Six on Saturday 30th June 2018

We’ve had a blast of heat this week, the kind that leaves everything in the garden flagging and wilting in a slightly soporific way during the afternoon and evening . . . but there are no complaints. Overnight temperatures in the high teens and a little gentle rainfall to freshen things up have encouraged maximum growth and certain plants seem to have doubled in size in a matter of days. We might have been several weeks behind this year but suddenly the gap is closing and glut time is knocking on the door. Yippee! Here are my Spanish Six for today.

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Having sat in the ground looking less than enthusiastic for several weeks, the cucumbers have decided this is the week to do something more energetic. Maybe they didn’t like the look of the very ‘unique’ climbing frame I fashioned for them out of three twirly metal tomato stakes (bought in France many years ago, one of the most brilliant garden equipment investments ever), a stout hazel pole, twine and three corks (a decent Rioja, by the way – someone has to do it :-)). Well, art it isn’t but it will do the job. I planted two varieties – ‘Diva’ and ‘Marketmore76’ – but despite a resolution to try and keep tabs on labels this year I have failed in spectacular fashion, so I have no idea what each of the five plants is. No worries, it’s good to see the first tiny fruits forming and if the last couple of years are anything to go by, we will be up to our necks in cucumbers in no time at all. Mmm, bring on the chilled cucumber and yogurt soup, such a perfect lunch dish in this warm weather.

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Another crop that invariably grows well here is squash; in fact, give it another month and they will be threatening to take over the valley. This year I have planted several new varieties sent to me by a Finnish friend which I am watching with great interest, but our absolute favourite ‘Crown Prince’ and the butternut variety ‘Harrier’ both went in as bulk staples (we have only just eaten the final stored butternut from last year’s harvest). Good old ‘Crown Prince’ is already well on the way to another bumper crop.

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Continuing with my theme from a couple of weeks ago, here is the late large-flowered clematis ‘Polish Spirit,’  yet another bargain basement supermarket buy that has started to flourish in its second year. It’s making quite an impact with those deep, velvety blooms sprawling along a post and rail fence in front of the rather unglamorous white polythene of the polytunnel; gorgeous throughout  the day, but I love them with the evening sunshine backlighting their show.

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One of the enduring memories of my grandparents’ north Shropshire garden is a fabulous butterfly-studded lavender hedge. I’ve never been able to emulate it in my own gardens, possibly because we’ve always gardened in higher, wetter, windier places and who could blame the plant for its refusal to thrive in those conditions? Now, at long last, I have a dozen or so basic ‘Munstead’ plants grown from a cheap packet of Wilko seed; they are thriving and have really come into their own this week so I have been crumbling a few flowers as a last-minute addition to my petal confetti. Perfect!

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The next one is something I had never really come across before we moved here so I needed to do a bit of research (thank goodness for the internet). It’s a tillandsia (I think tillandsia stricta) which grows literally suspended in the air. Thriving on high humidity, it’s little wonder they grow well here, although most of the others we’ve seen have been in gardens down on the coast. There were two balls of them here when we arrived two years ago; on the day we bought the house, the former owner (who insisted on being here to instruct us in how to operate the door keys – we obviously looked totally inept) plucked a flower bud off one and with a theatrical flourish, stuffed it up his nose to indicate – I assume- an impressive scent. Sadly, it proved to be the only bud on either plant and there has been no sign of another until now. This week, one plant has finally burst into bloom and the flowers are quite curious, pink buds that open into tiny blue blooms. Unfortunately, they are hanging too high for me to check their scent (and they are competing with some highly-perfumed roses) . . . but after two years, it’s good to see them.

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I won’t be Sixing next Saturday as we will be busy celebrating our son’s wedding in a rather beautiful West Sussex garden; by accident rather than design, the day before just happens to be our own anniversary. When we reached a ‘biggy’ three years ago, my parents-in-law gave us a beautiful Persica floribunda rose called ‘For Your Eyes Only.’ It was voted Rose of the Year in 2015 and little wonder: it is an absolute stunner and was one of a tiny handful of plants we brought with us when we moved here. It flowers three times a year and has burst into its second flush this week, bang on time for our anniversary as it has done each year. Thank you, you gorgeous thing!

