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. 

Weeds. Weeds. And more weeds. 

No it wasnt funny the first time said Ian. A grown man standing in the garden. Squeaking. Weed. Weed. I guess he’s too young to remember watch with mother. Bill and Ben the flowerpot men. With Weed .  Behind the potting shed. Which looks nothing like the lovely potting shed of Karen Gimson. She knows I have potting shed envy. That I’m going to move into hers. 

Anyway. As usual I thought it was funny. Obviously not. But I was here to weed. 

Having bought our new Spanish house and having a new garden to manage and with spending more time there the garden in Somerset has been a bit neglected.  Ooh. A lot of ands there. 

It hasn’t helped that we have had sun. Rain. Sun. Sun. Rain. So the garden has grown. You can watch it grow. From the dryness of inside the kitchen window. Plants are taller. The weeds stronger. I maintain I have the national collection of bindweed. Hideous weed. The plant. Not the Bill and Ben  character. 

 I’ve tried for weeks to get to the cottage. But every time I have a day or two it rains. It pours. Horizontal rain. Wind.Great British Summer.   I’m a wimp. I’m a fair weather gardener. Don’t judge me. You know who I mean! 


It’s sad to see that the garden isn’t as pristine as I usually have it.  Pristine is the wrong word. It’s not a show garden. I’m not a gardener. I garden for me. I grow what I like. Where I like. But I usually have more time. The grass had been cut but there was work to be done. But yes. There were some lovely plants in bud. In flower. Seedheads. New beginnings. 


The roses I pruned with Sara Venn earlier in the year were budding like crazy. The second flush of flowers coming through now. I had a great day with Sara and she taught me a lot about pruning fruit  trees. Maybe I can persuade her to come to spain! 

The apple tree we pruned is loaded with fruit. The best I’ve seen  in years.  We were a bit ( I say we – Sara ) worried about the tree with the red apples. But it’s done amazingly well.  Some have been picked and brought home. The tree was supposed to be a Laxton  superb. My mothers favourite apple. You can’t beat a laxtons  she used to say. Well someone has beaten me. This ain’t laxtons superb. 

Apples

Everyone knows I like a dahlia or two and I planted a couple of new ones this year – well more than a couple to be fair. 

Bought and planted. Before I knew we would hopefully be on the move. Two have flowered beautifully. But. Hello. Cafe au lait where are you hiding? Not under the bindweed. Surely not.  I first saw cafe au lait at Georgie Newberry’s Common Farm Flowers  And fell in love with it.  I have had so many suggestions over the last year for new dahlias I can’t keep up. 

Dahlia shooting star
Dahlia peach delight

The dahlia bed was doing ok. The tubers  I had left in had come through. Beaten  off the slugs  – and a couple were blooming lovely. Black Jack. Rip city. A couple of bishops.  


There’s a couple of things I’m rubbish at.  – gardening things. Staking is one. Always on my list. Rarely crossed off.  Remembering when the plants get straggly. Or there is wind. The other. Labelling. I have had the intention of a plan. Labelling the plants. Putting them down on paper. A proper plan. So I don’t forget the names. It was a plan. But 23 years later it’s still a plan. I’m trying not to make the same mistake in Spain.  I’ll tell you how I get on. In 23 years time 

But thankfully I have the invoice still from Withypitts so have identified Peach Delight and Shooting Star.  


The bees havent deserted me. The Echinops all a buzz. Two for the price of one. 

The weeds are bad. So bad that I have a helper. Quite how Ian  has decided to help I don’t know.  Obviously there is no tennis on the TV  But he has. I might have to turn a blind eye at his technique and the odd pull of a plant that is not a weed. Today he’s keen.  Carry on regardless. 

It’s amazing. Often there are plants which run away with themselves. This is one. I swear that this year it’s two foot taller than usual. I like them. Great for cutting  but boy are they invasive or what! 

The monbretia. Yes I know it’s all crocisima now. But my parents called it Monbretia and old habits die hard. This clump has never previously  flowered. I mentioned it last year and moaned about it. Someone said that they always flower. This year the clump is flowering. Like crazy. Have indeed me anything different. No. Not that I can think of. 

I planted an Emily McKenzie and it’s in bud. I’ll miss the flowers this year as I am away again. 

The garden photographs well. Looks good. Even if I say so myself. But please don’t look too closely. Bindweed and groundelder are everywhere. 

