Lovely day for a white wedding – my day in the life of Common Farm Flowers

Have I mentioned I’ve retired. Just once or twice I’m sure. The joy of being retired means I am able to do different things. Able to indulge. Whether it is gardening or travelling. Meeting people I have been engaged with ( rather than to ) on social media over the years. One of my biggest joys has been the opportunity to spend time at Common Farm Flowers with Georgie Newbery. The flower farmer of British grown flowers. Grown not flown.  It’s well known I’m a huge fan. I buy flowers. Have attended workshops. Wandered the garden. 


Over the last 18 months Georgie has allowed me to be part of the team at Common Farm Flowers to assist on busy days whether it be for Mothering Sunday,Easter, Christmas or one of my favourites – big wedding days. My friend Lorraine Pullen and I roped in as part of what Georgie calls ‘the dream team’ working alongside Georgie and Sharon in the flower studio. Who would have thought that 18 months ago I was pushing a pen around a bit of paper in Canary Wharf – not the actual Wharf but in a building on it – and now I’m occasionally pushing gorgeous British flowers into fantastic flowery arrangements. And loving it. Totally. 

Georgie – not me

I was delighted to have been asked again last week to help out with a white wedding. So delighted I arranged my holidays around it. 

 The bride had asked for white.  Previous weddings I had helped with were more colourful so I wasn’t sure about all white to be honest. But hey. What do I know. I’m just the work experience guy in this! Georgie had mentioned that the studio was full of around 4,000 stems. I’d seen the studio full before but boy. Was it full. And white. A small corner of colour for the bouquets going out that day. But predominately white.  I love the studio but when it’s full of flowers, scent in the air it’s awesome. 


The list was long. Brides bouquet. 4 bridesmaids. Button holes. Two large arrangements for pedestals for the church. A local Rural church  in Cucklington whose records date back to 1291.  One for the Norman font – a glorious arrangement warranted for such a historic structure. .  Garlanding for the church entrance. Garlanding for the tipi in the field for the reception.  Little arrangements for the gates of the church. All white. With green foliage. The list was endless. Where to start. How about a cuppa tea and a croissant.  I came armed with goodies. 

I’d called in the day before.  right’ says Georgie cracking the whip ‘ ‘ early start tomorrow’  she reminds me . There’s a lot to get through. Say 8.30. Thanks. Did I mention I’m retired. 8.30! I work gentlemans  hours – some say I always did. But for Georgie and the joy the day gives me I’d be there at 6. But don’t tell her that. Please. 

My role for the day is to make a start on the 15 table arrangements – oh I forgot those in the list- oblong arrangements with a hurricane lamp and candle for the centre. 

15. That’s not too bad I thought.  That’s not what I thought hours later with an aching back and cross eyed from looking for gaps. 

First job was to soak the oasis. Thanks Sharon – she had done it already. Team work that. I love Sharon. We work well together. She laughs at my jokes. She eats more cake than I do. Doesn’t mind my teasing her. And is brilliant at what she does. Sharon gets on with the garlanding. My job is easy compared to hers. That’s what I think. She just quietly gets on with it. In between answering the telephone. Life at the flower farm goes on. Despite 4,000 blooms sitting waiting to be arranged. 

The table arrangements taking shape

Make sure that the whole of the oasis is covered with green foliage says Georgie. Ok. That shouldn’t be difficult. I’ll be finished by lunchtime. Hmmm. 

First I go cutting ivy. A wheelbarrow full ready to make a start.  Which isn’t enough. I have to go cut more. Thankfully there is a lot.  I can’t go wrong cutting Ivy. 

Hello ivy

Along with a whole host of other foliage. Including Rosemary – eucalyptus, camelia, lots of trachelium as greenery. Oh. And more ivy. More eucalyptus. 

