Living on the edge…

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Rosa Jacqueline du Pre, Tostat, August 2018

Feeling rather grumpy about my grumpiness about the scorched earth situation- and also chastened by kind comments from Australian and Californian readers basically saying that at least I can count on the fact that it will rain again…sometime.  I think that, even though I completely want to create the watering-free garden that I think we all have to embrace- I am still disturbed by the implications of my self-inflicted policy.  It all goes to show that changing our aesthetic to fully embrace sustainability is really hard and cuts to the core somehow.

Having said all of that, I am also aware that I don’t have (yet) to be an utter purist.  I can and should do what I can to garden as close to the edge of sustainability as possible.  But it’s ok to save myself with some watering as the edge moves away from me.  Watering is not to be despised.  So, I am doing some selective watering over the next few days.  I have allowed myself off the hook.  But, from the above, you can see that it has been a bit of a moral tussle.

So, to invoke cheeriness (and maybe rain!), here is what is still looking good without any help from me- though these are isolated spots in amongst a sea of brown.

I actually dug up Rosa ‘Jacqueline du Pre’ over a month ago and stuck her back into a pot, as she was looking nigh unto death.  So with a pot-watering regime, she has begun flowering again.  She is really ‘worth it’ to ape L’Oreal.

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Bouvardia ternifolia, Tostat, August 2018

Staying with the pots for a moment, Bouvardia ternifolia is looking very very happy- a true pillar-box red, tender, but can be tucked away dry in a protected spot in the winter, watered copiously in the spring, and up she comes.

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Plumbago auriculata, Tostat, August 2018

In a pot, and in semi-shade, Plumbago auriculata has just begun flowering.  On the tender side, I mistakenly left the pot out during the winter, and was pretty sure that I had killed the plant.  But, it’s always worth hanging on- and back she came in June.  Very late to get started, but looking absolutely fine.

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Cestrum elegans rubrum, Tostat, August 2018

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Fully open, Cestrum elegans rubrum, Tostat, August 2018

Cestrum elegans rubrum was a bargain-basement shrub I bought last winter.  A little on the tender side, I was feeling pretty smug about it until we hit the 2 weeks of -10C.  The shrub collapsed.  I thought it was time for an obituary notice, again.  But, two months later, signs of growth could be seen, and though a little shorter with the heat, I think that next year she will be bouncing back at 1m plus all round.  And clearly tougher than I thought.  I love those surprises.

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Rosa moschata, Tostat, August 2018

I bought Rosa moschata from Olivier Filippi‘s nursery in the Languedoc, maybe 5 years ago.  He is a serious dry-gardening expert and all his plants are worth trying especially with his advice.  I over-risked the dryness it would tolerate, and had to do yet another emergency transplant into a pot.  Note to self: This is the edge of sustainability looking at me, again.  Out of the pot, and in a new home 2 years ago against the central pillar of the outdoor barn, Rosa moschata is reaching for the roof, and is on her second flowering.  Only a dozen buds open, but the scent fills the barn- a deep old-rose scent, gorgeous.

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The unknown red Abutilon, Tostat, August 2018

Last year’s baby Abutilon ebay purchase is in the ground, only about 20 cms high, but has already flowered non-stop since late May.  Abutilons fold their leaves down like wings when they are a bit heat-stressed- but they carry on anyway.  Real troopers.

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Vernonia crinita ‘Mammuth’ and Leycesteria formosa formosa, Tostat, August 2018

The Vernonia nearest the canal is the only one still flowering, wrapped in the arms of Leycesteria formosa– the crimson meets the purple.

And for sheer mystery and magic, this new-to-me Pennisetum, Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Japonicum’ is hard to beat, close-up.  Note: In France, this plant is known as ‘Japonicum’- whilst in the UK, it is Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Foxtrot’.

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Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Japonicum’, Tostat, August 2018

Maybe I like the danger of the edge….


Scorched earth…

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Poilanthes tuberosa ‘The Pearl’, Tostat, August 2018

This is proving to be a very hard summer.  We are now in the 7th week or so of temperatures 90% of the time in the C30s, and with maybe 20mm of rain in that time.  It is a terrible test for my ‘no watering’ policy- in which I have endeavoured to find and grow plants that will survive by themselves with what nature provides.  It is now far too late for any panicky watering, which I have considered, as the ground is so hard and dry that genuine and very long-lasting gentle rain will be the only way to recover the situation.  I have made one or two exceptions for plants that were newly planted in the cold June we had, but otherwise, I am waiting to see what will happen.  Can I be accused of being reckless?  Maybe…

The plants in the pots are being watered- which takes about an hour and a half everyday.  Thank goodness for the expanding hose!  Not to mention the agricultural canal and the underground water sources that we can pump water out of…

But the potted plants are also feeling the strain of the heat.  Poilanthes tuberosa ‘The Pearl’ which has a simply gorgeous perfume, like warm baked custard with a hint of the exotic, has produced only one flowerspike from 3 pots.  It is the most beautiful thing too, but simply not in the mood for flowering at all.