We have a grape vine at the back of the house. It catches the sun. But I thought that this year we had no grapes. They aren’t sweet and last year for the first year I picked them. Ate one. Even sourer  than me.  So I made grape and  Rosemary jelly. Went down a bomb. So I started to hack the growth back – full of horticultural technique me – and lo and behold hiding under the growth were bunch after bunch of grapes. Larger than last year and hopefully with some Aug sun ( please ) they will get fatter and juicier. Chateau Pitcombe if wont be. But good old grape  and Rosemary jelly again. And again. 


Rhubarb. Not picked for ages. So I have. No need to force this rhubarb. Looks like I’d need to force it to stop. There will be rhubarb gin and rhubarb and star anise cordial. Some for  next door for a crumble.  The gin to add to the sloe gin supply  gently brewing in the kitchen cupboard. 


The poppies are over for another year. The seed heads are drying ready to explode and sow themselves for another year. 


So now I ache. My back. My arms. I’m weeded out. But do you know what. Give it another three weeks and on my next trip and I’ll be doing it all over again. Whether I want to or not. 

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.  

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. 

Not more plants……

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

So  there have been no more embarrassments. No mishaps. Well I did break the sun umbrella but hey. Anyone can do that. I’ve  even been back to the petrol Station and all was ok, no laughing at me today  But I suspect that’s only because it was a different shift. I have a funny story about firemen and a different shift, but that’s for another day. And it doesn’t  involve me. 

Oh I nearly forgot. One of the lights on the terrace in the garden wasn’t working. I spent two days looking for the light switch indoors. As well as keys we have numerous light switches. And plugs.  All the other lights came on. This one looked different. But it wouldn’t work. Ok I thought. I’ll have to replace the bulb. So  eventually I lift the cover. No bulb. I then realised it was the hole  for the washing line pole! So hey ho. I did some washing. 

So I am now 6 days into our first visit. Ian’s been and gone. Flew in on the last flight into Malaga on Friday eve. From London City which has to be my favourite airport. Flew out again on  mon Pm. A real flying  visit. Me I leave tomorrow. On a jet plane. And I do know when I’ll be back again. In a weeks time. What’s bringing me back to London. RHS Chatsworth! 

So late Friday night we wound our way up the windey road at 2.30am. Ian hanging onto the car door as if he was scared. I know i was. It was dark.  The road is windey. Twists and turns more than Torvill and Dean in Bolero.   You need travel sickness pills at the best of times. And a clean pair of pants. There is only so many times you can sing the long and winding road for it to be funny. We arrived to total  darkness to get into Fort Knox. I know I’ve mentioned keys but there are 4 locks to get into the house. Try doing that when you are tired. In the dark. Not knowing which if the trillion keys to use. And in not exaggerating. 

Well not quite in the dark as the whole of the valley was illuminated with the path lights the wall lights the tree lights and all shining off the top of my baldy spot. To me it’s a bald spot. To others it’s a thumb print. 

The lights – All attracting the mozzies. Some men are babe magnets. Some men are bloke magnets. Me. A mozzie magnet. Lights go quickly off. I haven’t sprayed. Why can’t Hermes bring out a mozzie repellant cologne. 

We awake early on Sat. Just a few hours sleep. Excited to explore the garden. The town. 

The garden has been a delight. Each day finding something  new, something unknown and then going back to what Ian has described as the most expensive bloody book on plants to try and decipher what we have.  Little does he know. But it is useful. A book by Lorraine Kavvanagh on Mediterraneanean plants. With pictures. 

That b….y book

I like a picture book. Reminds me of Watch with Mother and other tv programmes. Of my childhood. Picture book was on a Monday. Then we had  Bill and Ben and Little weed  who must have been the first TV gardeners. As usual I digress back to childhood. I wont mention anything about Andy Pandy Looby Lou and Teddy bear. Or even the Woodentops as only people of a certain age will understand. Others will think I’m mad. 

Looby  Lou.  Sounds a bit like me meeting   –  The poo lady – Lou’s poo at RHS Chelsea. Even if she wasn’t holding a bag of compost tea with MY agapanthus pic on the label. I can’t  believe I didn’t bring some out with me, (I’d been paid in pooh for helping with the label) A poo smuggler. Anything to declare Sir – only a bag of s—t occifer! Oh and an awful pic of me to boot. 

