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

We had our first visitor to the new house this weekend. Which was exciting. You know that feeling where you love something and hope others do too. Well that. 
The joy of being here in Spain is the opportunity to look at new and different gardens.  To look out for new ideas and new plants to weave into our new Mediterranean garden. It’s a huge learning curve and one where after only theee months I have lost a few plants on the way. The ground is hard. The climate harsh this summer. Hot. Dry. My visits here scattered. 

So with our first visitor we headed off to the Alhambra We had been 18 months ago in April 2016 but it’s a stunning visit and one I will not tire of. Not yet anyway. An easy 1.5 hour drive away.  The Alhambra is a series of buildings with the Nasrid  palace the glittering jewel  in the crown. One where you have an allotted time to visit. 

The gardens when we were there in April were nice. I hate that word. Nice. It kind of means bland. Nice.  So I was interested to see the summer planting. The colours. The smells, but slightly worried with this years extreme heat we may have missed it. 

Tickets for the Alhambra are always sold out. There is no point deciding on the day to  go visit. You need to plan. Your tickets. The entry time to the Nasrid  Palace. Plan your trip. Thankfully we had. Tickets booked in May.  The route planned with the assistance of  my good friend  Sally. Sally sat nag. We are rubbish as map readers so are happy to be dominated by the Tom Tom. 

Water is a bit of a luxury here in Spain especially during the summer months. So I was surprised to see the gardens being heavily watered. At 10am. By watered. I mean Watered. Heavily. But when you walk around the vast and varied garden you can tell I’m not watering enough in mine. Even for drought tolerant plants.  This years heat has been brutal. 

But I have to say the planting is simply gorgeous. Stunning in parts. Colourful. Interesting. Plants I knew. Ones I haven’t seen in years. Simple. Interesting. A few I have to revert to Twitter for help in identifying.  The planting so colourful that it reminds me of my parents front borders of the 1970’s.  

There is structure. Carefully cut and structured hedging. Labelled. Please do not touch  the plants. It’s yew. It’s poisonous. Something I’ve found a lot of the plants here are. 

I was surprised to see roses. I don’t really know why – but I’ve been Surprised  to see many things in the gardens here. Hollyhocks for one. 

 There has been an absolute stunner of a rose growing over the gates of the house opposite us. A gorgeous red. So full of bloom I had to go and check it was real.  It was.  This yellow rose in the formal structured beds was a stunner. I thought too yellow for Graham Thomas. But a beautiful rose dotted about over the gardens. There were a lot of standards. Giving height.  Structure.  Colour at eye level. 


I haven’t seen Alyssum since it was planted down my parents front path  in the 1970’s.  Like lobelia a staple  in gardens years ago – , which I have in window Boxes for the first time in years this year and has grown  and looks well ,but like Alyssum seems to have fallen out of fashion for more blousy plan more unusual plants for the borders and window boxes. It was the standard bedding plant back in “the old days” along with lobelia, tagetes ,petunias, godetia,  busy lizzies and begonias.  Oh and red bedding salvias . Most of which were to be found in beds across the Alhambra. To be honest – it was a delight to see old friends. 

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

The line for the Nasrid palace queues alongside some lovely beds. I love the orange colours in the garden but hate the smell of tagetes when you handle them. In a mass planting the orange of these are uplifting. Dotted under standard roses. 

We came across this gorgeous plant. Planted as a mass in some beds whilst in others there were splashes of colour and in some more a riot of colour. An explosion. After a shout of ‘help’ on twitter it was identified as an euphorbia- euphoebia marginata  Kilimanjaro. Thank you twitter folk. 

Eurphobia Marginata Kilimanjaro


They certainly know how to do colourful with their planting. More an explosion than planting. But it’s stunning.  There were also beds of dahlias, statice and all manner of things.  Salvias a plenty. What looked like a form of knautia. 



 

Someone has been kept busy. The shape size and scale of some of the  topiary was awesome. I have trouble trimming our hedges and I know if I tried to shape them I’d end up with such ugly shapes. Yep. I know. A bit like me! 