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Poilanthes tuberosa ‘The Pearl’, all out, Tostat, August 2018

The potted Salvias are also on the fed-up side.  Even with watering.  I have just moved into survival mode, keeping them alive till we at last cool down.  I have taken 2 newish roses out and re-potted them, which has revived them somewhat- and my new Aspidistra plants are in deep shade in the cool, in pots.

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The very first flower on home-grown Clematis tangutica ‘Helios’, with the new camera, Tostat, August 2018

With watering three times a day from the squeezy bottle, or, when bigger, the small watering can, seed production has not, amazingly, been too bad.  I keep them in the open barn, so they get 3-4 hours of angled sunlight, and then shade- and I have really had to be on it to keep them all going.  But successes (for the moment) include Alogyne hakeifolia, a lovely Hibiscus relative which I fell in love with in Spain, Malva sylvestris ‘Zebrina’ has romped away from seed to small plant in 4 weeks, Heuchera cylindrica ‘Greenfinch’ and x brizoides ‘Firefly’ have done the same though they are tiny plants in comparison, Clematis tangutica ‘Helios’ and a lovely load of hollyhock seed from my friends in Winchcombe, are coming up beautifully.  Other plants I shan’t name, for fear of incurring the hubris curse.

From this, you can see that I am looking all the time at toughness in plants, mostly to do with drought resilience- but I own that this period is straining my willingness to live happily with brown.

Changing tack, the stunning Hibiscus palustris is very happy, right by the canal with roots certainly reaching the water.  The huge, chiffon paper flowers look fabulous with some backlighting, and although it can be invasive, it is not looking that way so far here.  Perhaps it knows not to wander far from the water.

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Hibiscus palustris, Tostat, August 2018

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Precision engineering, Hibiscus palustris in bud, Tostat, August 2018

So, looking ahead, we have maybe 5 mm rain offered to us this week, but nothing more.  I know that plants will come back from this, but I am feeling as if my policy has hit a murderous phase.


The tranquility of Carmen de los Mártires…

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Carmen de los Mártires, looking through the archway to the Patio Garden at the side of the palace, Granada, June 2018

And we are back at 35C today- I am not going out, just looking at the suffering garden through the windows, and waiting for what should be big storms tonight.

So, meanwhile, back in Granada in early June, I spent a lovely two hours, post-Generalife, around the corner at Carmen de los Mártires.  This was a beautiful and calming experience after the hustle and bustle of people and cameras at the Generalife.  To get to Carmen de los Mártires, I left the Alhambra site looking for a late breakfast, and then walked back up the hill towards the Fundación archivo de Manuel de Falla- and Carmen de los Martires is almost opposite at the brow of the slight hill.  It isn’t well signposted, but the Fundación is.

This site has a grisly history, named for the 7000 or so Christian hostages taken by Boabdil in his desperate bid to defeat the armies of Queen Isabel.  She built a hermitage , and, later a convent on the site in typical imperial Catholic fashion, and even later, in the nineteenth century, a small palace was constructed on the site of the convent, and extensive gardens were developed.  Falling into rack and ruin by end of World War Two, and one appallingly hot summer which beat the remains of the gardens into submission, the last owner then donated the palace and the grounds to the city of Granada.  Damage was done as the site was earmarked for a luxury hotel development in the 1970s, which, luckily, ultimately, didn’t go ahead, but the ‘romantic garden and labyrinth’, as well as part of the palace, had already been destroyed.

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Water basin at the entrance, Carmen de los Mártires, Granada, June 2018

There were maybe ten people in the whole garden, and a small part of primary school children, who were leaving to go back to school with their teachers.  Bliss.

