Viva España

I can’t help but think of my dear old mother as I write that. Viva España. I can see her now listening to that on the radio and dancing around the kitchen. Usually as she was about to go away on her holidays. To Spain. She did it to annoy me I know. Little did she know I’d be singing it one day. I never thought I would either, at least once a month for the last 12 months. Often as I drive up that wiggly road to ‘Casa Verano Eterno.’ It’s an annoying ear worm.

Well the ‘Eternal Summer’  has been a long time coming. Three weeks ago when I left for London the word on the Plaza Almijara was ‘Mucho mucho frio’ It’s been  a long wet winter and Spring. The locals had been saying it had been colder. For longer. The worst weather in years apparently. But now I’m back and it’s gone from ‘frio’ to ‘mucho calor’. It is. Mucho mucho calor. I don’t know if it’s because it’s gone from cold to hot without the bit in between but it feels brutal all of a sudden. There wasn’t the gradual acclimatisation. But we are never happy are we. Too hot. Too cold. Too wet. Too dry.

A week is a long time away from the garden at this point of the year. Both here and there. Ian and I were amazed at how quickly things had shot up in the garden. The agapanthus that were just starting to move have gone mad. Some are out. Many are still in bud. But they are tall. Taller than I can remember last year. They have done well.

I love agapanthus and we are lucky that they have self seeded here in the garden. Whilst they take an age to get to the flower stage they will. Patience young man. Patience. They do well in the dry and the heat so there’s no wonder they are everywhere in the garden.

I’m hoping the black one I brought with me will flower this year. Fingers crossed. There are plenty of light blue and white.

The main crop of alliums is over. Sadly. But I had to stop Ian from cutting them back. I love the seed heads as much as the flowers and eventually some will be picked and brought into the house. There are still two more varieties to flower. The drumstick alliums are dotted all over the place. Not in any kind of proper order. Just dotted randomly. Largely to see where they would work this year. They have flourished in some of the harshest places. I noticed two on the dry bank on the drive as I left the house yesterday. In amongst the grasses. I’d also noticed some when out on a walk a few weeks ago. Dotted in a really strange place. Side of the road. Dry. Amongst dry grasses. No sign of water. But in full flower.

I only noticed the ones on our drive as they had started to colour. I too planted in some very odd places. Probably where I could and where the ground was workable. I wondered why there was a pick axe in the garage – I soon found out.

I planted a few ‘allium Summer Drummer’. One has done great guns and is the tallest allium I have ever seen. It’s a late flowering one so is coming out after the others have died back. It’s a funny old thing really. I was expecting a much bigger head on it as it is so tall. And I mean tall. It’s just starting to colour up too. Definitely one for next years planting.

Now I know they will do well I will be on the old internet and onto Peter Nyssen to place the order for next year. But next year I will label and plant less erratically and in drifts. That’s not a promise. But I’ve promised myself to get a few more different varieties.

A staple of Andalucia and the planting along the central reservation of the motorways here is Oleander. When we were driving home earlier in the year they were cutting them back. Hard. Brutal even. I feared that this year there would be no colour. How wrong I was. They have come back with a vengeance.

The ones on the boundary with our neighbours were cut back too and I admit to thinking oh dear. But again. They are blooming lovely. As are the ones in the garden and on the drive. A variety of colours. Various stages of flowering. White. Pink. Red. There is a double flowered one somewhere. That one is just not out yet. But I will be out cutting them back hard next season as it doesn’t hurt to do it once in a while. I am reminded that all parts of the plant are poisonous. Just like nearly everything in this garden. I should be gardening in long trousers. Long sleeves. Hat. Gloves. Veil. But in this heat it’s impossible.

Interestingly our neighbours whose house is adjacent to ours mentioned that their two sons are keen gardeners and were on Instagram. They are keen indeed and grow some awesome and unusual fruit and veg in their London garden. Check them out – they are interesting to follow – freshbros_uk

The garden is a gorgeous mix of scents at the moment. The honeysuckle is still going strong and in the warmth of the evening is delicious as you walk up the path. The jasmine azoricum wrapping itself around some railings was a new one on me last year and supposedly has a lemon scent. I think it smells like, well Jasmine. It’s a bit of a slow one but is worth it for the scent.

