Rain rain go away

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You’ve gotta have friends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Supper at one of out favourite restaurants El Pilon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thankfully Sunday night obliged.

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

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

Seeds Succulents & Stuff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hola Jardin Mediterraneo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

It’s not all about the garden 

Being in Spain isn’t just about the new Mediterranean garden. Though at times that’s how it feels. It’s all new to me. The plants. The soil. The weather. Oh. The weather. I do like a bit of sun. But not in July or August. It’s too hot. And I never thought I’d say that!

But there have been visitors. Which I love. Which means we have to explore. And explore we have over the last 6 months. Trips to the Alhambra. Twice. Trips to the coast. Numerous. A trip to Malaga.  Oh. The trip to Malaga. Where  I parked in the car park of Cortes de Ingles. And walked into the old town. And where I couldn’t find the car in the car park when I got back. Had to retrace our steps back through the store. You could smell the fear. A hire car. Whose registration I don’t know – yes it’s on the key fob I know but in the panic I forgot. We eventually found it. After half an hour. By which time I was ready to cry.

So we bought a small house in Andalucia. In Competa. Up a long  and winding road. In the hills. By now you will know it has a garden. A lovely Mediterranean garden which I have bored the pants off everyone with twittering instagramming and generally talking about it. Even in my sleep. A style of house I didn’t want. I wanted a town house. A terrace. No garden. No pool. A walk to the bar. To the cafes. Which is the total opposite to what we bought.

Casa Verano Eterno. – House of Eternal summer.
We were also due to be based in Frigliana another white washed village  but the owners of the B&B we had booked cancelled a few days before. Not  because  we are bad guests but because they had a family crisis.

So Ian did his research and we booked into a fantastic B&B in Competa –Casa b Run by Carsten and  Bente who’s hospitality and breakfasts are incredible.  But  being based in Competa it gave us a lot of time to explore the town.  

The view at Casa B
Where is  Competa? I asked the same question to Ian when we booked to visit in March. It’s just over an hour from Malaga and and hour and a half to Granada and the wonders of the Alhambra. It is the jewel in the crown of the whitewashed villages. It’s breathtaking on first sight. Surrounding by the mountain ranges and is that type of place which you would say has a lovely feel. Which it does. The town has everything you could want. Great places to eat. Pharmacies. ( important when you get a swollen eye!). Bakeries. Fruit shop. Great places to eat and watch the world go by.  Wine shop with lovely local wines.  An amazing ironmongers. A petrol station. A kitchen shop ( heaven for me) and excellent friendly service from everyone. The Estate Agent we used  has guided us through the first 6 months with a general ease.

Competa

In August every year is the Noche del Vino – the night of wine. It’s an enormous annual  event in the town and there is a lunch cooked and prepared in the Plaza de Vendimia.  The  grapes are crushed by the Mayor and the lunch is served – Migas.  To be honest. It looked a bit like gruel. It’s olive oil and fried breadcrumbs. Add plenty of local wine to wash it down. Which is good. We were wimps and didn’t stay up to watch the flamenco dancing. There’s next year.


It is a lovely  white Andalusian town. High on the hill. And with its own lonely goatherd. Where the man and his goats wanders across the hills from side to side. You can smell them before you see them. A whiff of goat is not to be forgotten. Ever. And I love it. Hugely. The town. Not the smell of goat. Which I don’t by the way. The mountains are high. And no. I haven’t had a Maria  Von Trapp moment  running up the hills. Singin I am sixteen going on seventeen. More like 60 going on 70. If I could get up the hill in the first place.

Eau de la goat
I can usually be found in the square of a lunchtime. At my favourite place Casa Paco. Or in the evening to be fair.  Or at any time of the day. It’s friendly.

Plaza Almijara Competa


We are lucky to be able to get to the coast in no time at all –  should we wish to. Which we do occasionally.  Thrty minutes  down the wiggly road you get to Torre de Mar.  A long beach with a very long promenade. Which in the summer is busy. And I mean busy. Out of season it is lovely. Much quieter and the cafes are still cooking their sardines on the beach in boats on coals.

Torre Del Mar
Edit
Sardines cooked on the beach
Beach umbrella for one

Down the opposite road from the house. – the windy road rather than wiggly – you get to Nerja and further beyond the Costa Tropical. That’s a new one on me. Costa Del sol. Costa Brava yes. But never Costa Tropical. I was taken for supper to a lovely restaurant La Barraca on the beach at playa de Cantarijan. In the summer the beach and restaurant is only accessed by bus down a hugely steep hill. At night you can take your car down. I’m not sure I will. It’s very steep. Oh. And it’s one of the areas famous nudist beaches. We went at night. And ate. Fully clothed. Me. Naked. With mozzies. Never. The food and beach is great.

Restaurant La Barraca

It’s in a natural park and there is the fear of fire. You can drive down in the evening. I keep meaning to take a ian there. Maybe  next time.

