Northern Spain and Wild Flowers, 6th June 2019

Our early summer trip to Northern Spain was enjoyable. A long way from the beaches or the sophisticated cities, the cable car from the foot of Fuente De to the top of the Picos Massif was spectacular, if icy cold at the summit. But it was the wildly beautiful wild flowers that so impressed. When we returned from the top one of the ‘gardeners’ had scythed through flowers just like these by the cable platform. We were lucky to get down. The wind had struck up and the cable cars were terminated as high winds settled for the week. You can hear the wind in this short clip.

Rik Poot: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Arendts Garden, Bruges

Bruges is a city of beauty and history that it is quite easy for us to visit taking the short ferry across the North Sea. The city is full of tourists. It is a tribute to the beauty of the city that it surmounts the numbers and remains a destination to which we return every two years or so. Bruges is not surprisingly a Unesco World Heritage Site. I occasionally feature art and on a day on which gales rage the land I seek refuge in the past. So here we are on the 18th April 2014, in central Bruges, behind the museum, the Arentshuis, and in the small park of Hof Arents where to one side of the hump backed bridge we encounter four bronze figures by the Flemish sculptor, Rik Poot. They represent the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Conquest, War,  Famine, and Death. I have not the slightest idea which is which. My first thought was that they represented Don Quixote, a stupid idea as I’m in the wrong country, the horse is certainly not Rocinante, the figure does not wear a hat and there is no sign of Sancho Panza. Other than that …. I am, despite my country’s decision to leave the European Union, a Europhile. I shall have to compensate for my fellow countrymen and women by visiting the continent more frequently.  I know rather more of Cervantes’ tale than of Rik Poot, but these are powerful figures.

Keukenhof Gardens, Part 2 (Orchids)

We are undecided yet whether to visit Keukenhof Gardens again this Spring. Our last visit was three years ago and the Dutch gardens are in direct competition with the Mediterranean for a break. The sun may win out. For now a reminder of the orchid house held in the Beatrix Pavilion where forty Dutch orchid specialists surpassed themselves with displays that rivaled the spectacle outside.

Cherbourg’s Municipal Greenery

The end of October and not a hint of sunlight. A grey day but brightened up by the smart market and people. Oh, and the sheer neatness of the place with its stone buildings and, even at this late stage in the year, some pleasing herbaceous planting to grace the walls and squares.

Napoleon is celebrated in these parts

Sicily’s Mimosa Trees, 31st March 2016

I have not the slightest idea what particular variety of Mimosa populates the motorways and countryside from Messina to Taormina but they were a stunning golden adornment and in mad profusion. I commence with a baby outside a shop in the Taormina, then one draping an ugly underground car park, finally ending with the motorway distractions.


Jacaranda Trees, Cadiz, 23rd March 2016

I believe the Jacaranda tree is a native of Brazil and although it can take a dose of frost I reckon it is a forlorn hope to expect a Yorkshire variety. I’m only featuring it as it makes a great backdrop for the image of me, typically first off the cruise ship in early morning Cadiz. Anyway, the trees are in the small park by the port entrance.

Old Stavanger, Norway, 23rd July 2011

The day after the atrocities in Oslo and on the island of Utøya, we were mercifully still unclear about the scale of the murders and enjoying a rainy day on our first port of Stavanger, specifically the old town with its white buildings and neat gardens. The wooden houses of this conservation area represent the largest such settlement in northern Europe, a rare survivor, wood not proving a durable building material in an age of open fires. The area is uncommercialised and made even more attractive by the liberal use of potted plants and window boxes. No-one was about, the residents doubtless absorbing the dreadful news. The national despair pervaded all Norway for the two weeks of our travels. Such a lovely country and the slaughter of the innocents.

Madeira’s Jardim Botanical Gardens, April 1st 2015

Jardim Botanico gardens sit some two miles from Funchal, up a steep hill that necessitated us taking a bus, though on previous occasions we have used a taxi for a modest sum. Laid out in 1881 and moving to its present site in 1960, the gardens are a principal draw for tourists and worth the entrance fee. One walks steadily downhill from the entrance to where the universally friendly taxi drivers await. Despite our return ticket for the bus we took a taxi. Madeira is a place of spectacular heights. Somewhere I have pictures of our levada walks of past years to prove we have a head for heights.

Arriving early in the morning, the café was deserted.

A frog!

Our boat.

We can’t grow these at home.


Monte-Carlo’s Japanese Gardens and Other Winners

Amidst the riches of Monte Carlo there is a free jewel. But first, the glitter, Moscow number plates, yachts and man who would be a millionaire:

The high life and high apartments are not necessarily to my liking but the Japanese Gardens designed by landscape architect Yasuo Beppu and, in this expensive and bustling principality, notably free to enter. They offer a quiet reflective space in which to count one’s winnings or mourn losses. There is a photograph of Princess Grace at the entrance, commencing the project in 1964,  photographed rather badly by me but, hey, not every princess looks so stylish wielding a spade.

And down by the beach the waters were clear and warm and full of lucky Russian holidaymakers. And fish.

Gardening in the Canary Islands, April 2015

We traveled to three of the Canary Islands during April this year. I marveled at just how easy it is to maintain an attractive garden given the maintained weather they enjoy: with warmth, without frost, minimal rain and rich volcanic soil. The following images were taken in the Valley of a Thousand Palms, Haria, Lanzarote.

Sculpture, cacti and succulents survive with a minimal of care – a gardener’s dream one might imagine.

The whitewashed, low-rise buildings of Lanzarote and a thousand or so palm trees.

Of all the plants that morning, the Euphorbia milii (crown of thorns, Christ plant, Christ thorn) stood out. Very attractive and garden gloves compulsory.