Me and poo – Loo Archer q
Back to the garden. Now I don’t drink. I don’t smoke and I don’t go out with women. So I buy plants. Ian will say I don’t always plant them but I am getting better. So it was with some surprise he mentioned that we should go to the local garden centre run by the author of that ‘bloody book’. Did i want to go? stupid questions need no answers. But I wasn’t buying  anything. I didn’t. Ian bought two great big fat ferns,  two big pots. A 7 year old mandarin tree that will fruit this year. Anothger big pot. Which they kindly delivered that afternoon with soil, peat free compost  and some organic worm  fertiliser Despite Ian being confident we could get it all in our hire car. I said no. They said they deliver. They followed. 

So here for two days and already on the plant run.

Ian’s new 7 yr old mandarin

  
The new big fat ferns and pots
Oh and we were given a copy of an interesting book on Citrus written by Lorraine.  She also does a garden consultation Which I think will be useful and hurrah. Ian agrees. It will enable me to write down what plants there are in the garden now. One for next time. 

New citrus instruction

So to the garden, The garden around the house itself isn’t huge but beautifully planted already. There is a slope at the back and a bit above the road but for now I’ll mostly ignore it. It has been ignored for years.  The direct bit behind the house is planted.Srought tolerant. Some succulents. A rogue bougainvillea. A couple of almond trees. Covered in almonds.  Need to look when to harvest. . 

The garden starts with a fabulous lavender path.  Trachelospermum at the gate, big succulents, a jacaranda and yucca. The jacaranda flowed are lovely. But you have to be at a distance or above to appreciate them. My appreciation is the flowers on the path. Fallen from the tree. . A bougainvillea which is just getting going. A big fat olive tree – which is full of flowers and will hopefully fruit. Quite what we will do with them is another thing. 

Some lovely Salvia  – which last well in a vase! 

Salvia Leucantha

Thwre  will be more salvia now i know that they will survive. I have my eye on two already for next week when i am back. 

We have a hedge. I was told what it was. But again I forgot. It needs trimming to keep it low for the view. To the mountains. On a good day to the coast. On a very good day Morocco. There is a hedge cutter in the garage. 

 The plant colours are bright. The ground hard as iron. You need a pick axe not a spade. I did wonder why there was a pick axe in the garage but I didn’t dwell on it! I will annoy Ian when I use it ~   as I put it on my shoulder and sing hi hi hi ho it’s off to work I go. Snow White I’m not. 

But I managed to dig a hole – usually I am digging myself out of one – to plant the lions  ears ( leonoris Leonurus)  I bought on Saturday. I lied. I did buy a plant. 

There’s also  a lot of sweeping. The flowers from the olive trees are falling. The leaves from everything are falling. So my exercise  so far has been tonsweep. Almost hourly. I’m getting a bit OCD. How many calories can I burn off with each sweep? Who knows. To be honest. Who cares. 

Ian contemplating his BA flight home
Colours of the garden
I have never really been into Cacti or succulents but the garden has loads and in the right place they look fab. Gawd knows what i do with them but for now I will just admire. 

I do love this prickly big ears though. A number of these were attacked by a bug last year and I have been tol;d that you can slice them right down to the base and they will come back again. I have visions of it attacking me when I do. So i may find a man that does. Cut back Cacti that is. 

Prickly big ears
There are things in the garden which I know nothing about. Like this succulent or cacti, It’s about to flower but I suspect that it will be in full bloom whilst I am not here. 


I was told today that there were wild orchids on the slope although they had finished blooming. Blooming marvellous . I have to wait another year and they are in an area that I want to strim. Do I want to do it or is there a man that can. It’s on a slope. I’m bound to fall over. I’ve learnt that I shouldn’t go up their in shorts. Not because I’ll frighten the neighbours. But the grass and weeds make my legs itch like crazy. Singularly unattractive red scratch marks  When wearing shorts. Along with big red mozzie bites.  Not a great look tonne showing whilst sitting on the square drinking a Diet Pepsi. 

The remains of the wild orchids
 
There are a lot of orange and purples in the garden. On trend again then following RHS Chelsea last week. This is a gorgeous tree with very lovely flowers just growing next to the garden path. 

Brazilian sky flower – I think!
So I ventured back to the garden centre – this time alone  – Viveros Florence. Ian sent me.To get  some more compost. ,   They know what they are talking about..  Can give advice. I was here for compost.  But I also had to wander around too,, Didn’t I? I bought some strawberry mint to go in the alcoholic drinks some lemon balm – which we have numerous clumps of in Somerset  and some lemon grass. On a further look I find two huge clumps of lemon grass in the garden already. Great for my  coconut and lemon grass cake! 

