Gardens. A palace and a celebration. 

Autumn weekends can be so lovely. This weekend was one of them. As a birthday – not just a big birthday – a massive birthday  treat I was taken to Oxford for the weekend by two of my closest friends. 

Celebration

Lunch at a mighty fine hotel, a day at Blenheim Palace and then supper with more friends in Woodstock. 

Yes.  Woodstock. And yes. The friends I went with soon got feed up with my childish comment ‘ you do know ‘ I’d say ‘ by the time we get to Woodstock there will be half a million strong’ …. it wore thin after a while. Unlike me. 

Lunch was amazing. Glorious food. Plenty of wine. Too much cheese. Can you have too much? Yes. Definetly. The need for a walk around the garden  after lunch at Le Manoir. 


It’s interesting to see how the gardens at hotels with restaurants work. Here there is a glorious kitchen garden – an amazing array of veg which is used in the kitchens. Together with flower beds and lavender paths. I’m glad to say that my lavender paths in Spain could compete. They have trimmed theirs back which I will do when I am back in Spain in two weeks time. 

Veg beds.

The greenhouses are open where you can  wander in and look around.  What I loved as well is that most things are labelled clearly so you know what you are looking at. A bonus for a novice gardener like me. 

Indian Borage
 
There were some pretty interesting things around. I had never seen snake gourds before. These ones hanging down from the greenhouse roof like well. Snakes. I hate snakes. Though at first I thought they were cucumbers. But. They were clearly labelled! 

Snake gourds

There was a great display of gourds and chillis in the garden teaching space. Amazing colours. Great shapes. 


Amazing selection of chilli’s

The flower beds were interesting too. We had missed the best as you’d expect as Autumn falls. But there were still some intersting plants and grasses flowering. We didn’t fully explore the gardens to be fair but what we saw was great. An excuse to go back? A long wait until my next significant birthday. 

Flower beds
Grasses and flowers
It was a great contrast of a weekend. Lunch at a 2 Michelin star restaurant and breakfast at a Premier Inn. 


A short drive after breakfast to Blenheim Palace. An imposing palace – birthplace of Winston Churchill and where he proposed to his wife. At this time of year the rooms on view of the palace are limited – in summer you can also view the private space. I will be back. I’m nosey. But the rooms are glorious. The artwork amazing. But I wouldn’t want their heating bills. 


The estate is huge – great trees, huge massive trunks that look like feet, a rose garden, the Churchill memorial garden. A massive lake. 

I imagine the rose garden in full bloom is awesome. Planted with just a few varieties. Iceberg. Peace. Royal William. A pink I didn’t get the name of. The first two grown in my parents garden in the 70s. Not these roses obviously. But they grew these varieties. I suspect that the ones here weren’t bought at Woolworths gardening section though.  


 My mother would have had a field day. I’ve mentioned before. She was an avid deadheader. She would have been in her element. I know it’s the end of the season but there were a lot of buds still there and if the frost stays away … at some point I guess they will need to refresh the beds. A lot of dead wood. Hopefully the pruning will cut it all back. 


It was a glorious walk around the Estate. A massive Estate. Amazing vistas.  Awesome trees. Water. Wildlife. Tourists! 



The feeling of a great TV blockbuster drama unfolding as you walked around. The boat house. The lake. But I wasn’t about to do a Mr Darcy and emerge from the lake all moody.  And wet. I don’t do wet. I’m someone who has to change his swimming trunks as soon as I get out of  the pool. I can be moody. But not in a Mr Darcy way. I guess more Grumoy than D’Arcy. 


These were great big pots. Filled with black grass. As a friend on Instagram said ‘ I’m not sure about these. Look a bit like toupees’ – looking at them again. She’s right! But they did look great and I guess are pretty easy to manage. 


Autumn is here. The leaves are turning. The colours are fab on the trees.  Leaves are on the ground. For now. Crisp. Dry.  Gorgeous. 

By the time we got to Woodstock – I didn’t say it again. Honest. I won’t say it now. 

