Rain. Snow & a Spring. Garden

Another trip over. Another delayed flight back to London. But at least this one has left Spain with no overnight trip to Horrorleminos. Thankfully.

We have spent over 2 months in Spain. On and off. A trip back to London here and there. Had fun on a 2,000km road trip via Cordoba, Cacares, Toledo and Salamanca. Witnessed the spectacle that is Semana Santa. And a spectacle it certainly is. I was a bit Semana Santa’d out by the end of the trip. Its big. Its busy. Great marching bands. Huge traditions and a huge family event. Also a bit scary at times. But a fabulous spectacle.

Semana Santa in Salamanca 

Started Spanish lessons on a one to one with a spanish teacher in Competa. Nervous at first. Back to school. Rubbish pronunciation. But I’m getting there. Slowly. Some words I need practice on. One slip of the tongue and I’ll be ordering something off menu. Something very off the menu. Ian is scared. To be honest. So am I.

The trip was tiring. But an amazing adventure. . Cold at times. One minute in sunshine. The next driving through snow covered mountains wondering if we need be worried that there was a snow plough car park. The terrain was green. Very green. The rivers were flowing. Which is unusual after a few dry years.

I’ve said it before. The rain in Spain doesn’t mainly stay on the plain. It’s everywhere. Especially for three weeks here in Spain. It didn’t just rain cats and dogs. It was the whole ark. Great for the plants. Great for the reservoirs. Although some plants may have drowned.

So back to the village and home. Its always good to get home. Which ever one it may be. I’ve said it before a hairy gardener does! He knows who he is.

I’ve managed two weeks in the garden. Hedge cutting a priority. – I will never win prizes for my topiary. I realise that hairdressing is also not a new career choice for me either. I hate hedge cutting but needs must. Its like edges on a lawn.

Not a shabby view to cut a hedge 

I was so envious of the immaculate and straight lines of the hedges at the Alhambra.

Oh. Yes. Did I mention I’d been to the Alhambra. Again. To be fair it’s only the third time since Xmas. No 4 is in 3 weeks. I may as well get a guides job. But the uniforms not flattering enough. Oh. And that’s the last of 2018. Well maybe. The garden joy this time – fritillaria imperialis – they were magnificent. I may just try them myself. Next year.

I would be interested to see the bedding later in the year. It’s different to last year so maybe …..

The joy of the Alhambra Granada 

Back to my garden. Highlight of Spring has to be the Peter Nyssen freesias. They have been brilliant. Tall and elegant. Perfumed and colourful. Unlike the short stubby tulips which I will add are not from Peter Nyssen. I think it’s a mixture of the weather and late planting.

I’m making my order list for the autumn already. I have just made another bulb order to add to the summer garden.

Peter Nyssen Fressias

Some tulips are ok but overall I’m disappointed. The Belle Époque which were big bold and beautiful last year ( but in London) just haven’t done it for me this year. The brown sugar and Ronaldo are ok but a bit short.

Belle  Époque 

The alliums are running away with themselves – I can’t wait to see them in flower. At least I will see some of them. The trouble is if you are away for a couple of weeks things can come and go and you think they haven’t flowered.

The pomegranate trees has leaves. Plenty. They will have flowers. Plenty. But no pmegranates. I refuse to believe it’s an ornamental. Or that both trees are ornamental. So I may have to go out with my tickling stick to encourage a bit of pollination when the flowers arrive. No photos please.

Who thought that in my retirement I’d be oiling my prickly pears. The cactus are shocking in Andalucia. Blighted with cochineal fly they are ravaged and it is such a shame. Further up into Granada they are better. Maybe the height. Maybe the cold.

The ones on our bank may not be worth saving but there are two at the side which are. So armed with a neem oil and water mix I have been out spraying them. It looks like it’s doing the job so now I will move onto some small ones on the other bank. Worth a try and exercises my balance on the slope.

Prickly Pear

I shan’t be oiling these though. In fact I stay well away. They have a habit of jumping out and stabbing me.

The osteospermums are spreading. And when the sun is out ( which occasionally it has been ) they look great. A bit of colour in the garden. The oranges are ripening. I find it strange that there is still fruit on the tree and there is also new blossom. Lots of blossom and the heavy rains have helped the new year fruit set. The scent on a warm day is breathtaking. We were in Malaga – which isn’t just a sun sea sand and tourist resort but is actually really interesting. I digress. But the scent of orange blossom by the Alcazar is amazing.

