Thursday, 22 June 2017

Holiday on La Gomera

We spent two weeks on La Gomera...we had wanted to go earlier in the year, but due to projects we went in May.  The island is lovely, the air fresh and pollution free, the sea wonderful to look at, the views magnificent.  However it was very hot, the sun extremely strong...and whole island rather parched expect in the high mountains as they had missed their usual rain for over 18 months.

On one morning fairly early before breakfast we took the road eastwards then found tracks which took us towards Punta de la Gaviota.  The only greenery like these trees survived on carefully placed drip feeds from pipes which lay across the ground no longer covered by any grasses.  At least if there were any leaks they would be obvious...there would be green vegetation.



The land had been abandoned, but you could see that in the past it had been carefully tended, with evidence of irrigation channels bringing water from the higher mountains down to the rocky terraces.





The large river beds were completely dry, and I understand that the previous year there had been sand storms from the Sahara the previous year.  I do hope they get some rains soon.


Irrigation channels once build across rugged landscapes stand testimonial to once productive land.


 The roads were in wonderful condition, built by the EU...but even small housing complexes lie forlorn....in one of two places there are some wonderful weeds...

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One place to see some plant life was along the dried up beds of the rivers...in the heat of the day this Ricinus looked quite dramatic.


We had winds...not trade winds but the winds caused by the land heating up and cooling down.


 When you lay resting in the heat of day, suddenly the quiet was replaced by constant whooshing of the palm leaves and a strong breeze would blow from the sea...same thing again during the night but then in the reverse direction.  It was quite disconcerting and troublesome but another wonder of nature.

Up in the mountains in the National Park, where the trees and lichens sap the moisture from the clouds which form due the moist air from the the ocean being driven up to above their dew point, along the wonderful trails, it is green and full of interest.






We were very pleased to have our sticks as we walked along the rugged landscape.











On one of our trips we visited the Mirador de Abrante above Agulo, where we had a lunch stop.  First we walked through an area of 'bad lands' caused where the forest had been stripped.  Renewal planting had taken place...but the stark red landscape was a potent reason to preserve the The Garajonay.



The sky walkway was a magnificent engineering feat...and gave lovely views of the countryside below, and also beyond the Ocean to Tenerife.  At this point I shall just briefly mention the whistling....by the third time we heard it, we were quite tired of it!



We organised ourselves to go on a sea excursion, ending at Valle Gran Rey.  From the little boat we had wonderful views of the cliff faces.


In Gran Rey we found little cafes for drinks and snacks as we walked from the harbour up to La Calera, then down to La Playa, then back along the coast in time to catch the boat back to the hotel.  Along the way there were small orchards and gardens selling produce direct to customers.


During our wait we watched the fish in the harbour...



Back at our hotel, it was lovely to sit on our balcony...but only when it was in shade!  The views were lovely, with the odd pod of dolphins swimming by an additional bonus.


The grounds of Our Hotel The Jardin Tecina were enchanting and interesting...with many  tropical plants as well as huge cacti and succulents, all irrigated from recycled water from the hotel.  There were some birds around, the most exotic being the Hoopoe.  Swifts, falcons, blackbirds and many other little birds flitted around the complex.





The main hotel complex is up on a cliff edge below which each evening we would hear the Cory Shearwaters at night as they returned to their nests after a day fishing the Atlantic.


The beach is full of boulders with some carefully constructed stone piles which in some places are rather overdone..but it was too hot to try to remove a few of them, or try to add one's own.



To get down to the sea level there is a lift, carefully hidden at the end of a cool tunnel up these stone steps.  We often took this to take a turn round the little village of Playa Santiago, to go and view the rays in the harbour. Along the way there were bright spots of red from the crown of thorns

 and the flamboyant trees



 Also down at sea level, Club Laurel was a great place not only to swim in the seawater pool, but to have lunch, and watch the lizards basking in the sun.


One of the highlights of our stay were three tours of the hotel grounds.  We went round the banana and avocado plantation, and learnt about the history of the crops on La Gomera.


The hotel has an orchard of bananas and avocados, and an organic garden growing salads, tomatoes, aubergines, herbs etc for its kitchen.    After our tour of the gardens, we had a go at making the Green Mojo Sauce from coriander we had picked.  We were also handed out coriander seeds so that we would be able to grow the herb at home and recreate a little of the fabulous sauce..each time I have this I shall remember the delicious meals we had at Jardin Tecina.  I loved it ladled onto my salad as a dressing.

The garden had a line of Moringa Trees which were in all stages: lovely green leaves, flowers and the 'drumstick' pods.  I would have loved to have a dish of these at dinner, but they were not on the menu that week.  I had written about this wonder crop of the tropics back in 2012, when I had prepared some of the pods.