Alone again – naturally

It wasn’t all colour. The agapanthus in huge drifts at the entrance were going over. Flower heads turning into big fat seed heads. I think I’ve taken enough photos of aggies this year. There were some tall architectural trees. But an abcence of succulents  unless I was too mesmerised with the colours that I. Issued them. 

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

You can’t help but be in awe of the buildings here. The intricate craftsmanship of the decoration in the marble the woodwork and the history. 


But the gardens are a surprise. A welcome place to wander and reflect  the majesty of the palaces. 

A reminder to me of the blaze of colour I grew up with in my parents borders – the planting of annuals where the concept of less is more was rarely understood. But it set me up for the  love of colour. Of gardens and gardenning. 

1970’s borders – my parents style
I can’t wait to go back again in the spring and to see what the bedding has been replaced with. I hope bulbs. Lots of them. 

Hello again hello. 

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

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

Jack & Chris garden in Clapham

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

They smell lovely. 

Waxy stephanotis

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

The fruit of the stephanotis

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

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

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

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


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

Quince

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

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

The shade of the olive tree

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

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

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

The hanging houses of Competa

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

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

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

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

Gardens – a trip down a  garden path. 

Have I told I have retired. Oh. Yes. About a million times. Not that I exaggerate at all. But I have. That was the start of a new adventure. I’m still asked. ‘Aren’t you bored yet’ I’ve learnt to smile sweetly. And just say.  No. What do you do they ask. This and that I reply. This and that. Here and there. 

So the adventure continues.- with a bit of there. Rather than here. Or here  rather  than there. Dependant on where there is. At any given time. 

For a long time Ian and I have wanted something ‘abroad’. We looked at France. We loved France. But why buy in France when we can stay at  Cuq en Terrasses where we have celebrated big birthdays. Friends who own a fantastic Small hotel. With amazing food. We love Italy. But we have an annual invite to go and stay with friends at their house near Sienna. Which surprisingly. We take up. Annually. 

We love Spain and have been back and forth for the last few years. Gaucin – too quiet. Benhavis. Lovely but not for us. Archidona – lovely but again a bit too quiet. 

In March we headed to  Competa in Andalusia. An hour from Malaga. To stay at a fab B&B Casa B  We had some viewings. I was pretty definite in what I wanted. In the town. A roof terrace. No pool. But it didn’t work out like that. 

We are back here at the beginning of May. To sign papers with the notary. . For completion at the end of the month.  A place 10 minutes drive from town. Not a town house. Without a roof terrace. 

So what sold it. What?  The house or the town. 


For the town it was  life. It had a soul. In March. When many towns are still indoors. Still recovering from  Xmas . Tapas in the square. Coffee. A glass of wine. Or two. One for me. The road is windy and narrow. 

 Less than an hr to a beach and on the edge of a national park. A shortish trip down the long and windy road to Nerja. To Frigiliana.  We met some great people on the viewings. Stayed at a fab B&B. Made friends. 


There was Tapas. And sunshine. And no. The horsemen riding by  in the square on a Sunday morning didn’t swing it. Not really. I didn’t  really see them. The oranges caught my eye.  I was photographing the oranges. They photo bombed.  I have been sat in the square for hours this time waiting to complain. They haven’t reappeared. 


The house? Need you ask. It was the garden. I didn’t notice the house. Not at first. We viewed because I’d seen pictures of the garden.  Small but beautiful. Both the house and the garden. A lock up and go. But the garden. Lovely planting. Lots of plants. Mediterranean. Dry. 


Interesting. Different to what I am  used to. 



With amazing views across the mountains. 


In time I will be able to tell you which mountains. But geography isn’t my strongest point.  The sat nav tells you the route. Not the name of the mountain ranges. The garden has citrus. It has lavender. Different types. Lots of it. Along the path. From the gate past the garage. 


It has succulents. Agapanthus. Jasmine. A grape  vine. Bird of paradise.  It has plants I have no idea what to do with. How to care for. It has fruit I can’t pronounce or know what it tastes like.  But  for me the house had been sold on the garden. 


