Summer and NGS open gardens

So summers over and it’s a time to sit and reflect. A time to go through the mountain of photos I have taken over the summer. My own garden and the gardens of others. One thing I’ve been thinking of is the National Garden scheme visits that we have done this year. I’m a bit of a nosey one me. That’s why the NGS open gardens is a dream. I get to see other people’s gardens. Get ideas. See new plants. Take photos. Oh. And eat cake. There is always cake.

This year I didn’t manage many. I missed some which I have been desperate to see. The garden at Ulting Wick. I missed the tulips. The thousands of tulips which looked magnificent. Then I missed the later the openings as I was away both times. The 2018 dates will be in my diary. The one I bought today.

The ones I did see in London were all very different and all were in South London this year. Choumert Square in Peckham is a treat. The Peckham peculiar has 46 facts on the 46 cottages that comprise Choumert Square.

The square opens every year for NGS and despite living in the area since 1987 this is the first year I have managed to be here for the open day. On saying that can I admit to sneaking in and taking a peek occasionally. The open gardens is a bit of a fair day. There are cake stalls there is honey for sale. Plants. And a general feeling of great friendliness.

The entrance to Choumert Square

Lovely colours in the Square

Great herbaceous planting

The gardens are small and are all at the front of the cottages. At the end of the rows is a small communal space. It’s a lovely friendly place to live and the planting in the gardens is so all very different.

From Choumert Square we ventured to Camberwell Grove. One of the best if not the best example of Georgian houses in London. I’ve always wanted to live in this street. It’s a lovely wide tree lined street. The garden open here was very different to the Choumert Square gardens. A long oasis with a view of the spire of St Giles church at the end of the garden. The garden is covered in roses and colour with a lovely artist studio in the garden. Lots of lovely perennials in the borders adds stunning colour.

Camberwell Grove

Altogether a very different garden to the ones at Choumert Square.

I have followed Jack Wallington ( not literally) but on social media for a while. Jack and Chris had taken part in the Monty Don series Big Dreams Small Spaces and I’d remembered their story. It’s still on you tube if you want to take a look. It’s really interesting – Series 2 episode 2. A small garden in South London crammed full of plants. With a fern wall. So I was excited to see the garden and to meet Jack and Chris. The weather in the run up to the opening wasn’t great but the Sunday was dry and fine. Oh. And what a garden treat. Yes. The garden is small. But the planting and the variety of plants is awesome. Jack was on hand to answer questions. Which I asked and he answered. The plants were labelled and there was a plant list. Oh. For. A plant list and labels in my garden. And clean nails.

I loved the Echium and I’m looking for some for our new Spanish garden. Everywhere you looked there was something different. Astrantia. Dahlia. The fern wall which I had seen Jacks father making the supports for in Big dreams Small Spaces was brilliant. I know Jack can tell you the number of varieties on the wall. Did I get any tips?. You bet I did. I think of Jack as Mr Dahlia. He grows some huge dinner plate Dahlias on his allotment the photos of which are amazing.

Ps. Jack. Perhaps there should be an open day for your allotment!

The opening of gardens for the NGS is synonymous with cake. You can always get a decent bit of cake. Now there’s decent and there is extraordinary. The cakes at Jack and Chris’s were a visual delight as well as delicious. If there’s a prize for the most beautiful cakes then this is the winner. Oh. And for taste.

The icing on the cake. The dahlia cake.

I loved Jack and Chris’s garden and my one disappointment was that I was unable to visit for the second days opening the following month when more of the Dahlias were blooming. But I’ve seen the photos. Lots of photos.

Jack mentioned another garden that he thought I’d like which was open a few weeks later. Another one local to us in Grove Park. The garden of Clive Pankhurst. When you look at the front of many of these houses you can never expect to find such delights behind them. A garden full of exotic plants. Bee hives. Ponds. Lovely seating areas. A huge garden with lovely walkways. The owners have been able to buy some of the neighbouring gardens when the flats next door were developed. Where I found out my own next door neighbours mother who I see almost daily lives. So she gets to see the garden all year long.