There is a Trachelospermum next to the garage which reminds me of a trip to Italy over 15 years ago.

We rented a great place which had a wonderful pergola next to the pool. The pergola was covered in jasmine and the scent has stayed a favourite ever since. I love it when you relate a smell of a plant to a particular memory.

A bit like remembering that I hate the smell of tateges which takes me back to my parents garden when they grew all their own annuals – this was often one of them. This is their garden in the 1970’s. I think the front row may be tagetes. All grown from seed by them in the greenhouse I made them buy. Apparently.

I think if I had a front garden like this, one year I would do bonkers annual planting. Old favourites. And wild colours. But I don’t have the space in London to do it. Sadly.

I digress. Back to me. I noticed a clematis scrambling down the bank on the access road. A really pretty sweet scented white flower. Never watered. Rubbish soil. If you can call it soil. Surrounded by trees but doing ok. I then noticed one winding it’s way into the pineapple agave in the garden. I have looked in my Wild plants of Spain book and think it’s a clematis flammula. It’s small white flowered and scented. Climbs or scrambles. Sounds like an egg order.

Whatever it is it’s very welcome. I’m not sure if I removed it last year from the tree. I can’t remember seeing it at all. I’ve never had much luck with clematis back in the Uk though saying that the one and only one in London has gone mad this year. That’s the same for a lot of things.

Another thing I don’t remember from this time last year are the mozzies. They hate me. Well I think it would be more correct to say they love me. Apparently this form of garlic is a deterrent. I’m not convinced but the flowers of tulbaghia Violacea – ‘society garlic’ are pretty and apparently scented – I can’t smell them! I suspect neither can the mozzies.

I’ve been out spraying the prickly pears again. I’m determined if nothing else and it’s paying off. But note to self. Wear decent gloves. The prickles are a nightmare if they jag your hand even when you wear thin gloves. Oh. And I don’t like the smell of neem oil. Hopefully neither will the cochineal fly. Nasty little things. Tiny white flies which when you swot them on a white wall or a white shirt you see why they are called ‘cochineal’. Swot them and you instantly get a red dye on whatever you’ve swotted them onto. So small they get through the mozzie nets on the window.

I’m not sure I would have planted this if I hadn’t seen it in flower. Commonly known as the Brazilian Sky flower – ‘Durante Repens’ it was here when we moved in and I’m so pleased that it was. It’s a lovely colour addition to the garden. References say it’s blue. I say it’s more violet than blue. Maybe violet blue! But when it gets going it gets going. I love seeing these different plants that I’d never see in the Uk and there are some crackers in this garden

Ok ok. Talking of crackers. You’ve seen this before but now there are two. And maybe a third coming. I can’t contain my excitement. We have a lot of flower heads on the Strelitzia Reginae but it’s the Strelitzia Nicolai that excites me. I make no apologies for even more pictures of it. Sorry. Not sorry.

Everyday there are things to find. Things to photo. The above are some of the flowers that are out this week. With this heat many will soon be over. I’ve spotted some cornflowers coming out. Some calendula. I’m hoping that the scorching sun doesn’t kill them off whilst we are away.

I am here for another week then back to London for a week. I had a message from the cat sitter to say ‘ the front flowers were looking right bonnie’ – Ian has said nothing since he has got back. Makes another note. Remind him to water.

I said the heat is ramping up. It certainly is. Forecast for the weekend is 35/36*. Hmmm I’m not sure how the garden will take it the week I am away. I have said the garden is a Spring – early summer and Autumn garden. The intense heat of high summer isn’t great for the plants even those that are drought tolerant. Or for me! I need rehydrating. Often. Water not wine.

For now it’s watering late at night or early morning. Ten minutes gardening. Half an hour rest. I’ve taken to siestas big time. Oh. And time to do the housework. And ironing. And homework.

