One of mine!

Even with so much happening in the garden, not only the plants, springtime, sun, but also our splendid stonemason building walls, pointing, getting our upper pond sorted, plus joiners, electricians, and more, I’ve hardly had time to write about it…  Largely because I’ve gone back to an earlier means of expression… painting.  I wouldn’t have mentioned it had not a local gallery liked some of my stuff enough to try to sell it, but also used one of mine on the invite card.

Blue Chair.  Acrylic on paper. A1.

Blue Chair. Acrylic on paper. A1.

The other four are slightly off-the-wall botanical pix, and I might post a link to a slide show of some of the recent ones.



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Still running away from the apples…

One box still left in the pantry, though other boxes have proved far too much, and piles of soggy, yellowed and tasteless apples, thrown guiltily away, still seem to delight the local blackbirds (and probably rats too), down in the wood. And now, with a mild March, the buds on the apples trees are swelling again, and so it goes on: round and round.

Just back from Lincolnshire, where Alec has his country garden, I feel once more the pull of the garden here, and have been potting up seedlings (some donated by kind gardeners in nearby villages down south), and seeing what has survived a summer’s neglect in our Borders garden.  Rather a lot, in fact, but of them and our plans for their use, more later.

The two big urns pose their usual problem: what to do in after the tulips are over – this year the sumptuous yellow %%%%.  Last years’ nasturtiums were a wonder, pulled in myriad cabbage whites, fell spectacularly to pieces, and generated enough caterpillars to destroy every cabbage in the country.  So, something a bit more disciplined, silvery, I think, rather than green, and flowers less of a blaze of colour.

OK, that’s a lead in for the enchanting Lotus berthelottii, rare when I first grew it, now often to be seen at the local garden centre.  Who cares.  What I hadn’t realised until last autum was that Monsieur Sabin Berthelot (1794-1880) had fallen in love with Tenerife, and specifically the town of La Orotava.  In fact, his love is commemorated in an enchanting garden, presumably because, jealous of the handsome acclimatisation garden in Puerte de la Crus, La Orotava wanted something similar, if on a less generous scale.  A local aristocrat stepped in, provided some land, gave it some handsome railings, and planted it up. It still exists in a little square behind the town hall, and looks, through those handsome railings, seriously worth visiting.  Be more careful that we were: it only opens in the morning.  The reason, then, for going back?  Magic.  Even in the downpour, even through the railings, it had that special feeling that some gardens, vast or tiny, sometimes develop.  Perhaps it’s just a trick of the moment.  Perhaps it’s just that the plants are growing together with exuberance, and haven’t had, like the plants in the morning’s garden, the dread dead hand of municipal gardening blight them.victoria

But back to the Lotus. It is endemic to the Canaries, and rare in the wild.  The brilliant and strange beak-like flowers are adapted to bird pollination but seed, at least in cultivation, is rarely set.  It cascades prettily down the sides of big pots, survives a good bit of neglect, though feed it when you remember.  Hard frosts kill it off, but overwintered cuttings root fairly easily.  Oh, there’s a golden yellow form to be had if you need variety.  Quite liking colour clashes, as well as harmonies, we used to team it with magenta Verbena Sissinghurst, but not sure what we will do now.

The heavily municipalised garden starts out wonderfully. Built for a marquis fabulously named Diego de Ponte y Castillo, it’s called the ‘Victoria Garden’ and Victorian is is.  Seriously.  However, main garden is reached by a walk up on one side of a rocky gully torn out of the hillside by downpours even more ferocious that the one we encountered.  Photo.  It’s a gorgeously tangles mass of monsteras, bamboos, poinsettias, cyperus …gully

But then, over the bridge into the garden proper, the scene is rather chastening.  Of course, the views out are wonderful – the town below, the white capped volcano above, and though it is indeed fun to see agapanthus, aphelandras and so on treated pretty much as bedding plants, the overall feel where?  Blackpool?  Eastbourne?  Every fountain basin, every runnel, is painted bright swimming pool blue.  Every reasonably horizontal path is thick with red stone chips.  Every low retaining wall is, even on a grey misty day, blindingly white.

Hasten on to the one once tended by M. Berthelot, or head down to Puerto de la Cruz for a real delight – the Orchid Garden.  Or go on to La Laguna, and where roof gutters sport clumps of echeverias, and find then an unexpected pleasure -  the cloister garden of the partially ruinous Convent of Saint Agustin.  With its original layout, four square and centred on a fountain (scheme familiar since Rome and ancient Persia), the citruses, the strelitzias, the colour of the stone, make it an enchanting place.  A return is essential…cloister

The orchid garden will have to wait another post.  Yet another embarassment: the islands have a fascinating flora of their own which, alas, we made no effort to see.  From our hotel, the white peak of the volcanic Mt Teide accused us every moment we spent on the sun terraces of the hotel.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Running away from the Apples. Part 1

This year, even the usually costive apple ‘Court Plat Pendu’, which usually gives us five tiny apples, which we forget to eat, gave us fifty. The other twelve trees did likewise.