I loved the garden and the planting. The variety. The colours. I also had some ideas for our own garden. That’s the joy of the NGS open gardens. You get to see plants you don’t know. Planted In situations you wouldn’t normally think. I’d never have thought of Echiums for a small garden. But they work. Really well.

The cakes were lovely too.

Next year I will be taking a notebook when I visit any NGS garden. My brain goes mush and I forget the names of the plants when I leave the gardens!

Till next year.

      Here comes the rain 

Well I’m back. Not as Gary sang Back for good. But for two weeks. To be honest I’m approaching the last few days of this visit. And the rain that was forecast has arrived. With a vengeance. We drove into town last night in fog. Friends gripping the door handles as we drove along the bits of road where there is a sheer drop. A lovely supper  and it was clear by the time  we left but with thunder crashing in the distance and lightening cracking away. . We just managed to get the cushions off the garden furniture before the heavens opened and the storm hit the mountains. Boy. Did it rain. It persisted. All night. And was pretty torrential. Am I complaing? No. I have planted bulbs seeds and some plants this week!

 I have also made a huge school boy error. I dont like gardening in gloves. Somehow i have rubbed my eye after planting and its swollen. I kook like I’ve done 5 rounds in a boxing ring which is stupid. I wouldn’t even get in the arena. A quick trip to the pharmacy. A bit of Spanglais as neither she or I spoke the others language and I had antiseptic eye drops. Lesson learnt? I doubt it. 

Eye eye Captain

In between visitors I have been cutting back,  pruning, tidying. Unlike Somerset there is no real weeding to do. No ground elder. No Bindweed. But an enourmous amount of leaves from the fruit treees and fallen olives. The olive trees are heavy with olives. ( obviously) and I fear they will all go to waste.

I have taken the opportunity of tidying the bank. Climbing up and like a mountain goat. Well thats how our neighbour described my efforts. A bit of lopping here. A hedge cut. The access road to the house was once a dirt track, now thankfully concrete and easier to navigate. The bank on our side has some large trees.some scabby prickly pears and cactus bordered by a hedge and the smattering of oleander along the drive. I have scattered poppies on the bank. Let’s see what comes. I have struggled to get native Mediterranean wildflower seeds. But I’ll continue trying. 

The access road to the house.

I have cut back the oleander from the gate to expose the two pillars that are there -if they are there why not show them! I have also been tidying the opposite bank behind the house and to the front. There are a couple of pines  which are protected in Spain. Not that I’d want to.

 I have cleared a lot of the pine needles so that any wildflowers that may be lurking in the ground have a chance to appear. But I now understand that the pine needles are a good mulch! A bit late as I have collected barrow loads of them. But I still have a barrow full. 

I love seeing the garden at different times off the day as the light is so very different. Except the dark. It always looks the same. Dark. This was taken from the area where we park the car. Pines. Cactus. It’s a favourite of mine. 

The bank at the rear of the house.
A barrow full of needles

I’m yet to attack the roundabout  – that piece of land we have across the road other than to cut the tips of the end of the agave leaves that were threatening to stab anyone that walked past. Not that many people do but like a Boy Scout you have to be prepared,
There are some pretty big  agaves at the bottom and a number of baby ones growing. I need to dig the small ones and to replant. Something else to add to my list. At least this list is my doing and not the ones that Ian gives me. To be fair. I should say lists. There are three. Some are being reduced. Bit the attic is still to be tackled. 

The large agaves on the roundabout

I have at long last – 5 months in – managed to cut the hedge, its been so hot that the growth has so far been slow but I was warned not to cut it in the heat. Or it may die. To be honest so would I if I’d tried in the heat of the summer. I needed little excuse not to cut it. We have a hedge cutter but the route from plug to hedge is a long one. Around the edge of the pool. Which I could see as a recipe for disaster for me. So I tried to get a cordless one. Hmm try getting a cordless anything here along with a string of garden solar lights.  Total fail. So I ventured on, and managed with a bit of stretching and cursing to have cut it. Please don’t venture to the side on the bank. It’s not pretty.  I have also trimmed a bit of height off the trees in front of the hedge. Thank goodness for the big lopper.  The view to the coast is a bit clearer. Especially when I Put on my glasses. 