Ian had said he would like a lime tree, What he  didn’t say  was what lime. A lime is a lime isn’t it. Nope,  there’s your lime. Then there’s your kaffir lime, three times  the price of the ordinary. The lime where your use the leaves in curry dishes , then there are the trendy limes used by TV chefs,  I was told the names. I forgot them,, What’s wrong with an ordinary lime.  For a bottle of Bud, oh I remember one. The Australian  finger lime – caviar lime fruit. A new one on me apparently being used by chefs. But I may buy one.  I see that you can get them in the uk Australian finger lime Uk – it doesn’t look like a lime at all once cut. 

I asked about tulips. Yes I can grow  them here. Was shown some of the ones they had last year and was told if I wanted anything in particular let them know in September and they will order them for me.  Yep. Brown sugar please. Do I have a list. Thanks to the recommendations and suggestions I have had uh. Yes. You know who you are who keeps adding to my list. 

They stock some beautiful Iris. A simply gorgeous iris burnt toffee and a  stunning dark blue. Heads home to look for space. They order daffodils. Hyacinths anemones. Lily’s , foxtail lilies. So I think that I will be back.  To plant for spring. 

There is wildlife in the garden though i am a bit of a wimp to go up on the bank too often , I don’t know what may be lurking in the vegetation. But there are bees a plenty,  birds a plenty. A couple of lizards. And a big  b—-r like this  came  buzzing past me as I was taking photos. 

You don’t want to get stung!

I head back to London tomorrow. To my small lovely patio garden. So very different. But equally as lovely. But I will be back next week! Hopefully To more sunsets. 

So today has been about the watering. I have sat down with the plan of the formal garden bits and marked up the pots. The frequency of watering which I’m panicking about. And the frequency of the timers. But I’m back in a week. I’m also writing on copy no 2 the various plants that I know. To add the ones that I don’t when I do. 


So. That’s it for now on the Andalusian adventure. 

Adios. 

Keys keys keys 

So. We saw the house in the middle of March. On Tuesday we completed. Whilst we were at Chelsea having given the lawyer power of attorney to sign on our behalf. Miss Chelsea. Never. So we went to Chelsea on Tuesday as usual. I went again on Weds. You can never get enough. Then first thing Thursday I got on that flying machine and whoosh. I was off. First on the plane. Last off. Eager to get going up that long and winding road. 

We were expecting to complete next week. Not this week  and for a number of reasons RHS Chatsworth being one we weren’t coming out for another two weeks. So time for the Estate Agent to get a few things done for us. Sort out some locks being one. But we completed early. Being impatient. I am here early. Excited. Not Arf! 

Boy we’re there keys. Lots of them.  The vendors said there were keys. It’s like Fort Knox. Ian will be happy. You don’t notice little details when you view! 


So I arrived. On my own.  Ian not arriving  until the next day. In a foreign land. To a house that I had dreamed of and which was in front of me. Did I get emotional. Huh. Yes. It was scary going in. Not because I was scared scared but because we had only seen the house  three  times. Some people pooh pooh love at first sight. So do I generally – unless it’s cake. Or a plant.  But I fell in love with the garden. Straight away. No hesitation. No thoughts  on how I would manage to keep it as is let alone change anything. So big breaths and all that …..

The House of eternal summer

And I’m in. First reaction – no lock on the front gate! But I’m  two weeks early. It’s Spain. Manyana.  A word I’ve been told to get used to.  I open the gate – the smell of honeysuckle mixes with the scent of Jasmine greets me. I’d forgotten how much I love that smell. 

The garden is as lovely as I remember. More lovely now as it’s ours. Debbie whose garden it was had been panicking about the lavender hedge. One part of the garden not on the simple irrigation system. She needn’t have. It was fine. Before I opened the door I went to check that the timers had been put  on the taps. They had! Good old Victor had been. The Estate agent had given me a plan of the areas for the zones. I have yet to work that out. That’s for another day. So I’m in. The house is just as I remember. Just as well really there is no going back at this stage. 

So down go the bags. A quick whiz around and straight out into the garden. A cuppa tea in hand. We have been left an array of garden tools.- a wheelbarrow. Hedge trimmers. A chain saw! I find the secateurs. I’m an avid deheader. That’s my mother’s influence. She couldn’t resist walking up the path without deadheading her roses. Or anyone else’s to be fair. 

