Browsed by
Tag: orchids

April, come she will

April, come she will

April brings asparagus to the veg patch, nightingales to the tree tops and colour to the countryside. And yes the cuckoo, although not really my favourite bird. Actually, I was beginning to fret about the nightingales. They always come by the first week of April, usually by the 6th. So when that day came and went without a tweet I hoped nothing was amiss somehow. It wasn’t until the 10th that we heard one off in the meadows somewhere one evening but nothing close by. However, there are a couple down in the valley now, again a first. So although they are not singing when I open the chickens in the morning or put them away at night their song in the valley is just marvellous and makes the dog walk even more enjoyable.

The garden is not without song, that’s for sure. It seems even noisier than normal, mainly the blackbirds, robins, chaffinches and blackcaps in the morning. Not having seen anything of the wrens which had made their nest outside the top door we mistakenly thought they had gone elsewhere until we realised that they had just been hunkering down on eggs. We were really looking forward to seeing the little ones fledge but they went one morning while walking Betty.

The asparagus deserves some kind of medal, I have to admit to not taking such great care over their bed but despite the neglect the shoots are coming through thick and fast. Richard had a go barbecuing some and they were delicious.

The earlier orchids are on their way out, and are being replaced by bee orchids, and woodcocks…

mirror orchids and epipactis lusitanica

and plenty of others. So small and yet so charming.

The garden has appreciated the wet and dry spells and is also a riot of colour:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is garden2-2.jpg

Which reminds me the purple leaves of ornamental plum in the background here makes a lovely blue dye so must get the dye pots out again.

In the courtyard it not only looks nice but smells nice. In fact late afternoon you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d walked into the ground floor of a department store so strong is the perfume from the orange blossom and jasmine.

We always say May is the nicest month for the countryside so we’re really looking forward to seeing nature at its best.

Flowers and showers

Flowers and showers

So I went onto our digital photo albums to see what pics we had taken to remind me of the month only to see they were mainly of meals we had eaten outside or knitting projects! I think the reason for this has been the rain again; the excitement of al fresco dining at last and firing up the barbie is always a photo opportunity, and then being inside meant time spent designing more patterns.

So Richard has had more practise with grilling sardines…

plus he has honed his paella making skills:

There have been some winners. The raspberries have gone mad thinking we have moved to Scotland and we are having a monster crop. Not that we are eating them all ourselves, the blackbirds are feasting on them too. The strawberries are also doing well but I just saw Jussi helping herself to one so we are sharing those too!

I’m not really a big fan of roses but the ones of the front door have also enjoyed the rain with the sunshine, as have others in the courtyard. The serins will be nesting above the door as usual this year we hope.

The clematis too looks marvellous and in the countryside it’s been an astonishing year for the bee orchids, we’ve never seen so many before, just wonderful.

There have been casualties though. For the first time the blue tits’ nest box failed. We saw them making their nest, and a few hatched but then, for some reason, they all died. Very sad. Perhaps the rain meant there were not enough caterpillars for them, perhaps one or both of the parents got predated. We’ll never know, and there doesn’t seem any more interest in the box. One lunchtime a buzzard tried to take one of the blackbirds feeding on the ground, there was a load of squawking and it flew over our heads but the blackbird got away. Nice to hear them and the nightingales singing.

In the veg patch the rain and warm temperatures meant one thing: the dreaded blight. I had to throw away all of the cherry tomato plants, they were already very tall and covered in flowers. But the tell-tale signs were there and when I made myself dig them up they stank horribly. A little later two of the salad tom plants also had to be pulled up, I have four of those left. There are still six plum tomato plants to go in, struggling a bit in their pots, but they are to go in after the broad beans and will be next to the others and I really want to wait and check they’re in the clear. We’ve had a marvellous proper hot sunny day today but I’ve just seen it’s only going to be 20 tomorrow with a chance of rain (more!) so perhaps it’s just as well I’ve waited.

On another positive note there are definitely signs in the countryside that the hunting ban has made a difference. Deer, rabbits and red-legged partridges are regularly seen. Oh and yes we’ve both had our first Covid jabs, the next one is late June.

We’ve just looked outside: the skies have turned a distinct pewter grey and the wind has picked up. It really does look like we’ll start the first of the summer months needing our waterproofs for the morning dog walk. Ho hum.

Another then and now…

Another then and now…

A few years ago I saw a Gardeners’ World episode where Monty Don had received loads of messages from people asking why their bulbs had not come up, it was a glorious spring. He explained that the winter had been too dry, bulbs need the rain. Well, this year, after a very damp winter, the bulbs are indeed up and running, earlier than usual. The orchids have also appreciated the mild, wet season and we have fields of giant orchids, far more than usual I’m sure. Standing tall and proud they look simply marvellous in the sun:

The early purples are also up:

And here is an albino version, along with a sawfly:

I saw the first naked man this morning on the dog walk but it wasn’t properly out yet, I’m sure this must be the earliest we have seen them.