Sharon concentrates on getting the garlands made. These will be amazing  at the end of the day. Great attention to detail. Worrying if she should add more. Or less. If less is more. If I’ll ever shut up up telling her she’s missed a bit. It’s really interesting how adding a different flower actually lifts the garlands. One minute you wonder – then with a small addition it lights up. 


How hard is it I’d thought. 15 table arrangements to green up before the flowers go in. Can’t be that bad. Right. As soon as you think it’s done you look again and I can see a bit of oasis. If I can see it the boss lady will too. Eyes like a hawk. . Turn it around. There’s another. How much more foliage will it take. Let me tell you. Loads. And loads. And when you think your done. Loads more. I hear The boss say ‘ I don’t want to see any of that oasis’ – yes boss. Before we start adding white flowers. And then more white flowers. 

Meanwhile Georgie is full on with bouquet and pedestal duty. Oh and in between some colourful bouquets for a 50th to be delivered later. Life isn’t only about tomorrow! There are orders to take. Other flowers to arrange. Kids to sort. 


There is constant banter between us. We are missing Loraine who because of injury – not a flower arranging injury… but the banter continues.  She always joins in. And gets us singing along to cheesy tunes. I miss Lorraine. She’s a diamond. Like me retired. A whole different life in the police behind her and it’s great to spend days like today as a team. That’s one thing I do miss in retirement. Team work.  Common Farm works as a team. With Georgie at the helm. 

I’d like to say that this is  Sharon and I playing peek a boo over the flower tables. But it’s not. This is sharon checking for gaps. The garland will be high up and needs to be covered. I love this photo. Not only is it fun. It shows the attention to detail that Common Farm Flowers applies to the arrangements. Flowers. Friends. Fun. What more could I ask for. Other than another piece of cake. A cuppa tea. A sit down. 

I was wrong about white. I like colour. But the white flowers were gorgeous. I’ll take a deep breath and try and remember what we used –  Antirrhinums, sweet peas, feverfew, philadelphus, daisies, astrantia, limonium, jasmine, larkspur, delphinium, stocks, Ammi, roses, scabious, all looking awesome in the arrangements. Bears breeches to give height to the large arrangements for the altar.  Ammi dancing and floating in the arrangements. The large floating heads dancing above the rest. Posh cow parsley someone said. Maybe. But I love it. I must actually look up pink cow parsley which I saw in the garden at Ardraich in Scotland. The stocks smell delicious. The small white roses look awesome.  The larger more open roses fill the spaces. Will look even better tomorrow – I hope! 


The large arrangements for the altar at the lovely local Church are given height with lovely bears breeches. To stand magnificently in the little rural church. 



I’m also ‘odd job’. Collecting the cuttings. Of which there  are many.  Many trips to the compost. All organic here at Common Farm Flowers. 


Or being sent out to cut the white roses to be used for the rose petal confetti. I love that. Being sent to the cutting garden on my own. That means I’ve been promoted. Trusted to cut on my own! Hurrah. I spend more time admiring the flower patches than I should. I’ll make up for it by making lunch. Which I do. Make shift pizzas. Alcoholic lollies. 


The day is long. Tiring. I’m not used these days to hard work. Standing for hours. Bending. Having to constantly ask questions to Georgie. To Sharon. What should I do! Is this short enough? What flowers should be used next.? Told how many of each. For me the day ends at 7. The  large arrangements have been delivered to the church. A bit of a panic over the altar cloth. Me ironing another. Did I say I was odd job.. too right. One thing my mother said I should be able to do was iron a shirt and sew a button on. Which I can. Oh. And bake a cake. 

All that’s left is for the rest of the flowers to be delivered the following morning and put in place. I’m not there for that bit.  But it doesn’t stop me worrying that all is well. That the flowers haven’t dropped in the night. That they like them. That I haven’t messed up in any way. That I won’t be asked back. 

The following photos are courtesy of Georgie. To show the flowers in place. In the Church. In the tipi. At the gate. The sun came out and The flowers were fabulous. I’m sure the bride was fabulous too.  A lovely day for a white wedding. 