Back in the garden – the pine trees are doing well. We found some processionary caterpillar nests which we had removed. Nasty little blighters. There are plenty of new cones and the colouring is really cool. I’m only used to seeing the mature cones. Tip. Great for starting the log fire.

Caterpillar nests

I uncovered some succulents from under the honeysuckle. This week I found them about to start flowering. Hopefully when we get back it will be in flower.

I planted two popcorn senna – Senna didymobotrya – on the bank a while ago. There has been little sign of life so I ventured up the bank ( or down) to see what was happening. The bank is steep. I’m not slight. And there have been a couple of slips. Not a pretty sight at the best of times. . Me. Not the bank thankfully. I found some new growth. And a flower starting to open. It will be a yellow flower. The whole plant indeed does smell of pop corn. Top tip. Don’t touch it without gloves. Top top tip. If you do. Don’t rub your eyes if you do. I did. Big fail. A trip to the pharmacist. She spoke no English. I spoke no Spanish. So it was Spanglais – before my Spanish lessons. But it meant I could pretend to be a pirate for a few days. The one eyed idiot from up the mountain.

Popcorn Senna

The garden is definitely more a Spring and Autumn garden. The heat of the summer is harsh. Even I wither. Not literally but I used to think that villages were deserted. Shutters shut in the mid afternoon when only mad dogs and English men venture out. But they are being sensible. There were times in July I shut the shutters. . Turned on rubbish TV – I’m not saying what – and went back out when it got slightly cooler.

By cutting back the bank last year we have had some wildflowers come through. I found this glorious wild orchid on the roundabout which isn’t a roundabout.

Wild orchid on the roundabout 

So there has been colour. Glorious colour. There has been scent. Lavender. Jasmine. Freesias. Orange blossom.

There have been birds and bees. Oh. The birds and bees.

Busy Bees

That made me think of my mother. You do know about the birds and bees she would say. Oh I did indeed. There has been rain. Sun. Rain. Sun. The succulents are coming alive. The seeds I had sown before our trip have shown themselves. The calendula art shade from Mr Higgledy are up and saying hello.

The poppies I scattered in their thousand have em. Done nothing. Still time yet but there are lovely red poppies on the road edges. Not that I look. You have to see the road to understand why I don’t. But I did when we were being driven by another. I’m hoping that if not this year then next.

You’ll get fed up of that plant they said. It grows like a weed. Huh. If its on the bank and is pretty it can continue and it has. Looks like a tiny sweet pea.

I’ve sown Tithonia spurred on by seeing some in a NGS garden in Camberwell last year. I am hoping they look like the ones I saw.

Tithonia
Tithonia in a NGS garden last year 

I have planted some Echium Pride of Madeira on the bank. Inspired by Jack Wallington garden – open last year and this for NGS . They are not the same as Jacks – a friend arrived bearing a gift of one. So I had to buy 4 more. Didn’t I? It will be interesting to see what flowers I get this year. I shall be off on the hunt for some different varieties when I’m back. They have settled in on the bank and if they will self seed I’ll be happy. Jack also identified a plant I had posted on Instagram – melianthus major. I had seen them in the Alcazar in Malaga and loved them. Another for my list.

There hasn’t been a lot to pick for the house and I refused to pick the freesias. But there was Mimosa.plenty of Mimosa.

Mimosa

Mimosa is abundant on the bank. Glorious yellow flowers and been a bit of a riot of colour on the way up to the house. A bit prone to wind snap but I’ll cope with that.

So there is colour. Lots. As its Spring it seems predominately yellow.

A bit of colour for Spring 

The fruit is ripening and setting. The loquats with their big leaves are starting to get fat and some are ripening. Please wait three weeks. They all come at once. Like the big fat black figs. Which are just leading up.

Loquats fruiting 
Black figs 

We have had a huge harvest of Olives on the one large tree. I don’t like waste so I have salt cured some. Apparently they are good. I’m not a fan but Ian and friends have tried them and say they are great. So I salted another batch. And brought some back to London to do the same here. Waste not want not. They will last 6 months in the fridge. Longer if you freeze them.

Olives from our garden! 