So. I bought a book. On Amazon. Mediterranean  garden plants. A whopper of a book. . Pictures. Descriptions. I took it with me when we went to meet the owners again. 



But first. I Made the mistake of not deleting the email from our joint email account. Ian saw the price. How much? Well was more of a shout of disapproval. I couldn’t lie. He’s seen the invoice. 

 When we met the owners again I hear him say ‘he’s only gone and bought a bloody book  and spent a fortune’. Oh that’s  Lorraine they say, on seeing the book  the author – she lives here on the outskirts of town. Runs a garden centre. Supplies all the plants he’d like to have in his garden  – whose laughing now eh. Especially as we went in  and said hello. Where she gave me details of two open gardens nearby but sadly I won’t be here when they are open. Or there depending when you read this. 

But I’m on her mailing list already. That book.  Money well spent I say. He’s said I’m not  to go there alone. I said she seemed very nice. I’m not worried about her he replied. Your gonna spend a fortune in there. And that’s just on what he’s seen! I haven’t started. New plants. New pots. 

So it’s an adventure. A new path. Lined with lavender. From the garage to the house. 

 So we begin the adventure at the end of May where will be go between London and Andalusia. Gardening in both. Two very different gardens. Two very different climates. Both exciting.  Different. Fun. Who said I’ll be bored in retirement. 

A decision also  made that after 23 years we will sell our lovely cottage and garden  in the West Country and embark on this new adventure. We have had a wonderful time. A fabulous garden. But sometimes in life you need a new adventure. A change. Something different. Surprisingly we have taken the plunge. 

There will be pictures. Lots of them.  A bit of a blog here and there too. Apologies in advance! 

A day out- RHS Wisley

I love Twitter and Instagram for different reasons. Instagram for the pictures obviously and Twitter for information, top tips and a bit of banter. Often Twitter will remind you of things that you should do. Places to go. People to see. That’s how we ended up going to RHS Garden Wisley today. I love twitter for the gardening folk I follow and who are always there to point you in the right direction to a plant or a garden, help with some advice, identify an unknown plant that may have appeared in the garden and to generally talk plants.

So following a tweet from @jackwallington who had been to Wisley earlier in the week I decided that after a 25 year absence  a visit was long overdue. Finding my membership card was an adventure but find it I did. I wont mention my RHS disasters this week in deleting my print at home Chelsea and Chatsworth tickets. Ill save that for another day. 

Fighting the Bank Holiday traffic through South London reminded me why we generally don’t travel over a Bank Holiday weekend but I was determined. I had started so we wold finish.

Busy. Was the car park busy. So busy we were sent to the overflow car park but despite my grumbling i was rather glad. 

 The  walk from the car park was simply gorgeous. Bluebells were out everywhere like a beautiful carpet of blue loveliness. We would have missed this bit of the garden had we parked close to the main entrance. So every cloud and all that. 


Typically Ian was 30 paces ahead. You’d think that after all this time he wouldngave notnbeen so embarrassed to be out with me !  But i had to stop not just for the bluebells but for the other delights that were begging to be photographed. I hadn’t been here for over 25 years remember. 


The garden was busy. We realised only after we arrived that there was a craft fair in the grounds. A pretty decent fair to be honest and full of some top quality stuff. I was swiftly moved on through the garden toward the glasshouse, after a sausage bap! 

I love a good glass house. This one didn’t disappoint and was somewhere to get a little  inspiration for our new mediterannean  garden. 


It’s great to see the unusual and interesting and there were definetly  some of those here. The bird of Paradise plant so high it had a sign that said this is not a banana plant. The plant whose buds looked like a great big fat nose and opened into a simply gorgeous  flower – solandra Maxima – a blue brugisima, a protea as big as a dinner plate. Orchids which remind me of orchids bought in Castle Cary from another Instagram friend @ridgewayfarm when she had then best gardening shop ever, oh and the clivias also reminded  me of her too – she introduced me to them too and one sat in mine and my friend Janes office for years. 