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Time now to pop over to The Propagator and catch up with what everyone else has been up to in their gardens this week. 🙂

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The light fantastic

Summer has most definitely arrived here. The children have broken up for their lusciously long school holiday and the San Juan fiesta rockets have been crumping and thumping in the distance all over the weekend. We have put up the sunbrella, stacked the fridge with sparkling water and cooked our dinners outside on a wood fire every evening.

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Morning is now the time to get jobs done in the garden before the searing heat of the afternoon leaves everything  bleached of colour and soporific in the shimmering, silvered sunlight. There is no rush, though; I love nothing better than wandering out, still pyjama-clad, with my first tea mug of the day to breathe in the freshness and beauty of the moment and welcome the gift of a new day. The air is spiced with the scents of eucalyptus and lavender, sugared with roses, honeysuckles and sweet peas.

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Swallows skim the vegetable patch just above ground level, swooping and twisting like arrowheads through the plants with split-second precision (I wish I could capture them with the camera!). Even this early, the flowers are teeming with myriad insects. Lacy coriander blooms sparkle with dainty hover flies, lavender bristles with businesslike bees and everywhere – everywhere – there are butterflies, so many different varieties floating dreamily on painted wings.

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This is the time of day to truly appreciate the garden beauties; illuminated by a soft, dappled light they take on a whole new allure, a delicate elegance that is washed out by full sunlight. Here I can see every shadowed pleat and fold, every nuance of shade and texture, every mesmerising mystery of petal and sepal, stigma and style, frond and tendril, pattern and form.

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The wild ones, too, take on a fresh flush of beauty, clothing the garden’s margins in their soft hues and rowdy brights.

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There are the cheeky chancers, popping up uninvited in unexpected places: a nasturtium trailing cheerfully amongst the beetroot plants, satin Welsh poppies fluttering in the asparagus bed, a  self-set young walnut tree (they are weeds here, no question) on the edge of the patch. How can I be anything other than enchanted by their optimistic charm?

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So, to work and the main task of the week is weeding. Hoes are handy tools but I enjoy a bit of hand weeding, even more so now that I can take my time and do it with focus and attention rather than cramming it in around a hectic working week. I love the simple physical act of getting down amongst the plants and looking at them from new angles and through fresh eyes. I relish the smell of the earth, delight in the characters of the plants and cherish the work of tidying things up a bit. There is something so fundamentally satisfying about feeling the essence of all those scientific processes – germination, transpiration, pollination, photosynthesis and the like – going on all around me, not textbook descriptions but fizzing and buzzing with real in-the-flesh life. What a wondrous, miraculous thing it is! How captivating, too, are those vegetable plants caught in the teasing play of light and shadow; here even the mundane is taken to new heights.

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Working in the garden? No, we’re unashamedly tripping the light fantastic, don’t you think? 🙂

 

Six on Saturday 23rd June 2018

We love to encourage wildlife into the garden but there has been a definite whiff of midsummer animal madness around the place this week. We have had to hang a small mirror on the outside of the house to stop a narcissistic blue tit from constantly hammering on the windows and car mirrors from first light. I nearly trod on a snake trying to wrestle a midwife toad into a hole (I’m not talking sausage and batter here); interestingly, the toad somehow came off best. He has now resumed his all-night call that sounds like a very loud electronic beep and has me wondering which smoke alarm battery is running low. We discovered two feral kittens that had been craftily birthed behind the freezer in our underhouse barn and have needed to shut the windows to keep out a persistent pair of swallows who seem hellbent on nesting with us inside the house. The raucous jays have started to gather in an attempt to beat us to the (as yet unripe) figs, pausing only to scream at the polecats hunting up and down the hedges and fence lines. Time to return to the relative sanity of the plant kingdom . . . here are my six for this week!

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Did I really say sanity? I’m starting with the kiwi this week and trust me, by its very nature, it would push itself to the front of the queue anyway. I have never seen anything that grows so quickly and voraciously. Less than a month ago it was a network of bare branches; now it has smothered the pergola, climbed into and over the barn and is involving itself unnecessarily with the nearby fig and pear trees. What you can see in the photo above is a mere fraction of the whole beast. We have to lop it several times a year which I suspect just encourages its rampant thuggism but still every time I hang out the washing, I live in fear of being sucked up into a triffidesque vortex. You’d think we’d be grateful for that leafy, shady canopy in the summer heat but the foliage stinks to high heaven – especially in hot weather –  and it is not a place to linger. However . . . the first flowers have opened this week and I’ve remembered how pretty they are, how sweetly scented and totally irresistible to honey bees. We will start picking fruit in November and they will stay firm on the vine right through winter; no need to harvest and store, there will be five months’ worth of fresh fruit to pick as we need. Last year, the harvest ran into thousands. Time to stop grumbling.