The guilt was insupportable. Even after every box and tray was filled, every jar filled with jellies, jams, pickles, and the kitchen table occluded by demi-johns bubbling away with enthusiasm, three trees were uncropped, and beneath the others the blackbirds could scarcely fly the cats, so weighted were they with windfalls.

Taking the hint, I fled. To Tenerife. Except for the hotel breakfast, not an apple to be seen. And they lay largely hidden beneath peaches and mangoes, bananas, guavas… And having expected a barren volcanic land, we found some absolutely terrific gardens boasting bromeliads and bougainvilleas, an infinity of palm species, whole borders of strelitzias and more.
banyanFirst up, was indeed so, high above the hotel, ancient, but now finding itself embedded in a posh modern suburb of Puerto de la Cruz.  Officially called Jardín de Aclimatación de la Orotava, it was originally set up in 1792 as somewhere to store South American and African plants, to see if they would so alter their constitutions as to suit the less balmy conditions of mainland Spain.  Of course, plants don’t do this with any human-scaled speed, so the garden became seven acres, palatially walled, of gorgeous jungle.



Even if you don’t care for philodendrons, tropical ferns, cannas, hedychiums, aloes and agaves, palms with silver blue and dangerously spined leaves, clambering cactuses, heliconias, perfumed waterlilies,  a pine found only in the Canaries, you’ll be enchanted.  Do, though, avoid dusk.  The garden is almost centred on an enormous banyan tree. Its net of dangling roots are said to engulf lingering tourists, digest them overnight, leaving not even bones.eveninggdn

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Gone with the Wind, Rain, Drought, etc

There, that’s it.  Gone.  Last year they got rained out, and all rotted.  This year, they got burnt out, came in a gorgeous rush, and now hang, petals almost charred.  Old roses.  But the rush was truly that.  Amazing.  But…

But there wasn’t time to savour them all, let alone replenish the pantry with rose petal liqueur (it lasts for about a year, then the flavour coarsens), and my intention to use different varieties to see if they furnish a different taste.  Still, the best variety of all, Mme. Isaac Pereire, which does produce a mild second flush of flowers, may yet give us enough.  Ispahan, which we also use, does something similar. Both are supposed to be bushes, though here they happily climb into the apple trees, and both must be at least fifteen feet above ground.DSCN5808

Sanders White

Sanders White

The real rampers did us proud.  Adelaide d’Orleans, in her second season, clambered over the shed roof and has practically engulfed the log store (and is getting entwined with the burgundy-flowered Clematis texensis).  Sanders White plainly has ambitions to escape the garden altogether.  An interesting rose: though masses of flower, no detectable perfume during the day.  Yet, the other night, when I lit a fire in garden fireplace, and in between lungfuls of smoke, and as swallows gave way to bats, the air was filled with a smell almost beyond perception, clear, totally delicious.

Poor old The Garland, which Jekyll used on whopping ropes slung along her verandah, and which we used on a lovely old summerhouse in a previous garden, has languished in a pot for several season, indeed almost died, while we racked out brains for somewhere to put her.  Finally, she got planted this spring on one of the walls of ‘the ruin’.  She sulked, then flowered, prettily.  But now, sappy pink shoots seem to grow even as we watch.  Oh dear…  Still, our aim it to get the stonework around the fireplace covered by her and the late flowering clematis, ‘Huldine’.

DSCN5811Going back to supposedly shrub roses, one, an old moss rose, that we hope to encourage to climb is something odd; the flowers, sharp pink to start with, quickly age to a rather splendid pinkish violet.  I can’t wait to have enough to claim for a vase.  It’s called ‘William Lobb’.

The heat had one surprising effect.  Bringing the blackcurrants suddenly to ripeness, I got fed up the the blackbirds skulking around hoping for my absence.  I netted the whole wall that supports the plants.  I’d forgotten what I’d underplanted the currants with, for the birds must have stripped the crop before I even remembered to look for fruit: white alpine strawberries.

I’d grown them on for a garden I’d been helping design, where the birch woodland down to the lake was being underplanted with white things: white daffs, white fritillaries, palest yellow cowslips, and, yes, white wild strawberries.  The Lehman Brothers fiasco put an end to all that.

So, scrabbling under the netting, I picked a whole teacupful of the tiny fruit.  Juicier than their red cousins, sharper perhaps in taste, but most definitely strawberries, they are best eaten as soon as picked.  A night in the fridge robs them almost entirely of taste.  A new culinary ambition: white strawberry jam.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment