The heat is on -The garden in Spain

Well I’m back in Spain. That’s not a surprise really as I spend some time each month here. It’s been hot apparently. Messages from my neighbour sending pics of the thermometer on the terrace. In the sun. In the shade.

Oh dear. That hot. Thankfully it’s cooled down now. A little. I’m allowing myself to turn on the air con though. And wear a hat.

Early morning before it hots up

It’s an easy journey here to be honest. The flight is quick and the drive up the wiggly road goes unnoticed now. But. Yesterday I picked up the hire car at the airport. They had upgraded us. A bigger car. Automatic. New. Now I don’t know if you have tried parking in either a car park or on the roads in Spain. But big cars and car spaces don’t go. The spaces are tiny. So I’ll drive around for an hour each time I go out trying to find a space to squeeze into. That’s the car. Not me.

The wonder of getting into a new hire car. I am old enough to remember that when you used to hire a car they would come out to the vehicle. Showed you what was what. Honked the horn. Now your given the keys and told that it’s parked in bay whatever and off you go. I had to ask where the key was. ‘ um. In your hand sir” excuse me. That’s a key? It’s more like a tv remote.

So I was unprepared for the first event. Driving and concentrating on the motorway whilst automatically going to the gear stick to change up and down I somehow pressed the wrong button. A button I didn’t know it had. Didn’t know where it was. But all of a sudden the car seat was vibrating and moving. Now I am a bit partial to a massage but not when I’m driving at 100kmp on a Spanish motorway. And when I’m starting to feel car sick. But by some strange feat I managed to turn it off. Eventually. I still don’t know where the button is.

The last time I had a car seat experience was decades ago when a colleague was driving erratically through the Rotherhithe tunnel. So scared I thought i”d wet my pants. Only to realise that it was actually the warmth of the heated seat warming up on my bottom. A new experience for me then. A heated car seat. But her driving was that bad. I digress.

The garden has been well watered. But boy is it still dry. There is little respite from the heat at night so watering late or early morning is best but not great either. Evaporation is high.

I knew from last year that the garden is best in Spring, early summer and Autumn. The high summer heat sends some things dormant and others struggle. But I was surprised at how green the garden actually is. We have a lot of drought tolerant plants but to be honest there’s drought tolerant and drought tolerant. Even the drought tolerant struggle in the mid to late forties.

The alliums have been fantastic and have fared so much better than I anticipated. They are all done now and the seed heads are still looking good. Allium Summer drummer is still standing tall – head and shoulders above all of the plants. It’s a definite for my list for next year. Along with more Allium Sphaerocephalon – drumsticks. They have gone on for ages and are still looking pretty good. So one of the things on my list for this week is to order next years along with some more freesia which were some of the best bulbs I grew this year. Karen at Peter Nyssen – by the end of this week.

Gorgeous drying seed heads of Allium
Allium Summer Drummer – tall and later flowering
Drumstick Allium going over

I’ve been looking at dahlia posts on Instagram with dahlia envy. Dahlias as big as dinner plates. Huge flower heads. Big fat buds. Next year I’m choosing one. Just one to try in a big fat pot here in Spain. My only consolation is my big fat new leaf on the Strelitzia Nicolai. Unusual in that at this point it’s perfect. A little bit of wind and the leaves get shredded. When we moved in I thought it was a banana so it was a big surprise when instead of bananas we got stunning blue/black flowers. Three of them. AMaybe next year this plant will have flowers like the other one we have in the garden. One of my favourites this year along with the Strelitzia Reginae which had flower head after flower head.

New leaf on the Strelitzia Nicolai

Even when the flower heads have died back they still look amazing. This one looking very presidential. It’s the hair.

Strelitzia Nicolai

I watered late last night. As you can see from the following picture I don’t put things away. I could have left it out of the pic. Put it away. Taken it from a different angle but life’s not perfect. Nor is my garden. Anyway I forgot to lock the gate. Any burglar would have tripped over it in the dark – my excuse. A burglar deterrent.

The path from the gate

I am fascinated by the stephanotis. Beautiful creamy white waxy flowers. A gorgeous scent. Surprisingly fruit. Yes. Fruit on a stephanotis. I say fruit and it sounds plural. Read one fruit. I also read that they are not generally edible. But they aren’t poisonous either. I shan’t be testing either points. . But there is a large fruit /seed pod that has split open. It looks like it’s full of cotton wool. Which if you interested is one thing I hate touching. I have to ask Ian to take out any cotton wool in tablet containers, I just can’t stand the feel of it. But I did stand and stare at this without touching it.

Stephanotis fruit and seeds

Earlier in the week a neighbour in London asked what a particular flower was as we walked to a local restaurant. It was oleander and was the first time I had seen it grown locally. Well locally in London and it was flowering really well. Just how hardy it will be in SE London I don’t know. They are still flowering here in Spain and I have to say are pretty lovely. Pinks,whites, red and creams. Some doubles. This year will be a major prune. I’ve seen next door prune hard and whilst I though ouch – they have come back strongly. Makes yet another diary note.

A mix of Oleander in the garden

Some are already sprouting their seed pods. Long slender pods which change to a reddish colour and open all fluffy. Interestingly. Some do. Some don’t. Depends on the plant.

Oleander seed heads

We have grapes. I’m happier with the shade the two old grape vines give than the grapes themselves. But they are an added bonus until they fall – staining the floor and the sun umbrella! But next month I will make grape and rosemary jelly.

Chateau Competa

Some things have done well. The agapanthus have been great- both the new ones I bought and the original ones. I bought ten more in the nursery sale and have left them in pots to plant in October/November when the soil is easier to work. When hopefully we will get some rain. They have shot up in the last three weeks. I think I’m going to have a bed of them along with alliums. I’m also hoping that they will self seed around the garden and am leaving the seed heads on to dry and split. I know it takes an age for them to get to the flowering stage but this year in London 3 self seeders have flowered. The soil here is poor. Thin. Stony. You also begin to appreciate things we take for granted back in the UK. Like a delivery of garden soil from our local refuse collection centre in Somerset. Non existent here in Spain. I’ve been lugging bags of compost and putting it on the ground when planting. It’s a long old process.

Agapanthus seed head

The popcorn senna has finished flowering but the other Senna has had a second wind. Now I did know the name of this one but I have forgotten. Yes know I know. Label dear boy. Label. But these we’re here when we bought the house. But I now have new flowers. Old flowers. This years emerging seed pods. Last years seed pods drying on the plant. I think this one needs a bit of a trim too. Has gone what my mother would term as leggy. Obviously she wasn’t talking mine. Short and stumpy. But the colour is a joy when there is little colour about.

Some kind of Senna!

Note to self. Don’t wear shorts when wandering to the back of the house I grandly call the orchard. It’s dry. Very dry and the grasses make my leg itch. We have Almond trees (4) two figs and a Nispero/Loquat. The figs are still getting fat and need to go dark. I suspect that will happen when I’m not here. Or if I am I will be figged out – as they come all at once. Figs with homey and yoghurt. Figs with goats cheese. Figs with everything.

Ripening figs

The almonds are almost ready. The drupes are beginning to split so I need to be on my guard to collect them before they fall. Then dry them a little. The numbers are down on last year. But. I have loads left from last year too. I think I will grind them and use the ground almonds in my baking. My time line on Facebook reminds me that I was picking and drying them this time last year.


Don’t mention the loquats. Ugly looking fruit. Don’t store well and all come at once. This years weather wasn’t kind to the one tree we have. I was going to make jam. Honest. Oh. I’ve just found another sapling tree.

The olive crop ( grander than it is ) is down on last year. But then so is most of the fruit. We have one quince. Last year I had enough for Quince jelly but didn’t make it. Determined to this year but I have one only. What can you do with one very large quince.

The Pineapple guava is way behind last year and is smaller. I’m not so worried as we don’t pick them. No one is that keen on the taste. The oranges are down this year too. The weather was fine. Then very wet. Very cold. Now baking. There are some but not great numbers.

Pineapple Guava fruit

The lantana at the back of the house has some more flowers on it. At the same time as berries from the last batch. The one at the back of the house where we rarely go is nicer than the one in a pot on the terrace but that has gone over.

Lantana flower & berries

There are seed heads forming already on the rock rose (cistus) which flowered very early. These will stay put for months now but I’m going to have to do some cut back. If it doesn’t work then it doesn’t work.

Seed heads already

My favourite agave my foxtail agave is doing well and I have one other in a pot ready to go in when the ground is accommodating. Which it’s not at the moment. Think concrete. Hard set concrete.

Foxtail Agave

So an inspection of the garden after three weeks away. I’m happy. Things are still green. One or two fatalities but that’s down to me and planting things in the wrong place. One brugmasia wasn’t doing too well. So I potted it. It’s done even worse. The other three aren’t dong well either. Two are in the wrong place. Not enough sun. The others ok but not great.

In comparison the bank is as dry as a bone. There is no watering there. The wildflowers are now dried flowers the grasses tall and dry. I’m yet to go and check out the roundabout. Which as you know isn’t a roundabout at all.

There is plenty to be done this week. I have a week here on my own so I have to get myself off the sofa and into the garden. Early morning. Late evening. To deadhead. To weed. And to water. I may even get chance to sit down. If the mozzies feel like they can leave me alone.

Oh and as long as the temperature doesn’t get back up into the 40″s.

Somerset – Weeds and a Piet Oudolf garden.