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All our roses took a real bashing in the recent heavy rains so there has been much sorting out and deadheading to be done this week. Happy to see some sunshine at long last (me too!), the stronger characters have lifted their heads again this week and carried on where they left off. The only variety I can name for certain is the one we brought with us so everything else is a bit of a mystery. This is my favourite of the week, not as showy as the others but very busy climbing through them and making a bright little statement of its own. ‘American Pillar,’ maybe?

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When we first arrived in May two years ago, there was barely what you would call a garden here, yet alone anywhere to scatter seeds. Feeling the need for a little bit of cottagey bling, I sprinkled the tiniest pinch of Californian poppy (eschscholzia) seed close to the house. No exaggeration now to say they are growing absolutely everywhere, thanks in a large part to the homemade compost I spread around as a mulch. On the terraces they’ve gone berserk and it’s a case of playing ‘hunt the squash.’ On the strength of their enthusiasm, this year I’ve planted the ‘Mission Bells’ variety, too, but sad to say they’re not doing a lot yet. Still, the bees aren’t complaining.

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One of our winter jobs was to relocate a huge comfrey plant which had been in the ground for a year and had grown five times faster than expected (we’re still adjusting to the climate here) and was seriously encroaching on the asparagus bed. Naturally, it had sent roots down a zillion miles so no surprise to find that we’d missed a bit. I’d allowed the escapee to grow back until the asparagus was looking nervous again this week then decided it was time to cut the lot for fertiliser. What a worryingly satisfying job all that leaf chopping was and what a lovely fresh cucumber / borage / melon scent they released. Mind you, that won’t last long now they are festering away in a bucket!

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I have to admit that I’ve never been a huge fan of hydrangeas but they are immensely popular here and seeing them grow in huge sweeps of bright jewel colours from deepest blues and purples to bright magenta I have been swayed a little. Most of the ones already in the garden were either planted in a daft place or a very insipid washed-out whitey-blue so this week we decided to address that and introduce a splash of stronger colour with hydrangea macrophylla ‘Red Beauty’ and hydrangea macrophylla ‘Early Blue.’ Need to find the best spot for them now . . . oh, and I definitely have plans for those lime green pots once vacated.

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Finally, broad beans might be the main ingredient in the classic Spanish tapas dish habas con jamón  but here in Asturias it is the white ‘fabes’ (dried climbing beans of the ‘phaseolus vulgaris’ variety) which reign supreme. They are much prized,  commanding a high price and many are grown commercially in the valley but we seem to be the only gardeners hereabouts that bother with broad beans. Our neighbours call them ‘May’ beans but as with everything this year they are have been little tardy. Now at last they are cropping like crazy; these are ‘Imperial Green Longpod’ that were planted in the autumn, this lot destined to be lightly steamed and turned into a salad. Next will come broad bean hummus, food of the gods. Delicious.

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Time now to pop across to The Propagator  and see what other Six on Saturday gardeners have been up to this week. Happy gardening, all! 🙂

 

September Bouquet Blanket

There’s still something so pure and heartfelt and emotional and genuine about a bouquet of flowers . . . Vanessa Diffenbaugh

With my self-imposed finish line of early July looming ever closer, I recognised the need to crochet like a mad thing in order to have the ‘September Bouquet’ blanket ready for its trip northwards. Not for the first time, I was thankful that those squares were pretty easy to make and so I just made sure I picked up my crochet hook in any spare minute to get all 90 done. That of course was the easy bit! Then came putting them all together . . .

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I suspect that most proper and talented designers have a clear picture in their minds or on paper of exactly how their finished work will look, backed up with research, sketches, colour swatches and lots of practice bits and bobs. That never seems to work for me; ideas just hover around the periphery of my imagination and it’s not until I have everything in front of me to mess with (I’m very much a visual learner, I think!) that I start to see the finished thing. I’ve never made a ‘colourwash’ project before, so having scrubbed the floor, I laid the squares out and began to play.