The big pots of Agapanthus were further on than mine but then again they are in a glasshouse. Mine are in pots in South London. So they would be wouldn’t they! I wonder how many bags of Lou’s Poo they would need here. 

Outside the glass house is a Prairie garden. I’m spoilt in that we have the wonderful Piet Oudolf garden at Hauser and Wirth Somerset just down the road in Bruton but I love them. Not so much in Spring to be honest but later in the season. The planting I know at Bruton is stunning and there are glimpses here that show what it will be like later in the season.\



There is so much to see and not enough time in one visit to take it all in n  The fruit garden is full of the most amazing espaliers of all fruit types, apples pears medlars. The rows of apples some still in bloom some with fruit setting are like great long avenues. The planting is amazing with long avenues of paths to walk through.

Great big beds of Rhubarb. They hold the National Plant collection – with enournmous leaves and pink fleshy stalks, some being forced. The produce bing used in the restaurant and in Jams to be sold at the shop. I sisnt look to see if any rhubarb was for sale. Would have been good to have tasted a variety that you don’t usually get at the greengrocer 

To be honest you get lost  in the size and scale and the beautiful way it is presented. I can’t remember much about my previous visit  ‘ may be I wasn’t as interested in the planting and the plants themselves then. But we were both impressed. 

The perennial beds [ mixed borders]  on either side of the sweeping walk to the top of the hill look like they will be exceptional in the summer. The borders  are springing to life with the alliums  starting to pop into bloom in little drifts and singularly throughout the beds. Like tulips it looks like this year will be good for alliums too. The borders are massive  – the website says ‘ a sweeping 420ft’  – imagine the plant buying for that. They leave the beds to their own devices. No watering – no good for me –  i would have to be out there with the hose constantly.


Having recently stayed at Ard Daraich in Scotland I was keen to see the rhododendrons and the azaleas. The flowers were more advanced than Scotland and again the planting and the paths between them encouraged you to walk through. I still find the buds as fascinating as the flowers themselves and I was even more appreacitive of the guided tour of the Scottish  garden given to me by Norrioe Maclaren when we were there. 

Onto an area where I loved the colour palette of the planting. The last of the tulips- bright red with the start of the alliums. Simply lovely and a bed I would love to have. 

This is a glorious view away from the house along the canal with the  Henry Moore sculpture,  King and Queen and the beds of lovely scented wallflowers. my window box of wallflowers has an abundance of leaves and only two flowers. Those two yellow flowers smell glorious. Busy i was expecting a bit more!

Neither of us had any knowledge of the history of RHS Wisley and its interesting to see that it was gifted to the RHS in 1903 

Another cuppa tea. A scone and cream. Jam first of course. A wander to purchase some plants  – only one today a philadelphus Belle Etoille which we had in the Somerset garden years ago. I even think Ian was impressed. One plant only. That’s progress. He doesn’t know about the ones I bought earlier in the week, 

Was it worth the drive. The traffic. Running into ex colleagues. Definetly and thanks Jack!

Some more random photos. 

Tulips. More tulips. And tree ferns? 

I hadn’t been to our garden in Somerset for two weeks. I expected the grass to be as high as an elephants eye but to be fair it wasn’t that bad. Needed it’s first cut of the season but it wasn’t too daunting a task. Especially in such glorious weather. 

What I hadn’t expected were the tulips to have burst into life. I had potted up a dozen or so pots and had left them on the rear terrace. The terrace is south facing and I bring the tulips on there ready to be played at the front of the cottage where there is sun for only part of the day. So with some assistance we heaved  the pots through the house to the front. 

Two days later with this weather the majority had opened. Last year was the first time I had grown tulips at the front and it was a huge success. I like to change the front so this year the tulips weee changed too.  My mother would have said it was  showing off. To be fair I couldn’t disagree. The cottage is right on the road. You can’t help but notice the tulips. 