Here comes the Bride
I declined from joining  in the photo. I’d didn’t want to spoil the bouquet!  Ian was already traumatised when I said I was seeing Georgie about wedding flowers. I didn’t want to give him a heart attack.  He said we’d done it twice without flowers. No need for a third ceremony. Just for flowers. 

Georgie wrote about using white in the tipi for wedding flowers. Top tips for the tipi! Go look at her Blog here for inspiration. 

Garlanding on the church entrance
Garland in the centre of the tipi
The lovely church pedestals

So what does a flower farmer do when he or she has finished. Take photos of what has been created. 

The day after the wedding Georgie received a letter from the bridegrooms father. Saying how lovely the flowers were. That for me makes my aching back. My tired legs all worth while.  

For  my small contribution to the day. 

For my part I’m hoping that I get asked back again to continue my valuable ‘work experience’ along with Lorraine who is my senior and with Georgie and Sharon. That is if If Sharon hasn’t asked that don’t return unless it’s without my camera. Especially without my camera and my ability to take some awful pictures of her. Taken unawares.  But not for here! Plus my constant requests of ‘ can I turn the lights off please’ . I’ll go back with almost any conditions! Almost. 

Information on Common Farm Flowers can be found here. Great place to order bouquets – I know – I have ordered a few in my time! Great workshops too.  Oh. And wedding flowers. 

 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.  

London Calling 

So I said goodbye to sunny Spain. Sadly left the mew Mediterranean garden and the heat behind  to catch the delayed flight to London. Down  the long and winding road. Again. This time singing to myself. Ian flew back a few days ago. 

Nothing better than sat waiting to board the plane whilst an irate passenger berates rather rudeley the girl at the gate. Who smiles sweetly and let’s him rant. Well done  I think.  Then says. In broken Spanish. Thank you sir. I am Ryan Air. You are travelling British Airways. Boom. A deflated and embarrassed angry man. 

We eventually depart. A full flight. An announcement goes over the tannoy. ‘Today we have a passenger flying with us who has a severe nut allergy. We will not be serving nuts.  We would also ask you to refrain from eating your own nuts. ‘

Childish I know. But I collapsed into a heap of giggling childish laughter. 

Did I say escape the heat. Huh. It’s hot back in London. Without the air conditioning and everyone complains how hot it is. Even me.  

There is another constant. My love for agapanthus! They have gone crazy whilst I’ve been away. Combination of the heat and the feeding of  Lou’s pooh in the spring. We had great leaf growth and I had thought I had overfed. But the number of buds has been great. Agapanthus  that struggled to flower  last year are bursting. 



I almost love the opening buds more than the full flowers. Or maybe the seed heads after flowering. 


We bought two plants a good few years ago and put in a large pot in the centre of the front garden. Garden is  an wxagatration. It’s an area at the front of the house. But this agapanthus never ceases to amaze me. There are loads of buds every year which virtually appear over night. Small light blue flowers. I keep thinking I ought to split them. Maybe next year. Maybe not.  


The agapanthus by the front door were bought at Columbia Road flower market a few years ago. Cheap. Cheerful and have been great. This year they seem taller than usual so I will need to be careful that they do not snap off. Or get picked like they did a few  years ago! 

Agapanthus bud

I know that this one will be the darkest of them all. The tell tale signs of the bud give it away. It’s a really dark colour – like a black almost. 

But like Spain a lot will open whilst I’m away which happens every year! The good thing is that they have a good flowering period. Oh. I’ve just found a self  seeded one about to flower in the orange tree pot. 

Agapanthus washing line and pegs

The back garden is small and I mean small and has to incorporate everything. Like a washing line amongst the plants. All the plants without exception are in pots. The tree ferns.a couple of olives. An almond tree. Easy to move around. But a pain to water. 


An empty chair.  Usually occupied by one of the cats but it’s too hot for them. They are sprawled out behind s tree fern. 