As for the main town San Sebastian, it is worth a visit, even though at the time of our visit we were rather disappointed first by the 'service' of the Tourist Office, which sent us off on three wild goose chases, to venues which were not open, or had shut ahead of scheduled refurbishment.  They were rather off hand when we returned each time to say that the places were closed!



They had not even bothered to change the poster informing that the places would be shut both at the venue and the Tourist Office.  The Columbus Museum was closed and neither the Tourist Office, or the Department of Culture could account for this.  The Earl's tower Torre del Conde was only opened for school visits.  The grassed area that surrounds it is pretty enough.




The woodwork, and paintings inside The Church of the Assumption are worth looking at.


Best of all is a cooling drink at the cafe which is under the shade of the banyan trees....We had a look round the weekly market where there is a good bakery, and which is in a wonderful modern complex which also houses the Main Bus Depot.  We had caught the local bus right outside our hotel, but the times are dependent on the time the morning flight lands.


I think one week would have been sufficient.  We feel we have done 'islands' in the heat....souvenirs or items brought back include a bottle of the locally made wine and organic aloe vera ointment as pressies for our house sitter, a rather fine goat's cheese and a large bottle of the date palm honey for ourselves.  The local wine is not produced in quantity as there is little acreage, but it worth tasting.  Wish we had bought more cheese!  We did glimpse some goats on the scrubby land on one of forays to the centre of the island, the cheese we bought is made from raw milk from goats that roam and eat the many wild plants on the mountain side and is then smoked.

Monday, 19 June 2017

In a Vase on Monday - So hot it feels like Dragons are about




It is so hot, there are dragons around.....
A cool looking vase....SNAP...two dragons
Pale  Snapdragon
Dark Red dragon







It is already 25 C as I arrange the flowers this morning.  Roaming the garden early this morning I felt grateful that the few plants which I brought from Warwickshire have got their feet in the ground, and are giving a flower or two.

With a few items from shrubs already here: yellow Potentilla, purple sage, variegated periwinkle and ivy


Grass Hakonechloa macra Albostriata
White cornflower Centaurea Montana Alba
Astrantia major 'Sunningdale Variegated'
Persicaria Red Dragon just showing its little white flower

Purple whirly flower...please can anyone give a suggestion as to its name.  A type of nepeta? I've lost the label, and had not written it up in my book.  I think it is time for me to start a new book for my new garden.

A spike from the Antirrhinums planted up in the front garden.

The Persicaria from my first vase a couple of weeks ago is already growing roots, and will be ready to pot up as soon as it cool enough!

Cathy our Chief of the IAVOM talks about Zero...the temperature of the ice-cubes we are making for our drinks...hers is a 'cool' ....meaning elegant contribution of flowers growing by her stream.  So do go to her post and also look at what other contributors have in their gardens this week.

Through gardening and flowers, I often come across charming and enthusiastic people...I was walking along Market Street in Wells, which is a cut through just past the main bus station to the 'City', and came across a lovely stall of locally grown posies.  I chatted to Becky from Branch and Bloom, admiring her lovely posies, which came with their own chic containers, created from flowers grown in her garden.  An instant Vase for any day for people living in apartments, or coming to visit the City; her flowers will be the nicest of souvenirs, or decorations.


Sunday, 18 June 2017

Flax Prairie Bread

This is one of the bakes for June set for the facebook group baking through Jane Mason's Perfecting Sourdough: page97.  Its my first time baking this recipe, but since we were expecting a friend to stay, one loaf would not have been sufficient, so the recipe got scaled up for three loaves.  I was going to make two 500g loaf tins and a banneton, but then I decided instead to use part of the dough to make up some breakfast buns.



When I went out to buy the flax I was a little daunted: golden linseed or flax seed?  They looked quite different.  There was ground flax seed that was need for the dough and dark linseed shown on the loaf.  I have read that they are really equivalent...and now have a stock of seed: golden and dark and Prewett's ground seed.  Having been through the search I will settle on the dark seed from my local wholefood shop: The Good Earth, and when I need ground flax or linseed, get out my little grinder.  The dark seed was grown in the UK and organic, the golden sort imported from a long way!

Having baked nearly every recipe in Jane's other book:  The Book of Buns...I have lots of flavours and techniques under my sleeve.  For the buns having flatten the dough out to a large oblong, some plumped up raisins and chopped hazelnuts were sprinkled on and a sprinkling of cinnamon, but no added sugar or butter, before it it rolled up, chopped into 12, and left to rise in some muffin tins.

Some time ago, I think it was on one of her comments on the Book of Buns Facebook group, we were reminded to soak nuts and seeds.  This helps them not to burn too...to get the seeds to stick I used Clive Mellum's Skilly Wash which worked a treat and gave a great sheen to the loaves and buns without the need of a beaten egg.