I think my Spanish teacher must think I’m boring. ‘Explain to me what you did yesterday’ she asks ‘ I worked in the garden’ and the day before? The same is my response. I’m sure she thinks I’m stuck for vocabulary. I’m not. I am that boring. And the garden is demanding.

I’m off for my class. The good thing. It’s Wednesday and there is an organic market at the nursery. That’s why I’m making a detour on my way back. It’s nothing to do with the email I’ve had saying they have new stock. Honest.

Hasta luego!

There and here. Here and there.

So I’ve been there. And I’m now here. Or. Here and there depending on how you look at it.

I’ve had a week back in London. A busy week to be fair. I try and pack a lot in wherever I may be. Whether it be here. Or. there or wherever.

The two spaces are so different. Not just the gardens but the culture. Where we live. The house in each. Where I eat. How I travel. I’d forgotten how busy Oxford Street can be. Even on a Monday. Out of school holidays too. I had to escape down into Bond Street tube this week to get away.

So back in London it was time to potter in our small (tiny) courtyard garden and to check up on the pots and window boxes at the front. We are lucky to have someone go in when we are both away – largely to look after the cats – but he’s ace with a watering can and hose. Bruce and Christine have been looking after the cats for the last 15 years and are brilliant.

Having had the front garden ‘done’ recently – new wall, new path, railings and new gate we decided to do some replanting of pots at the front. We bought two new standard bays. A bit of a cliche really but they suit the space. I bought two new pots from The Nunhead Gardner. Got them home and realised that once the bays were in the pots they would be too tall for the space. Surprisingly I didn’t have to take them back. Ian said that we should repot the agapanthus into them. And buy two more. Result!

I always have window boxes but as I am away so much these days I wanted something that didn’t need a lot of water. The garden is my domain and whilst Ian waters he’s busy and it’s not fair on him to have to come home and start watering. So again this year I opted for lavender. It worked well last year but this year I just used lavender. It looks good. Ignore the bins. I haven’t told Fred yet. But we are looking for some bin covers. Next door has a fab one with a green roof. But. It’s expensive and the sides are open. Defeats the object really. And Fred would sit on the plants anyway.

Now I love agapanthus. We have two enormous white ones and a very large small blue flowered one in the front. All needed repotting. Sadly one of the whites struggled through the winter and in parts had turned to mush. The first time I’d lost an agapanthus. The big blue had already started to bud up.

I’ve said the back garden is small. It is. Very. Everything is in pots. Some neighbours have small lawns. And I mean small. But I’ve seen them re turf every few years. There is not enough sun in some of them. So the courtyard is paved. Tree ferns, jasmine, honeysuckle, banana, agapanthus,clematis,mock orange all in pots. It’s a small space. So scent is important. Makes watering a bit of a pain but when we bought the tree ferns we thought if we moved we could take them with us -15 years later we are still there. It’s one thing that Ian really loves – the tree ferns. I was lucky this year. I didn’t straw the crown or wrap them as I was away when the cold spell hit and I panicked that we may have lost them. There are 5 in the garden. The tallest is about 6ft odd. But they survived and a feed of alpaca poo works wonders.

We also have flowers on the olive trees. Again both in pots. A strong link between Spain and London are some of the plants we grow in each. I don’t think I’ll be growing large agaves or prickly pears in London though!

This is a pic from two or three years ago taken from the upstairs window. Things have been moved. Things have been removed. Others added. But it gives the sense of the space. Or lack of it. I must take an up to date one. Preferably when the washing isn’t on the line.

It’s been an odd winter /Spring in the London garden. Despite having its own micro climate I lost some things I thought would be ok. Some survived where I thought the wet and the cold would certainly kill them. Nature’s odd like that. I had geraniums flowering all winter. But some of the agapanthus in the back courtyard also turned to mush. But that means more purchases! My tulips were pants. My London alliums pants. All down to the conditions. Not the bulbs as the same bulbs in Spain have been awesome. Oh. That reminds me. I must go and check on Allium Summer Drummer here in Spain.

It hasn’t all been gardening. There’s been doctors,dentists, Orthodontists. Who knew I’d be getting a brace in my retirement.