Fred the cat

View from above


I have always had  window boxes.  I think it’s an inherited thing. My parents did hanging baskets. Hanging at  their front door. A bit of a show off with  next door as to how could have the best.  .  So I like to have the front looking good. I maybe have missed  one or two years where I have had a break but this year I decided to go back to the good old geranium. They were great in the pots in Somerset last year and went on right into  the autumn only being moved to make room  for the tulip planting. Which I also did in the window boxes here for the spring. 

This year for the first time I added some lavender  to the boxes with the geraniums and it’s worked really well. Even if I say so myself. I also used good old lobelia for the side boxes something I haven’t planyed in years. My parents always grewv it along the front path accompanying allysum which I don’t think I’ve seen at a garden centre or nursery in a very long time. That and the good old Busy Lizzie! Their garden was a homage to the planting of the time. Lobelia. Allysim. Petunia. Tagetes. Godetia. All grown from seed. 

I digress. 


Gardening in London is a challenge. The garden is small. There’s lots I want to grow but can’t. Dahlias another of my loves are rubbish here. We get overrun with snails. Not slugs. I have one climbing rose. A lovely David Austin bought my a good friend of mine Emma. As a thank you for staying at the cottage. 


 But the upside is that we have a sheltered garden where most years we don’t have to cover the crowns of the tree ferns. Tracheospernum grows well. Jasmine grows like crazy up the drainpipe out of a ridicously small pot. A black bamboo whist scraggy is over 10 foot tall. 

Window box in kitchen bay window

There have been disappointments. As the garden is small I like to have some scented plants. The jasmines flower at different times and the smell of both is very very different. So I bought a Philadelphus to add to the mix. A belle etoille which we have had in Somerset. Gorgeous smell. White flower with a purple throat. But it appears that it’s not what I got. Pretty. But plain white with little scent. Annoying. It will have to go. It’s not what I want and I don’t have room for mistakes! 

Belle etoille – I don’t tho so. .
The email has arrived from Peter Nussen re  Speing bulbs! Oh. Lordy. I’ll have to make decisions  for next year soon!

Right. I’m off to water. Yet again 

More garden adventures 

So here we are. Back again. This is the time that we were expecting to collect the keys to Casa Verano Eterno.  But the transaction was completed two weeks early. So we are back. Ian for a short visit. Me 10 days. Hurrah. Ian has reluctantly gone back to London – the joy of retirement means I can stay a little longer.  Oh that hurrah wasn’t because Ian has gone back. But that we are here again.  He has become the gardeners assistant. 

The Gardeners assistant

The road to Competa gets no less windey each time we visit. Nor less beautiful. The sight of the mountains  as we drive up is truly spectacular. I’d take a picture. But I am driving and as I have started I will finish. But I will take one. Eventually. Ian says look at that.  Look at this. I see nothing but the long and windey road.

The mountains of Andalucia

A week is a long time for a garden. I had worried that the timers wouldn’t have gone off. I knew that the pots had been watered as I was sent a pic of the estate agent and friend at the house. Watering the pots. They were fine. As was the watering system. 

The back planting bed

The garden has been largely planted for drought resistance plants so it doesn’t need much.  I was greeted with one of my favourite plants bursting to flower. The garden has a lot of agapanthus. Some I suspect have seeded but I am not complaining. I love them so I am more than happy that they are here. Next year I will have to smuggle some poo in my bag. 
Agapanthus love

The lavender path is holding up well. I have a tendency to overwater and I know i can’t do that with lavender. Nor should I.. especially as the cost of water here isn’t cheap. 

The lavender path

The jacaranda tree is in full bloom and is best seen  from a distance. Or looking at the floor as it is constantly dropping its flowers. Is it romantic to walk on a flower covered path, swathed in blue flowers. No its bloody well not. It stains the floor and i have been sweeping up on the hour. 