Well. I’m not here or there. But I’m Back in Somerset. But do you know what? It would have been quicker to fly to Spain. I thought travelling on a Monday mid morning would be fine. Massive fail. Getting out of London was bad enough. Not finding a parking space at Fleet Services for a comfort stop disturbing. The final irritant. Stonehenge. 40 minutes to get from the roundabout past the Tourist attraction. Yes. I was in awe of it when I first started driving past it 26 years ago. Twice a week. But even the sight of ancient monuments can wear thin. Trust me. Sitting in that queue knowing everyone will slow down to look. Take photos. Is irritating. I have been one of those people. But not now. Thankfully a toilet stop at Common farm with tea and cake was possible 15 minutes before home. Oh. A toilet stop and then tea and cake. In case you were wondering.

Top tip. Don’t neglect a garden for three months when there has been rain. Heatwave. Rain. Sun. It’s no joke. It’s an embarrassment. My national collections of both ground elder and bindweed are magnificent. Truly magnificent. Why can’t weeds be like flowers. Struggle a bit now and then. Get eaten by snails. Slugs. I took one look and sat down.

The cottage garden needs some work

I had to make a start. And make a start I did. I was thankful for the rain on Monday as it meant weeding was a little easier. My idea was to weed. Pile it up and let it dry a bit so it would fit better into the dumpy bags to take to the dump. There is too much for the compost heap and another long story about our compost heap and bonfires. I won’t bore you with that one. So plan A. Weed. Dry. Bag. Ian arrives on Thursday evening and he will need something to do I thought. So the garden has lots of small piles of weeds and stuff.

The first of many

I then get an email on Tuesday late am. There is a viewing booked for weds. So that made plan A inoperable. So plan B. Go to the Walled garden at Mells for lunch to contemplate Plan C. Which I did. Are you keeping up?

The Walled Garden Mells

So Plan C. Tidy the area closest to the house. Take bags to the dump. Shower. At home. Not the dump. Get out of house and find something to do for Wednesday morning. Which I did and more of later.

The garden wasn’t all bad. There were still some flashes of loveliness. Hidden largely under bindweed but once removed were in good enough shape for the odd photo or two. I’m showing you these now as the ones I took later and not in our garden are colourful and plentiful. You’ll get there soon enough. Trust me.

Pitcombe Cottage
Day Lily

We didn’t prune the apples and plum trees last year. Yes Sarah Venn. It was two years ago we did the apples with you cracking the whip. Time flies. There has been tremendous growth spurts this year on them all. The plums will need a bit of a severe prune. The apples a bit of shaping and thinning. Yes. I know that there are different timings for them.

No matter how ripe they are I guarantee Ian will pick these apples this weekend.

Pitcombe grapes

We have grapes. Chateau Pitcombe. Not very sweet and quite small but they will make a fair bit of grape and rosemary jelly. Tasty on lamb. Or with cheese. I made it two years ago and it was pretty delicious.

So where could I escape to on Wednesday. With my camera. To be fair it wasn’t a hard decision for me at this time of the year. For two reasons. It had both gardens and an exhibition. Yes. Hauser & Wirth Somerset. Less than a 10 minute drive from the cottage. Unless you get stuck behind a tractor. A new exhibition and the garden in a mix of full colour and the start ~ earlyish of the faded glory of some of the plants. I like the garden at this time of the year. And in Autumn. To be honest, In previous years it hasn’t done anything for me in winter or Spring. But I’ve seen the Piet Oudolf movie – 5 seasons. Which is wonderful. If you haven’t you should. It may have been that the man himself was sat behind me at the screening ( though it took Ian to tell me) but it’s a fascinating insight to the gardens of Piet Oudolf.

You’ll need sunglasses for the colours in the flower beds at this time of year. Four years on from the original planting the beds are full to bursting. The colours always amaze me and the planting is intense.

Melting in the heat

If this is what drought tolerant is, then in Spain I’m making some mistakes. None of the photographs have filters except the selfie obviously. You wouldn’t want to see me non air brushed. Trust me. Even I don’t like looking at unedited pictures of me. I’ve done nothing with the colours in the plant photographs. They are as I have taken them. Snap happy.

Piet Oudolf garden at Hauser & Wirth

The colour is amazing. An artists palette. If I have one criticism. I’d have loved to have had an opening in the Radic pavilion looking down the garden where you could view the planting from above. It would have given a great perspective on the colours and the planting if you were able to see into the centre of the beds. And the scale of the meadow.

Now is a great time to see the planting. Some are already starting to go over. But I’m staggered at how well everything is holding up. The ground around this bit of Bruton is heavy clay. You can see the cracks in the garden as you walk through. It’s so dry.