Our Andalucían Garden – succulents & stephanotis

I can’t believe I’m sat in the garden, its still summer here in Spain. It’s 27 degrees on the terrace and I have a cold. Yes a summer cold. It can’t be because I’ve gone out without a vest. My mother always said that if you went out without a vest you’d catch a cold. I haven’t needed a vest and I haven’t worn one for over 40 years. So I’m just unlucky then.

I have managed to do a bit of gardening since we got back on Wednesday evening. The ground is still like iron where not even a pick axe will make a dent. We had some pretty spectacular rain and a storm before we left last week but it had little effect. I do think that the mountains driving up the wiggly road look a little greener though. In parts. Maybe that’s rose tinted glasses. Oh wouldn’t that be making it pink? The road is so wiggly I could be seeing things – I just stare at the road and hope for the best.

We are getting a second flush of Oleander, particularly the white one. It seems to come in stages, the double pink was out in August but has largely died back. And yes I know. It’s poisonous but it seems to me that most of these Mediterranean plants are 

What I didn’t realise, but then why should I – its not like i have grown these plants before, is that there are some pretty spectacular seed heads too. Live and learn! 


  

Oleander seed heads

But there are pretty spectacular seeds heads on a lot of things, and I have posted some of the pictures previously. The jacaranda for one – its seed heads are amazing. 

The seed heads of the Agapanthus are in mixed stages of drying and I am about to collect some of the seeds to sow on the bank behind the house. . There are a lot of them in the garden dotted  around and I suspect a lot are self seeded, Again I am looking forward to next year  when some of them may be mature enough and ready to flower. I am sure I will tell you when they do.

Agapanthus seed heads

The garden has a lot of bird of paradise planted in the ground but the one doing the best at the moment is one in a large pot on the terrace, I suspect that the ones in the ground are younger and I haven’t seen them flower. But we have the second flower of the season on the potted one, its smaller than the one earlier in the season and there is flower no 3 coming quickly behind it.

There is no sign of the blue and white bird of paradise flowering again which is a shame as its pretty spectacular.I have just realised that we have a second plant next to the garage. I mistakenly thought it was a banana. As in plant. Not the fruit. Hopefully It will flower next year. I need to look up how to feed it. But that goes for most of the plants here. What and when to feed. In london I poo my plants. That is using Lou Archer Alpaca poo. Has worked wonders in london. Oh. And a picture of my agapanthus is on the agapanthus poo mix labels. 

 Unlike  the tender plants in the London garden I won’t have to wrap any here. Last year I didn’t wrap anything in London. I didn’t put straw in the crowns of the tree ferns and they survived. But we are sheltered and the winter wasn’t harsh. 

The pineapple guava has fruit on it which I understand is delicious but I am not sure that they will be big enough to eat this year. It’s been spectacularly  hot and I am not sure that they have grown fat or big enough. The previous owners said last week that they are tasty. Oh well another for next year.

Pineapple guava fruit

I have checked the Quince following a mention on twitter of the fruit. I have five on the tree – they aren’t pretty are they! Now I need to see if i have enough for Quince jelly.

Big fat Quince

I find it fascinating  to watch the flowers. As we are here roughly every few weeks some are out as we leave and some as we arrive. This little purple/blue flower has been flowering all summer long and is really pretty. It looks as if the flowering period is coming  to an end with this one too.

Duranta Ripens _Brazilian Sky flower

I’ve said it before but I haven’t really liked Lantana. But to be honest it is  growing on me. It works hard and comes in some lovely colours. Even after the potted one is neglected it bounces back with colour.

Lantana


We have a number of jasmine varieties in the garden, tracheospernum, azoricum, a what I call common jasmine and one unidentified. Oh and that stephanotis I keep bleating on about. After a slow start its been a corker. In a pot by the door the scent is delicious. Oh I’ve said that before. Move on.  

What i didn’t know and I am sure i have witttered  on about previously is that they can fruit in very hot summers. Well its been hot and there is a new fruit forming and one from last year that has ripened and opened. You can plant the seeds but as I am not here all the time that’s not for me.