Slight exaggeration there but I don’t need a workout. I’ll get a wash board stomach yet and get rid of the washing machine and tumbler drier one that Ihave now. 

The jacaranda roaring above

I was never a fan of succulents   – ! but having a new Mediterranean garden i am going to have to get to like them. That and Cactus. There are a few prickly pears in the garden ( maybe Ian and I will. Be know as the prickly pair – we are grumpy enough). 

A prickly pear

There are some great big triffids on the bits of a hill that’s ours.  Bit grand really but its across the access road and has a few fig trees on it and is basically scrub. It will stay that way too.

Ian also picked out some plants. I thought they were cactus. But they are euphorbia. Euphorbia candelabrum cactus . to be precise. News to me. I have potted them and they will probably stay at the front.  Another with a poisonous sap. 


 The  garden has a lot of interesting plants and its a huge learning curve. I’d only just got used to my cottage garden planting! I have arranged for someone to come in in Sept to talk plants. Pruning. Some new planting. I have also discussed spring bulbs – there are no flies on me – and my order has to be done before the end of July. They stocked some of my wish list last year and I have requested Brown Sugar to go on the list. Plus alliums. I need to check that they will grow. It’s odd. There are things growing I wouldn’t have thought. There is a great show of hollyhocks on the drive into the town. I have bought two to grow in for next year. Hopefully they will self seed


Twitter is a wonderful thing you know. As well as being pretty rubbish. But that and Instagram when you need a plant identified is awesome. Like the Daucus carrot. Thanks to Phillips Burrough, Sara Venn and Georgie Newberry.  I know know what this plant is growing on the bank at the rear of the house. 

Wild carrot

There are other things I don’t know. Lots of them. But I will before the decade is out. But something else I don’t know What it is. 


Rather stupidly last time I was here i went up onto the bank. In shorts.. never ever again.. My legs were as itchy as hell. Not only the moziies had attacked me but I had a reaction to the grasses that were there.  

Unlike the man who was weeding  the bit of ground outside his house as I drove past yesterday. He was in the shortest shorts that could almost have been budgie smugglers. . No shirt. Flip flops. His skin as red as the shorts he was wearing. Spraying weed killer. In the heat of the day.  Weed killer obviously doesn’t affect beer bellies. It may even enhance them. I’m not about to find out. 

But I had to stop the car as I was laughing so much. I didn’t dare take a snap. But the vision is in my head. Protective clothing. Never,, health and safety. Never.  So I have safely arranged to have our bank strimmed by someone else. The weeds and grass are as dry as. I’m hoping to grow some wild flowers there. It’s not a meadow. It’s a slope. An incline. Dry. Rocky. So maybe poppies. And more cacti.  More succulents. Some more almonds and olives. Sounds grand but there are three almond trees loaded with nuts. . 

Things are dying back. Things are coming to life. I have had a mother moment  and spent most of yesterday dead heading. A snip here. A snip there. Just like she used to do. I’ve said it before. In her own garden. And if she walked up your path she couldn’t resist deadheading a rose or two.  Irritating that. The garden is not  somewhere you can burn the cuttings. It’s too dry. So no bonfire here. 


We collected Ian’s lime tree which is now potted up and ready for the watering to establish it. It will fruit this year but we will take them off and wait until next. Not so the manadarin which is going great guns so far as are the two established orange trees.


.Talking guns. I asked what the black and white sign was outside the gates. Apparently is a no hunting on this land sign. Great I can safely take my shirt off in my own garden without the threat of great white whale hunter appearing as I get in the pool, 

No hunting
Which I have done. As its now warmed up enough for me to get in. I am a bit of a big girls blouse with cold water to be honest. 


I also went on a rescue  mission. I rescued a lemon. Forget driving over lemons. Try crawling on your belly in the border under yuccas to retrieve the one and only lemon that you have in the garden. Which has dropped off the tree when you weren’t looking. But you were determined to retrieve it. 