The Radic pavilion was originally in London at the Serpentine Gallery and is a pretty futuristic. Sitting at the edge of the Oudolf meadow it is a striking standout piece from whatever angle you view it. But …….. It would have been good to have that viewing spot. Just for pictures! More pictures. But it’s a piece of art in itself and you wouldn’t cut a piece out just to satisfy the whims of one taking photographs. Would you?

I could go on and on. And add more and more pictures. I was a happy snapper but I won’t. Except for the bee. To bee or not to bee. Interesting to see what plants were the attractors for the bees. What I didn’t see was an abundance of butterflies. Bees yes. Butterflies no.

Busy bee at Hauser & Wirth

So it’s back to my garden tomorrow. Another day in Paradise. Amongst the weeds. Dreaming of the colours of an Oudolf garden. A large meadow with a pavilion at the end. Dream on Andrew and buy another lottery ticket.

Summer in the City

Back in London. It’s July and we decided that we would probably not spend too much time in Spain in July and August because it’s too hot. That we would spend time in the Uk for those months. So I headed back leaving the heat behind me. For three weeks of decent temperatures. Not the high 30’s of the Pueblo Blanco. Right. How wrong I was? I did leave the high 30’s with air con to be replaced by …… London in the high 30’s. No air con in the house. On the train. On the tube. Sweltering heat. Am I glad I’m heading back for two weeks in August? At least even if it’s in the 40’s I will have aircon. Wine. And a pool.

Flying into London City airport it was clear just how dry and parched the countryside was. From the air it looked pretty dramatic. On the ground you realise it is.

It’s quite shocking when seeing it from above. Swathes of brown areas where they would and should have been grass. Although a drop of rain works wonders and grass recovers quickly if and when we get it.

I’ve hardly caught my breath this week. But it’s been a scorcher. Do you know what? There’s only so many times you can go into Iceland. With the sheer intent of standing over or in front of the freezers. I’ve been in and out of there all week. I’m so glad the weather has changed ~ my freezer is full.

I admit. At first I was worried. Then I was petrified. Had Ian watered the garden? I knew he would have. But he’s not a gardener. He would have watered. But not like a gardener waters. But I was surprised. Very surprised. The garden was looking good.

The pots were doing well despite the intense heat. So hot that life in the UK stops. Stations close, rail lines melt. The buses were hotter than would be allowed for transporting animals. I’m sure if you’d tried you could have fried an egg on my solar panel ( bald spot) when I travelled on the no 12 bus. But I didn’t try. I didn’t want egg on my face Did I?

I thought my canna were dead following the visit of the beast of the east. But they weren’t. And they aren’t. A beautiful yellow flower on one. Another one starting to bud and a red one with glorious big fat leaves. Patience is a virtue. Not one of my stronger points. Next year I’ll label.

It wouldn’t be me without a bit of agapanthus now would it. They are still blooming lovely with some still yet to open. A great mix of blue and white I need to look out for some dark blue/black to add to what I already have.

I hadn’t seen these before but they have done really well in a pot in the front garden. Once they have gone over the seed heads are a bit like dandelion heads. They have flowered for ages and I have bought a red one to add a bit more colour. We bought them at The Nunhead Gardener and I’ve checked the label. Garvinea ~ the garden Gerbera. I will plant more next year as they have done so well.

The window boxes have done really well despite the intense heat. I had planted them with just lavender as I knew I would be away a lot this year. I hadn’t expected the heatwave though. They have delivered and have been a great success. I love lavender but in Spain it’s struggling. I suspect it’s too much water rather than not enough. I will be replacing the lavender path in the autumn. With another lavender path.

Salvia Amistad has always done well both here in London and in the garden in Somerset. But again the beast from the east was cruel and I thought I’d lost it in London. One survived and is now reaching for the Sky with a lot of flowers to come. A great filler in the garden along with Salvia hot lips and Salvia love and wishes.

The tree ferns and banana are all doing well. It’s been a pain with watering every day. All the plants are in pots. They dry quite quickly especially in this heat. A bit like me really.

Back just a day and we were off to visit a garden open in SE London. I’d been following the owners of the garden and their story on Instagram for a while and was really pleased to be home and able to support them on their open day. It’s a fabulous garden. Small. Beautifully planted. Tree ferns; bamboo, oleander, fatsia, canna and the front garden is a riot of colour. I had seen pictures but trust me. It’s stunning. They will be opening for NGS next year.

I fell in love with the garden wood burner ~ and the log store which I looked up when I got him ~ Vesta Stoves. Both Ian and I are not fans of hot tubs but there was a wooden one almost hidden in the corner surrounded by some great planting, it may have just changed both our minds. The guys had posted on SM earlier this year that they were worried about their tree ferns. But they were looking great.