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My goodness, did that take some time! I switched and swapped and swapped and switched then walked around looking at them from every angle . . . then started all over again. It’s a good job I have a very understanding husband as I was blocking the main thoroughfare through the kitchen for quite some time. Eventually, I settled on a plan: purples moving through blues to greens then yellows. As the final round still had to be worked on each square as the joining round, I could at least tell that the finished blanket would be big enough. No need for any extra squares. Phew!

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If I had made much smaller squares and used more colours, I think the most effective way of organising them would have been to mix them through a bit; for instance, different shades of blue next to one another with an occasional purple or green at either end. These squares somehow felt more comfortable sitting together in their own little colour groups, sort of ‘not quite stripes.’ I joined them vertically which meant changing colour every one or two squares; this made the job more interesting and as each new strip was added, the solid blocks of horizontal colours appeared as if by magic.

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I’m not sure if this is what I’d been imagining but I felt pretty pleased with the outcome.

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So, on to the border. I hadn’t given it a single thought until the squares were joined at which point all I can say is I knew what I didn’t want. The sunburst flower pattern creates a fairly dense square which in turn makes for a cosy, weighty blanket. This was definitely not the place for a lacy border, nor anything too open and airy or too narrow; I wanted something firm and closely-woven to echo the feel of the squares, with the possibility of using plenty of the colours in the process. Having hunted about for ideas and tried a few things out, I opted for the linen stitch edging by Lucy at Attic24. This is a simple and speedy stitch which builds up into a tight-knit border of beauty and – even better – allowed me to use all eighteen colours! Given that the first colour would have to nestle comfortably up against the other seventeen, I opted to start with ‘Parchment’, the most neutral shade I had. Similarly, I knew from finishing the ‘Granny Patchwork’ blanket earlier this year that ‘Parma Violet’ makes a subtle outer edge colour that sits more harmoniously than stronger shades against whatever surface it rests on.

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All that remained to be done was fill in the space between the two and with so many colours being used, I felt the need for a little plan to keep me on the straight and narrow.

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The most important thing about working this border was not to pull it too tight so I switched hooks and opted for a 5.5mm bruiser; it’s a rather snazzy metallic green number but boy, did it feel chunky! Still, it’s amazing how quickly it moved around the blanket and revealed the charming pattern. Here’s the ninth round being worked: almost halfway there . . .

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. . . and the other nine done.

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Blanket finished, with time to spare. I feel like I’ve moved a long way from my starting point of the beautiful wedding bouquet Sarah made for herself but I hope at least there is an echo of the colours and textures that she gathered together in such a stunning way and carried under a brilliant blue September sky almost five years ago.

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Certainly for me it has been a huge, indulgent pleasure to remember such a happy day with every stitch I’ve made. How can such a simple pastime bring so much joy?

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Now I breathe a sigh of relief that it’s finished in time to take and give in July – a little early I know, but we have Sam and Adrienne’s wedding (yes, another wedding!) to attend and I am so excited! Happy, happy days! 🙂

 

 

 

Six on Saturday

At the risk of sounding like a football commentator, it has been a week of two halves here. The first part was a continuation of the awful weather we’d been having for some time, torrential rain and storms that had left so many things battered, drowned, rotted or slug-eaten. Thankfully, the last few days have shown a marked improvement and I don’t want to shout too loudly but we have even had one day with NO RAIN and some SUNSHINE.

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Ups and downs, then – here are my six for today.

I lifted several self-set nasturtium seedlings from the polytunnel a couple of months ago and potted them up to sit in the top of an old milk churn I had painted turquoise – a bright splash of summery colour to brighten a dingy corner, I thought. They have been slow to get going, but last week had at last started to make a lovely colourful impact with those fiery oranges against the blue. Then it rained and rained and rained, reducing them to a soggy, see-through, slimy mess, echoed by the geraniums and petunias. Demoralising stuff.

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This vining ‘Costata Romanesco’  courgette has had a tough time of it, too.  It is such a great heirloom variety with a nutty flavour and ridges that give a pretty fluted cross-section and we should be eating the first courgettes by now. Some hope. Battered by the rain, blown inside out by the wind, buried under a huge soil slide (we garden on the steepest of slopes where gravity needs no encouragement once the rain starts) then munched by snails and slugs – leaves, stem, flowers, the lot. What a courageous little thing it has been to lift its head and have another go in the face of such adversity. Not too many passing pollinators in the pouring rain, though.