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Looking the other way in the Patio Garden, Carmen de los Mártires, Granada, June 2018

I loved the pebble patterns of the Patio Garden pathway, and the small grotto enclosing the fountain feeding the canal.  Simple canna, acanthus and fern plantings gave it an air of coolness in the heat of the day.  Emerging onto a small terrace, and down stone steps, a brilliant use of a semi-circular lower terrace, coupled with the peace and intimacy of the space made me well up, wishing I wasn’t enjoying the garden alone.  Although nineteenth century in feel, there were so many interesting small fountains, troughs, tiles, which had been lovingly incorporated into the garden, giving it a sense of touching history, past, present and future.

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The shell fountain, on the lower terrace, Carmen de los Mártires, Granada, June 2018

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Small shell fountain, Carmen de los Mártires, Granada, June 2018

In the surprisingly cool, shady and damp areas around the many fountains, Iris foetidissima had been planted, forming itself into extravagant and generous clumps over time.  It may not be to everyone’s taste as a plant, but it has a real elegance and finesse about the way it holds itself up for inspection.

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Iris foetidissima, Carmen de los Mártires, Granada, June 2018

It was getting hot in the sun, so I didn’t walk all the way round.  Large ponds, the remnants of a rose garden, some wonderful views over the city, were all to be seen.  I loved the restoration of the frog breeding habitat near the restored waterway,  and the sparkling effects of light and shade in the immense, curving vine-covered tunnel, supported by trained pencil cypresses.

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The restored raised waterway or Acequia, bringing water to the garden, and the beginning of the wild habitat for endangered species of frogs, Carmen de los Mártires, Granada, June 2018

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Sunlight and shade in the magical vine covered walkway, Carmen de los Mártires, Granada, June 2018

It was the perfect antidote to the rush of the Generalife, and set me up for finding another way back and down through the narrow streets of the Albaicín.

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Sumptuous dark iris, the Rose Garden, Carmen de los Mártires, Granada, June 2018


Too darned hot…

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Alhambra and Generalife, evening view, Granada, June 2018

Too darned hot.  Some casualties maybe, we will see.  So back to places I have been but not described or talked about.

This is my favourite view of the Alhambra, taken across the river valley, from the old town, with darkening evening light, and even some snow, though not in this photograph.  To the left is the Renaissance palace of Charles V, built to knock spots off the beauty of the Moorish palace, and to the right, the 13th century Alhambra Palace and the Generalife, the world-famous gardens built by the Nasrid dynasty on an existing hilltop site.

Granada is a compact and delightful city to visit.  I was there with a friend, just for an evening and a day, and in the evening, we climbed up and down the winding narrow streets of the old town, which, with one or two exceptions, were essentially quiet and empty for us to explore.  ‘Alhambra’ means ‘red or crimson castle’, but maybe the name does refer to the golden stone, the colours of which are beautifully enhanced by the low evening sunshine.  The following day, I visited the Generalife alone, and also discovered another garden very close-by, which is really worth a visit.  Granada in the early morning moved me to tears, as it did the very first time I saw it in the mid 80s.

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A narrow, winding street in the old town, Granada, June 2018

To avoid being crushed by groups of what seemed to be 192 tourists with massive cameras and an apparent need to be in every photograph they take of anything (tetchiness on my part perhaps?), I would strongly advise visiting at 0830, when the site opens.  Lovely though the Alhambra Palace is, I went for the Generalife and gardens ticket- incidentally, these must be bought the day before online or you will cook in a never-ending queue.

So I had half an hour before the first coach disgorged its load.  Perfect.  Just enough time to visit the Patio de la Acequia, the most iconic part of the Generalife.

The Generalife was built as a palace, but in a much more modest and homely style than the Alhambra, and much of what we see now has been possibly over-restored and tinkered with too much over the centuries.  The gardens themselves are little more than an echo of what may have been the pleasure gardens of the Sultans, but are still incredibly beautiful.

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Patio de la Acequia, Alhambra, Granada, June 2018

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Patio de la Acequia, looking the other way, Granada, June 2018

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A view of some of the Patio planting, Granada, June 2018

There is a magic about the combination of the cloistered buildings around you, the narrow space of the water channel and the perfect arcs of water, just beyond dribbling speed, which seem to hang in the air.

The planting, to be honest, is a bit of a rag-bag and jumble.  You could be generous and say that there is an attempt to emulate the possible jewel-box approach of some historical views of Moorish planting.  And some of it does work in that way, as my third photograph tries to capture.  But too much reliance on snazzy annuals, and the inevitable bald patches of soil, mean that there is a constant need to replant and refresh.  You can see a superb clump of Phlomis fruticosa in the corner of the first photograph, and, sadly, it was almost alone- there are so many really good, tough perennials which would handle the heat and also make for a great display.  Sustainability seems to have been forgotten.

