Archive for August, 2015

Saw these rather interesting examples of ‘public art’ in a part of Coimbra, Portugal, recently..

Old School Gardener

WP_20150814_11_38_42_ProCoimbra, the second capital of Portugal (succeeded by Lisbon), is a fascinating place. Apart from some lovely river side parks and an historic centre, it has Portugal’s oldest University, which is perched on top of the steep hill at the centre of the old town, from where it dominates both the skyline and overall impression of the town. It also has university students who, as elsewhere in Portugal, wear long black cloaks over black suits and white shirts; very much in the style of Harry Potter and Co. (or should that be the other way around?).

We paid an interesting visit to the University, especially its OTT baroque library and other grand rooms (no photography allowed), which testify to its ancient past. We also had a lovely evening meal overlooking the river and paced our way through the city streets, including falling on an unusual fountain garden which was originally part of an adjacent religious centre and put together by one of Portugal’s’ most famous sculptors…

On the morning of our last day we also paid the Botanical Gardens a visit and these, like others I’ve visited elsewhere in the country, have an impressive range of mature trees, shrubs and other plants.

I found this tree fascinating; not sure of what it is, but it has developed a useful technique of growing its own buttresses as it extends its branches...

I found this tree fascinating; not sure of what it is, but it has developed a useful technique of growing its own buttresses as it extends its branches…

It was encouraging to see the major glasshouse in the course of regeneration and the novel introduction of an adventure trail with close supervision as you (not me!) slide your way around and between the many very tall trees.

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Old School Gardener


Paper Flower displays in Tomar, Portugal, possibly celebrating the Carnation Revolution, in April 1975?

Old School Gardener

WP_20150826_19_04_46_ProTo Walter Degrasse

Dear Walter,

Another month and little to report as far as Old School Garden is concerned! As you know we’ve spent around 10 days away in Portugal (more posts on this to follow in the next few days), and once more we seem to have found some lovely and interesting places to visit. Fortunately my neighbours and good friends Steve and Joan were able to get in to water while we were away.

There seems to have been a good harvest of tomatoes, cucumbers and soft fruit while we’ve been abroad, and this is continuing ,though starting to tail off a little (apart from the prolific blackberries and promise of many apples to come). The new watering/feeding system for the greenhouse tomatoes seems to be going well, though it seems many others have had a good crop of tomatoes this year too, so we must hold fire on any final conclusions about its advantages over other systems- but having the reservoirs does make watering less of an issue while you’re away.

Almost the first thing I noticed when looking round the garden was a new rash of mole hills and tunnels, so the mole man’s achievement of catching two, has paled as we seem to ave around four or five new and probably young moles at work! I swear they were waiting in the borders for us to go away before they came out into the grass! As we are about to go away again (to Scotland and Northumberland, isn’t retirement tiring?) I’ll hold off on any further action until we return-  as I have a couple of traps I might have a go myself.

Sweet William seedlings in a nursery bed, just avoiding being smothered by the squashes!

Sweet William seedlings in a nursery bed, just avoiding being smothered by the squashes!

You know I’ve been puzzled about my raspberries – you might remember that for a few years now the second half of the autumn fruiting variety has not produced any flowers or fruit? Well, I noticed one summer type- fruit on one of the canes the other day and that got me thinking. Maybe these canes are summer varieties and therefore I’ve been pruning them wrongly! I shall leave the canes that have grown this year and treat them like summer varieties and we’ll see if they produce anything next year.

The garden is looking very full and flouncy and its a pleasure just wandering around it or sitting on the terrace, though recent weather seems to have announced autumn rather than the expected dry warmth of late summer! Thankfully most of my house decorating is now done, so I can turn my hands to the garden more seriously upon our return from the north. I’m keen to press on with my pond project and I’m gathering lots of ideas for this as I look round gardens and parks on our travels. Also, as my old potting shed is now reaching the end of its life, I’m thinking about creating a new one using the floorboards taken up during our refurbishment works. This will probably be a spring project.

WP_20150826_19_05_21_ProWell, old friend, once more to the joys of packing cases for another trip, hopefully to include some beautiful landscapes and interesting places (we’re also taking our bikes!), as well as seeing our old circle of college pals for our annual ‘road trip’…

Good gardening!