A hedge with a view

The town had 24hrs of rain the week before I arrived and it shows. The drive up looked a bit greener. Flowers were back out in the garden. A bit of colour. This Brazilian sky flower has been constant all sunmner. Throw in a background of yellow and bingo. Colour. 

Brazilian sky flower

We have a bourganvellia growing next to the garage. It hasnt done very much in terms of flowering despite my govong it a good talk to and some encouragement. But there is one on the bank. The dry bank. No water. No attention. Dry. Sunny. And blooming lovely. Framed by the fig and the Nespera. 


Talking of which the two trees that we have on the bank are flowering. They also have a nice scent. I was pretty surprised  to see the flowers as i thought it a bit early. But apparently not. I’m hoping for some healthy fruit next year. Which no doubt will all come at the same time. Like the figs. 

Nespera.

I thought that we had little or no fruit on the pineapple guava. But once again I’m proved wrong. Apparently they are ripen when they drop. So I have been collecting some every day. I like the taste. One of my visitors said they tasted like wait for it. Germolene. I hated the smell of that growing up. Along with TCP. I once worked with someone who I swear used TCP as an after shave. 

Pineapple guava
The rest of the fruit is doing well. The oranges are ripening. Again I thought we may lose the trees in this years extreme heat. But there will be some ready for Xmas. There are two pink grapefruit. Still there. Still getting fatter.  


An unknown fruit – maybe a sloe.  


The 5 quinces remain and are getting uglier by the day. If I have time I will make that quince jelly I’ve been meaning to make. For ages. I think I’m being told to do it. One big fat quince has dropped to the ground. 


The succulents are doing well. There are small ones appearing everywhere. I need to move some of them as they are in the wrong places. 

I have moved the two cactus. I know that they are Euphorbium  but Ian bought them as he wanted cactus. And they do look greatagainst the  White wall of the house.  . 


You can tell we have had rain. These have suddenly unfurled from the tight coisednuo balls they were on our last trip. Looking glorious and majestic in the border. Not likethe  aliens they looked like before.  

I’m seeing new cactus I haven’t noticed before. 

A view of the border at the back of the house. It’s pretty steep. 


All of a sudden there are plants appearing in the garden. That’s the joy of a new garden. You never know until you get to the end of the first year what you will find. 


I’m very excited with the bird of paradise plants. We had some flowers in the summer but they seem to have gone mad. 

There are a number scattered around the garden. One in a pot. Most have their Autumn flower spikes. The one at the side of the house strategically placed outside the bathroom window has theee  large flower spikes forming. The one in the pot  has three as well. And the ones in the flower bed have another three between them. To be honest. I wasn’t expecting that. But they are fab. 


The good old lantana continues in the rear bed to give some welcome colour. The one in a pot had suffered a bit but has been cut right back and is sprouting new growth already. I have a policy of hack back and wish for the best. If it works. Bingo if not then there’s a shopping opportunity. Talking of which. 

I called into the garden centre last week on my way into Malaga. . And ordered a load of plants for collecting later in the week. Which I did. And filled the car. Can’t you tell Ian wasn’t here. He would have said ‘do you need all of those plants’.  Yes. I do. And more. 

Have plants will travel
  Some new lavender. Verbascum. Plectranthus. A plant whose leaves and flowers smell like popcorn. It really does. Senna didymobotrya. Oh and like so many of the Mediterranean plants is poisonous. Probably that’s what I rubbed into my eye! 

I have cut back some of the lavender not being brave enough to do it all. I have replanted some slightly lower on one side of the bed so the lights to the gates shine a bit brighter for now. Yes I know. I should have taken the hose away to get the perfect picture. But it’s not perfect. The garden the blog the pictures are all a work in progress!! 


There is still plenty to do. But it hasn’t all been gardening. We have had friends staying. Which means trips out. To the  Alhambra. To the coast. To eat. 