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Patio planting, Granada, June 2018

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Patio del Cipres de la Sultana, Granada, June 2018

Through the Generalife, you then come to another Patio.  The Patio del Cipres de la Sultana is a simpler affair, but atmospheric nevertheless.  The oblong space is entirely filled with a pool, which contains two matching square hedged garden areas, and the whole is embellished with arcing fountains.  The smell of the box hedges in the early morning was fabulous, aromatic and woody.

Coming down from the higher levels of the Generalife, the oldest staircase can be seen and felt.  Considered to pre-date the Moorish buildings, the Water Stairway links the levels of the Palace, bringing water down to the lower reaches of the garden.  Enclosed by arching laurel trees, the rushing water contained in the open handrail is a sensory delight.  This precious water, in such a hot and dry situation, seems exuberant and beguiling, I had to trail my hands in it.

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The Water Stairway, Generalife, Granada, June 2018

Down below, on the almost-ground level terrace, looking across to the Alhambra palace, I might be wrong, but I don’t remember there being active cultivation of this ground back in the early 00s when I last visited.  Today, there are orchards, vegetable gardens, trees, and abundant cultivation taking place.  This was a wonderful discovery-  using the space and the ground as it would have been, a farm for produce to be eaten at the courts of the Moorish kings.

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Herbs and vegetables growing, the Generalife, Granada, June 2018


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The produce gardens of the Generalife, Granada, June 2018

There are other planted areas, an open, modern courtyard with roses, gorgeous opium poppies and lychnis- which I thought worked really well on a big scale and en masse.  So, there is clearly an openness to trying out different combinations of plant- but the embracing of some more robust perennials would really add to the longevity and sustainability of the planting overall.

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Rose Garden opium poppies, Generalife, Granada, June 2018

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Mix of poppies and Lychnis coronaria, Rose Garden, Generalife, Granada, June 2018

I can carp about some of the planting, but, as a whole, this is one of the most atmospheric and incredible historical spaces to visit, and I came away bewitched again.  If you haven’t yet been, do go (early in the morning).

In the heat…

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The very first flower on home-grown Clematis tangutica ‘Helios’, with the new camera, Tostat, August 2018

A few weeks ago, The Mindful Gardener posted about buying a macro lens- with some fantastic photographs to go with it.  Not quite got the budget for that, and was also limping on with my much-loved Panasonic Lumix FX70, managing to dodge the dustspots that had started to gather at the back of the lens inside the camera.  Overnight, one night, the dustspots got serious- and there wasn’t a bit of an image that you could fudge past them with.  An attempt at microsurgery was made by Andy, but he retreated as the camera innards looked in peril, so I decided to bite the bullet and find a new-to-me camera that would shift me very slightly into a more sophisticated camera field.

I have been playing with my Nikon Coolpix P510 all week and enjoying it- whilst gradually trying to work my way through the extensive manual to the things that I want to be able to do, rather than everything that it can do- except cook my supper, apparently.  It is a much bigger and more serious looking item than my old camera, and I do feel slightly fraudulent at slinging it round my neck as if I knew what I was doing.  But it is fun.

As the heat is now in the late 30s for the next few days, I am retreating indoors and remaining there pretty much all day- I am not of a stern constitution when it comes to heat, too much sweating and pale skin- not an attractive combination!

Back in the garden, when the heat is hanging, a colour co-ordinated yellow spider has turned up on my adored Patrinia scabiosifolia.  Talk about blending in.  He should be working for MI5 or 6.

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Patrinia predator, Tostat, August 2018

And then…

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Prey arrives and is despatched swiftly

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Followed by friend …or foe…or afters…

That spider is still there, 4 days later, simply getting fatter.

Crocosmia ‘Emily McKenzie’is not enjoying the heat.  She always flowers a good month after the rest of the Crocosmia tribe, but is smaller in every way, except for the flowers which are a gorgeous jaffa orange, scarlet and yellow combination.  I think she is probably at the limit of her endurance with us, especially this summer when the heat has suddenly really cranked up, but crocosmia are incredibly tough, and will battle on almost regardless of the circumstances.

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Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora Emily McKenzie, Tostat, August 2018

Rudbeckias are part of the turning from mauve and blue to yellow and orange in the garden about this time of year.  ‘Goldsturm’ is a really good plant, especially if their golden colour can be discovered accidentally mingled amongst other plants, and if the light is just right, there really is a flash of gold.