My one and only

I was determined that it wasn’t going to waste so it will sit in my gin and tonic this evening. Not the whole lemon. I will remember to slice it. Or as I found an electric juicer in the cupboard I could juice it. But really? Gin sounds better. 

We had a business day on Monday. Off to the bank in Nerja as they had cancelled my bank card. Here two weeks and it gets cancelled. Only because I hadn’t signed a form. But I emailed on Monday early and saw my personal account manager at 10am. Excellent service and I signed in about 46 places and got my card reactivated. Then onto the lawyer to sign  the insurance papers. A two hour wait before I had to see the notary meant a little bit of a shopping. So. A bit of pool art in the name of Nemo. Placed at the pool side and looks great. Great colours but be careful. It’s tin and gets hot.  Behind it on the rails is a lovely Jasmine. Jasmine Azoricum. The smell is just gorgeous. 

Finding Nemo

A trip up to Frigiliana to see an artist that we had seen previously and two pictures later we were on our way to the notary, who this time hadn’t disappeared to Rome. A swift flick of a pen and my will was signed. 

So surprise surprise I have been busy snapping away in the garden. Partly because I can but also so I have a record of what’s what. I am not here for a month and the garden changes so quickly. 




I’m pretty miffed that I will miss some of the agapanthus at their best as well. 

But the main thing is the stephanotis that is just about to burst next to the front door. I swear they weren’t there a week ago. I’m sure the smell will be fab and there are loads of separate buds. Ah well you can’t win them all. 


 I have deadheaded   some little blue maugerite type plants which I think flower continuously so hopefully they woill be awash with colour when I am next here. I have admired the black or blue bird of paradise yet again. It’s a real bee magnet. 


So I am in the square again. It’s Thursday and there will be no horsemen riding by. That’s a Sunday. Ive decided to have breakfast on the square. watching. Observing. Practicing my Spanish. Ian’s worried that I will repeat the phrase that came out wrong when I was doing my homework last week. Speaking into the iPhone app in my best accent it was translated back into English  as  long penis.  Quite what I was asking for I don’t know as i collapsed into a quivering heap of laughter.   So Far the only potential issue could have been when I was looking for Salvias and asked if they had hot lips.  I kept a straight ( yea I can do it) face and carried on..  they didn’t by the way. so i bought two others. And yes they have been planted.

So. Off i go to the hardware place that is always full of builders and workmen. I must try not to embarrass myself as I’m  only getting keys cut. Maybe. 

Two More days and then back to my window boxes and tree ferns. Retirement is hard. 

Not more plants……

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That b….y book

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

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

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

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

Ian’s new 7 yr old mandarin

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

New citrus instruction

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

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

Some lovely Salvia  – which last well in a vase! 

Salvia Leucantha

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You don’t want to get stung!

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

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


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

Adios. 

Keys keys keys 

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

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

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


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

The House of eternal summer

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

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

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

Garden tools!

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

Next to the olive tree

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

One of the three types of Jasmine

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

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

Pineapple guava

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


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

Succulents who’s  name s I have no idea. 

Various flowers in the garden

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

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

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


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

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

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

High on the hill

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Driving over lemons. 

When I mentioned to some friends Matt & Clare  at my favourite local breakfast haunt Petitou in Peckham that we were looking at a place in Spain Matt said that he had recently recommended the  book Driving over Lemons to his daughter. A book that was sitting on the book shelf at home. It reminded me that I had read the books some years ago and thought I’d go back and read them again. I’ve started and they are wonderful and particularly relevant to the new adventure we find ourselves having. 

As well as twitter I use Instagram. A lot. My camera was a purchase not long after my father died and was a more expensive one than I would normally buy. But I’ve loved it. Never far from my hand it enables me to snap away. That’s why the pictures of Ian are always of him ahead of me. Firstly he hates pictures and there are very few of us together. Secondly. I am always hanging back snapping away happily. This and that. 

I digress. But only a bit. 

