Seville and kick-arse angels in the spring…

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Cercis siliquastrum, Seville, March 2019

Seville was really in a ‘Carmen Miranda’ mood last weekend, as we had a wonderful 4 days in the city, basking in sunshine and with blossom bursting out all over.  The Cercis siliquastrum blossom was looking amazing- a great slap of cerise pink plastered all over bare branches.  For about ten years, I had a Cercis chinensis ‘Avondale’ which makes a really beautiful small tree, about 3m all around, with the incredible blossom followed by heart-shaped glossy green leaves.  Sadly, the increasing dryness in the soil did for it, I think, and I haven’t retried.

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Pale pink tea rose, unknown, The Alcazar, Seville, March 2019

Even roses were beginning to open- it isn’t a long season with the heat and the dryness, but Rosa banksiae lutea was flowering fit to bust everywhere, draping itself artistically over walls and banks.  The green of foliage everywhere was fresh and new, and in the Palacio de las Duenas, which I visited last year when the bougainvillea was all in flower at the end of May, the lemon blossom was mingling with the ripening Seville oranges.

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Lemon blossom and oranges, Palacio de las Duenas, Seville, March 2019
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Light and shade, Palacio de la Contessa Lembrija, Seville, March 2019

Fountains and pots are essentials in the Mudejar garden, the Spanish style of borrowed ‘Arabic’ art and style which was so big in 19th century Seville. The Contessa de Lembrija went a few steps further and massively redesigned her Palace to accommodate many original, highly decorated Roman mosiacs taken from the now-famous site at Italica, outside Seville.  The ground floor of the Palace is an astounding display case for mosaics, ceramics, and many everyday objects in superb condition.   Along with Roman relics, she had a passion for ceramic tiles- and there are some fabulous rooms decorated with beautiful tiles floor to ceiling.  And pots to die for….

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Fabulous ground floor room, Palacio de la Contessa de Lembrija. Seville, March 2019
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This pot really spoke to me. Palacio de la Contessa de Lembrija, Seville, March 2019

Internal courtyards don’t all have fountains.  Simple planting and a positioned pot are all that is required to make a relaxing space.

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Beautiful soft green pot with a planting of Colocasia esculenta, Palacio de la Contessa de Lembrija, Seville, March 2019

And the same Colocasia esculenta can be seen surrounding a cream stone fountain, with no water in the Alcazar.

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Courtyard in the Alcazar, Seville, March 2019

Up in the hills beyond Italica, scrubby areas near a beautiful little church were studded with this early Iris, Iris planifolia.  For all the world, it looks like a plantain if you just see the leaves, but then up come these stubby but determined blue irises.  Fantastic.

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Iris planifolia, hills outside Seville, March 2019

And what about these kick-arse angels?  In that quiet little church, there they were.  One each side of the main aisle- no messing with them.

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Kick-arse angels- my kind of angel, outside Seville, March 2019


A place in the sun…and the shade.

The sunny side of the New Garden,  Tostat, end May 2015
The sunny side of the New Garden, Tostat, end May 2015

We seemed to leap fully formed from the chilly, wet weather of the Chelsea Flower Show week into high summer temperatures, up to 36C on Friday last week. This has been a bit of a shock for plants and people, with not a drop of rain for nearly 3 weeks. I am of the feeble pale Scottish skin variety and so wilt easily in hot sunshine, and so do quite a few plants. But, not here in the New Garden. This was the garden Andy and I made about 6 years ago on the site of an old barn, using the rubbish stoney soil that is here, only removing about 599 massive river boulders by hand, you can see the odd one in the distance in the photograph above.

Taking the view that I should absolutely try and make the most of what is here, and it is hot as well as stoney, I have tried to choose plants that really are tough, and in the most part, this has worked with one or two exceptions.  So, at the end of May, it was looking really good, so good that I didn’t notice that my Cercis chinensis ‘Avondale’, which had been great in the spring with its cerise-pink flowers on bare stems, was toiling badly. To rub it in, here is a photograph of it flowering in 2013, it is a beauty.

Cercis chinensis 'Avondale' Tostat 2013
Cercis chinensis ‘Avondale’ Tostat 2013

Sadly now, finally having reached nearly 1.75m in height as it is a slow grower, it is looking very miserable and the few leaves it has, normally heart-shaped, glossy and vibrant green, look very dead. I am not sure what has happened, but I think I will cut it back in the autumn and just see if it will regenerate. I suspect that this is unlikely as we are hitting hot summer now, but I will try.

However, although the Albizia julibrissin ‘Summer Chocolate’ that you can see on the left in the top photograph is looking a bit crispy at the edges, other things are in their stride. I love Halimium, though now renamed as Cistus atriplicifolius. I bought this from Pepiniere Filippi in the Languedoc, of whom I have blogged, and it is a miracle flowerer in the summer, off and on for months. It hates wet, and so our conditions are mostly perfect for it, even in the winter when we can get lots of rain.

Cistus atriplicifolius, New Garden, Tostat, June 2015
Cistus atriplicifolius, New Garden, Tostat, June 2015

The strong sunshine this morning seems to make it almost gleam. Sometimes plants are drained by sunshine, not this Cistus, it seems to charge the colour up even more. It grows to about 1m x 1.5m and is quite sprawly in habit, but I like the fact that it drapes itself onto the gravel.

Callistemon 'Little John', New Garden, Tostat, June 2015- and friend..
Callistemon ‘Little John’, New Garden, Tostat, June 2015- and friend..

This Callistemon has been in the garden from the beginning, but has not come into its own until this year. The flowers are fat and vibrant this year, and it will be worth its space!  I think it’s ‘Little John’ but, honestly, I have forgotten and lost the tag. Nestling next to it is a little weed flower that crops up sparsely in the New Garden, I don’t know what it is exactly, but I love the pale lemon colour of the flowers and it’s not a pest, so it’s given special status to remain. I think it looks amazing just placed next to the Callistemon. It obviously knew. ‘This is my best side, Mr de Mille.’

Punica granatum 'Legrelliae' New Garden, Tostat, June 2015
Punica granatum ‘Legrelliae’ New Garden, Tostat, June 2015

This non-fruiting pomegranate, Punica granatum ‘Legrelliae’ has been slow with me, but the conditions are tough, so must be patient. The flowers are quite gorgeous, like a crumpled paper napkin edged in cream, and there are a few more of them this year despite the heat.

Funnily enough, on the shady side, where I have ferns and other shade-lovers coping fairly gamely with the dryness, this morning the light really drew them out of themselves.

Dryopteris attrata with self seeded verbascum muscling in, New Garden, Tostat, June 2015
Dryopteris attrata with self seeded verbascum muscling in, New Garden, Tostat, June 2015

The fact that a self-seeded verbascum has turned up next to the Dryopteris attrata fern shows how dry it is, even in the shade, but this year is the 3rd year for the ferns and this looks to be payback time. When the conditions are tough, the main job is just to get plants through their first 2 years and then, mostly, they are ok on their own. The only care they have had has been the odd bucket of water when the going got tough, so they have been pretty independent.

And last seen at the beginning of May in the blog looking all fluffy and furry, Polystichum polyblepharum is settling into a very lovely stride, making graceful arcs with its fronds in the sunshine, with the beginnnings of Andy’s stumpery look (which is new) and just a few petals from Rosa ‘Reine Marguerite d’Italie’ lying on the ground giving a confetti- look.

Polystichum polyblepharum, New Garden, Tostat, June 2015
Polystichum polyblepharum, New Garden, Tostat, June 2015