Wordless Wednesday – Autumn Sunshine, Heleniums and Long Borders at Cliveden


Heleniums at Cliveden

Hot Border at Cliveden

Cliveden Hot Border

Cleome - Cliveden

Cleome – Cliveden

Cliveden Cool Border

Cliveden Cool Border

PS – The mystery Helenium could be one of several plotted on the Cliveden planting plan boards, I’ve attempted to make a match with one from the Helenium database run by Sampsford Shrubs who held the National Helenium collection, the nearest is possibly ‘The Bishop’, but then again…..

The Gardens of the Alhambra and Generalife, Granada, Spain – Part two Partal and Generalife

Part two. After leaving The Nasrid Palaces in part one on a timed visit we walked through the Partal gardens, Upper Alhambra gardens and headed towards the Generalife. In the Nasrid period there would of been streets and houses here occupied by wealthy people – high ranking court officials, religious and administrative buildings and several small palaces and gardens.

Partal Gardens

One of the series of gardens within the Alhambra complex near to the Palace of the Partal

After Granada was captured in 1492 the houses fell to ruin, some were destroyed or built over and the occupants were forced to move away to the outlying Albaycin area. In the 1930’s a new style of landscaping began here as a part of the re-discovery of Alhambra.

We walked in any shade we could find through the Partal gardens along the route which passed the Tower of the Princesses, named after Washington Irvin’s tale, towards the area known as the New Generalife gardens.

Tower of the Princesses seen from the new Generalife gardens

Tower of the Princesses seen from the new Generalife gardens

The New Gardens occupy a part of the old Orchards of the medieval almunia (a kind of agricultural settlement in Hispano-Islamic times).

New Gardens

Water Pool in New Gardens

The architect Leopoldo Torres Balbas created these gardens between 1931-32. There were signs for visitors explaining that the health and appearance of the Cypress Trees had been adversely affected by the unsuitable planting and growing conditions. Hence the Cypress walls in the new gardens are also undergoing restoration, which will last several years.

Welcome seating along the central pool

Welcome seating along the central pool with some of the walls of Cypress

The gardens in place, were lush and filled with wild loose planting, Roses and Orange trees, which must provide inspiration to garden designers the world over.

New Garden loose planting

New Garden loose planting

Just before the entrance to the Generalife Palace Gardens there is another more formal area with seating, wonderful Orange trees, more roses and pools of refreshing water, if we had not been so eager to see the Palace gardens we would of lingered longer.


Garden by the Palace entrance

We walked through the modest public entrance, where a guide electronically notes your ticket number, there is only one visit allowed into the two Palace Gardens. We walked through another courtyard once used as the Stable yard and now lined with Orange trees and through to the Patio of the Irrigation Ditch. A fourfold garden divided by a water rill and backed by high walls.

The Patio of the Irrigation Ditch

The Patio of the Irrigation Ditch with the viewing Pavilion above

The water pool is 48.70 metres long by 12.80 wide. The small trees are Pomegranates, one on each side of the central axis. The 18 arches seen on the left hand side of this photo were added in 1670 when this area was altered to a Christian chamber and two further rooms were added. The restoration in 1926 removed these additional rooms and restored the patio to its original appearance.


Pomegranate Trees and water spouts in the Patio of the Irrigation

Although, the water spouts were a 19th century addition as were the raising of the beds which were originally 50 cms below the paths. Leading through the decorated arches at the far end we walked on to the Patio of the Cypresses.

Patio of the Cypresses

Patio of the Cypresses

The pool is surrounded by Myrtle Hedges and planted with roses. We read that the old cypresses on the verandas give the patio its name. The most famous is the Cypress of the Sultana in which according to legend, Boabdil’s wife used to meet another man. This led to the death of the people of the man’s tribe, their throats were slit.

Orange Tree in the Patio of the Cypresses

Orange Tree in the Patio of the Cypresses

Stairs lead out of the palace gardens to the higher level where there are more gardens to walk in, to one side is the staircase archaeologists believe to have been in Granada before the Nasrid rulers, we walked back through the avenue of Cypress tress, some are hundreds of years old, we read that some specimens are over 1,000 years old.  We felt privileged to visit.

(I gave details of buying tickets in my first post, its best to book in advance, we were advised that tickets are released 6 weeks before and sell out very quickly, so for a June 1st visit they were released on April 20th. There are lots of options including guided tours on the Alhambra official website and bookings were through ticket master).

Recommended reading ‘The Alhambra’ by Robert Irwin – very readable book explaining the history of the Alhambra.

The Gardens of the Alhambra and Generalife, Granada, Spain – Part one The Nasrid Palaces

We have wanted to visit Granada for a very long time and last week, finally flew out from London City Airport for a short break. Taking a bus from the airport and then a second short mini bus ride which dropped us at our hotel in the Albaycin area all made for an easy journey. We dumped our bags and wandered up to the square to catch our first view before the day’s forecast rain.