Jasmine
Stephanotis
 
This years stephanotis seed pod
Last years seed head
I managed an afternoon tidying at the rear of the house where there is a gentle slope up to a steeper one. At the lower end are succulents and at the top some sad prickly pears and some pine which i have now found out are protected. No chopping these down but I wouldn’t want to anyway. 

Cochineal fly takes its toll

I have said that the plants here are new to me. I am used to either our  London garden  which is more of a yard with tree ferns, agapanthus some perennials and annuals. All in pots. Our Somerset garden which is a true cottage garden full of traditional and lovely perennials, Roses and a bit of lawn. succulents have never featured big but they do here as you would expect in a mediteranaean garden where water is at a premium and the heat  is on. 

The lower part of the slope

I’m in love with the Agave. – the pearly agave or foxtail agave. It’s shape and form is gorgeous. I have two, one in a pot and one in the ground. One is upright the other is hanging over the pot. Both are fabulous. I like that word. Like the agaves  A lot. 

Agave – foxtail or pearly

I need to name the rest of the succulents. Not with actual names that would be silly. Not Boris or Doris but identify their plant names. That’s for a cooler autumn day sat at the kitchen table. In spain or london. 

To add to the Swiss cheese plant we have growing outdoors there’s another ‘indoor’ house plant from my youth doing really well outside. There are a number of them in the garden at various stages of growth – the money tree  we called them as I was growing up. 


Aliens in the garden
 

Money tree

Next on my list is to read up on pruning. I had a great day last year with.  Sara Venn pruning our  Somerset garden. We worked on the fruit trees and the roses and they have been great this year. I may be doing a light prune this Autum but the cottage is now on the market.

I will need to read up on the Jacaranda, the oleander the hedge with no name because I don’t know it. But it’s has been here and growing well for over 30 years. The pomegranate which has never fruited and which I have been told to go out with a paint brush when it flowers, the olive trees, the almonds and the citrus.

The citrus is flowering again, two lemons I thought were on their way out and a lime I had moved because it needed a second chance.


So I have plenty of reading ahead of me.  Identifying. Pruning. Planning oh and planting. The tulips are ordered. I’ve said I want alliums. More agapanthus. But I have to wait for rain or hire a JCB to plant them! 

 I am sure you will hear all about it.

Back to the new Mediterranean Garden 

So I’m back in Spain. This time for three weeks. It should have been one but friends asked  to come to stay so it was decided (yay) that I should stay on and be here when they arrived. Which meant staying three weeks in total.  Oh. And I’m then home for 6 days to collect my bus pass and then back again for 12 days.

That’s not a bad thing as there is a lot to do. Blocked drain. One of the watering system pipes has detached itself. Neither of which I will do of course. But I’m here to sort out. And to do a bit of gardening whilst I’m at it. There is plenty of clearing up to do


I’ve said it before. But I’ll say it again. The ground is dry. Very dry. Too dry to plant anything. I have some plants still in their pots standing in a vat of water for whilst I’m away. Ready to plant when and if we get some rain.  Two salvias. A jasmine Azoricum. A clivia.

Some plants like the Leonotis Leonurus  – lions ear appear to have gone summer dormant as the weather has been so hot.

The clearing of the bank and what I call the roundabout are both done. I am now happy to go and look at the almonds and figs without fear of stepping on a snake. Or some  other creepy crawly.  The almonds are ready. My ‘book’ says check in August and September to see if the dupes are splitting. That’s a new word for my dictionary but not sure how often I can slip it into conversation. They are earlier than usual but the extreme heat has brought everything on earlier.

The almond dupes

There are loads of them on just three trees and I am 3/4 of the way through picking them. Once picked and the outer shell taken off the  almonds are then ready to dry. Please don’t ask me for how long. They are supposed to rattle when they are dry which some are doing. So I will pack them into air tight containers – Tupperware anyone.  Some will be given away as presents.

Light work of removing the dupes

I have laid them Out on trays and need to turn them regularly  -like every time I pass!

I hope no one needs a roasting tin

I’ll leave picking the rest for another  day there are loads left and I’m  not going to waste them.