You couldn’t miss the house when approaching it. The front garden was a riot of colour. An absolute firework. A great wooden pathway leading up to the house with the garden full of bees and butterflies. The Dahlias were great. I really miss growing Dahlias. I suspect my Somerset ones will have failed.

Added to the gorgeous garden they had printed a comprehensive plant list to take away. Their garden is featured in Modern Gardens Magazine this month. A 4 page spread. I’m off to buy one later. Well done Alex and Joe.

It was a pleasure meeting Alex and Joe – not only is the garden fantastic but So are they. You can find them on instagram as The_Gardening_Guys and on twitter as @Gardening_Guys – go check them out you won’t be disappointed. The Gardening Guys

Not to sit still for long for fear of missing something – the following day I went off to meet a friend from up North who was in London for the weekend. Kings Cross St Pancras. Oh my what a change. What a redevelopment. Cafes. Bars. Apartments. But also some amazing open spaces dotted around the estate. A wander along the Regents canal expecting to see Mr Higgledy and his flowery narrow boat coming around the corner. ( reminder biennial seeds to be ordered)

Some great planting and glorious colours in the open spaces. All well used with seating areas for friends to sit and catch up. The plants mg areas were really well kept and tended

When I moved to London three decades ago the area was known for colour. Usually red. But the transformation is amazing.

It’s great to see planting complimenting the hard landscape of the redevelopment. It’s a great open space and one I only scratched the surface. I will be back for another wander when the sun is not so hot.

The final wander the week was into the city of London. We were having lunch with an old friend who we hadn’t seen in a very long time and I needed to do a check of where we could meet.

My walk took me last St Paul’s Cathedral and towards Leadenhall market. At the rear of St Paul’s is a small little green space. Another find in the city. Lovely planting. A bit of grass. Seating. But what surprised me was the planting of Rincus ~ Castor Oil plant. I’d first seen it in Jack Wallington’s garden at his and Chris”s NGS open day last year and I know that Phillipa Burroughs at Ulting Wick grows it where I hope to see it.

I want to grow it in Spain but have been a bit nervous as where I want to plant it is near the rear access road. The one near the roundabout. Which isn’t a roundabout at all.

This patch behind St Paul’s must have thousands passing by daily. Our access road has probably one or two families pass by in a month. Some months no one passes and there are no casual walkers. Those that pass are usually in a car. So why am I worried? Because all parts of the plant are poisonous. But there again so is the oleander that’s growing there. So maybe my mind is changing. If it’s good enough for London then I’m going to grow it in Spain.

It’s been a bi of a whirlwind flowery week. My tiny garden. The gorgeous garden of the_gardening _guys. Kings cross. The city of London.

But it’s not been all plants and flowers. It’s been a good week to be a tourist in London. Despite living here for 36 years I still find it exciting. Inspiring. More so now that I’m not working in the hustle and bustle. I have time to appreciate the buildings. The history. The architecture. The coffee spots. My big gripe. Try finding a loo when you need to,spend a penny. Spend a penny. It cost me ten bob in old money. 50pee. It’s all very well being told carry water with you. Drink water. But 50 blinking p! Daylight robbery.

But guess what? I’m not here for long. This week I head to Somerset to spend a week on our neglected Somerset garden and to spend a day at Common Farm as part of the dream team.

I was embarrassed recently to have two proper gardeners stay at the cottage, a garden writer whose most recent book sits on my coffee table and an award winner at the recent Belvoir garden show. They stayed on one condition ~ that they closed their eyes when in the garden.

They could use their sense of smell and sound. But please don’t tell my SM friends I’m guilty of neglect. They didn’t and were complimentary. But I know. My national collection of bindweed will need some attention.

Summer loving.

It’s the end of another trip and boy it’s been a hot one. The weather that is. It’s been a scorcher. Like the UK I’m having to water. We do have an irrigation system which comes on every other day but I’m giving the beds a bit of a soak as well. I’m not a great fan of these drippers. Great for individual plants where needed but as a general water supply they can be pants.

We are lucky – we had tremendous rain here in the Spring – to be fair it didn’t stop and the reservoirs and reserves are sufficient that there is no prospect ( yet) of a ban on water for the garden. We do get regular cuts in the campo. But we have a massive water deposit under the terrace for emergencies.

It’s interesting. Some things were early or roughly on time others are a couple of weeks late. I thought we had no figs this year but on closer inspection we do. Loads of them. All will ripen at the same time and maybe when I’m not here. That’s another interesting thing. I can be away for two or three weeks and I miss things. Flowers are in bud when I leave and are gone when I return. Here today. Gone tomorrow. A bit like me really.

But the garden has been a delight. We weren’t here much in July last year so it’s good to see what is and what isn’t flowering. Oh. And what has gone over. Like the alliums.