Alhambra viewed from Mirador St. Nicholas in the Albaycin area

The literal translation of Alhambra is “the red one”, constructed from clay, the buildings glow in the sunset, even on a cloudy evening. Only the Generalife, the Sultans summer palace, a short walk from the Nasrid Palaces is white. Behind, the Sierra Nevada mountains were still partly snow capped – the melt provides Granada’s water.

The Generalife the summer palace - a short walk from the Nasrid Palaces

The Generalife – Sultans Summer palace -white building on left – a short walk from the Nasrid Palaces on right – view from Sacromonte

There are records showing occupied buildings in the Alhambra area from 880, although it was not until the 12th and 13th centuries that gardens were built there for the Nasrid rulers, an Arab dynasty. In 1492 Granada fell to Ferdinand and Isabella and the last Muslim territory in Spain was surrendered to the Christians. In 1526 Charles V of Spain occupied the area and built his palace. A period of neglect followed and it was not until the 19th century when Washington Irvin, the American novelist and other romantic travellers rediscovered the Alhambra that the restoration began.


The Court of the Myrtles

The temperatures were soaring into the mid 30s as we queued for the first of our two visits to Nasrid Palaces, which include The Court of the Myrtles and The Court of the Lions. 300 people are allowed to visit per hour but with patience, there are brief moments of almost no-one there. The central pool is 34 metres long and 7. 10 meters wide. The pool divides the patio and receives its water from two fountains (one at each end of the pool).

The Nasrid Palaces comprise of three independent areas – the Mexuar, which corresponds to the semipublic part of the palace for justice administration and State affairs; the Comares Palace which was the official residence of the king; and the Palace of the Lions which was the private area of the palace. The Comares Palace surrounds The Court of the Myrtles which was built for Yusuf I (1333-54) and the Palace of the Lions surrounds the Court of the Lions built for his son Muhammad V. Most of what is seen today has been reconstructed.

Beautifully clipped Myrtle Hedges

Beautifully clipped Myrtle Hedges

The Myrtle Hedges are beautifully clipped, the only signs ask visitors not to touch plants! But it was virtually irresistible to press a myrtle leaf between my fingers to release the fragrance. Our second visit at nighttime, the following evening shows the Stucco arches reflected in the water and the fountains at either end of the pool.

Court of Myrtles at Nightime

Court of Myrtles at Night time

The Myrtles were planted in the 19th century and were not included as a hedge in the original garden design. Throughout time there have been other names for this court, its current name is due to the Myrtles. It was also called the Patio of the Pond or the Reservoir because of its central pool. Leading from the Court of the Mrytles we walked through the Comares or throne room to the Court of the Lions.

Comares Room

Arch detail in the Harem – above the entrance to the Sala de dos Hermanas – Hall of the Two Sisters

Surrounding the Court is the Palace of the Lions and is probably the most famous part of the Alhambra. This patio was built for Mohammed V. The style is of a Christian cloister rather than the typical Muslim Andalusian style of the Court of the Myrtles.

Palace of the Lions

Palace of the Lions

It is so called because of the twelve lions that throw jets of water and which are part of the fountain in the middle of the patio.

12 Lions

12 Lions

Our visit during the day time was busy but the following evening we managed by chance to be first in the queue and for a exhilarating brief minute or so we were alone in the Court of Lions.

The Court of the Lions at night time

The Court of the Lions at night time

The gallery is supported by 124 white marble columns with fine shafts, which are intricately decorated.


One of two Pavillions – Palace of the Lions, simply planted with four Orange trees

The evening visit to the Nasrid Palaces includes only these two gardens but during the day the route leads on though the Court of Lindaraja and finally into the Palace of the Partal and the restored Partal gardens.

Balcony overlooking the Court of Lindaraja

Balcony overlooking the Court of Lindaraja

I have so much to share with you, I thought its best to divide this trip up into 2 posts and later will post one on the Partal Gardens and the Generalife, although the places open for public visiting are divided into four areas. Alcazaba, seen on the far right in the first photo, essentially a fortress. The Nasrid Palaces on the left in my first photo. (The later added Charles 5th Palace can be seen sitting behind the Nasrid Palaces). The Partal gardens, essentially the area linking everything up and Generalife.


One of two Pavillions – Court of the Lions

Booking tickets to visit is a complicated business. Our hotel gave us the heads up that tickets are released 6 weeks in advance and sell out very quickly, so for a June 1st visit they were released on April 20th. There are lots of options including guided tours on the Alhambra official website and bookings were through ticket master.

NB To read Part two The Gardens of the Alhambra and Generalife, Granada, Spain – Part two Partal and Generalife

Chelsea Flower Show 2015 – A Crowded Affair

We visited Chelsea this year on a jam packed sunny Thursday. The earlier wind and rain of the first three days gave way to sunshine and by the time we arrived at 11a.m its fair to say the place was heaving. We made our way through some jolly trade stands, buying a few rusted plant supports en-route to the 8 Artisan Gardens. Finding little room just to stand and take any garden in or even walk from a to b we did a u-turn, had a cup of tea and listened to the band. Fortified we headed to the bottom of main avenue, to view some of the 15 large show gardens.