A bit of a MOT. You also have to throw in a bit of a NGS open garden as well don’t you? Two glorious open gardens in Dulwich Village whose greenhouse would cover my garden in Camberwell. Beautifully planted. Stunning roses with such strong perfumes. Glorious colours. A pond. Plants and the obligatory cake. It wouldn’t be NGS without cake would it? I love open gardens. Probably because I’m nosey. I love seeing what other people grow. What combinations. Take away ideas for my own gardens.

I’ve wandered through the streets of Wapping after a haircut. My old stomping ground when I worked at Canary Wharf and in Fitzrovia where I lamented the fact you can’t go to the top of the BT Tower as you could up to the early 80’s. There was s revolving restaurant and sightseeing platforms. Leased to Billy Butlin! Security concerns led to its closure.

So here I am back in Spain. A bit of a journey. Train stuck 5 mins outside the airport for a trespasser on the line. Stuck for 40 mins watching the panic on people’s faces as they realise they may miss their train. Thankfully I like to get there super early. I can’t stand the panic of rushing and nearly missing a flight.

Added to that the plane was nearly an hour late and I was sat next to someone who was too frightened to catch your eye in case you struck up a conversation. Funny that. I didn’t want to! Interestingly Ian’s flight tonight is already scheduled to be 30 mins late. 12 hours before it takes off. How does that work!

So. I arrive up the wiggly road at 11.15pm. Open up. Lights on. WiFi on. Then water the garden. I can’t see very much but I can smell. I realise even in the dark that the Jasmine Azoricum is in flower. A delicious smell. The honeysuckle is in full bloom. But just as well I watered late last night. Today the pump for the water deposit has gone kaput. So no watering today. Well maybe. The plumber had just been and is to replace a part. I called in the office at 10. By 1.30 he’s here.

So I think I need to bathe in citronella at some point as the mozzies are a plenty. I’ve bought a very fetching orange slinky citronella bracelet. It stinks. But the mozzies. – must have been the wet spring as last year I wasn’t bitten once. Well maybe once. But so far today I’ve been bitten three times. So. I’m not lazing around for long. There’s too much to do. I need to turn into my mother and get dead heading. There’s a lot to do.

Oh. And I need to buy a new hat. Either this one is too small or my head is too big. But the solar panel on the top of my head ( crown or bald spot) needs some cover. I hate hats. They make my head itch. But needs must. I may be a very long time.

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.

The Rain in Spain

Its a myth you know. The rain in Spain isn’t mainly on the plain. Well it certainly wasn’t on Sunday night and Monday morning. The rain and the wind was up in the mountains. Whistling around the house. Lashing on the roof. Overfilling the gutters. I know. I was outside. At 4am. Checking the gutters. Whilst Ian slept soundly through it. It continued as I drove him to the airport later. The rain. Not his sleeping. Am i complaining? . Not about the drive to the airport. Certainly not about the rain. We need it in Spain. For the garden. For the reservoirs. And we need more.

What it meant was that the ground was workable. With a spade rather than a pick axe. Time to finish the planting of the alliums. Plant some foxtail lilies. Move a plant or two. Which I did.

It’s still exciting seeing what plants are popping up around the garden. What’s flowering now. Whats to come. The excitement of knowing that there are bulbs coming up. When we were looking for a house back in March – was it only March! – some of the houses we walked past had the wonderful scent of freesia. So I have planted 50 around the terrace and the path. To add to those that there are already there.

I have planted tulips in the white wall planter. Last year in London I had a great display of Belle Epoque. So I have planted them here hoping for a similar show. Amongst the red trailing geraniums which continue to flower and which you can still buy and plant. So strange but they are better in the Spring – summer just gets too hot. A bit like me really. I’m a spring flower.

The pots have the lovely Brown Sugar and Ronaldo. I can hear someone moan. Not more pots. Yep. More pots.