So. It’s London for the next three weeks. . Doctors. Dentists. Opticians and a haircut. Oh. And a visit to the Vets. Cats. Not me. Though it’s easier to get an appointment at the vets.

A spell in our London garden ( small rear patio) – its a mess though we have almond blossom out – before another month in Spain. Well nearly.

Life’s hard when you are retired.

Rain rain go away

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You’ve gotta have friends

So this trips not all been about the garden.It has also been time for friends. Ooh Allo Mike was out for 5 days. Then the ‘dream team’ were on tour. The Dream team. Common Farm dream team. Since I’ve retired I’ve spent some time with Georgie , Lorraine and Sharon helping out at the Flower Farm. Been the gofer. Bottle washer and even let loose on the wedding flowers. Lorraine on the other hand is queen of the jam jar posies. Sharon and Georgie the leaders of the pack. The experts.

So we planned a ‘dream team’ trip to our house in Spain. A chance for me to show them the garden. The town. The wine. I managed to book a trip to the Alhambra. Despite living close to Common Farm flowers it was the power of social media that brought us together. Me ordering flowers from the flowery lady up the lane. Then her delivering to the cottage. And it went on. Progressed into friendship

The date was set. Tickets booked. House cleaned. Garden tidied.

The flight arrived early. We arrived 5 minutes late. They were in arrivals. Wearing tiaras. Waiting. Smiling. ‘ Well’ they said. ‘You’ve said all week on social media it was a royal visit so we have arrived prepared’. They only came off once we got to the car. Trust me to be mean and park in the car park with the longest walk. Home up the dark and windey road. Wine. Snacks. Bed. In that order. But only after a lot of catching up.

To be fair. Saturday morning wasn’t a great start to the weekend. Table laid for breakfast. Orange juice squeezed. Kettle on the boil for more coffee. Boom. Off went the electrics. Nothing else to do but head up into Town.

We managed a wander around the market, coffee and croissants in the Plaza and then happened to bump into the plumber. Now I know what your thinking. Electrics. Plumber? Well along with our friend and Estate Agent they arrange everything for us. He promised that if it wasn’t on in a few hours Domingo would come out. On a saturday. Just like that.

Theres always something going on in the town. I couldn’t have arranged it better. A children’s fancy dress parade through the town. Some parents ( mothers!) dressed up. Some grandmothers. Tiny babies in pushchairs. A great family event wandering through the narrow whitewashed streets.

Next stop Nerja. A drive down the wiggly road to the coast. I need to up my game. This is our standard itinerary. Competa and the market if its a Saturday. A drive to the coast. Either Nerja or Torre del Mar. Today was Nerja. A short drive – after depositing Ian at the house to wait for Domingo – oh and after a couple of glasses of Cava – them not me we headed off.

Now you cant be in Spain and not stop off at a traditional Tapas Bar. Surprise surprise. We did. Packed too. With Spanish. Always a good sign. So we sat at the bar like locals. But stood out like we were not. Tempting Georgie into trying the different choices. A typical Tapas. One drink. One small tapas free. Oh. And wine and beer. For them. Not me. We had to get back up the wiggly road

A wander through the streets. A look at the sea.

Presents for the children. Not the spanish children obviously. The wriggler and Bear back in Somerset. And back up the hill to a house with electricity. Good old Domingo.

Supper at one of out favourite restaurants El Pilon.

A bucket of gin for an aperifif – Dani doesn’t know the word small. Even in Spanish. After 3 weeks of lessons I do. But to no avail. I try when he pours my caramelo. Caramel Vodka. My nightcap of choice these days. Another great evening – great food – conversation and catching up

Back at the house and time to relax. Not quite sure what Lorraine was explaining. But this was during the day and no drink was involved!

Sunday was our main event. A trip to the Alhambra. Now its not easy to get tickets. But it is. Booking opens three months in advance and tickets are limited to the Nasrid Palaces. Entry to these are by timed tickets. So unless you know your dates in advance you can struggle. Most of our visitors haven’t know their dates so far in advance so we always start with well it would be nice but. But. No guaranteed. Persistence is key. Keep checking the official website and days open up. Slowly. So I’ve managed to get dates for Feb. April and May. Yes. Glutton. one word of advice – they have a new booking system and they ask for names. Passport numbers and ages. Sorry ladies. I know and I will keep it secret. Passports required to be carried. But rarely checked.