Dan Pearson's Chatsworth Garden

Dan Pearson’s Chatsworth Garden and the footpath through

Dan Pearson’s Chatsworth Garden was built on the Triangle, slightly away from other gardens and overlooked by the lofty media platform where Monty Don and Joe Swift delivered the nightly show. Pearson designed his brilliant, brilliant garden for folk to walk all the way around, there were no ropes except for a metre wide strip at the path entrance and exit, which traversed his garden, originally it was planned for all visitors to walk through the garden and view from the inside, health and safety put a stop to that and just a few selected guests were allowed on. There was even a bench for visitors to sit on. How inclusive!


Dan Pearson’s Chatsworth Garden and the inviting seat

From the triangle we headed up main avenue first stopping at Sean Murray’s garden, the winner of ‘The Great Chelsea Garden Challenge’ TV programme. To highlight the RHS campaign to green our tarmaced and concreted over front gardens, Sean’s prize for winning the TV show was the opportunity to design the ‘Greening Grey Britain’ Chelsea garden.

Sean Murray signing autographs on his garden

Sean Murray signing autographs on his garden “Greening Grey Britain”

Of the 15 main gardens, we loved Prince Harry’s Hope In Vulnerability garden and it was voted the People’s Choice show garden. The garden was designed to raise awareness for Sentebale’s mission to tackle the stigma of HIV in adolescents, helping to provide access to care and education and providing psychosocial support. This was a garden that looked as if people lived there.

Hope In Vulnerability Sentebale Garden

Peoples Choice winning garden – Hope In Vulnerability Sentebale Garden

The planting style this year was wild even on the more formal gardens. I prefer wild at home but Chris Beardshaw’s style of planting on his ‘Healthy Cities Garden’ was truly beautiful. A wonderful selection of texture, form and colours.

Chris Beardshaw's 'Healthy Cities Garden'

Chris Beardshaw’s ‘Healthy Cities Garden’

After the show the Garden is being entirely relocated to Poplar in East London as a part of a community project. The Healthy Cities programme focuses on giving children a healthy start through a variety of initiatives.

And the garden loved most by Monty Don.

A Perfumer's Garden for  L'Occitane

A Perfumer’s Garden for

The Perfumer’s Garden was a short step away from the 9 Fresh gardens, rapidly becoming my favourite part of the show. Unlike the Artisan category, which is squeezed into an oppressive tunnel. (My suggestion if anyone with any clout reads this, is at the very least a one way system for the Artisan category or put all the swanky greenhouse trade stands down there). The Fresh Gardens like the Chatsworth garden can all be walked around. Our favourite the World Vision Garden.

World Vision Garden

World Vision Garden

This is another garden designed to raise awareness. World Vision is the worlds largest international children’s charity and the garden was inspired by Cambodian rice fields. The dark reflective water representing the fear of hunger that vulnerable children in Cambodia live with. Hope was symbolised by delicate violets. World Vision are asking folk to be involved and on Friday July 10th wear something floral as a fundraiser.

The People’s Choice Fresh garden winner was awarded to the beautifully planted ‘The Breakthrough Breast Cancer Garden’

People Choice Fresh garden the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Garden

People Choice Fresh garden
the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Garden

We dipped in and out of the the Floral Marquee now named the Great Pavilion, its a whopping 12,000m, which according to the Telegraph is the same size as two football pitches and enough room to park 500 London buses. There are around 100 exhibits and the smell is wonderful. We had watched the interview on TV before coming with the young couple in their 20’s Laura Crowe and Jack Willgoss at their first Chelsea and exhibiting perennial Violas. Having met when they were training in Horticulture at RHS Wisley they are now fulfilling their dream and run Wildegoose Nursery They won a silver-gilt, not bad for their first time!

Wildegoose Nursery Perennial Violas

Wildegoose Nursery Perennial Violas

We then made our way back to the Artisan gardens for the third time, the second time the one garden causing the major traffic jam was still surrounded by people. But at 7.45p.m just before the show was closing I finally managed to see the Japanese Garden.

Kazuyuki Ishihara Japanese Garden

Kazuyuki Ishihara Japanese Garden

This year Kazuyuki Ishihara was awarded his 7th Chelsea Gold Medal. Piped to the post for People’s choice Artisan garden was the Breast Cancer Haven Garden, my photograph does not do it justice. So I am showing you another garden in The Artisan category instead.

A Trugmakers Garden

A Trugmakers Garden

Of course we would go again, I love the razzmatazz of the show gardens and especially enjoy seeing the wonderful plants inside the Great Pavillion, but the crowds are something else. In 2004 Chelsea was extended from 4 days to 5, maybe just one extra day to spread the crowds out would be good.