Ian is no gardener but he saw tulips he liked at the Malvern show last year so as he showed an interest I decided to buy them. So the pots were planted with Brown Sugar. His choice and separate pots of Purissama -mine. As usual with the generous advice of Karen from Peter Nyssen I ordered others as well. Too many as usual so I have planted a lot in a cutting patch. Which will all flower when we are not there. 


The Purissima are stunning opening into great big blousy flowers which at a quick glance look like they have a bee inside. They are stunning and close up tight again when the sun passes. 



The pots have opened well and to be fair look great at the front of the cottage against the warm Somerset stone. 



Back in London I grew tulips in one window box and two large containers – and with very different colours to the Somerset tulips. I hadn’t used them in window boxes before but good old Karen assured me they would be ok. 


These have opened beautifully in the morning sun – and have been a joy. 


The pots at the back have spring into life this weekend. Tulip Belle Époque has opened and there are a few rouge Brown sugars in there too.  I didn’t mention earlier that these also have a lovely scent. 

Tulips are a new one for me to be fair. But on the basis of how they have been over the last two years  they are here to stay! 

We also had a wander around Lytes Cary a NT property on Saturday where they also had some amazing Tulips. I have a list as long as my arm of what I’d like to grow next year thanks to the Instagram,twitter and Facebook posts of everyone’s favourites. At Lytes Cary these were added to my list. Such a beautiful colour and in the sunshine just dazzled. 



It Was also good to see that the professional gardeners get a rogue  tulip here and there too. 


This one was very obvious! Along with what was probably one of last years that missed being dig up! 

I don’t feel so bad now with the odd one here and there that I have found out of place! 

So it was back to London for a busy week ahead – I know. I’m retired. But I’m busy!  But first to water. When I left on Thursday the tree ferns were good. They had kept a lot of their fronds over winter. I hadn’t had to put straw in their crowns. But I get back and all hell has broken loose. The two days of  sun has made them spring into action and they are about to burst forth. As long as Fred stays out of the crown that is. 


I love tree ferns and we are lucky that we have a micro climate in the small ( tiny) garden we have here. But the tree ferns. The olive. The banana do well. 

So move over tulips. It’s tree fern time. 

Roses and a day with Sara Venn 

I’ve said it before. I got into gardening through my parents. They loved their garden and it was something they were proud of. Loved the attention when in full bloom. For years had borders full of roses. Gorgeous scented beautiful roses. Mum picked some. But not a lot if my memory serves me right. I recall her deadheading them. Every time she walked up and down the front path. She was obsessed with deadheading. No bad thing really. Dad did the planting. The pruning. Mum admired. And bought more. 

I spent a day with Sara Venn last week in our garden in Somerset. The person who looked after our garden had sacked us the year before – yes we were sacked. Long story . A very long story and since I had retired ( early – keep repeating it Andrew) I had been doing the work myself. With some success. What I didn’t know I asked. But I was worried about pruning. The roses. The fruit trees. Some of the shrubs. But the Roses. I could hear my mother tutting. A lot. Her saying. ‘Your not like your father’ He would have pruned them all. On time. And properly. She said that a lot. ‘ your not like your father’. 

Last year we were due to start an extension so I didn’t prune the roses. When the schedule was moved it was too late. Sara said. Leave them this year. We had roses. But not as good as in previous years. We were supposed to start the extension in the Autumn. And then the Winter. I could put it off no longer. If I had to dig them up later so be it. 

Sara agreed to come and spend a day with me in the garden to give me advice on how and what and when. But it was more than that. It was the push I needed to get going again. I’d been in limbo with the garden. Would I have another year of the flower beds?. Should I move things. Should I wait. Should I extend the beds? Was this space the right one for my new greenhouse? Don’t mention the greenhouse to Sara. Please. Don’t mention my greenhouse. 

So Sara arrived and we set to work. Talk of a practical. It was practical. Practically exhausted by the end of the day. Talk of a hard task master who encouraged me up a wobbly ladder – no elf and safety in this garden. But it was fun. Practical. Encouraging. And confidence boosting. I hadn’t made a total hash of the garden this last year. 