I knew Lorraine wouldn’t arrive without something ‘dream-team’ related. I wasn’t wrong. Printed Tshirts. Yes before you ask. Im breathing in. We loved them. Thank you Lorraine.

A fashionable arrival. A pashmina that would mean Georgie wouldn’t get lost. Lorraine hidden under a parka. Umbrellas supplied by Ian. Yes. It was drizzly and cold. I keep forgetting how different the temperatures can be. But the Alhambra is high up in the Sierra Nevada. There’s skiing and snowboarding close by. Not me of course. Imagine. Me. Snowboard. Never. It would need stabilisers. But it was cold. Bloody cold.

A wander first around General life and the gardens. They are just planting the annuals in the beds so it will be interesting to see how it goes between now and my visit in May. Apologies to Lorraine. I kept wittering on about the box. But it looked sad. Very sad. They also had some myrtle hedges. Interesting.

A rare sighting of Ian. You usually only see him walking ahead if me.

Why are they laughing below? Because Mr Camera was trying to get a good shot and nearly went into one of the rills. Wet feet. Freezing cold. I would have wanted to go home. But its a nice picture.

I have become a regular visitor to the Alhambra over the last few months and every time I visit there is something else to see. Things I’ve missed. Things I see differently.

Its also great to see it through other peoples eyes. Standing in the midday queue being read the history of the Alhambra. Rather nicely read too. In one of these pics Georgie is talking poo. Poo and soil. She did a live Insta feed on it too.

The gardens change every visit. Two weeks before the dream team visit they were planting the bedding plants. In some areas there were gorgeous ranunculus. Shiny red ranunculus. Stocks. Scented. I am back there again in a month. Then again in May.

The Nasrid Palace is the jewel. The tiling. The ceilings. The stonework. Its beautiful and I think it exceeded expectations

. I know i can be a bit blasé about it. But I’ve been 4 times in the last year and have another two booked in. But it changes. Not the palaces obviously. But the light. The gardens. The tourists!

During the late summer I will book for a night tour. I think to see the palaces at night will be magical.

We even had chance of a silly selfie! Thats unusual. Both in a picture. At the same time.

You’d never know it was cold would you. Not by the look of Lorraine all wrapped up in her coat. Hood up. Shes the one in the blue by the way! The pink hat and green coat had nothing to do with us! Or Lorraine.

The one thing you do at The Alhambra is walk. And walk. And walk. It covers a large space. The gardens. The towers. The palaces. Up and down steps. To the top of the towers with amazing views of Granada. So there’s always a relief when you get a Saga stop. Especially on nice chairs!

A chance to sit and look out over Granada. Rest the pink trainer feet. Catch a breath. Post an Insta.

We spent five hours there. Yet still you don’t have time to see absolutely everything. Back home up the wiggly road. Out for supper.

But first Georgie wanted to see a sunset. She had seen loads on my timeline. But she wanted to see one for herself. Saturday night was overcast. No sunset.

Thankfully Sunday night obliged.

She isn’t really having to reach above the hedge to get a good pic.

It was a great weekend. Lots of chatter. Garden chat. People chat. Nonsense chat. Wine. Good food. And especially laughter. It will be repeated. Hopefully when the sun is hot. But not too hot. Diaries at the ready.

Hola again Hola

How time flies when your having fun. One week down and it’s been a bit of a whirl. Theres been a visit to The Alhambra. My first of 2018 and there are 3 more booked all with friends who are staying over the next few months. A trip to the Botanical Gardens in Malaga. Trips to the coast. Oh and the garden.

It’s amazing how quickly the garden changes when there has been a bit of rain. And a bit of sun. And a bit more rain. There has been both. So what’s new in the garden? Loads.

Well the Dodonae viscosa purpurea is looking mighty fine. The colour now is fantastic especially when the sun hits the plant. The leaves are awesome. Flowers insignificant. And it self seeds like crazy.

I believe this to be white lilac. The week before we arrived it was a bit on the colder side. Now the sun is out the lilac may start to unfold its glorious scent. I hope so.

My mother would never pick lilac to bring into the house. Our neighbour always said bringing lilac into the house meant bad luck. So I don’t either. Superstitious? Me? Never. I just get an ear worm – if she’s not saying ‘ your not like your father. He tidied up as he goes along. In the garden. In the kitchen’. Now she’s saying ‘ don’t pick your lilac! I always told her it was an old wives tale. So why am I listening!