We had a lovely brunch this morning...sliced toasted Flax Prairie Bread topped with smoked salmon and scrambled eggs with a large spring of basil on the top, followed by a bun, with preserves, and juice, tea, and coffee and conversation and laughs!

Monday, 12 June 2017

In a vase on Monday - At last

At last I am regaining my mojo.....I am finding solutions to quandaries at home..... At least I am in a much better mood!  Maybe my low mood was caused by the various bugs caught going out and then returning from holiday.  Despite being poorly enough to spend several hours each day in bed last week I was determined to get well enough to visit the English Country Garden Festival at the Bishop's Palace in Wells.  

With my membership I had planned on visiting each day.  On day one I asked my neighbour and good gardener if she would like to come, and I was pleased of the lift in her car.  We parked at Morrison's where you can get a 3 hr parking, and she was pleased to learn about this and the short walk to the Palace from there.  On the second day another keen gardening neighbour took me in her car.  On the third day I was fit enough to cycle and meet a fellow In a Vase on Monday enthusiast.  I enjoyed hearing about Alison's garden, and her plans to develop her interests in propagation, and make use of her large garden.  It is thanks to Cathy this meme,  that we gain more knowledge about garden flowers, and find new friends too.  Do go over to Cathy's Blog Rambling in the garden to admire her early Dahlias.

Around the Bishop's Place Gardens, I could see various plants being carried around...and I spied a clematis which really appealed to me.  It is clematis Vienetta.  It was on my list ever since I had spied it last year at Tatton Park, but knowing we were moving, could not buy it there.  At last..... I have my Vienetta, I can grow it, cut it, and it will keep coming back....the everlasting summer treat!

Here are three blooms, which are sadly a little bruised due to the very strong winds we are having.  In the little vase shaped like a stone along with the three blooms is a leaf from Athyrium Niponicum, which echoes the tones of the blooms.  I bought this fern when on holiday in Frome three years ago. 


To show there is light at the end of the tunnel, that I am no longer stuck between a rock and a hard place, three of my little stones collected over the years from different beaches.....

Last week due to high winds, the artichokes were blown over.  There were two types of buds, these ones with extremely sharp spikes were definitely not for eating, but they have performed during the week with recycled Red Dragon.



Monday, 5 June 2017

In a Vase on Monday - New Beginnings

Last week when we were on holiday on La Gomera...during part of the day when it was too hot to go out, to pass a little time I went to visit my friend's blog.  Cathy got me started posting and linking my little posies from the garden from June 2015 on her theme of In a Vase on Monday.  Even though I had been posting posies from the garden earlier, it was fun posting more or less weekly, and seeing what other gardeners were coming up with.

What a coincidence...Cathy used some of the variegated London's Pride which I had given her which she had admired in my Kenilworth garden when she visited.  Saxifrage umbrosa Variagata is a lovely low growing evergreen plant mainly used as a ground cover plant.  Its flowers are light and airy but come just once a year.  I had managed to take a few offshoots from my Kenilworth Garden, which are now coming on well in a pot.  I saw that it was mentioned on one of the recent coverages of The Chelsea Garden Show.  My plants originate from offsets from a friend's garden many years back.

Its New Beginnings here in Wells in my new Garden, and I shall find the right place for the Saxifrage.  It will take me a couple of years to get things going, during which time I shall have to tackle the issue of perennial weeks, and garden design and layouts etc.

However Cathy has inspired me to start posting again.  This is my 50th In a Vase on Monday....and to return the 'favour':  Persicaria Red Dragon, originally received as a rooted cutting from Cathy, makes an outstanding component.  I did leave the main plant in my garden, and this is from a cutting I prepared as soon as we started house hunting.  If you leave the stem in water it grows roots fairly quickly...and hey presto another plant to give away!  There are plants in several gardens in Kenilworth propagated from Cathy's Original.


It seems that I have lost the knack of taking a clear picture...but you get the idea here...new beginings for all three plants, all plants are from cuttings from the mother plants in my previous garden.  Lonicera nitida Baggesen's Gold also known as Golden Honeysuckle, Cathy's Persicaria Red Dragon, and a flower spike of Euphorbia x martinii Ascot Rainbow.  I have read that a common name for spurges is wolf's milk!  Again this is from a cutting of the mother plant originally bought from Avondale Nursery back in 2014.  I decided to cut off the one and only flower spike early on to help the plant bulk out and establish itself.

A close up of the flower structure shows up the colours which go so very well with the Percicaria.


Looking through an upstairs window, I saw this bullfinch snacking of the berries of the Amalanchier...hope they leave just some of the fruit to turn red!



Many thanks Cathy...for lifting my spirits, and getting me back on track with posting to In a Vase on Monday.  This week your contribution is as ever....interesting not only for the lovely flowers but also a few gardening pointers such as the time to sow cosmos to get flowers in June.