Pretty, Drought resistant plants. Its a whole new ball game for me!

But do you know what. I pinch myself every time we drive up that wiggly road come rain or shine. Usually shine to be fair. So. We are leaving on a jet plane. But. We do know when we will be back again!!

The Rain in Spain

Its a myth you know. The rain in Spain isn’t mainly on the plain. Well it certainly wasn’t on Sunday night and Monday morning. The rain and the wind was up in the mountains. Whistling around the house. Lashing on the roof. Overfilling the gutters. I know. I was outside. At 4am. Checking the gutters. Whilst Ian slept soundly through it. It continued as I drove him to the airport later. The rain. Not his sleeping. Am i complaining? . Not about the drive to the airport. Certainly not about the rain. We need it in Spain. For the garden. For the reservoirs. And we need more.

What it meant was that the ground was workable. With a spade rather than a pick axe. Time to finish the planting of the alliums. Plant some foxtail lilies. Move a plant or two. Which I did.

It’s still exciting seeing what plants are popping up around the garden. What’s flowering now. Whats to come. The excitement of knowing that there are bulbs coming up. When we were looking for a house back in March – was it only March! – some of the houses we walked past had the wonderful scent of freesia. So I have planted 50 around the terrace and the path. To add to those that there are already there.

I have planted tulips in the white wall planter. Last year in London I had a great display of Belle Epoque. So I have planted them here hoping for a similar show. Amongst the red trailing geraniums which continue to flower and which you can still buy and plant. So strange but they are better in the Spring – summer just gets too hot. A bit like me really. I’m a spring flower.

The pots have the lovely Brown Sugar and Ronaldo. I can hear someone moan. Not more pots. Yep. More pots.

The bank at the rear of the house was cleared in the summer. Largely as I was paranoid of fire and the temperatures were soaring. Which has meant that some of the plants that are there have been growing steadily now the grass and weeds have gone. I have moved some of the baby agaves to the bank in the hope that they will take. I think they are on their way. There are some massive ones on the bit i call the roundabout. Which its not. But is a piece of ground that we have behind the house and across the access road. We had that cleared too and it and the bank at the front of the house is now covered with oxalis. So the roundabout will hopefully be a blob of yellow. I’m slowly weeding them out of the the main garden as it will become invasive.

I’ve also been tidying around the various succulents generally whilst being stabbed by most. Checking the cactus. Even the cactus which we call a cactus but is actually a euphorbia. I have said it before. And I’ll say it again. I wasn’t a huge fan of cactus and succulents. But you can not love them when you have a mediterranean garden. In Spain. Which has many.

Someone remind Ian please I need new gardening gloves! I swear these plants see me coming and ever so gently move. To stab me at every angle.

The citrus are doing well. At one point in the summer I thought we may lose the orange trees. It was so hot. I watered. Never sure if it was too much. Or too little. But the fruit has set and will be ready to pick in the new year. Just as well we are there for a month in Feb! They are also now quite heavy with blossom. I can’t wait for them to open. A bit of a warm day and the scent of orange blossom. Bliss..

The pink grapefruit I planted is heavy with fruit. Well. Heavy with two fruit. Admittedly they are fat. We have one lime – not on the grapefruit tree. Obviously. We were advised to take off the fruit this year. But I had to leave one. The potted mandarin has a lot of fruit. I think it will be ok. Big schoolboy error when I forgot to check that the new pot had proper drainage. It didn’t. Whispers the last bit and hides.

The winter jasmine is just starting to flower. A welcome bit of colour. Such a shame there is no scent. I only realised there were buds when I found some fallen flowers. The garden has a number of Jasmine. Whilst I love the colour of this ideally I prefer a scented one any day.

There has been lots of colour in the garden – mostly leaf colour but the flowers are starting over.

The fallen leaves of the grape vine driving me mad. The lovely colours of the leaves of the non fruiting pomegranate. Lovely on the trees. Not so lovely on the ground. The unusual blue of the plecanthrus suddenly flowering in abundance. The berries of the myrtle. My huge excitement of the strelitzia all in bud. I have counted nine. I love the rich colours as the flowers get fatter and are getting ready to open.

Ive been out on the bank collecting fallen pine cones from the few pine trees that we have. The contrast of the pine and the sadness of the sick prickly pears. I have managed to save two at the side of the house. Which are pretty cool.

Tthe autumnal feel of the colour in the garden continues with the colours and seed heads. No doubt poisonous as everything that you seem to grow in a mediterranean garden is!

Its not been all work. I have stopped and sat and admired the garden. Ate chocolate biscuits. A whole packet. To myself.

The groundwork and major planting done by the previous owner. I’m just adding things and tweaking to suit our use. To suit the lack of water and the fact we aren’t there full time. It does feel like it though.

We also managed a walk out along the road. Its just that once we are behind the gate we rarely move. Well out of the garden. I do actually move. But venture out we did. For a walk. And the views were great. We found quince fallen from the tree just off the side of the road. Makes note for next year to add to the six fruit we had in the garden.

Looked back at the house from a different angle and realise that we are well hidden!

So I am excited about the Spring. The bulbs. The colours. The almond blossom on the three trees we have. The fig trees getting their leaves back. The nespera fruiting and being able to pick them this year. The soon to be planted new pomegranates near the almond trees. To plug a gap.

The excitement of not quite knowing what the garden will bring from now until May when we will have done a whole years garden cycle.

The town is gearing up for Xmas. We had the fair at the garden centre. A great place and the owner is the author of my go to book for identifying the mediterranean plants in the gatden. We have had the fair in the town. And the town itself. Covered in poinsettia. Which I view often as I sit in the Plaza Almijara drinking coffee.

The steep road up to the square has a wall covered in bright pots. Filled with poinsettia . With more along the railings. I like the plants. But only for two weeks over Christmas.

I have closed the gates at the house for another two weeks as we head back to spend Christmas in London. To return for our first of what I hope will be many more New Years.

      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!

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.