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Rudbeckia fulgida var.sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’, early morning sun, Tostat, August 2018

Another Rudbeckia that I love is Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Henry Eilers’.  A taller (up to 2m this year), more graceful, refined fellow with multiple small, reflexed petals like quills.  I have worried in the past that I have lost this plant, as it is slowish to get going in the spring, and can easily be mistaken for a regular, annoying old Helianthus- of which I have way too many.  But, whatever is going on, except for monsoon conditions, he appears and gently spreads, drifting about through and amongst other plants.

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Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Henry Eilers’, Tostat, August 2018

And new to me this year, but I am already smitten, is Rudbeckia triloba ‘Prairie Glow’ which I bought from the excellent Bernard Lacrouts at Sanous.  Multiple flowering goes on, up and down the branching upright stems, small flowers which dot about very gracefully.  The jury is out, as yet, but the signs are good for a reliable, take what weather comes, kind of plant.  The colour mutes a little in the heat, it was a bit brighter last week before the craziness started.

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Rudbeckia triloba ‘Prairie Glow’, Tostat, August 2018

Time to hide away indoors now.  Thank you so much to all who have commented in the last few weeks, I am sorry I haven’t replied to each one as per usual, just too much going on!  The comments are wonderful and are very much appreciated.


Dancing in Seville…Palacio de las Duenas

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Palacio de las Duenas, Seville, Spain, June 2018

As we are now being promised temperatures in the late 30s for the forthcoming week, even with the sort-of-mid-season lull that always comes at some point now, I am imagining the worst in terms of crisped plants over the next 10 days.  The ground that was once so very wet all Spring is now in its more typical baked-biscuit guise now, which nothing short of persistent, firm but gentle rain for several days that doesn’t bounce off the surface will fix.

So, not a lot to report on the home front.  I will be up earlier and earlier keeping the pot-watering going, and ensuring that my new seedlings and baby plants stay out of the bright sun, and maybe a more normal service will be resumed later next month- only tomorrow, my goodness.

So, remaining indoors allows me to think about the gardens already visited- and introduce you to them.

In early June, I visited the Palacio de las Duenas, in the historical centre of Seville.  Hidden off an insignificant small street behind high walls and a huge gate, las Duenas is a magnificent surprise.  Covered with multi-coloured bougainvillea, it seems almost fake at first.  A shock of colour and impudence, left the tastebuds reeling slightly.  But I would invite you to embrace the colour, and push past any sense of taste challenge.  It boldly is a palace that goes for it, bling and all, and by the end of your visit, I guarantee you will be thinking of doing the same yourself at home.  This is an important historical palace dating back to the late 15th century by the Dukes of Alba- arguably the best-connected and one of the most wealthy royal families in Europe.  Yet, it has all the intimate bits and bobs, and some tat, that all our homes contain, mainly because the stuff we have has immense emotional importance, rather than just artistic significance.

The Duchess of Alba who died in 2014, Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart, took a fair old beating from much of Europe’s press for her unfortunate facial surgery, and her marriage in 2011 to a man 25 years her junior.  But she had already been married and widowed twice, produced a good sheaf of children, and whilst at all times an individualist, she had absolutely done her duty by her title and inheritances.  She arranged her affairs before her last marriage, her husband was left out of the will, and her children were appeased.  She did her job and also lived her own life.  I may have started off tittering, but I soon stopped and thought at the end of the visit that she would have been great fun, in a good way, at a party.

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Intricately traced garden gateway, Las Duenas, Seville, June 2018

So to the gardens…

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The Patio del Limonero, with octagonal Mudejar fountain and urns, Las Duenas, Seville, Spain

At the heart of the palace lies the calm, cool and restful Patio del Limonero.  Surprisingly domestic in scale and un-grand, it has abundant greenery, citrus trees, bougainvillea, flashes of rose and flowering clivia, and at key points, beautiful urns decorated with the Las Duenas name and crest.  It feels like a much-loved space, carefully tended, yet simple in design and plant choice for such a grand building.

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Looking towards the Tower, Patio del Limonero, Las Duenas, Seville, June 2018

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Unknown Clivia flowering, Patio del Limonero, Las Duenas, Seville, June 2018

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Sparkling orange bougainvillea, Patio del Limonero, Las Duenas, Seville, June 2018

Once home to 100 patios, the Palace occupies a smaller footprint now.  The main Patio is perhaps the more formal garden space of the remaining Palace complex.

