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.

Our Andalucían Garden – succulents & stephanotis

I can’t believe I’m sat in the garden, its still summer here in Spain. It’s 27 degrees on the terrace and I have a cold. Yes a summer cold. It can’t be because I’ve gone out without a vest. My mother always said that if you went out without a vest you’d catch a cold. I haven’t needed a vest and I haven’t worn one for over 40 years. So I’m just unlucky then.

I have managed to do a bit of gardening since we got back on Wednesday evening. The ground is still like iron where not even a pick axe will make a dent. We had some pretty spectacular rain and a storm before we left last week but it had little effect. I do think that the mountains driving up the wiggly road look a little greener though. In parts. Maybe that’s rose tinted glasses. Oh wouldn’t that be making it pink? The road is so wiggly I could be seeing things – I just stare at the road and hope for the best.

We are getting a second flush of Oleander, particularly the white one. It seems to come in stages, the double pink was out in August but has largely died back. And yes I know. It’s poisonous but it seems to me that most of these Mediterranean plants are 

What I didn’t realise, but then why should I – its not like i have grown these plants before, is that there are some pretty spectacular seed heads too. Live and learn! 


  

Oleander seed heads

But there are pretty spectacular seeds heads on a lot of things, and I have posted some of the pictures previously. The jacaranda for one – its seed heads are amazing. 

The seed heads of the Agapanthus are in mixed stages of drying and I am about to collect some of the seeds to sow on the bank behind the house. . There are a lot of them in the garden dotted  around and I suspect a lot are self seeded, Again I am looking forward to next year  when some of them may be mature enough and ready to flower. I am sure I will tell you when they do.

Agapanthus seed heads

The garden has a lot of bird of paradise planted in the ground but the one doing the best at the moment is one in a large pot on the terrace, I suspect that the ones in the ground are younger and I haven’t seen them flower. But we have the second flower of the season on the potted one, its smaller than the one earlier in the season and there is flower no 3 coming quickly behind it.

There is no sign of the blue and white bird of paradise flowering again which is a shame as its pretty spectacular.I have just realised that we have a second plant next to the garage. I mistakenly thought it was a banana. As in plant. Not the fruit. Hopefully It will flower next year. I need to look up how to feed it. But that goes for most of the plants here. What and when to feed. In london I poo my plants. That is using Lou Archer Alpaca poo. Has worked wonders in london. Oh. And a picture of my agapanthus is on the agapanthus poo mix labels. 

 Unlike  the tender plants in the London garden I won’t have to wrap any here. Last year I didn’t wrap anything in London. I didn’t put straw in the crowns of the tree ferns and they survived. But we are sheltered and the winter wasn’t harsh. 

The pineapple guava has fruit on it which I understand is delicious but I am not sure that they will be big enough to eat this year. It’s been spectacularly  hot and I am not sure that they have grown fat or big enough. The previous owners said last week that they are tasty. Oh well another for next year.

Pineapple guava fruit

I have checked the Quince following a mention on twitter of the fruit. I have five on the tree – they aren’t pretty are they! Now I need to see if i have enough for Quince jelly.

Big fat Quince

I find it fascinating  to watch the flowers. As we are here roughly every few weeks some are out as we leave and some as we arrive. This little purple/blue flower has been flowering all summer long and is really pretty. It looks as if the flowering period is coming  to an end with this one too.

Duranta Ripens _Brazilian Sky flower

I’ve said it before but I haven’t really liked Lantana. But to be honest it is  growing on me. It works hard and comes in some lovely colours. Even after the potted one is neglected it bounces back with colour.

Lantana


We have a number of jasmine varieties in the garden, tracheospernum, azoricum, a what I call common jasmine and one unidentified. Oh and that stephanotis I keep bleating on about. After a slow start its been a corker. In a pot by the door the scent is delicious. Oh I’ve said that before. Move on.  

What i didn’t know and I am sure i have witttered  on about previously is that they can fruit in very hot summers. Well its been hot and there is a new fruit forming and one from last year that has ripened and opened. You can plant the seeds but as I am not here all the time that’s not for me.

Jasmine
Stephanotis
 
This years stephanotis seed pod
Last years seed head
I managed an afternoon tidying at the rear of the house where there is a gentle slope up to a steeper one. At the lower end are succulents and at the top some sad prickly pears and some pine which i have now found out are protected. No chopping these down but I wouldn’t want to anyway. 

Cochineal fly takes its toll

I have said that the plants here are new to me. I am used to either our  London garden  which is more of a yard with tree ferns, agapanthus some perennials and annuals. All in pots. Our Somerset garden which is a true cottage garden full of traditional and lovely perennials, Roses and a bit of lawn. succulents have never featured big but they do here as you would expect in a mediteranaean garden where water is at a premium and the heat  is on. 

The lower part of the slope

I’m in love with the Agave. – the pearly agave or foxtail agave. It’s shape and form is gorgeous. I have two, one in a pot and one in the ground. One is upright the other is hanging over the pot. Both are fabulous. I like that word. Like the agaves  A lot. 

Agave – foxtail or pearly

I need to name the rest of the succulents. Not with actual names that would be silly. Not Boris or Doris but identify their plant names. That’s for a cooler autumn day sat at the kitchen table. In spain or london. 

To add to the Swiss cheese plant we have growing outdoors there’s another ‘indoor’ house plant from my youth doing really well outside. There are a number of them in the garden at various stages of growth – the money tree  we called them as I was growing up. 


Aliens in the garden
 

Money tree

Next on my list is to read up on pruning. I had a great day last year with.  Sara Venn pruning our  Somerset garden. We worked on the fruit trees and the roses and they have been great this year. I may be doing a light prune this Autum but the cottage is now on the market.

I will need to read up on the Jacaranda, the oleander the hedge with no name because I don’t know it. But it’s has been here and growing well for over 30 years. The pomegranate which has never fruited and which I have been told to go out with a paint brush when it flowers, the olive trees, the almonds and the citrus.

The citrus is flowering again, two lemons I thought were on their way out and a lime I had moved because it needed a second chance.


So I have plenty of reading ahead of me.  Identifying. Pruning. Planning oh and planting. The tulips are ordered. I’ve said I want alliums. More agapanthus. But I have to wait for rain or hire a JCB to plant them! 

 I am sure you will hear all about it.

I don’t mind if I do. A trip to the Alhambra Palace & gardens 

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. 

Purple & white Alyssum
Begonias at the Nasrid Palace
Red Bedding Salvia amongst the bedding

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. 

Eurphobia Marginata Kilimanjaro


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! 

Alone again – naturally

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. 

How’s that for a bit of topiary
Magnificent cypress
The Joshua Tree

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. 

1970’s borders – my parents style
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. 

Hello again hello. 

It’s the last week of July and after  a trip to Italy and a quick whizz around two NGS London open gardens I’m back in Spain. The open gardens were fab –  two very different London gardens. 

Jack Wallington garden was a revelation in what you can do in a small London garden. Great planting. Huge varieties and all plants labelled! Oh dear. Please don’t judge me Jack. I always forget what names. Let alone plants.  But jacks echiums are  giving us ideas for our new Mediterranean garden in Spain.  Other plants Ideas for our small London garden. Oh. And it’s open again on 10 September. 

Jack & Chris garden in Clapham

So after an abscence of three week what would the Spanish garden have in store.?  Well. Certainly drier than in London. I’d been panicking a bit about the heat. The temperatures are high. Even for summer. In the Andalusian hills. There is an irrigation system. And someone to go in and water. But…….

At the back of the house we have a slope. I’ve mentioned it before. The last time I went up there I itched for days. Was worried I’d encounter a snake. And we had an Italian experience. I don’t think I’ve mentioned that. 


 Was worried about fires so we arranged for it to be strimmed. I was asked. Why don’t you do it yourself – you’ve got the time. “Excuse me” I said. “Strimming an extremely dry slope in 30* heat dressed from head to toe in overalls.” Thanks. Maybe next year. So it was done. Not by me and looks so much better. The almond trees look better and there is a good crop. Quite what I’ll do with them is another question. . The figs are ripening and hopefully will be ready to pick when we have friends staying in the next two months. 

the almond trees
Almonds
Lovely figs. Waiting to ripen and turn black

The other side of the bank doesn’t look as great and needs some more planting. The prickly pears look like they are going down with a disease again this year. I know they were all cut to the ground last year and a skip filled between two houses. I’m hoping to have a mix of nespera, olives and some succulents dotted about. But the ground is as hard as iron. We need to wait for the rain. 

Down in the main  garden most of the plants were looking ok. Some are struggling in the heat. Even those that are drought tolerant.  There are three areas to the garden. The main area at the front of the house. Three beds. A lavender path. Some citrus. Some pots. To the side of the house and ro the back two sloping beds. Cactus. Succulents. Stuff.  The mandarin and lime that Ian wanted and are in pots are looking good. Plenty of mandarins. No limes this year. There will be next. 

The pearly agave in a pot is looking fab. Particularly  if you catch it in the right light. I’ve found another at the back of the house – I’m hoping they will flower. 

Pearly agave
When I left three weeks ago I thought the Stephanotis would flower and be over by the time I got back. Its in a large pot and has struggled a bit but there were still beautiful waxy blooms. As I tidied the plant up I found one single solitary fruit. I never knew that they could fruit – mind you I have only really seen them as pot plants. Indoors. Used in bridal bouquets apparently. Not mine. 

They smell lovely. 

Waxy stephanotis

I forgot to take a picture before I left  – the fruit has changed a lot in a week. Apparently the black silky seeds can be easily propagated. Not by me I fear. 

The fruit of the stephanotis

This border and the circle under the old olive tree is doing well. There are loads of olives. The strawberry mint I planted and which I thought had died is growing again. I didn’t think that even I would be able to kill mint. 

The lavender likes me being away. I tend to overwater. So it does better when I’m not there. 

The very mixed and confused border
I cleared a bit of the oleander next to the garage. And found a lovely plumbago. Struggling behind the oleander but the blue is lovely against the white of the garage. Now I know it’s there I’ll make sure it does well. ( right – as if ) 

Plumbago
The wall planting has one solitary red geranium flower – we are in between blooms. The scented pelargoniums are doing really well. I find them a bit boring. Insignificant flowers. But boy. As you brush past the scent is delicious. And they are pretty hardy in the dry. 


I also found that there are six quinces on the quince tree. Well what else would you expect? But I was surprised. Now to see what I can do with them. 

Quince

I’ve mentioned before that my mother was the queen of deadheading. Something she instilled in me. I’m not as bad as her – I don’t walk up anyone’s path and deadhead as I go. She did. But these little flowers drive me insane. I’m forever taking off the dead ones. I mean forever. 

The agapanthus have finished and are setting seed. I’m going to let a lot self seed this year. There are a lot of plants. I have space for more. Don’t I? But I have been making a note of some really dark ones. There have been some great suggestions of new agapanthus for me to look at on twitter this last month. 

The shade of the olive tree

It’s not all been gardening. I managed a day wandering around town taking some photographs. But the heat defeated me.  I had to sit in the square people watching. That was so hard to do. For hours. 

The sunsets are awesome and are something I don’t think I will tire of. Glorious from our terrace.  The sun was so red and bright in the sky as it went down behind the mountains. 

The town of Competa. A 10 min drive from the house. A glorious white washed Andalusian town. Nestling on the hillside. 

The hanging houses of Competa

So I’m home for just over a week and then back to Spain for three. It was supposed to be only a week in August but we have visitors coming for another week – and we can’t not be there with them. Not when it’s our two favourite boys arriving with their parents. Wouldn’t be right would it.

 Ian will be there for a week as planned.  Largely to drink wine. On 15 August the town celebrates its wine festival – NOCHE DEL VINO: – which starts with the wine treading  on the Plaza de la Vendimia. Then goes on all night.  Not that we will. We also have. A friend staying for that. But we are also heading to the Alhambra. In August. In the heat. But it will be worth it. It’s such a stunning place. 

I also found some gardens that open near to Granada. Though we may not have time this time. 

But. As I left the forecast for the end of this week is 41*. With night time temperatures of 24. Who know what I will find next week!! I’m sure I’ll tell you though.  

More garden adventures 

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 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.

The mountains of Andalucia

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 back planting bed

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. 
Agapanthus love

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 lavender path

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. 

The jacaranda roaring above

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). 

A prickly pear

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. 

Wild carrot

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, 

No hunting
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. 

My one and only

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. 

Finding Nemo

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. 

Not more plants……

Hola. buen día ( that’s your actual Spanish) 

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. 

That b….y book

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. 

Me and poo – Loo Archer q
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.

Ian’s new 7 yr old mandarin

  
The new big fat ferns and pots
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. 

New citrus instruction

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! 

Salvia Leucantha

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. 

Ian contemplating his BA flight home
Colours of the garden
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. 

Prickly big ears
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. 

The remains of the wild orchids
 
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. 

Brazilian sky flower – I think!
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. 

You don’t want to get stung!

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. 

Adios. 

Driving over lemons. 

When I mentioned to some friends Matt & Clare  at my favourite local breakfast haunt Petitou in Peckham that we were looking at a place in Spain Matt said that he had recently recommended the  book Driving over Lemons to his daughter. A book that was sitting on the book shelf at home. It reminded me that I had read the books some years ago and thought I’d go back and read them again. I’ve started and they are wonderful and particularly relevant to the new adventure we find ourselves having. 