I’ll be keeping an eye on this one.

There are still some seed heads on the Jacaranda tree. Funny looking things these seed pods. A real hard brown outer shell. Slowly opening like a mussel shell. I’ve just noticed a couple of green seed heads there too. The tree is a beauty but is on the large side. Note to self check for pruning back and when. Not a job for me though. Ladders. Me. Heights. Never.

The aliens are still doing well. It was interesting to go to the Botanical Gardens Malaga this week and to see many plants there which we have growing in the garden here. Not on their scale though – the Botanical gardens are huge and I have a feeling a bit of a blog may be coming on that trip. There were loads of photos.

So Plecatranthus It is Adds a bit of colour at this time of year and spreads.

I have had my eye on this plant Pyrostegia venusta – Brazilian Trumpet Vine – every time we go to either Nerja or the garden centre. Both have magnificent specimens. This one is the Nerja one and is mighty impressive. The colour is just amazing. The friend staying bought me one and planted it against the white garage to replace the bougainvillea which is not doing very well at all. So it’s planted. Fingers crossed. It generally is pretty rampant.The Australian wisteria is out in full force. A glorious colour and a huge attraction to the bees. Its growing over the gate into the garden and its a riot of colour. The colour purple. I had never seen it before we bought this house but I have now also bought a pink one. I have found out that there is a UK stockist Fibrex Nurseries who has said it is in their conservatory section and it would be ok in our London sheltered garden. ( the wonders of twitter)For london I’d go for the purple as its more striking. A bit more show off. It will replace a Trachelospermum which has died. My fault entirely. Hands up. I shall be ordering from Fibrex before we return to the Uk.

Osteospermum. What to say. Other than they are out in force and spreading. Lovely flowers. A few different colours. All welcome. Gotta love a self seeder.

The succulents are starting to flower. Please don’t ask. I don’t know! .

Its been a real bit of trial and error for me in this garden. I certainly am out of my comfort zone but its fun and I am loving it.

Last time I was here I planted this leptospermum. (Tea tree) Still looking ok. So far so good. Such pretty flowers.

Oh. What to do with the lavender. I love it. But its a but sad in places. Before xmas i cut some back really hard following advice from the twitterati. Do you know what? The ones I cut back are doing well. If only I had the courage to do them all. Maybe after next weeks visitors I will take the plunge.

We did s bit of clearing and pruning this week and came across these lovelies hiding underneath. Gorgeous little things aren’t they. In Spain. Being Welsh you have to love a dadfodil. A leek. A bara brith and a welsh cake. In no particular order. Well. The cake may come first.

You will know I am a fan of Peter Nyssen This year they delivered my bulbs to Spain. Allium. Freesia. Chionodoxa. All planted and the alliums are pushing through at various stages. The first of the freesias has opened and the rest have big fat buds. I am so excited to have all of these bulbs here and I am grateful to Karen yet again for her advice.

I am having some success as well this year with foxtail lilys. I planted six. Five are up and reaching for the sky. The sixth maybe too. I just need to remember where I planted it. I know. I know. Labels dear boy. Labels. I can’t wait to see those towering spires when and if they flower.

Its also good to have a someone else cast a fresh eye over the pots. My friend Michael was here for a week and he made some suggestions. About the plants and the pots. Michael and I have been friends for over 30 years. I met him when he first moved to London and met him for lunch. His first words to me were ‘ooh allo’ and thats been his name ever since. Ooh Allo Mike.

So we have had a bit of a move around and it looks better. Its not the end. There will be more moves. I probably wont be moving a lot by the time I’ve finished. Iv already rolled down the bank once this week and trust me. Its not a pretty sight. Me. Not the bank. Anyone need a garden roller?

We have been having Spanish lessons. Ooh. Its been a hard slog this first week – one to one tuition for an hour a day. Three days a week. With homework. Ian is a glutton for punishment. He’s doing two hours a day.

So today i said that I would pop to the garden centre to pick up some liquid fertiliser whilst he had his lesson. On my own. Oh dear. With no Ian to stop me I filled the car. 3 Clivia – an awesome plant. One I first bought 20 years ago from my neighbour and friend Clare who opened a shop. A trained horticulturist and ex Blue Peter gardener she introduced me to quality plants. Clivia was one of them. Cornish daffodils another.