We made our third visit to the Alhambra 

The gardens are going over but there is still some great colour. 

Flowers at the Alhambra
A day at the Alhambra
Granada from the Alhambra
Oh. It’s November. The mornings are chilly admittedly. But when the suns out it’s glorious. So you need a trip to the coast. And we made a few. Nerja. Torre de Mar. For lunch. For a walk. 

Trips to the Coast – Nerja & Torre Del Mar

So Ian and the visitors leave today. I have one full day left on my own in the garden. To move the prunings from the pomegranate. The lavender. To plant the rest of the alliums. To go collect the tulips I have ordered for the pots.  Ready to be planted on the next visit. To hide  them in the fridge from Ian to give them a cold snap before I plant. 

It’s getting colder. We had our first log fire in the new house on Saturday I’m sure there will be more when I’m back. In 12 days time!

Have I told you I’m retired. 

Have I told you I’m retired. Oh. Yes I guess I have.  A lot. It’s approaching two years now. Two whole years. I am still getting asked. Aren’t you bored yet?  I always give the same answer. Bored. Bored? Only with being asked that question.

I have lists to get through. Lists given to me by Ian. Some things I have ticked off. Some still remain after two years. Like the loft. My theory is if it’s waited 15 years what’s another two. I have gardens to see. Workshops to do. Galleries to peruse. Oh. And add in a few trips to Andalucia. New plants and bulbs to purchase. 

I agreed, with myself admittedly, that I would have one day off a week. One day where it was all about me. Ian would say what’s different to the other 6. But I wanted a day where I could do what I liked. No home duties. No shopping. Just a me day. Admittedly some weeks I have two. This week was one of those weeks. Ok some weeks I have seven. Especially when I’m in the garden in Spain. 

I have had a a busy one. Involving gardens. A museum. A theatre visit. Making the most of a bit of late sun. In London. 

Yesterday was a good day. Starting in Blackheath with a pretty good bacon sarnie, a bus ride across the heath and down into Greenwich. It’s pretty surprising what you find when you have a bit of a wander. Aimlessly with you camera. And no sense of purpose. 

Having left Ian at the station I wandered along to the river. I used to cycle to Greenwich on my way to the office. Admittedly it was in a previous decade or two. I know that as at that stage I could and did wear Lycra.  So in some ways I was retracing old steps. This time not in Lycra. It wasn’t a pretty sight then. It would be shocking now. 

I used to go through the foot tunnel which is adjacent to the river. I was surprised yet delighted to find a small patch of planting close to the entrance to the tunnel. Even more surprised that it was not your usual planting , not the odd geranium here and there and bedding plants. Now. There’s nothing wrong with that combination. Planting is important. Of all kinds. But it’s great to find something different. 

Canary Wharf in the distance

The lovely planting adjacent to the Greenwich foot tunnel entrance

Having the  Piet Oudolf  garden near us in Somerset has made me a fan of this style of planting. But for me it’s great in summer and Autumn. I’m not a Winter or spring fan of prairie. Give me lots of Spring bulbs. Daffs. Bluebells. Tulips. 

 I love the effect of the planting against the harsh concrete and glass in the distance of Canary Wharf. Continuing colour into Autumn. With the drying seed heads. Canary Wharf.  The destination of my cycle rides. My work destination for 28 years. Now tthe  cycle rides are qin the dim and distant past. In later years I drove. Not through this tunnel of course. But through a different  one. 

The entrance to the foot tunnel at Greenwich

My destination of the day was the  Sky Garden at the Walkie Talkie building Fenchurch  street. But before my allocated slot I had  a bit of time to kill  so I had a wander. It’s easy to walk around London when you live here with your eyes closed and miss the things that are around you. To take things for granted.  Like the phone box and post box combination. Typically British. Very nostalgic. Since retiring I have had the opportunity to wander. Aimlessly and often. Here and there. There and here. Wherever here or there is at any given time! 