The bank at the rear of the house was cleared in the summer. Largely as I was paranoid of fire and the temperatures were soaring. Which has meant that some of the plants that are there have been growing steadily now the grass and weeds have gone. I have moved some of the baby agaves to the bank in the hope that they will take. I think they are on their way. There are some massive ones on the bit i call the roundabout. Which its not. But is a piece of ground that we have behind the house and across the access road. We had that cleared too and it and the bank at the front of the house is now covered with oxalis. So the roundabout will hopefully be a blob of yellow. I’m slowly weeding them out of the the main garden as it will become invasive.

I’ve also been tidying around the various succulents generally whilst being stabbed by most. Checking the cactus. Even the cactus which we call a cactus but is actually a euphorbia. I have said it before. And I’ll say it again. I wasn’t a huge fan of cactus and succulents. But you can not love them when you have a mediterranean garden. In Spain. Which has many.

Someone remind Ian please I need new gardening gloves! I swear these plants see me coming and ever so gently move. To stab me at every angle.

The citrus are doing well. At one point in the summer I thought we may lose the orange trees. It was so hot. I watered. Never sure if it was too much. Or too little. But the fruit has set and will be ready to pick in the new year. Just as well we are there for a month in Feb! They are also now quite heavy with blossom. I can’t wait for them to open. A bit of a warm day and the scent of orange blossom. Bliss..

The pink grapefruit I planted is heavy with fruit. Well. Heavy with two fruit. Admittedly they are fat. We have one lime – not on the grapefruit tree. Obviously. We were advised to take off the fruit this year. But I had to leave one. The potted mandarin has a lot of fruit. I think it will be ok. Big schoolboy error when I forgot to check that the new pot had proper drainage. It didn’t. Whispers the last bit and hides.

The winter jasmine is just starting to flower. A welcome bit of colour. Such a shame there is no scent. I only realised there were buds when I found some fallen flowers. The garden has a number of Jasmine. Whilst I love the colour of this ideally I prefer a scented one any day.

There has been lots of colour in the garden – mostly leaf colour but the flowers are starting over.

The fallen leaves of the grape vine driving me mad. The lovely colours of the leaves of the non fruiting pomegranate. Lovely on the trees. Not so lovely on the ground. The unusual blue of the plecanthrus suddenly flowering in abundance. The berries of the myrtle. My huge excitement of the strelitzia all in bud. I have counted nine. I love the rich colours as the flowers get fatter and are getting ready to open.

Ive been out on the bank collecting fallen pine cones from the few pine trees that we have. The contrast of the pine and the sadness of the sick prickly pears. I have managed to save two at the side of the house. Which are pretty cool.

Tthe autumnal feel of the colour in the garden continues with the colours and seed heads. No doubt poisonous as everything that you seem to grow in a mediterranean garden is!

Its not been all work. I have stopped and sat and admired the garden. Ate chocolate biscuits. A whole packet. To myself.

The groundwork and major planting done by the previous owner. I’m just adding things and tweaking to suit our use. To suit the lack of water and the fact we aren’t there full time. It does feel like it though.

We also managed a walk out along the road. Its just that once we are behind the gate we rarely move. Well out of the garden. I do actually move. But venture out we did. For a walk. And the views were great. We found quince fallen from the tree just off the side of the road. Makes note for next year to add to the six fruit we had in the garden.

Looked back at the house from a different angle and realise that we are well hidden!

So I am excited about the Spring. The bulbs. The colours. The almond blossom on the three trees we have. The fig trees getting their leaves back. The nespera fruiting and being able to pick them this year. The soon to be planted new pomegranates near the almond trees. To plug a gap.

The excitement of not quite knowing what the garden will bring from now until May when we will have done a whole years garden cycle.

The town is gearing up for Xmas. We had the fair at the garden centre. A great place and the owner is the author of my go to book for identifying the mediterranean plants in the gatden. We have had the fair in the town. And the town itself. Covered in poinsettia. Which I view often as I sit in the Plaza Almijara drinking coffee.

The steep road up to the square has a wall covered in bright pots. Filled with poinsettia . With more along the railings. I like the plants. But only for two weeks over Christmas.

I have closed the gates at the house for another two weeks as we head back to spend Christmas in London. To return for our first of what I hope will be many more New Years.

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.

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.