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On a happier note, here is a something that has made my heart sing this week. Last year we planted a citrus × sinensis ‘Sanguinelli’ or Spanish blood orange. It went into the ground as a two year-old pot-grown tree and spent much of the winter and early spring shrouded in horticultural fleece, not because frost bothers us here but we had a run of violent storms that shredded anything in their path (including our polytunnel). The good news is that it survived, is putting out plenty of new growth and has opened its first flush of flowers, waxy white and deeply fragrant. Will fruit follow? We’ll have to wait and see.

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Another little beauty has started to flaunt itself along the garden fence: a rather gorgeous passiflora. This was a cheap and cheerful supermarket buy that came with a label simply saying ‘passionflower’ so I have no idea about variety. It was a miserable-looking little stick when I planted it last year, planning to fan train it along a wire netting fence. It grew like crazy but this year has only sent foliage and flowers out in one direction which makes me suspect judicious pruning might be a good idea at some point? In the meantime, I’m enjoying those flowers;  they always seem so complicated and exotic and I love that bluey-purple fringe thing they do.

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Honeysuckles are one of my all-time favourite plants and in my humble opinion, you just can’t have too many of them. So, staying with the theme of supermarket specials, here is another climber that has started to make an impact this week. Lonicera, obviously, but again no information about variety (I do go to nurseries and do things properly sometimes – honest!). Last year this did a huge amount of growing up a stone wall but didn’t produce a single flower; this year it is absolutely covered in blooms and although the flowers are relatively small, they are certainly vying with the jasmine for Scent of the Week award. Gorgeous.

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Number six this week is a complete mystery but a lovely surprise. When we moved here a couple of years ago there was a lonely carnation plant growing along the lane. It was in a very sad and sorry state, but produced flowers in such a delicate peach that I thought it was worth taking a few cuttings and spreading them around the garden (which I did successfully). Bit of a surprise then this week as I went down the steps from our kitchen door in the pouring rain to see a dark red beauty that had apparently appeared from nowhere. There had been no sign of anything other than the show-off bright pink vygies (mesembrynanthemum) growing in that spot before but the new star is very much there now, exploding with blooms that are quite small but heavily scented like clove pinks. Maybe it was lying hidden beneath the Japanese quince and hibiscus waiting for its moment or maybe it was left by the dianthus fairy. Either way, it’s welcome to stay.

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Thanks to The Propagator for hosting Six on Saturday, such a great way for gardeners from all walks of life to share their trials and treasures. Why not pop across to his site now and catch up with what everyone else is up to? 🙂

Simple p-leisures

One of the best things for me about being with family and friends is the opportunity to indulge in shared interests; simple things, little leisure pursuits and happy hours that make wonderful memories. When we get together with Sam and Adrienne, walking, cooking and sharing good food and music are pretty much guaranteed to be top of the list and the few days we have just spent together were no exception.

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One of our top priorities was the long-awaited trip to the Cabo Busto cake shop  where we had promised to treat our visitors to a belated birthday cake (and of course, it would have been very rude of us not to join them!). What an amazing place it is, set in a village house brightly painted in red and green and run by a friendly and talented young couple who are very happy to explain what each cake is made from and to (thankfully) allow customers plenty of time to choose. These are not so much cakes as exquisite works of  art and trying to pick one from the gorgeous selection is demanding stuff! After much deliberation, Adrienne was thrilled to indulge in a creation made entirely from almonds (bottom left); Sam opted for the sumptuous dark chocolate hit (top left); Roger plumped for a most beautiful confection celebrating honey (top right) and- no surprise- I was drawn to that soft, summery shortbread topped with a beguiling little heartsease flower. You are welcome to eat your choices in the pretty garden from which the flower was picked but we opted to savour them in a beauty spot by the sea. What a great start to our long weekend!

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Staying with the coastal theme, we took the incredibly steep path down to Playa de Gueirúa, a beach which fascinates me not least because the tide seems to come in from two directions.

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Adrienne and I share a love of pretty pebbles so while Roger and Sam explored the beach and cliffs, we were happy to pootle about looking for examples of interesting colours and patterns, texture and sparkle.