Old School Gardener

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PicPost: Nick’s Cascade

nick's cascadeMy friend ‘Old Nick’ has created this lovely cascade in his garden in Cheshire. I like the proportions and simple, clean lines and colours. Now, what about the planting on that slope above…hanging gardens?

Old School Gardener

WP_20150814_13_52_49_ProAs you may have picked up, I’ve been in Portugal again  recently. As well as visiting some old favourites, we ventured north to the old capital of the country, Coimbra (more on this in later posts), and on our way back to Lisbon stopped off at a wonderful historical site called Conimbriga. This site, a few miles south of Coimbra, was the Romans’ capital while they were here in Portugal, some two millenia ago.

OK, I know that this blog is supposed to be about gardens and gardening. But I occasionally feature something that is only loosely connected (if at all), just to add a bit of variety. And in truth, there is a link to gardening here, as you’ll see later.

This extensive site displays the bones of an important Roman settlement and includes some sensitive reconstruction to help you get the scale and proportions of the place- the recreation of the Forum is particularly impressive.

And the other immediately remarkable thing is the wealth of mosaic floors on show, some open to the air, others carefully protected under a large sheltering canopy.

But the really noteworthy feature- well I think so- is the re-creation of the Fountain Gardens, including (for 50 cents a go) the chance to see the way the fountains might have embellished this calm, sheltered space set amid the bustle of the wider settlement.

After touring the open site, it was something of a relief (from the sun) to get inside the nearby Museum, which helps add further interpretation to the site and houses a range of beautiful artefacts discovered here.

Old School Gardener


Fountain in front of the Monastery Geronimos, Belem, Lisbon, Portugal. A place I've been several times, but can't remember the fountain ever being in operation!

Fountain in front of the Monastery Geronimos, Belem, Lisbon, Portugal. A place I’ve been several times, but can’t remember the fountain ever being in operation!

WP_20150820_13_53_12_ProMy muscles were decidedly stiff after being away from gardening for a couple of weeks. But my latest session of volunteer gardening at Blickling was very enjoyable. The team was on good form and we had lots of news to share, not least that two of the volunteers had just secured jobs, one starting that very afternoon and the other to take up a role as an Assistant Gardener at Blickling!

My session began on the edge of the car park backing the Walled Garden, where earlier in the year I’d helped Project Manager Mike prune some wall fruit and tidy up a rather messy edge where weeds had forced their way through tarmac and concrete to ‘adorn’ the old red brick walls. It was a case of ‘more of the same’ a few months on, and I was pleased with the results…see picture below.

WP_20150820_13_56_57_ProSo, after an hour here it was back to the walled garden proper with the rest fo the team to wed and mulch one of the new beds brought into cultivation, this one containing a wide range of flowers. Again, a pleasing result after a couple of hours…

This bed is at the ‘frontier’ of the newly cultivated areas in the walled garden, which I suppose must now be about a quarter in productive use. So still a long way to go in achieving the vision of a rejuvenated garden, but some steady progress. I was especially pleased to see that the first lengths of metal path edging had gone in, which start to ‘shape up’ the whole plot.

Metal edging starting to define the beds in the Walled Garden

Metal edging starting to define the beds in the Walled Garden

And the pumpkins and squashes I helped to plant out have gone to town, providing lush cover to a large area of the garden….

I took some time to look around the main area of cultivation in the Walled Garden and I must say, all credit to Mike and the team as the rows of vegetables and cut flowers look great. And it seems the rustic supports that Peter and I put up are doing their job supporting a promising crop of runner beans and sweet- smelling sweet peas….

I couldn’t help notice that the formal gardens – the parterres and double borders- were also full of summer colour; the reds, oranges and yellows of the double borders (including some impressive dahlias I  helped to plant out) looking particularly impressive….

Oh, and the white border continues to look a treat….

WP_20150820_13_51_56_ProOld School Gardener

Saw this collection of tomatoes growing along side the street in Trafaria, Portugal. Pick your own...

Saw this collection of tomatoes growing along side the street in Trafaria, Portugal. Pick your own…


Old School Gardener

Picture form Ueno Farm

Picture from Ueno Farm

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