I always say I garden. I’m not a gardener. The garden is well established. We’ve been here 22 years. But I am rubbish at staking. I don’t plant deep enough. But I’m getting there. Slowly. Like my train journey this week accompanied by Doris. 

It hadn’t mattered I’d not pruned. The fruit trees were ok. Ish. The roses leggy but not dead. So We pruned. Cut back. Laughed. I fought with the rose prunings. They won and it didn’t matter I wore gloves. They just went for the jugular. We tidied up. Had tea and cake. She gave encouragement. Orders. Ate my cake. Took one home for Mr Venn. As promised. 

To be fair if we were being filmed it would have been more ‘Carry on Gardening’! Than big dreams – It was gardening made fun. ‘What do you think you are doing!’ was said a lot. And do you think you can wobble less’ what said I? As in walking or up the ladder? Both! 

The roses don’t look like this now obviously but now have had a severe short back and sides. A proper job. Like my Dad would do! 

Thinkimg of my parents garden got me thinking of their roses again All were bought in Woolworths when Woolworths had a gardening department. All grew well. Flowered strongly. From the department at the rear of the store. Memory is a wonderful thing. Before mum lost hers she could tell you the names of the roses. Each one. Not from the label. So I want some new roses. I looked up to see if I could get the named roses from their 1970’s and 80’s garden as I’d like to have a few. Josephine and Ernest were therir names so I may start there. Along with Superstar. That was my favourite. 

Who knew Woolworths won not one but five RHS Chelsea golds! I didn’t.

Woolworths history
Superstar; Iceberg; Ena Harkness; Blue Moon ! ; Peace; queen Elizabeth ;Just Joey; Josephine Bruce; Ernest Morse. fragrant Cloud; the Fairy. Compassion 

Those are ones I remember. None of that David Austin stuff for them. It was the wonder of Woolies !

Snowdrops 

To be honest in the past  I was never  a big snowdrop fan. I don’t know why but I suspect it wasn’t something that my parents grew but as you get older ( and I am) things change. I garden more. I listen to proper gardners read their blogs. 

Last year I managed to go to the Chelsea Physic Garden for one of the snowdrop days. Interesting  but the snowdrops were a little late. I was a little early. But I was staggered at the range and the variety.  I missed the garden bloggers get together there this year which looked great fun. Thank you For inviting me – I will try to come to something! 

 Last years snowdrop theatre was interesting and I was tempted to buy some snowdrops.. but I’m always tempted. 

I had a wander last week along the Thames path and found a couple of clumps of snowdrops in a small park along the river. The King Edward memorial park is currently being dug up in places for a new sewerage to the dismay of the locals. I hope they leave these alone. Thames Water. Not the locals. 


I’m lucky though. The lanes near the cottage in Somerset seem to have burst into  life with snowdrops. There are little drifts along many of the lanes – I’m not sure I’ve really looked before.  The green lanes I know and have used for years are full of wild garlic  but somehow I’ve missed the snowdrops. Probably as I’m a bit of a wimp and don’t walk so much when it’s cold. The two pics here are of a clump as we drive out of the village on the hill. Just one of many dotted around. 

We have one clump in our garden. One measly clump. I think I need to order some in the green quickly.

We are also lucky enough to have a fab tea room 20 mins walk away from the village. Cole Manor Tea Rooms a gentle stroll across a field called Rye Ash along the river to Cole.  Most of the ash trees have now gone. Just like in the opposite field Alders – which once had alders lining the river bank. 

The tea room reopened  at the beginnning of February for the season to tie in with the snowdrops in their garden. This year they are awash with them. On the banks of the river. Under the trees. By paths. Great carpets of white which from a distance ( q Bette Midler song) looks like a blanket of snow. 

 I popped in yesterday for a cuppa tea and a cake (and a quiche and a cake) and thankfully had my camera with me. To be honest I’d probably need an operation to remove it these days. If I haven’t got it at least I have my phone. 


Great place for lunch or afternoon tea and for now with the added bonus of a great snowdrop display. You may see me there eating cake.