Garden tools!

The tools . All neatly hanging on the wall.  So armed with the secateurs I wander around snipping here and there as I go. 

Next to the olive tree

A trug soon filled. It’s exciting to find the plants. The scented Lavender path. Honeysuckle. Jasmine – 

One of the three types of Jasmine

I counted three varieties of Jasmine this one a sweet smelling Jasminum azoricum – a new one on me. But I’m going to try it in London. It flowers all summer. 

A pineapple guava, whose name I got from a request to my friend Sara Venn.  The flowers and fruit are edible.  I’ll try the flowers next week. 

Pineapple guava

There is olive , citrus, bird of paradise, a black bird of paradise something I’ve never seen before and had passed by twice thinking the plant was a banana. Not noticing the flowers half way down the plant. 


My favourites – agapanthus in pots, & the borders. I suspect self seeded. And I forgot to bring out my poo. Lou’s poohs – Alpaca fertiliser. 

Succulents who’s  name s I have no idea. 

Various flowers in the garden

So am I happy. Hell yes. A good sleep and I’m wakened on Friday morning I think by the sound of the bell on the gate. ( it sounds grander than it is. Trust me. ). Well I think I heard something and get up. Throw some clothes on.

 Look out of the window to see that the bell may have been rung. But we have no gates. They are  on the back of a van. Being manhandled by a young man. A young man who speaks no English. My limited vocabulary in Spanish of ordering a coffee. Asking for the bill. And toothpicks is no good in situations like this. So between us we speak Spanglais. I ask him how long they will be away ( we are having a lock fitted – I know more keys) at which point he sticks two fingers up. By that I am meant to understand two. Two what.? Hours. Days. Weeks. I understand the word hours. But do I believe him. 

In 2 hours the gates are back. With a new lock. Hung back in place and two of them this time knock the kitchen door with 3 more keys. 


All whilst Mr Wifi is on the roof pointing his aerial across the valley so I can get access to the other important things in life. Calls via Tu for a start as the signal is a bit iffy.  Social media. Emails. Skype. 

So we have lift off. A front gate with a lock. And wifi.  Not the lock. That doesn’t have wifi. What more could I ask for. I don’t suppose they deliver pizza round here. On horseback. 

I have  fun looking at plants. Looking again. And wondering what on earth I do. We have a slope behind the house. It has almonds. Some figs. Nespera/loquats I’m not sure if those olives are on our bit. Next time I see the previous owner I will have to ask. 

High on the hill

I decide to go for a swim. Which I do but it may say it’s 22* but to me that’s like swimming in the North Sea.  So I’m in and out as fast as Ian Thorpe in the Olympics. I have a confession. I hate wet swimming trunks. Hate them.  Always have.  Trunks that stick to your legs. That and those crappy hotel shower curtains that stick to your bum. Hate them. 

So. I get out of the pool and quickly get out of the trunks as usual to change into a dry pair & wrap myself in a towel. Just as the bell on the front gate rings. I can’t ignore it – they may never come back. It may be the plumber. Or the Estate Agent. Ha . It’s  the neighbours coming to say hello! The last time I took my top off in public was 1986. What a way to greet them. Lovely neighbours too. With a bottle of red and a card to welcome us both. So I’m off and in quick  time I had thrown on some clothes. But I looked shifty. They will have thought I’d been skinny dipping. Not at 22* I hadn’t. Trust me. 

I decided that as I was picking Ian up from the airport late – like 1.30am I should fill up with fuel. Another job I hate in a strange car in a new town. What side is the cap on. Will I get it off. ( don’t mention France when I couldn’t and threw a strop. I know. Me. A strop).  Easy least this one. Drive in. HOla. Buenos días. cómo estás To the young man. Who says 95?  I look bewildered I know but I haven’t even got my bus pass. Not yet. Then realise he’s taking fuel grade. 

Cheapest. It’s a hire car. So I’m back in the 50s and he unscrews the cap and fills up the car. With 95. I pay. Go back to the car. Get in. Actually get in. Sit down. Now they are laughing at me. 

Why? Because I’ve only got in the passenger side. Sat down and looked down and realised there was no steering wheel. Huh. That broke the ice. The mad Brit  who thought he was being asked his age then gets in the wrong side. Ian can fill up on Monday. . 

So day 1 and day 2 of  the new adventure. Interesting. Fun. And at times embarrassing! 


Tomorrow is another day. .and to be honest. I can’t wait.