A fellow instagrammer commented on some of my recent Andalusia pictures and said that it was like Driving over lemons. That had me smiling. Two mentions of lemons in such a short space of time.  I almost gave myself a squeeze with delight. Rather than usually having a face like I’ve been sucking a lemon. 

It’s all about the citrus. Oranges and lemons. Lemons and limes. 


Andalusia is indeed special. Has beautiful scenery. Mountains. Great light.  Long and winding roads  where motion sickness pills may be required. Just to get to the bottom of the hill. Zig zag roads. Twisty.  The road from  Competa to Torrox Costa a roller coaster of a drive. There is Coastline. Beaches. Mountains. Natural parks. People. ( back to the horse rider again). Tapas. Wine. The attitude of don’t do it today if it can wait for a week.  Maybe not next week. But a week. You can’t be in a hurry in Spain. Unlike London where we are always rushing. Here there. So it’s a glorious difference and a great adventure to be starting.  Part time. Not full. I need no convincing. 

The mountains are spectacular surrounding  the Andalusia Towns and villages. There was snow on the mountain tops in early March when  we were last there. Now its all gone.  With bright blue skies. And a moon. Oh and heat and a mosquito. Or two. 



The white washed towns and villages hang onto the side of the mountains. Pristine. White. Narrow streets – steep and winding. But making you want to see what’s around the corner. At the top of the steps.  Breathless. Both in body. And spirit!  Ian ahead of me As usual. Striding to get to the top. Me just striving to get to the top. Eventually. 


The white washed town of Competa rolling down the mountainside. Beautiful. White. A pretty spectacular sight as you turn the bend on the road from Malaga. 



Dramatic skylines over Competa. 

I have found my Spanish’ Petitou. Casa Paco is situated on the square. Is friendly. Always busy. Now to try and order in Spanish. Or spanglais. I can ask for the bill. For toothpicks. Say hello. Ian is better than me. We both have apps on our phone trying  to learn. If you see Ian on the tube. He’s not talking to himself. He’s learning his verbs. If you see me. I probably am. 


Town squares to people watch. Eat Tapas. Drink wine. 

Just down yet another long and winding road is Torrox Costa and then onto Nerja . Nerja with its restaurants. The beaches. Glorious torquise sea. Rocks. A coastline. Sea air. A slight detour to Frigiliana  another white washed town nesltling on the hillside. But more touristy – has tour buses. Tourists. Like us. Except we have driven. 

So back to Competa.  On a clear day you can see down to the coast a 45 minute drive away. Probably quicker if I am not driving. Slowly. Ignoring my co driver saying. Ooh look at that.  Sorry Ian. All I can look at is the road ahead. 


The villages have these amazing doors. Original and painted in vivid colours. Or left to the old wood which is  equally striking, 

These are known as the hanging houses in Competa. There are literally hanging on the cliffl looking   pretty  moorish lit up at night. 

I wonder if i can get a part time job. The goat man with his herd of goats. Who walks them around the town and mountainside.  Ian unimpressed with my sound of music rendition of ‘High on a hill with a lonely goat herd’. He hasn’t heard the yodelling bit yet.  You smell the goats before you see or hear them. And the man has a whistle that they seem to understand. A bit pied piper to me . The downside for the part time job. That suit. I’m not sure it would suit me. 

These plants are lethal. They seem to have taken a dislike for me. Big time. I swear they see me coming and jump out to scratch my arm. Badly. My hand was swollen after getting stabbed by one of these. But they along with the palms are beautiful and majestic. 

More great views across the mountains. 


I wish I had shares in white paint. Every house is white. The churches are white. Some of the streets are white. But I don’t have a head for heights. 

I am looking forward to further forays into the surrounding villages. A trip to Granada. To Córdoba. To Malaga old town. A train trip to Sevilla. Oh. There will be pics. Lots of them. But not of me. Maybe of the back of Ian’s head. Of plants. And definetly of a horseman riding by.