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Sam’s interest in the stones veered more towards practising his skimming skills; he also played chicken with the tide and lost, soaking his enormous walking boots in salt water. I was reminded of a phase in his childhood when we didn’t go anywhere (and I mean anywhere) without a complete change of clothes and footwear for him because he always managed to end up soaking wet, even where there was apparently no water. I smiled to see there is still a whisper of the little boy in the man he has become! (By the way, in case you are wondering –  he isn’t wearing a kilt in any of these photos, it’s a tartan shirt tied round his waist.)

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Another day, another walk, this time up the río Esva gorge. It was the second time in three weeks for Roger and myself but I don’t think we could ever tire of such a beautiful spot. It was interesting to see how things had moved on since our previous walk  despite the recent inclement weather. The flowers were not quite as spectacular but it was good to see that new little stars had opened.

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Heavy rain had certainly swollen the river which literally boomed down the gorge in a state of white rage and water seemed to ooze from every pore in the rocks. There was a fair bit of scrambling over rocks to be done, but ironically it was the flights of steps and boardwalks made from local oak rather than the rocks that were lethally slippery.

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With this in mind, we decided not to return the same way but to take a longer route back up  and over the mountain. Well, why not? We had plenty of time after all. Plenty of food, too. Last time we did this walk together, we left the picnic in the car not realising quite how long we would be; oh my goodness, we were all so hungry and grumpy by the time we had finished! So, fortified by a wonderful spread – little dishes left over from a tapas evening, homemade sourdough rolls, a very gooey, fruity, seed-laden flapjack, peaches and apricots – eaten at a picnic table under the trees, we set off up the mountain. It’s a steep old climb but well worth the effort as the views from the top are completely stunning and once again, we had the place totally to ourselves – just the birds and insects for company. Perfect.

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Crossing the river for the final time, it was decided that a game of poohsticks was needed. This is the kind of nonsense we love, something that is simple, free and – let’s be honest – rather pointless, but which always gives rise to silly banter and much laughter. The competitors readied themselves at the start line . . .

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. . . then dashed to the other side of the bridge to eagerly await the arrival of their sticks.

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Braveheart thought he had it in the bag . . .

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. . . but victory was snatched from him in the last seconds by Adrienne, the reigning poohstick champion (who was very demure and restrained in her celebration, as you can see).

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Ah, time to go home and light the barbecue . . . which in reality ended up being the stove when torrential rain set in yet again, this time with a a dose of thunderstorms for good measure. 😦

We weren’t downhearted, though, as the next day took us to the Muniellos nature reserve in southern Asturias for a walk that promised to be rather special. For a start, only twenty people a day are allowed to do it; access is strictly by prior permission from the government and you can only apply once in any year so we felt very lucky to have obtained the necessary permits. The walk follows a 20km mountain trail to an altitude of 1400 metres through the largest oak forest in Spain and some of the most ancient and primitive woodland in Europe. The bald facts, however, don’t even begin to describe the sheer beauty and majesty of this place. The views are utterly breathtaking: mile upon mile of unbroken forest sweeping right to the tops of the towering mountains; given some of these are roughly a couple of Snowdons high, that’s pretty impressive.

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I have often struggled to convey the green-ness of Asturias but here it surpassed everything I have seen so far. From the ancient oaks with their massive hollow boles (some are six metres in diameter) to graceful birch, brooding holly and yew, glossy beech and hazel and a wealth of lush undergrowth there was just layer upon layer of green. Imagine an ancient oak, its gnarled bark wrapped in mosses with ferns growing from the cracks and silvered lichen dripping from every branch; magical, indeed.

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This walk is not for the fainthearted; in fact, there are strict rules as to who can and can’t do it, and for good reason. Distance and steep climb aside, the path is hard going in many places, narrow and precipitous and often becoming a scramble across scree slopes or rock faces above vertiginous drops. I don’t usually carry a stick when I walk but this was one place I was happy to have my sturdy Asturian pole in hand!

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One of the outstanding features of the forest is the complete lack of human inhabitants and minimal human impact; here nature calls the tune and there is a wealth of natural beauty to appreciate and enjoy.

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What a privilege to walk back in time and experience the northern forests of centuries ago, the pure scale and unspoilt wildness of it all. No wonder this is where the largest concentration of bears chooses to live. No wonder so much hard work goes into preserving this sacred space. What a very precious place it is. Paradise indeed.