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The Main Patio, Las Duenas, Seville, June 2018

Slender white marble Mudejar columns edge the Patio, creating an architectural forest of shade from which to view the garden, and the central fountain has been filled with planting, giving lushness to the whole space.

The Olive Oil Courtyard is a small, intimate space, but given great splendour by the four palm trees which frame the central Mudejar fountain.  You feel that this was once a storage area, but which has been lovingly re-purposed without a trace of ostentatiousness.

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Sizxteenth century tiled fountain, the Olive Oil Courtyard, Las Duenas, Seville, June 2018

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Amphora jar in the corner of the Olive Oil courtyard, Las Duenas, Seville, June 2018

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Corner of the Santa Justa garden, Las Duenas, Seville, June 2018

Pots, urns, statuesque succulents and tough groundcover, round the corner of the visit in the Santa Justa garden, which runs parallel to the main courtyard entrance

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Santa Justa garden, Las Duenas, Seville, June 2018

What is impressive throughout is the sense of human care and contact with each space and the placing and tending of plants and pots.  Cayetana may be dead, but her Palace is very much alive.  Inside the Palace, there are countless touching mementoes, photographs, drawing and paintings that she made and liked, costumes and trinkets, and so many family photographs…she really loved the place and so did I.  Bougainvillea and all…


Getting to August…

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Sanguisorba menziesii, Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’, Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Tiny Wine’, with the odd touch of Verbena bonariensis, Tostat, July 2018

I have been re-planting this area over the past 2 years.  The Sanguisorba menziesii was a seed-success about 5 or 6 years ago, and likes it much better here where there is some cool in the morning and early afternoon.  The Rudbeckia was another seed-story, funny that, as this year I have drawn a complete blank with some extra Rudbeckia seed.  Common but very bonny nonetheless, the Rudbeckia fulgida var.sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’ lights up the dark colouring of the Sanguisorba, and Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Tiny Wine’.

Warning: ‘Tiny Wine’ is not that tiny- heading easily towards 1.5m x 1.5 or maybe 2m in height, but it is a real 3 season-player.  Warm red Spring shoots are followed by soft pink-white flowers, and then the deep colouring starts with the leaves, which, by late autumn, glow crimson-red with colder nights.

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Hydrangea paniculata ‘Phantom’, Tostat, July 2018

Further down this stretch are two Hydrangea paniculatas- ‘Phantom’ and ‘Great Star le Vasterival’.  They have toiled a bit the last two years with dry Springs and hot summers, but have been greatly restored by the wet, cool, even cold Spring we have had this year.  They are both a creamy-white, with ‘Phantom’ having the more typical conical flowers of the Paniculata, whilst ‘Great Star le Vasterival’ has a looser, almost mop-head shape.  The ‘Phantom’ photo was taken very early one morning, hence the almost blue colouring.

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Hydrangea paniculata ‘Great Star le Vasterival’, Tostat, August 2017

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Eryngium planum, Tostat, July 2018

Across the path, albeit fairly flattened by the heavy rain of 10 days or so ago, Eryngium planum is the bluest I have ever seen it.  I used to see this plant in bunches at markets visiting France when we were younger, and I was sure that the flowerheads were somehow dyed!  But no.  It is a fabulous, trouble-free plant given very good drainage, and in the heat, the colour is phenomenal.

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Liatris spicata ‘Alba’, Tostat, July 2018

July is the month for Liatris spicata.  I have the purple-pink one and the white, both superb and great pinpoints in the garden, giving structure and depth.  Liatris is perennial, but variably does or doesn’t make it back the following year. But the very best way to grow them is to sling in new bulbs every Spring, if you hunt for them, you can buy them really cheaply, but they give a lot for a few pence and there is a chance you will double your money the following year.

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Accidental loveliness, Liatris spicata pushing though Kalimeris incisa ‘Madiva’, Tostat, July 2018


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Mirabilis jalapa, Tostat, July 2018

July and into August brings back Mirabilis jalapa.  This tuberous plant is utterly unaffected by heat and dryness.  It has a lush, jungly look, and yet will grow almost anywhere as long as there is full sun.  Bob Flowerdew talks about lifting the tubers as per dahlias- but if you have free-draining soil, in my experience, try leaving it in as it comes back in the Spring even after periods of -10C with us.  It should be ludicrously easy from seed.  Ah well.

In amongst the gone-over pale blue Agapanthus, popped up this lovely white one this week.  Sometimes, gifts appear from nowhere…

Agapanthus 718

The lone white Agapanthus, Tostat, July 2018