The Alliums were glorious this year. Bought and shipped to Spain by Peter Nyssen they have been such a delight in the garden. The soil is poor – as Georgie the Flower Farmer said when she was here in March ‘ you need a ton of top soil delivered’ I’ll be back to help!

But the flowerheads are now sead heads and look great as they dry. Karen from Peter Nyssen says she picks hers and sprays them to prolong the interest. For now they can stay where they are !

But there will be more Allium next year. A lot more. I’m lucky that I can get them shipped direct to Spain. Makes life easier as it’s more difficult to source them locally. You can but not the varieties.

Just as I return to the UK the stephanotis comes into full flower. The plant is grown in a pot against the wall of the house and I haven’t done much with it. The plant not the house. Some water. A bit of a feed. But this year there are loads and loads of buds. Many of which are now opening. Such a glorious scent. It’s no wonder it’s called bridal crown as it has been a popular favourite in bridal bouquets . I learnt something new last year when I found a large seed pod on there. Apparently quite common in a hot summer. This is one of last years. Obviously.

I’ve mentioned before that there is a steep bank behind the house which has an access road between the bank and the roundabout which isn’t a roundabout. Just on the edge are some awesome cacti. Some rather sad looking prickly pears and another cactus who’s name I don’t know but should have looked up – has borne some flowers. A glorious yellow flower which is very short lived. Well it appears to be short lived. I don’t go to that part of the bank often and it was sheer luck that I was there to see this. Makes notes go there more often.

A new purchase this trip and planted under the large olive tree in the dry bed. Ptilotus Joey – Australian descent with pretty plume like flowers.

It’s drought resistant and a bit of a semi succulent. If that’s a term. I like the flowers but as a plant I am not sure. The jury is still out. I’m not sure how drought tolerant it will be. It was 32* under the shade of the olive tree yesterday. I melted.

This Spring brought the wildflowers out in abundance. Along the road verges and on our bank. They have all gone over and have turned into some beauties. This had a lovely yellow head when in full bloom. Now it’s crisp, spikey and golden. And looks great. The bank is a bit of a worry to be honest. We had it cleared last year after we moved in – the banks very steep & uneven and my balance too unpredictable for me to do it. I think we may have to do it again. But for now I’m enjoying the dried grasses and wildflowers. From a distance.

Don’t you just love a bit of Daucus carota wild carrot? I scattered some seed from Mr Higgledy which have germinated. The flower heads are tiny. Now that’s nothing to do with the seed. They were sown late in dry ground. Hopefully they will all self seed for next year.

I know I witter on Twitter about the Strelitzia Reginae – Sorry not sorry but I can’t help myself. Even when they’ve gone over they have an air of beauty. A bit of a raggedy orange dodgy hair style kinda way. My presidential kinda flower head. I’ve cut most of them back but left one or two to remind me.

I need a reminder too that this pot is getting overcrowded. Not with the strelitzia but the self seeded agapanthus which has flowered this year.

I have birds of paradise both in pots and in the ground. I’m coming round to the thought that pots may be better for flowering. Adds to the never ending list. Buy more pots. Dig up. Replant.

I have a love hate relationship with the jacaranda. Beautiful in flower. A gorgeous colour. Really interesting seed heads. But. There has to be a but. The flowers don’t last that long on the tree. A whiff of a wind and they are off. Onto the path. Which needs sweeping constantly. Yes. It looks like there’s been a bridal party. Looks like there’s confetti on the ground. But. Thanks. No thanks.

It also needs a good prune back. It’s got really really tall and as we get a bit of a high wind at times – we are 620m above sea level in the mountains up that wiggly road so I do worry that one day you’ll hear a loud crack and it’s down on top of us. Adds “get tree man here in the Autumn” to the list.

Behind the house is a bed that needs minimal attention. Which is just as well as that’s what it gets. There are some smallish agaves growing along with my favourite the foxtail agave which I’ve posted before. There are two on the way into the town that have flowered. My oh my. They are pretty stunning though alive been told they die after flowering. That’s a hard one. Plant or flower. At this stage I’ll keep the plant.

There’s a straggly lantana there which is flowering but after the summer will be gently cut back. ( I mean hacked). I did it to one in a pot on the terrace and it did it no harm. My thought if it harms it I will replace it.

The pineapple guava has finished flowering and the fruit is beginning to set. It’s an easy growing plant and the flowers are interesting. The fruit as I’ve said before is an acquired taste.

The Durante repens continues to flower but It’s not as good as last year. That is also the case for the jacaranda and the olives. I’m just hoping it’s been the weather. Really wet. Then really cold. Now really hot. Like me.

We won’t get “Chateau Verano Eterno” but despite the lack of pruning this year there are a lot of grapes. They are black grapes and quite sweet. A nightmare on the terrace when they drop but it covers the pergola to give us the shade needed. But there should be at least enough for some grape and rosemary jelly.

I’ve planted this hibiscus in a pot. It wasn’t doing very well in the ground as it wasn’t getting enough water. Potted. Watered and given a good talking to it’s now blooming lovely. A gorgeous colour. Full of buds and brightening the terrace.

Behind the house on a more level patch well kinda level we have some Edibles.

The big fat leaves of the nispero against the blue sky. The leaves are pretty big. The fruit isn’t the prettiest of fruit and this year was damaged a fair bit by the weather. The fruit doesn’t keep and doesn’t travel well so I guess that’s why there isn’t a market for it in the UK. Even when in the shops locally or at the market it doesn’t look too inviting!

Then there are 4 mature almond trees. The blossom is gorgeous but this year it and wasn’t as abundant as last. But there are almonds. Next month I will pick them remove the drupes then dry the nuts. Then I’ll add them to last years collection. It’s all very well picking them but you have to use them.

Finally. Figs. Two fig trees. One large. One growing. I had despaired earlier in the year. I thought. No figs. But I was wrong very wrong to be honest. The tree on closer inspection has loads. All very small. All very green but there are figs. I suspect they will have ripened whilst I am away into that squishy black delight that you can pick for breakfast and drizzle with honey. Or. Leave them on the tree. Because by the time you get back they have gone over. Figs are like buses. You wait for one then they all arrive at the same time. I may be lucky enough to be able to make fig jam.

Did you know I’m a fan of agapanthus? Well if you didn’t I am. A big fan. Most are at the end of their flowering season. But a few are just coming into flower and a couple are still in bud. They do brilliantly here in Spain so with that in mind I bought 10 more at the sale. Five blue. Five white. I want some different ones and I need to find a supplier locally or one that ships to Spain. I’d like a few really dark ones. In London I have one. Black something or other.

Oleander. What can I say. A common sight in the central aisles of the motorway on our drive from the airport to the Casa. An easy grower and I didn’t realise just how many different shades and colours it comes in. The white in the garden is Almost translucent in the sunshine. There are pinks; reds, whites and peachy colours. Some looking like roses. I’m a bit of a fan for the colour they bring to the garden. But every bit is poisonous.

I bought this at the sale this week. I’d never seen it before but it’s Hibiscus moscheuos carousel. I”d like to be able to photograph the flower when it opens. But I guess I will be away. I’d also like to say that it’s raindrops on the leaves. But sadly not. I’d been watering again.

One of the hardest workers in the garden this year. I have cut back the dead flowers all bar one or two that still have some colour and they will be ready to burst into flower again in the next few weeks. Against the white wall they have looked great.

Back to a bit of Allium love. The drumstick alliums have been a revelation. They have grown in some dodgy places in the garden. Maybe because I had to plant where I could. I’ve loved them from the start of the buds right through to now where the colour is fading and they are going over. My other favourite this year was Allium summer drummer. Flowers later than the others I planted. Grows taller than any other I have seen. I must reorder for next year pretty soon. As they have done well here I’m keen to plant more on the bank.

I’d like to show you the Brugamasia but they have been so slow. Plenty of water. Sun. But no sign of flowers this summer.

I’m hoping that come the end of August the bananas I planted will be as high as an elephants eye. So no photos.

We have bougainvillea against the garage. A pinky red. That too is pants. If you want to see a gorgeous one look over our neighbours gate because I’m too embarrassed to photograph ours. I need to ask @fresh_bros and @podenco_squadencom how they do it. Oh. And they too have some glorious agapanthus.

I’m going to dig ours up. If I want to look at bougainvillea I’ll stand at their gate and stare. I’m already growing a lovely orange vine in its place. Bought for us by a friend in March. It’s sat there ever since not moving an inch until now. With a bit of sun you can see it move. Bingo. It flowers in winter/spring so we will get some colour. I think it’s bigonia Venusta.

I mentioned the plant sale. Our local – Viveros Florena – closes for the month of August. Sensible really. It’s too hot to plant. Plants need too much water to get established. Plus they need a holiday. The owners. Not the plants. So they close for the whole of August and have a sale of plants to reduce the number for watering. This is where I went on Tuesday. Nine o’clock on the dot. It’s a 15 min drive away. Quicker if you take the short cut. Which is fine as long as you don’t meet a local on the way. The road is narrow and is used by people who know the road. And drive faster than me.

You’d think after a year I’d have learnt some things here in Spain. Yes I do know they drive on the other side of the road. Yes I do know that the drivers side is different to ours. So why did I get into the wrong side of the car again at the petrol station and sit there like someone had stolen the steering wheel. Whilst the attendant and two car owners looked on in hilarity.

But I did have a car full of plants. So there.

Now I will never be selected to model. Unless maybe if it’s for shoes and gloves. If that’s the only part you’ll see. But. If you want a picture to put on your fridge door to keep people away. Then this is for you. Singularly unattractive.

Ready to venture into the garden. Whatever the time of day my legs get bitten. I needed to do 10 mins work in the middle of one of the beds. There was no option. Lycra. Socks. Long sleeve t shirt. Oh and lock the gate so none could see me. They would have thought its Max Wall. ( if your young ask your mother. Or google it)

It’s not all been gardens and plants. Well most of the time it has. Whilst the boys were here I could hear their mother shouting ‘ watch Uncle Andrews plants’ ‘get off the garden’ followed by me saying the same. Usually there are only two of us at the house. With no toys at the pool. No Lilos. No volleyball nets. No goal posts. No footballs flying around the terrace. I say we have to enjoy it whilst we can. At least for now they want to spend time with us. A broken agapanthus. A crushed oleander – it’s worth it.

So. Another month nearly over. More flowers. More plants. More heat. Yesterday so hot I sat on the terrace with fans on. It was 32* in the shade. You could normally think you were going back to the UK for some cool weather: After all the schools break up today. Doesn’t it always rain at the start of school holidays? It used to when I was a boy.

I wonder what August will bring!

Six on Saturday – España again

I am still in Spain and the heat is searing. Earlier it was 32* in the shade. The ground is parched. Things have died back. Others are struggling. Me included. For months the locals were saying it was too cold. Unusually wet. Now it’s too hot. And they are right. I listen to the locals. Oh. And try and talk to them. My Spanish is getting better. Although there are certain words I need to watch. My Spanish teacher was laughing hysterically last week. It was a corker. No. Two.

The Stephanotis has finally opened. Just one bud so far but there are oodles and oodles to come yet. Most whilst I’m not here I suspect. But the scent is delicious. Truly delicious. No wonder it’s used in bridal bouquets.

The yellow of this hibiscus with its gorgeous red centre and beautiful stamens is in a pot on the terrace. The flowers are pretty luminous. Or. Pretty and luminous. I love the colours that these plants come in. We also have a red. In the ground. But not flowering as well. Probably as the soil is pants. I need to build it up. We know s song about that don’t we. Includes buttercups.

Durante Repens is a lovely colour in the garden. Not as showy as last year. But still pretty.

We have almonds. Not as many as last year. But there will be enough. Especially as I still have last years in the cupboard. Looks like I’ll be picking and drying them next month.

The pineapple guava is full of fruit. These are ripe when they drop off the tree. An acquired taste. One friend said they taste like germolene. Starts with a lovely flower. But I’m not convinced either with germolene. Or if I like them.

Back in the Uk I buy lemon grass to make a lovely cake. Coconut and lemon grass – a Ballymaloe cookery school recipe. Here I have this enormous ready to pick bush. How many times have I picked it? You’ve guessed. A big fat zero. Well I will tomorrow. And I’m promising myself that I will grow a pot in London.

Over and out with my six on Saturday. Next week will be a London one. If I have six things still alive when I get back.

Six on Saturday – España

This weeks six on Saturday comes from Spain. It’s hot dry and getting hotter. Tuesday is forecast for 41*. I’m already melting. More ice cream for the freezer!

The garden has largely drought tolerant plants but there are still many that need a bit of water encouragement. So it’s been very early or very late watering for me. But not too often.

What a surprise. An agapanthus. One from the pot on the terrace. I love them as if you didn’t know by now. I’m planning on a whole border next to the orange trees. There is a sale on at our local nursery at the end of the month as they close for August and most plants are half price. I feel a visit. But I have to plan the water as I am away for two weeks. It can be done.

Who knew? I didn’t. The seed pod of the Stephanotis. Hanging on in there from last year. I had to look this one up. I had never seen a seed pod like this but then in the UK I’ve only had stephanotis in a small pot.

The buds on the Stephanotis. In a few days they will be open and the scent will be heavenly. This does so well. It’s on a very large pot and is climbing – with help – up the wall.

The lovely blue of the Jacaranda. These are glorious viewed from a distance when the blues are really fab against the blue of the sky. It’s difficult to get a great pic. Lovely on the tree. But is an annoying dropper of it’s petals. Constantly.

A gorgeous yellow flower on an unknown cactus. Well unknown to me! I rarely walk the boundary of the house which sounds grander than it is. But this is on the bank behind the house. Yesterday I found it. The flowering cactus. Not the bank. We have a few varieties of cactus. I must look up the names. The only one I know is the prickly pear as I’m trying to save a few on the bank and in the garden from cochineal fly. Good old neem oil is doing the trick.

This is springing up everywhere in the garden and on the banks. Daucus carota – wild carrot. I love it – but now I’ve seen the pink I want that too. Looks for seeds now.