There is beginning to get some more colour back in the garden. It’s been so dry this summer. Much hotter than usual and some plants seem to have hibernated. A drop of water and there are blooms again. Except the Leonotis Leonurus – lions ear which appears to have gone summer dormant.


This Bougainvillia is a lovely colour. There aren’t too many flowers on there but they are pretty lovely. I must  check on pruning for later in the season. I don’t want to prune next years potential flowers – puts pruning into google.  There is also one random plant on the back slope which has appeared since the clearing.

Waxy white stephanotis

I thought I’d seen the end of the stephanotis but no. There are still a number of buds. I lovethe waxy  flowers – they look so lovely  and smell delicious. Not enough for a bridal crown. Well not on my head anyway.


I love the colour orange in the garden. This has started to bloom again. Probably as I have been watering since I’ve been back. It just appeared overnight. That or I missed it as I walked past. But it’s a welcome sight in the corner.


Now I need to go and look at my book so that I can check what this is. ! . There are only two flowers left. But the seed heads are an interesting shape. .

Seed pods

 

Three months later I’m still learning what plants we have in the garden. Some are pretty unusual. What I didn’t expect was a swisss cheese plant outside.  What next. A rubber plant! Our house plants from the 70″s. So my book says the Swiss cheese can flower. Cream in colour and edible fruits.  Who knew. Not me. But I still don’t really like them. But let’s give it a chance. It may grow on me.


I loved and hated the jacaranda tree when it was in flower. The flowers were gorgeous. When they were on the tree. But they didn’t stay there. They fell – not a surprise – onto the path. Like a blue jewelled walkway. Staining the brick. Now it has seeded. Which are interesting. And they are not dropping . Looking like little bats hanging high up in the tree.

Jacaranda seed pods

We have prickly pairs dotted around the garden – mainly on the back slope but one or two in the main area. The ones on the bank are looking sad. Last year they were all cut to the ground. Suffering from cochineal fly. I wasn’t here then but have been told like it was a crime scene as once cut  they bleed. The cochineal flow are back.

Sad prickly pears

Looks like we may need to cut back them again.


Baby prickly pairs popping up over the garden. They easily take root.


A white version of the mandevilla  with a gorgeous yellow throat.  We also have a pink which is flowering when and if it feels like it.

Succulents in the sun

There’s a whole host of succulents dotted around and it’s great that they are drought tolerant  as with this weather that’s a huge bonus.

As well as the main garden which sounds grander than it is we have a small piece of ground behind the house across the road. This hadn’t been touched or cleared for over 6 years and we decided that when we were having the slope behind us cleared we would have that done too. I call this the roundabout. Which it is not.

The roundabout

There is little on there. Two fig trees. A sickly almond. Some spikey succulents but we will need to think of some planting. To hold the soil. And to look good of course. The one fig tree is awash with black figs. Today’s picking I think and I will freeze some for jam.

Edit

It’s all a bit different to what I have been used to. Our garden in Somerset all cottage garden. Not a prickly pear in sight. Unless you consider the prickly pair of owners.

We also have trees – real trees. 

So it’s been an interesting few days. I’m here alone. I have pottered in the Garden. Snipping here. Deadheading there. Taking photos. Making plans. Understanding why I didn’t attempt to strip the bank and the roundabout myself. Slipping over down the bank. Almost doing a triple toe loop and a couple of pas de deux as I hurtled to the floor almost falling flat on my face. Thankfully no one was around to see my inelegant moves. Or my embarrassment.

It hasn’t deterred me. There will be more gardening tomorrow after I have trained the welcome cactus to wave its arms for when the friends arrive with the 11 and 13 year old boys. Yes. It needs a sort te the pot. It’s on my ever increasing list. To add to the list that Ian has left me.

Eurphorbia Candelabrum

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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. 

 Tuscany 

These last few months my feet don’t seem to have touched the ground. The purchase of the house in Spain and the excitement of the new Mediterranean garden has taken over. Things happened with the purchase  far quicker than we imagined. We had our summer trips pretty much sewn up. Now to add more. 