As well as twitter I use Instagram. A lot. My camera was a purchase not long after my father died and was a more expensive one than I would normally buy. But I’ve loved it. Never far from my hand it enables me to snap away. That’s why the pictures of Ian are always of him ahead of me. Firstly he hates pictures and there are very few of us together. Secondly. I am always hanging back snapping away happily. This and that. 

I digress. But only a bit. 

A fellow instagrammer commented on some of my recent Andalusia pictures and said that it was like Driving over lemons. That had me smiling. Two mentions of lemons in such a short space of time.  I almost gave myself a squeeze with delight. Rather than usually having a face like I’ve been sucking a lemon. 

It’s all about the citrus. Oranges and lemons. Lemons and limes. 


Andalusia is indeed special. Has beautiful scenery. Mountains. Great light.  Long and winding roads  where motion sickness pills may be required. Just to get to the bottom of the hill. Zig zag roads. Twisty.  The road from  Competa to Torrox Costa a roller coaster of a drive. There is Coastline. Beaches. Mountains. Natural parks. People. ( back to the horse rider again). Tapas. Wine. The attitude of don’t do it today if it can wait for a week.  Maybe not next week. But a week. You can’t be in a hurry in Spain. Unlike London where we are always rushing. Here there. So it’s a glorious difference and a great adventure to be starting.  Part time. Not full. I need no convincing. 

The mountains are spectacular surrounding  the Andalusia Towns and villages. There was snow on the mountain tops in early March when  we were last there. Now its all gone.  With bright blue skies. And a moon. Oh and heat and a mosquito. Or two. 



The white washed towns and villages hang onto the side of the mountains. Pristine. White. Narrow streets – steep and winding. But making you want to see what’s around the corner. At the top of the steps.  Breathless. Both in body. And spirit!  Ian ahead of me As usual. Striding to get to the top. Me just striving to get to the top. Eventually. 


The white washed town of Competa rolling down the mountainside. Beautiful. White. A pretty spectacular sight as you turn the bend on the road from Malaga. 



Dramatic skylines over Competa. 

I have found my Spanish’ Petitou. Casa Paco is situated on the square. Is friendly. Always busy. Now to try and order in Spanish. Or spanglais. I can ask for the bill. For toothpicks. Say hello. Ian is better than me. We both have apps on our phone trying  to learn. If you see Ian on the tube. He’s not talking to himself. He’s learning his verbs. If you see me. I probably am. 


Town squares to people watch. Eat Tapas. Drink wine. 

Just down yet another long and winding road is Torrox Costa and then onto Nerja . Nerja with its restaurants. The beaches. Glorious torquise sea. Rocks. A coastline. Sea air. A slight detour to Frigiliana  another white washed town nesltling on the hillside. But more touristy – has tour buses. Tourists. Like us. Except we have driven. 

So back to Competa.  On a clear day you can see down to the coast a 45 minute drive away. Probably quicker if I am not driving. Slowly. Ignoring my co driver saying. Ooh look at that.  Sorry Ian. All I can look at is the road ahead. 


The villages have these amazing doors. Original and painted in vivid colours. Or left to the old wood which is  equally striking, 

These are known as the hanging houses in Competa. There are literally hanging on the cliffl looking   pretty  moorish lit up at night. 

I wonder if i can get a part time job. The goat man with his herd of goats. Who walks them around the town and mountainside.  Ian unimpressed with my sound of music rendition of ‘High on a hill with a lonely goat herd’. He hasn’t heard the yodelling bit yet.  You smell the goats before you see or hear them. And the man has a whistle that they seem to understand. A bit pied piper to me . The downside for the part time job. That suit. I’m not sure it would suit me. 

These plants are lethal. They seem to have taken a dislike for me. Big time. I swear they see me coming and jump out to scratch my arm. Badly. My hand was swollen after getting stabbed by one of these. But they along with the palms are beautiful and majestic. 

More great views across the mountains. 


I wish I had shares in white paint. Every house is white. The churches are white. Some of the streets are white. But I don’t have a head for heights. 

I am looking forward to further forays into the surrounding villages. A trip to Granada. To Córdoba. To Malaga old town. A train trip to Sevilla. Oh. There will be pics. Lots of them. But not of me. Maybe of the back of Ian’s head. Of plants. And definetly of a horseman riding by.