Meanwhile, ten years ago, February had been exceedingly wet indeed. The house had been given a new roof, yet to be tiled, but it looked like, well, a building site – and a very muddy one at that! 2010:

You can see we cut that scraggy olive tree down, a lone shoot was allowed to grow and is doing very well:

We made the pond ten years ago too:

Today, it’s impossible to see it through all the vegetation. But trust me, it is full of enormous frogs:

The front was extended for a bathroom and study:

The rose bush, which is in a large pot, is now impossible to move. The roots have grown through the hole at the bottom and into the courtyard. The house faces south and the blue bench Richard made, one of his first woodworking projects, is top spot in the afternoons.

We kept the stairs, but now they are difficult to use as the ivy we planted has gone mad, and we are reluctant to cut it as the birds roost there at night, and the wrens have made a nest:

It’s the garden which has changed the most. You can just make out the new trees we planted:

The rosemary were all tiny cuttings, it’s all getting rather scruffy now but again I’m reluctant to prune as the flowers are loved by the bees:

In the veg patch now we are enjoying the asparagus and purple sprouting broccoli, also earlier than usual. The broad beans are doing really well and we have some more frangos so that Richard can always have a roast on Sundays.

Talking of food we took advantage of a wonderfully sunny day and headed to the coast and our favourite restaurant for a seafood lunch. It was just what the doctor ordered; I have had a cough for what seems like weeks now which I just can’t shift so an hour or two in the sun was perfect.

Glad for the garden

Glad for the garden


I take full responsibility. Having described the winter as mild in the previous post we had the most amazing snow storm at the end of last month. Not faint fluttering flakes but real big blizzardy blobs of the stuff, it was quite exciting! We hadn’t seen snow since living in Jordan, perhaps 10 years ago now. The dogs were still demanding their morning walk but by the time I had donned hat, gloves, scarf, wellies and waterproofs the sun had come out. It didn’t settle at all near us but on the hill behind our house, and further in the distance, it did – at least until the afternoon. Friends living towards the mountains had more dramatic scenery. So a fun climax to the end of winter.

Now spring is here and we walk around the garden realising there’s a million and one things to do, and so our first reaction is to sit outside and have a cup of tea and a piece of cake. But progress has been made. We bought some more ‘roasties’ and they’ve had their first taste of green grass and fresh air.


We’ve moved the hens again to a new meadow and coop, it’s amazing how much damage they do to the ground with their long sharp toenails, and we like them to have as much grass as possible. If only they ate the weeds too. We have had one mishap. One of the hens became egg bound and despite warm baths, massaging and olive oil (applied both ends) she didn’t recover. It’s the second time this has happened. One of our first lot of hens also suffered but she did get to lay and make a full recovery. So just the three layers for the moment.

Meanwhile, Richard has been strimming and attacking the bramble bushes and ivy while I’ve been pruning so the garden looks quite neat and tidy for a change. We have the beginnings of blossom on the fruit trees and the hint of buds on the irises and forsythia. All the cuttings taken last year of various shrubs seem to have survived the winter and making new growth.

The countryside too is slowly changing, many of the trees have a faint green glow as the buds begin to open. There are birds everywhere. And in the fields the orchids are returning, we now have the early purple (Orchis mascula) and sawfly orchids (Ophrys tenthredinifera) as the giant orchids begin to fade.


And the daisies! This is Jussi’s favourite time of the year: plenty of puddles still (and therefore towel rubs too), and not too hot. It’s probably best not to mention Betty and what she did when she met the little wildboar piglet…


It’s also the time of year to rummage through the seed box and decide what’s needed, but perhaps a cup of tea and a slice of cake first…

The fruits of our labours

The fruits of our labours

Although the fields round here are still crammed with spring flowers, summer is just around the corner. We had a downpour in the first week of May but since then it has been unrelenting sun with most days peaking at over 30 degrees. But never mind summer we also have half an eye on Autumn and the coming harvest.

