May 292017 Tagged with , , 0 Responses

Onto the Cotswolds and Wisley

Our original travel plans didn’t include England but as my brother’s tiny Philippine island was invaded by terrorists we had to quickly reschedule so as not to lose all our flights.  This gave us six days to fill in and what better way than to call in to stay with the nephew in the Cotswolds! Late May is too early to see the gardens at their best, as we knew.  It’s that time when most of the best of spring has finished and the best of summer has yet to bloom.  However, we were not to be deterred of course and first stop was Wisley – so close to Heathrow too. Neither of us had been to England for nearly twenty years!  Gosh the time has gone so fast.  The Green Door has gobbled it up. Wisley was looking amazing – the borders so full with hints of the spectacular colour that was to come – just peeping through.  The obvious winner was the new Allium Purple Rain.  Phil just couldn’t get enough of it.  It was a bit reminiscent of – “how many pictures of blue Gentians do you need”!  The upright stems carrying the deep purple globes looked fabulous wherever we saw them – through purple foliage of Sage, through bright yellow flowers of Euphorbia.  The key was to have foliage flowing around the stems so that when the Allium flowers were finished the garden wouldn’t be left with an unsightly gap.

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Apr 232017 Tagged with , , , , , 0 Responses

The Algarve’s Coastal Plants

We’ve enjoyed several days poking around the Algarvian coastline scrutinising the plants that have naturalised in this harsh environment with a view to repeating these plants in our home coastal plantings – Waimarama, Ocean Beach, Napier in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand.

These plants are growing in what appears to be pure sand, they’re obviously not irrigated and cope with the harsh coastal salt winds and the very hot summer temperatures that occur here.  Albeit the more wind exposure they’re in the shorter and more compact they grow – but they are very healthy.

These plants would obviously be great choices for NZ coastal gardens.  Plant in Autumn as soon as the weather has cooled and the Autumn showers/rain has started and they should be able to look after themselves.

Small evergreen shrubs such as Cistus Snowmound, various low growing forms of Rosemary, Lithodora, Helianthemum, Ice Plants, Thyme, Armeria, Spanish Lavender stoechas will all thrive in very light soils – even sand as we saw in the Algarve.  They look great together and require nothing but a light trim every Autumn to keep them tidy and compact.

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Apr 232017 Tagged with , , , , , , 0 Responses

Monchique to the Algarve

Monchique proved to be a great choice for walking both in the mountains and out at the coast.  Either side of our rural Casa aptly named Casa Vale dos Sobreiros – house in the valley of the Holm Oak trees there were mountains.  Foia on one side and Picota on the other.  We were spoilt for choice.  To the south and west we had the coastline of the Algarve to poke around.  We had four days and a lot of walking planned.

One thing about walking in Spain and Portugal – you practically never have to worry about the weather.  It maybe a little cool in the morning but by noon it seems to be always around 22 and by 4-5pm 26-27 unless you are very high up.

The  mountains of Foia and Picota are covered with Spanish lavender, Green Lavender, white rock rose and spots of blue – Lithodora and spots of white – Arenaria.  If you imagine a walk in NZ and how many manuka bushes there are – multiply that by 10,000 and that’s around how many white rock roses you’ll find on a walk in this area of the world.  VERY pretty.

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Apr 202017 Tagged with , , , 0 Responses

The marble villages of Portugal

We arrived into Madrid after a short flight from Marrakech and quickly picked up our hire car from Euro Lease – this is the second time we’ve used this company.  They are by far the cheapest we’ve found for long term rental I.e. Over a month.  We always get a relatively compact car as the villages we stay in tend to be very small and have some very tight corners!

After a fortnight in the dust of Morocco I had thought we would deserve a treat and had booked us into the very first Parador that was ever renovated (renovation took place in 1930) in Oropesa Castle.  What a treat – for $NZ145 including breakfast you get the most amazing stay.  Paradores are well worth checking out if you are travelling in Spain, and in Portugal they are called Pousadas.  They are all historic buildings – castles, monasteries etc that the Government has purchased to save them from delapidation.

We left there feeling very refreshed and ready to start our journey around Portugal which was only a couple of hours drive away.

The first area of interest to us was the cluster of white marble villages around the beautiful little town of Trujillo.  Elvas, Estremoz (pictured above) are pretty much completely made of marble.  Even the cobbles are marble.  Piled up outside Estremoz where hillocks of marble ready for cutting.  If you’ve ever been through Wales and seen the huge mountains of slag… then this is similar-but in marble.  Amazing.

Whilst in Trujillo we did of course do a fair bit of walking and we where there just in time to see the wild orchids.  They even have an Orchid Trail outside Trujillo where you can easily spot half a dozen different orchids without moving your feet!

We stayed at El Baciyelmo which I would highly recommend.


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