I added 3 lavender just in case – 4. Agapanthus as you can never have too many. Some iris. A lovely one called burnt toffee. Iris don’t seem to have done well here this year but I’m going to plant them but just not sure where yet. Two new Hardenbergia – why two I don’t know as I really only need one. And two sweet little pots for the garden tables.

I couldn’t hide them. The car was full. The accountant in Ian couldn’t help but say. ‘How much’?

The Clivia are planted. Two of the four agapanthus planted. The rest are soaking. Oh. Did I mention a brugmansia. Because I bought one. When we were clearing last week I found one. I know. How can you lose one? Not only did I find one. But I knocked the top off. I’m sure it will come back. More crossed fingers then. Great for my arthritis.

Ian has been the foreman this week. He has taken more interest in this garden than he ever did in Somerset. He loves the cactus, The succulents, the big palms and yuccas and has suggested- yes he has suggested – that we head to Torrox to go and see the large palms and the cactus as he has earmarked a spot for one. I’m practicing.

‘How Much?’

Hola.

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

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

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

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

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

But I digress from the garden.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seeds Succulents & Stuff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hola Jardin Mediterraneo

So Christmas has been and gone for another year. So has New Year which was spent in Spain – a few days at the house and then a few days in Seville. If you haven’t you really should. It’s awesome.

Then back to Londinium to check on the builders – a quick trip to Somerset to check on the Estate Agents, a cuppa with the Flower Farmer and we are now back In Spain.

Sadly my old mans pass doesn’t cover all of the travel. I can only wish.

Having negotiated choices of front doorsteps, chosen tiles for the path and watched the front garden torn up we have left London with a bit of a bumpy ride with a keen tale wind to boot. A 2.5 hour flight where I didn’t get out of my seat once and was reminded of a bumpy flight decades ago where I had gone to the loo. Captain announced that everyone should return to their seats. Belt up. There was turbulence. There was indeed. I hadn’t realised I hadn’t actually fastened the door properly, i did when the plane went bumping along and the door flew open. With me regally sitting on the throne. That, in truth is the reason I rarely leave my seat on a plane. I was traumatised. For life. So I expect were the rest of the passengers.

So back we are. Driving up the wiggly road the first thing I noticed was that things were looking greener. Large green patches and swathes of yellow under the trees. It seems that we have had a fair bit of rain. Which is good news as I had left the irrigation system off for the last 10 days in anticipation. That and the fear of the water bill. Which hasn’t been paid by the bank and a copy of which we haven’t had, so I was hoping that we still had water when we got to the house. Hurrah. We did. Shame we had no electricity. A defrosted freezer. And the house was so cold! But it wasn’t long before the the fire was lit the wine open and the water heater on and I was in the garden to take some pics. I had bought a tripod. Mmmm. Best say nothing about that for now.

It was evident there had been rain. The ground was wet. Obviously. Things had started to move in the garden. Some bulbs were starting to poke through. Some I knew some I didn’t. If I was going to make a New Years resolution it might be label. Label. Label, but I didn’t and I haven’t. I know where I planted tulips and what they are. Brown sugar and Ronald in the pots. Belle Époque in the white wall planter. But they haven’t shown their face. Not yet. Another NY resolution might have been staking. It wasn’t. But today I have staked – well tied up the freesias that I planted. They have got really tall. They were the first thing we noticed last year when we were looking at houses. There was the delicious scent of freesias in the warm air. So I bought some. And much to Ian’s surprise. I planted them. All of them. Don’t tell him I have found some other bulbs – the stragglers I call them in the garage. Tomorrow. I promise. Not that I’ll tell him. I will plant them. Honest.

So the garden is getting a bit more colour. The garden is more a Spring garden. The heat of July and August oppressive and watering is not easy on ground that is as hard as a rock. So the cooler months bring colour. Not that there isn’t colour in the summer. Its just different.

This has been flowering constantly all year to be fair – needs a bit of a trim but the colour is a welcome one a grey day. Not that today was grey, sorry to mention that.

Another hard worker is the ostepsermum which is spreading like crazy. Turn around and another pops up. Great little fillers in a number of colours one of the few photos to be taken on that tripod.