A George V postbox and the original immobile phone
I had wanted to go the Sky Garden for a long time. But for whatever reason I hadn’t managed to get a ticket. It’s free but you have to book a time and they only come in two week booking slots. I had booked for last Friday but somehow failed to get into town in time. Luckily you can change the time and day online and I was determined to get there. So I took the boat. From Greenwich to Tower Hill. The brilliant Thames Clipper. When I first started work in Canary Wharf decades ago I used to travel from  Embankment  to Canary Wharf on the original river taxis. It was the old days and traffic was light. There was a large boat. And a 12 seater which sometimes we were allowed to board. Things are different these days. A fabulous service where you can get a drink on board too! A great way to see the river frontage enroute  up the Thames. 

I digress. Which I do a lot. So to the Sky Garden. Situated on the 35th floor of 20 Fenchurch Street. 



Yes there is a queue for the timed entries. Yes there is airport security as you enter. But boy it’s worth it. 

View to the outdoor viewing platform

The views from the viewing platform and from inside the building are stunning.  London sights. St Paul’s. The Tower. London Bridge station. The London eye. 

There is a great cafe with some awesome cakes.  Hot coffee. Suitable for all the gardening fraternity who seem to like a bit of cake. Me included. 

Awesome cakes. Fit for a gardener

The planting is interesting. People know I am a bit of a fan of tree ferns. Of Agaves. Succulents. There are plenty here amongst a lot of good planting. 

I loved seeing a couple of pearly / foxtail agaves which we have in our garden  in Andalucia. 

Foxtail agave

The tree ferns were pretty spectacular too and there were a lot. 

Ooh. How I love a tree fern or two

I had been to the Crossrail roof garden the week before ( yep on another day off). I love that garden. The major difference to me is that there you walk through the garden. At the Sky  garden you walk around the periphary.  The planting hangs down two sides and you walk around it. And look up to it. Does that make sense?  It somehow feels that you are part of the planting at Crossrail and they have some cool information boards on the planting. 

The Sky Garden is a great space and I wonder how  the garden will evolve. It’s an oasis  in the city and worth a visit for sure. For me the views take over from the garden as they are spectacular. I found the garden secondary to the views. 

Roof top gardens in the City of London

It’s amazing what you can see from 35 floors up. These are two fabulous looking roof gardens on city of London rooftops. I have no idea of whose buildings they are but it’s great to see the diversity and greenery in the city. You would and do walk past these buildings with no idea what’s above you. 

St Paul’s. City Hall Tower of London London Bridge station

You often don’t realise how green the city is. Greenery splashed wherever you look. 

So. It was last week but I’ll include some pics of Crossrail place roof garden. It’s an amazing quiet space in the hustle and bustle of Canary Wharf. Canary Wharf is an amazing place. Yes. Concrete. Glass. But tee are some wonderful,diversions. Green spaces. Art. Sculpture. They do a great guide to Art on the Estate  

Crossrail place Roof garden Canary Wharf

There are a lot of green spaces around the Canary  Wharf estate beautifully maintained and an oasis. It’s definetly worth a visit. Despite having worked on the Wharf for 28 years I am still a huge fan! 

Green spaces and a piano at Canary Wharf
Earlier in the week I had wandered into the Wallace Collection A free entry museum in Marylebone. An excellent collection and a fabulous gallery. As usual I found a flowery picture to send to My friend Georgie Newberry


A nice autumnal painting by a Dutch artist. 

Next weeks another week. And another garden. We are off to Blenheim  Palace. With my camera of course…..

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. 

London Calling 

So I said goodbye to sunny Spain. Sadly left the mew Mediterranean garden and the heat behind  to catch the delayed flight to London. Down  the long and winding road. Again. This time singing to myself. Ian flew back a few days ago. 

Nothing better than sat waiting to board the plane whilst an irate passenger berates rather rudeley the girl at the gate. Who smiles sweetly and let’s him rant. Well done  I think.  Then says. In broken Spanish. Thank you sir. I am Ryan Air. You are travelling British Airways. Boom. A deflated and embarrassed angry man. 