For the last five years we have had an annual trip in June, after RHS Chelsea of course, to Italy to stay with a friend an hour or so from Florence and close to Sienna.


 It’s an easy drive from Florence airport – provided you can find your way out of the rental car park onto the  Motorway. That’s the difficult part. Where we will have our first disagreement. Neither are map readers and Sally sat nag even gets confused. ( don’t even ask about the return journey. ) 

This year we did it. Straight out and straight onto the right road. No argument. No ‘ why don’t you bloody drive then’ just a quiet drive through gorgeous countryside ( once off the main roads ) through grape vines – not literally – past cypress trees – olive groves and very very dry countryside. If we think our ground is dry it’s nothing like the Med. a pick axe wouldn’t even work! 

The grape vines
You’d think I’d be used to the long and winding roads after Spain. Not really. They still get to me even in such glorious surroundings. 

Majestic cypress

I love the cypress trees so tall and majestic. Like sentries particularly when they line those long and winding roads! 

The gate to Casa Zacardi


The garden where we  stay has some great pots – shame I couldn’t pack them and bring them home! Amazing lavender. Roses. With what seems the obligatory Italian plant. What I call ivy leaf geraniums. Pinks. Reds. And every shade thereof. Everywhere you look there are pots. Crammed full with colour. 


We travelled to Pienza  a renaissance town and is a UNESCO World Heritage site but is not too touristy. 

 The  town is also well known for being the home of Pecorino cheese. .  The street smells of cheese. Seriously. Smells of cheese. But the choice is amazing. Big cheese. Little cheese. Yes please. So we did and great cheese it was too. 

Pineda Tuscany

Pecorino
The views from the centre of the town  are breathtaking high up over  the valley below but it is abundantly clear just how dry the soil is. The avenue of cypress so very Tuscan. 

The light was spectacular – so spectacular we needed an Aperol spritz to take it all in! With lunch of course. 

Luckily we found that La Foce a short drive away was open for a garden tour after lunch so we hot  footed our way over to the house and gardens. La Foce gardens  were designed by  the English architect Cecil Pinsent for an extraordinary Couple  the Origa’s and are glorious. Three distinct sections on three levels. A lot of structure. A lot of box – god help them if they ever get box blight. Very symmetrical. One layer all box and big lemon trees in pots. The lower garden is Visually stunning with extraordinary views. 

It was very English. Lawns. Box. A wisteria walk which had gone over but had the longest seed heads I’ve ever seen. I’m sure the walk is spectacular if you get it at the right time. 

There is a flower garden too which was difficult to photograph. Roped off and too bright. But some lovely salvia plants. Some agapanthus. . Lavender. A lovely border of Annabelle hydrangea. 

The history of the house and its owners iris & Antonio Origa. is interesting. They created the garden over a period of 14 years and she wrote a diary of the gardens in the years of the second world wAr. Kindle  here we come. 


As I only had my faithful iPhone camera I will definetly be back to Pienza and la foce but don’t tell Ian. He’d tell me to la foce off. 

This is a great description of the garden at La Foce 

Back at the house the wild flowers were out in abundance. . The lovely blue of the chicory a joy amongst the dry grasses and the oats that had blown over from the adjacent  field. There was the cry of the deer in the thicket behind the house calling for the young who were bouncing around in the field. The sight of a big fat hare sat watching. The birds swooping down to the pool taking a sip of water the parents majestically. The fledglings almost dove bombing and getting a surprise as they took the water and moved off. 

We lunched at   La botega volpaia what must be one of my favourite restaurants. Not just because on a previous visit I had my belt caught up on the chair and had to be released by a handsome Italian waiter.  But for the food and the ambience. Amazing pasta. The best chips. Peas in sage.  Great views from the terrace. 


 The entrance to the restaurant has the most amazing  Trachelospermum hedge which has the most delicious scent. 

I had decided to leave my camera at home this trip so I used my iPhone. But we are back next week for two weeks. My camera is charged. The spare batteries are ready. 

If we get out of the car rental parking.  

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. 

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.