Hello hello. Or Hola. We have one potted Bird of Paradise – strelitzia which is in the second flush of flowering. Today I counted the flowers waiting to emerge and there are 9. I love the colours and the shape and to have 9 on this one pot is awesome. Not to count a further 6 on plants there are in the garden which are doing Ok but not as large or strong as this potted one. I don’t know what I’m doing but whatever it is I am going to continue.

We also have a blue and white one – strelitzia Nicolas – which I have given a severe talking to. We had one flower spike last year. I almost missed it. The plant tries to pretend its a banana. It’s not. But the leaves are massive.

The lavender path is still flowering. To be fair it hasn’t stopped. I took advice from my gardening friends on Twitter and cut a few back really hard. I didn’t have the courage to do it to the whole path. But. The advice was right. The ones I did cut back ( hack) in November are doing really well. To be fair if I cut the rest back and its a disaster then I will just have to replant.

Now please don’t ask as I simply cannot tell. It’s top secret. So secret even I can’t remember. A recent purchase. A succulent. That I know. This is a bit that broke off and planted. I will look for the receipt _ I’m sure that I added it to my planting plan. Yep. Another failed news years resolution. An annual one. Label Label Label. Garden plan. There’s always 2019.

We had difficulty opening the gate yesterday when we arrived. The Australian wisteria – Hardenbergia violacea – had entwined itself over the gates and had started to flower. As bit earlier than I expected – its a lilac / mauve colour and actually quite pretty. It’s full of flower which I understand lasts quite a while not as showy as the English wisteria nor scented. A great colour though and perfect as its drought tolerant.

You may have heard me mention the roundabout. Which isn’t a roundabout at all. But a piece of land at the back of the house above the bank and across the access road. It has two figs trees, a scrappy almond tree and various succulents oh and sad Prickly pears. But since we had it strimmed last year the oxalis has taken hold and its about to become a sea of yellow. Is that a thing. A sea of yellow? I suspect not. But the yellow is a bit acid yellow. A few people don’t like yellow flowers. I will take all I can get on this bank. Believe me.

The bank at the rear of the house is steep and I’m mad to be doing anything on it. There’s enough to do in the main garden but I’m a bit of a butterfly. A rather heavy one at that but I tend to flit here there and everywhere in the garden., I need to be tied to a length of rope and allowed to garden in wherever that stretches to. But I suspect Health and safety would be an issue. My health and someone else’s safety. But the view from the bank is great. Provided you don’t stand behind the pine trees. Don’t get me started on the pine needles. There’s a reason they are called needles. They are everywhere. But the fallen pine cones are good for starting the log fire!.

The house is nestled below. The large jacaranda tree towering above. I love the tree. The blue flowers. The awesome seed pods. But the flowers drop like crazy and the path is a lovely blue. But it stains the path. Not for long but you are forever clearing them up. The poor old prickly pears are dying on their feet. I remembered to wear gloves as I was close to the Popcorn Senna. Last time I touched it I rubbed my eye and had to go to the Pharmacist and get some drops. Not easy in Spanglais believe me.

This cactus looks like its got measles. I know not what it is but we have two of them. I think we have two anyway. Yes I know I should know the Latin names but I often struggle with the English ones. Throw in the Spanish name and I’m totally confused. This is the better looking one. The more photogenic. Probably poisonous as well. Like everything in this garden.

There’s a spiky lemon tree at the side of the house. I never knew there were so many varieties of lemons. But there are. I k pow because I have a book that says there are. This one did nothing last year but has some flower buds this. Just the two so far but that will be enough for a couple of gin and tonics. Along with the one lime and the two grapefruit we have growing. A pink grapefruit at that. We have oranges a plenty and we are looking forward to them when we are here in Feb. One of the orange trees has an abundance of orange blossom. The trick will be in keeping it going and getting this years fruit to set. Tips on a postcard please.

So a day and a half here and its been a garden fest of sorts. There is plenty of clearing to do. Leaves to rake. Some light pruning. Some choices of some new trees for the patch where we have the almond trees – which have no sign of flowering at the moment. A visit to look at plants. Not buy. That comes in Feb when we are here for more than a week. We’ve swept the terrace. Twice. Watered the tulip pots – yes. There has been rain but pots still need a drink – don’t they.

The electrician comes in tomorrow. I go to the Town hall to sort out the water bill. Friday we have logs being delivered. So No. We are not on holiday again! There is work to be done.