We eventually depart. A full flight. An announcement goes over the tannoy. ‘Today we have a passenger flying with us who has a severe nut allergy. We will not be serving nuts.  We would also ask you to refrain from eating your own nuts. ‘

Childish I know. But I collapsed into a heap of giggling childish laughter. 

Did I say escape the heat. Huh. It’s hot back in London. Without the air conditioning and everyone complains how hot it is. Even me.  

There is another constant. My love for agapanthus! They have gone crazy whilst I’ve been away. Combination of the heat and the feeding of  Lou’s pooh in the spring. We had great leaf growth and I had thought I had overfed. But the number of buds has been great. Agapanthus  that struggled to flower  last year are bursting. 



I almost love the opening buds more than the full flowers. Or maybe the seed heads after flowering. 


We bought two plants a good few years ago and put in a large pot in the centre of the front garden. Garden is  an wxagatration. It’s an area at the front of the house. But this agapanthus never ceases to amaze me. There are loads of buds every year which virtually appear over night. Small light blue flowers. I keep thinking I ought to split them. Maybe next year. Maybe not.  


The agapanthus by the front door were bought at Columbia Road flower market a few years ago. Cheap. Cheerful and have been great. This year they seem taller than usual so I will need to be careful that they do not snap off. Or get picked like they did a few  years ago! 

Agapanthus bud

I know that this one will be the darkest of them all. The tell tale signs of the bud give it away. It’s a really dark colour – like a black almost. 

But like Spain a lot will open whilst I’m away which happens every year! The good thing is that they have a good flowering period. Oh. I’ve just found a self  seeded one about to flower in the orange tree pot. 

Agapanthus washing line and pegs

The back garden is small and I mean small and has to incorporate everything. Like a washing line amongst the plants. All the plants without exception are in pots. The tree ferns.a couple of olives. An almond tree. Easy to move around. But a pain to water. 


An empty chair.  Usually occupied by one of the cats but it’s too hot for them. They are sprawled out behind s tree fern. 

Fred the cat

View from above


I have always had  window boxes.  I think it’s an inherited thing. My parents did hanging baskets. Hanging at  their front door. A bit of a show off with  next door as to how could have the best.  .  So I like to have the front looking good. I maybe have missed  one or two years where I have had a break but this year I decided to go back to the good old geranium. They were great in the pots in Somerset last year and went on right into  the autumn only being moved to make room  for the tulip planting. Which I also did in the window boxes here for the spring. 

This year for the first time I added some lavender  to the boxes with the geraniums and it’s worked really well. Even if I say so myself. I also used good old lobelia for the side boxes something I haven’t planyed in years. My parents always grewv it along the front path accompanying allysum which I don’t think I’ve seen at a garden centre or nursery in a very long time. That and the good old Busy Lizzie! Their garden was a homage to the planting of the time. Lobelia. Allysim. Petunia. Tagetes. Godetia. All grown from seed. 

I digress. 


Gardening in London is a challenge. The garden is small. There’s lots I want to grow but can’t. Dahlias another of my loves are rubbish here. We get overrun with snails. Not slugs. I have one climbing rose. A lovely David Austin bought my a good friend of mine Emma. As a thank you for staying at the cottage. 


 But the upside is that we have a sheltered garden where most years we don’t have to cover the crowns of the tree ferns. Tracheospernum grows well. Jasmine grows like crazy up the drainpipe out of a ridicously small pot. A black bamboo whist scraggy is over 10 foot tall. 

Window box in kitchen bay window

There have been disappointments. As the garden is small I like to have some scented plants. The jasmines flower at different times and the smell of both is very very different. So I bought a Philadelphus to add to the mix. A belle etoille which we have had in Somerset. Gorgeous smell. White flower with a purple throat. But it appears that it’s not what I got. Pretty. But plain white with little scent. Annoying. It will have to go. It’s not what I want and I don’t have room for mistakes! 

Belle etoille – I don’t tho so. .
The email has arrived from Peter Nussen re  Speing bulbs! Oh. Lordy. I’ll have to make decisions  for next year soon!

Right. I’m off to water. Yet again 

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.