The cherries are the first to arrive and have in fact already done so. We bought a young cherry tree a few years ago and it has always been a bit odd and remained very small but it has produced its first cherry. And second cherry. But that was it! Meanwhile our old tree is full of little gems which should be ready very soon. Around the time we bought the cherry tree we also got an apricot tree. Unlike the cherry, this tree is magnificent. Last year it produced its first fruit but none stayed the distance. This year we have two. Lets hope they will hang on and grow to maturity. Our garden is full of plum trees and fingers crossed it will be another good year for these fruit of many hues. Also it looks like a good year for the walnuts and the apples but we will not have a single pear. We also have a number of peach trees. They start off with loads of fruit but they either fall off too soon or if they ripen they are full of worms and/or are inedible. It’s strange how these things work out. The first of the soft fruit, the raspberries, are also ready but I’ll leave Jackie to fill you in on veg patch news next time.

Cherry number 1 and first of the yellow plums
Cherry number 1 and first of the yellow plums

walnuts and apricot
walnuts and apricot


At the moment, whenever we walk through the garden or indeed wander the village, with the gentlest of breezes we are engulfed in snowdrifts of confetti. The olive trees are now in flower and after last year’s disaster we are hoping for a good crop this time around.

On to another type of harvest. I can’t believe two years after we killed the pigs they keep on giving. Last week I found a liver at the bottom of the chest freezer and that means pâté. According to supermarket practice the liver may have been well beyond its sell-by-date but I can assure you the pâté was delicious. I’ve also killed this year’s first crop of roasties and so made some more pâté out of the chicken livers. Much smoother than the pig liver pâté but just as delicious.

pig liver and chicken liver pate
pig liver and chicken liver pâté

Soon we will be getting to the end of the spring flowers but the orchids keep on coming. Here are a few more found within metres of our house.

Broad leaved Helleborine and the Bug Orchid
Broad leaved Helleborine and the Bug Orchid

woodcock orchids
woodcock orchids
The orchid on the left is a hypochromatic form of the woodcock orchid (normal one seen on the right). This is a genetic abnormality and there is much discussion in the orchid world about why it happens!
mirror orchids
mirror orchids
More controversy! The flower on the right is a Mirror Orchid. We thought the one on the left was also a Mirror Orchid but recently it has been identified as a species in its own right – the Iberian Ophrys. It is quite rare and only found in Portugal and some parts of Spain.
Ophrys Lutea
Ophrys Lutea
And our final orchid is Ophrys Lutea. Very pretty.

roseAnd finally a photo of Jussi – sporting her socks in an attempt to stop her licking her paws!

The merry month of May

The merry month of May

It’s my favourite month of the year here. Not too hot, not too cold. Not too wet, not too dry. And the flowers, oh the flowers. Some of you will remember my lament a year ago when the old boy who has the olive grove at the end of our garden sprayed it with some horrid stuff. Well, it was a poor year for the olives and we haven’t seen him since and, remarkably, the flowers have made a wonderful recovery and thanks to equal measures of rain and sun have literally blossomed.


In fact since taking this photo I’ve had to go out and cut a swathe through it, the path had all but disappeared. I’m not sure the dogs, however, appreciate the pastoral beauty…




Spring is the time for rejuvenation. The trees are full of blossom, bushes are sprouting and the grass just grows, grows and grows. It’s also the time for some man-made rejuvenation and now is the turn of the polytunnel.
Here it is just finished in January 2011
Although we have replaced the plastic once before, four years have taken their toll:
So time for repairs
and now, good as new
To continue the thread of our local orchids, the Early Purples and the Giant Orchids have all but disappeared to be replaced by the Naked Man Orchid and more recently quite a few Sword-Leaved Helleborines have appeared.

Black and white

Black and white

ophrys_fusca2It’s orchid time again and on a recent walk three more were discovered near us, making a total of thirteen orchids round and about. Along with the Man orchid we have spotted this beauty, the Sombre bee orchid. There were quite a few of them in a small clearing just up above the path we take most days with the dogs, it makes me wonder how many other orchids are just out of sight. They have a lovely rich, dark velvety lip. The Bee orchid itself remains elusive.

white_orchidAnd this lovely white one caught my eye. I spent ages trying to find out what it was and now it seems to be an albino of the Early-purple. For those of you interested we have added an orchid section to our wild flowers page.



The orchid and the nightingale

The orchid and the nightingale

We’ve had friends of mine staying these last few days. It’s been lovely showing them around – everything is green and of course loads of wild flowers are beginning to appear. It was great to discover the wild orchids nearby, and to find we have a naked man orchid Orchis italica in the garden. There are fields of these in other places and so hope that Richard’s strimming hasn’t seen them off. It’s also been lovely to discover the nightingales. They’ve begun to sing and sing all night, and most of the day too – when they sleep I have no idea. Despite their song being loud and clear they’re quite difficult to spot, and quickly disappear into the bushes if you go anywhere near them. I was rather pleased with this photo then. So two new, and somewhat exotic, firsts for me this week.