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Having shared a picnic lunch at the highest point, we started our three-hour descent with an hour’s scramble down a rocky stream bed, balancing on slippery boulders and trying to avoid wet feet. If you are very tall with huge feet, then straddling a stream is easy . . .

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. . . but if you are shorter with smaller feet, things can be a bit trickier.

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There were several times when I almost got very wet (the worst being later on when I lost my footing next to the much wider and deeper river); I was just hoping that in a timely role reversal, Sam had a change of clothes and footwear for me in that bag! If I’m absolutely honest, I wouldn’t have minded getting wet; it wasn’t cold and it would have been worth it for the amazing day we had spent together. On our return, the warden encouraged us to apply again in a year’s time and I know we will, maybe in autumn next time as the colours must be truly spectacular then.

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So to our final jaunt, a walk along the beach at San Juan de Arena and another picnic before trundling to the airport. The sea was wild and moody, the beach empty and invigorating but sadly, due to a minor technical hitch with the camera, I have no photos to share. Never mind; I have captured the moment in my memory and that, after all, is what counts. 🙂

 

 

Six on Saturday

This is my very first foray into the world of ‘Six on Saturday’ hosted by The Propagator and I’m so thrilled to be taking part. It’s such a lovely idea, gardeners from all walks of life and corners of the world coming together to share what is good (or not!) in their gardens each weekend. In fact, it’s how I started to blog  on the now defunct ‘Vegblogs’ site and five years on I am still in touch with great gardening friends I made there. I am passionate about our garden but equally I love to see what others are up to, there are so many new things to learn, ideas to share and much to celebrate together. So, if you are visiting my blog for the first time through ‘Six on Saturday’ then a very warm welcome and thank you for taking the time to be interested in my little patch of earth in ‘green’ Spain! 🙂

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This week it has been warm and wet, perfect growing and greening weather. The slugs, snails and weeds have been having a field day so there has been much to do in the patch between the downpours and plenty of things to see. It’s so hard to choose (this is a great discipline!), but here are my six for today:

With the autumn planting of ‘Douce Provence’ peas almost eaten, it’s good to see the next crop steaming along behind. These are a mix of ‘Kelvedon Wonder’ and ‘Early Onward’; we have had such a nightmare with los ratones helping themselves to newly-planted peas and beans this spring that there has been much emergency gap-filling and all the rows are now eclectic mixes. No problem, these little beauties are sweet and delicious, especially mixed with a plentiful supply of baby broad beans.

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Those pesky mice were also responsible last spring for munching the roots of three out of four young  ‘Green Globe’ artichoke plants raised from seed, but the one surviving plant has grown to such a monstrous size and is so prolific I’m beginning to feel it’s enough. We’ve already had several meals’ worth of artichokes and there are another ten in need of eating. We’re planning an Italian-style tapas dish for tonight, if such a thing is possible?  Just call it (con)fusion cooking.

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By some complete miracle, the slimy ones seem to be giving the lettuce a wide berth and we have several little patches at different stages all doing well. The contrasts of shape and colour in this group really caught my eye (as you can see, eclectic is a bit of a theme in our garden – purists might want to go and lie down in a darkened room). So pretty. Who needs flowers?

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Well actually, I do because I love flowers, especially when they are mixed through the vegetables. A new star to open this week is verbena bonariensis, one of my all-time favourites and so good in a wildlife-friendly garden. The plants grown from seed last year are now all as tall as me and waving around prettily on their slender stems above swathes of ‘Munstead’ lavender; I’ve found several self-set seedlings whilst weeding the veg this week. Happy days!

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We’ve never grown a grapevine before but somehow a Spanish garden and the beautiful foil of a honey-coloured stone horreo wall just cried out for one. This is a white muscat variety bought from a local nursery and planted several weeks ago: looks like it’s settled in just fine if the tiny flowers and fruits are anything to go by.

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Finally, the garden margins have erupted this week with an explosion of brilliant red poppies, self-set from a cheap packet of ‘bee and butterfly’ seeds I sprinkled last year. They are so rich and opulent with petals like crushed silk and the bees are going mad for them. In fact, there is so much circling and stacking it feels like a little air traffic control wouldn’t go amiss. The bumbles think they have it all taped up but . . .

. . . incoming from the right . . .

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. . . and landed. There’s room for a honey bee, too.

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I am constantly astounded at how such delicate flowers, so fragile and fleeting, can cope with this sort of bombardment! Must be tougher than they look.