We hadn’t explored Nerja much until I had a friend staying this time. To be honest it was complete noseiness on my part. Some friends have said they are coming to Nerja early in 2018 and if we were here we should meet up. So i went in search of their hotel. And found a new part of the town I didn’t know was there. Lanes of Tapas Bars and a nice long beach.

The beach at Nerja

The boys are back in town
Nerja

Ian has a weird desire to go to Torelominos. Which we will do. Just for a look – it has nothing to do with the IKEA close by. Honest.

There are hidden gems we have yet to explore along the Costa  Tropical. To explore beyond Malaga on the Costa del Sol. There’s MIjas. There’s Marbella. Worth a visit when we have friends staying. 

There have been a couple of trips to The Alhambra . Visitors say ‘are you sure you want to go again ‘ the answer is always yes. It’s an awesome place to visit and its a bargain. A day visit with entrance two the Nasrid Palace is one €14.95 euro. The Nasrid Palce is awesome and I want to go and visit at night.  The visit is worth it just to see the beauty of that palace. This weekend we visited in the rain. And boy did it rain. 


But the skies were kind to us and we had enough of a clear spell to do the outside.

The drive to Granada is easy and we have earmarked a weekend to stay overnight and explore the town. It looks fabulous. It’s too much to do The Alhambra and Granada town in one day. Unless you are on a tourist trip doing the whole of Eure in a week. Which we are not.

Granada a view from The Alhambra
Of course i have managed to look at the gardens at The Alhanbra on each visit and i have done a bit of a blog already about my August visit. Link to that is here.  A friend has reminded me about the Botanical garden in Malaga. That’s been added to the list. That’s what I love about social media. People tell you things you didn’t know. There are some gardens open in and around Granada so some forward olannning is needed for next year.

This visit  the  general life gardens at the Alhambra  remained colourful but the flowers were going over. I do think that even when not picture perfect the flowers look good. I was still surprised at the planting. In August I thought that the planting looked pretty English.  There were plants I hadn’t seen in a while. Some my parents had grown in the 70’s. Those tall red bedding salvias for one. A lot of orange tagetes. Some plants I want for my garden next year not the previous two but a fabulous euphorbia that was fantastic against the orange. 


There was an abundance of agapanthus the flowers of which I had missed. Come to think of. It. There were no seed heads to be seen when we were there this time.

Colours in the Alhambra gardens Nov 2017
Malaga is interesting as well We will be there for New Year and apparentky they decorate the town at Xmas. Will be interesting to go and see. My friend Helen and I did the Cathedral this time and it was interesting. Shame my pictures weren’t which was disappointing. Must have been all that incense wafting about! There is always a next time.  But at about €6 Euro it’s a bargain.

Street in the old town Malaga

The colours of some  of the houses in the old town are fabulous. We need more time to explore. The Picasso Museum is earmarked for the December trip. As long as I’m not Picasso’d out. I have seen a fair few PIcasso exhibitions these last 18months  but I’m sure the museum here should be fab.  If not there will be more Tapas time.

What  I also find interesting here is the cost of entry into the places of interest. By interesting. I mean how inexpensive it is to vist. Unlike many in the UK.  We have two days in Seville with friends at New Year  which we are all looking forward to. We are so liucky that there is so much within easy reach to visit. Cordoba is on the list for 2018 as well. We have yet to decide whether we drive or let the train take the strain.

But I pinch myself regularly just as to how lucky we are to have such wonderful opportunities.  I didn’t expect retirement to be so exciting   So varied. And such fun

So. It’s not all been about plants. There has been food. Tapas. Of course. An amazing Paella at El Pilon,  a lunch of avacado and spicy prawns at Casa Paco. Food to fuel the gardening. I can’t help myself.

Paella at El Pilon
Toasted avocado and spicy prawn at Casa Paco
For me learning a new language is hard. Last week I learnt a few phrases to introduce my friends to the waiter at the restaurant that we use. A lot. All was well. He understood what I had said. Corrected one word. Then bingo. He replied and my face was like a rabbit in the car headlights. I got the first and last word of the sentence. Nodded my head said Si a lot. And smiled. They need to speak to me like some peiople speak to them. Slowly. Very slowly. BUT I am determined to get there but be prepared for some disasters. Ian is doing brilliantly and we are both looking to arrange one to one conversational classes when we are there. 

I am so looking forward to the next 6 months. the garden is already showing the start of the growth of the bulbs – back to the garden – I know.  it’s exciting to see what will come through.  I have planted alliums. Freesias. Every time I return something new is in flower. In fruit. We have Seville to look forwards to. A trip to Malaga –  suppers with friends. Another season. 

No doubt I’ll let you know. 

      Here comes the rain 

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

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

Eye eye Captain

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

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

The access road to the house.

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

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

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

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

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

The large agaves on the roundabout

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

A hedge with a view

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

Brazilian sky flower

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


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

Nespera.

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

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


An unknown fruit – maybe a sloe.  


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


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

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


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

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

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


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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

We made our third visit to the Alhambra 

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

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

Trips to the Coast – Nerja & Torre Del Mar

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

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