An explanation of the title of this blog...

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Touch of Colour...

...on a grey day. It is too wet to be crawling around in the undergrowth, but this poppy, left in peace to grow under a dog rose on The Top, shines like a beacon.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Into the unknown...

...well unknown until I get my act together and identify them.

I think this is Teucrium pseudochamaepitys but I am not sure.

This big clump of white is a bit of a mystery. It has tiny leaves like a thyme, very widely spaced on thin stems. The flowers are similar in structure to thyme but the plant doesn't have any smell when crushed.

This little plant with tiny mauve flowers is quite widespread, but the flowers are only about 3mm across. I suppose I should have something in the picture to give a sense of scale. I'll try to remember next time I go out with the camera.

Monday, March 23, 2009

A touch of pink

CENTAURIUM erythraea Rafin: The Common Centaury. Only one plant so far, but there may be more as they usually flower a bit later than this, and this is low to the ground and other times they have stood up on a longish stalk and in a bigger cluster.

This looks quite sad. Just one flower straggling up the bancale. This bindweed can form lovely drifts across arid patches, and the smaller white form is usually in evidence, but not so far. I haven't given up hope though...

There are other pink things around; vetches and so on, but I haven't captured them yet. Walking around locally, I am reminded of things that are missing, mainly larger plants like the migonette, mallow, chicory, borage and the peculiar Thymelea, but I have a tiny plant of the latter in a plant pot of mixed foliage plants that the builder brought me as a Christmas present, so it may find itself transplanted to the wild...

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Greeny - yeller

This Euphorbia strikes a lovely bright note in the grasses. It grows prolifically all over the place, but I am very careful how I approach it; I discovered to my cost, twenty years ago, that the sap brings my skin up in large painful wheals that take a long time to heal, and leave brown marks on my skin for months. The bare areas of soil are being colonised by this grey/green lichen, seen here on one of the rock outcrops in The Bottom. I know lichen is supposed to be slow growing, but this one isn't wasting any time. The flat yellow lichen below is much more stately in its pace of growth. These patches on the rock outcrop are quite large, but the patches on stone surfaces that were cut twenty odd years ago are only now reaching a diameter of 2cm.

Tiny Gems

It pays to get close to the ground. Some of the smallest plants are beauties. The pimpernels have such vivid colouring, but on this occasion, the close-up was more of a balls-up, and when I get a better shot, I shall replace this one. The shot of the red version was even worse...Edited to show a much better close-up of the blue.

The tiny Silene I found yesterday was all alone, and I couldn't find it again when I went out this morning to try to decide which species it was. For those of you who are not botanists, this is the same family as the Red Campion, common in the UK, but this is tiny, the flowers not much more than a centimetre in diameter and a pale, pale pink. I took this photo early in the morning, and the flowers, and the hairy grey leaves of the plant it is leaning over, are glistening with dew.

Edit I came across a Spanish website called Virtual Herbal, and I think I can now identify this as Silene Ramosissima. If you look it up on the Virtual Herbal and click on the link that says Imagen en el campo, it takes you to a photo that shows how hairy it really is.

Walking along the cliff top this morning, I took this photo of a large clump of helianthemum, a plant that at one time, grew all over The Bottom. When I got home, I went in search, and found this tiny specimen. I haven't bothered finding out which particular type it is, I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that I find more. Edited to say that there are more, in fact a couple of good sized clumps that I hadn't noticed until they flowered.The last one really is a weed; it grows rampantly all over the garden, turns up in pots, and even between the bricks in the walls; the ever present Herb Robert. Without anything to give it scale, it could be taken for a garden variety of Geranium.

Friday, March 20, 2009

First of the Orchids...

...and one of my favourites. The Mirror Orchid, OPHRYS ciliata. I've only found one surviving patch of these, near the Mastic bushes. They used to be a lot on the top of the slope, but there is very little vegetation, and very little soil left there now. Strimming has left the soil without anything to help it withstand the heavy rain, and at the moment there is only a scattering of coarse grass clumps. I can't get over how good a close-up I can get with this little Pentax Optio that 0j0 found on Ebay for me after I had a play with hers when she was here in December. It is a bit hit and miss though, as the screen is tiny, my eyesight is atrocious, and getting my eye level down to 2" above soil level isn't as easy as it used to be. I take half a dozen shots and hope for the best...

The Mastic bushes are in flower at the moment, and later in the year will be full of berries. The collared doves will gorge themselves and leave streaks of purple crap down the wall as they sit in a line on the telephone wire. The Latin name is PISTACIA lentiscus. It seems it is the same family as the pistachio nut; now I wouldn't mind a couple of those...Another little gem that has survived in pretty good numbers is the Muscari. I think the fact that it flowers so early, and that its leaves are in a ground-hugging rosette, gave it a chance to get some nourishment down to the bulbs before Ghengis Kahn got to work.

And finally for this post, I couldn't resist showing you this; a rogue freesia that has appeared right in the middle of The Bottom. I think the seed must have been dropped by the big ants that nest down there and collect a Winter store of seeds from all over the garden...more of their antics when they are active.

More Weeds...

...that I think deserve a place in a garden, cultivated or not.

The Field Gladiolus is one of these. I used to have drifts of them all over The Bottom, but this year, the majority are on the edges, tucked under bushes and sprouting from underneath edging stones where the strimmer blade has missed them. (If you are wondering why the second photo is so murky, it's because the first one was taken in the afternoon sun yesterday, and the other one before the sun was high this morning.) If the leaves are removed too soon, like most bulbs and corms, they don't produce much in the way of flower the following year, but luckily, these seed themselves and I hope will soon be back up to strength. There are a number of different species, according to Innes, with a variation in height and the amount of white on the petals.

The Cistus bushes have taken a battering. There are tiny ones sprouting again in odd places, but there are only two left of any size, and one of those is in a border on The Top. I think of them as Poached Eggs, but their official name is CISTUS salvifolius.

My third plant for this post is Cerinthe or Honeywort. I'm cheating here, because I haven't found any in The Bottom this year, but the seeds have spread themselves up the first bancale, and are flowering there, so will soon spread themselves around again, given a chance.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


OROBANCHE ...arenaria possibly? This is fairly widespread, and if I can find out which plant it is parasitising, I might be able to identify the species. I'll post more tomorrow.
Edit: Having looked at the Virtual Herbal, I think it is OROBANCHE nana, as the plants that it parasitises are common on The Bottom.

Bossman has just asked if I fancy going to have a look at the Fallas before they burn tonight. Hopefully I can get some pics for 0j0...

Barbary Nut

GYANDRIRIS sisyrinchium (L.) Parl.
According to Innes, this is called Barbary Nut because the corm is supposed to taste of nuts. I just like to call it the Miniature Iris. We have never had these grow in great numbers, but they are hard to catch, as the flowers don't open until late morning, and they don't last overnight. I was delighted to find one this morning, and shall keep my fingers crossed that it is not alone...

Wild Garlic

ALLIUM roseum L.

This specimen growing in The Bottom, isn't quite open yet, but this one, growing in amongst the freesias in The Top, is.

Weeds or Wildflowers?

Bossman and I have had an ongoing battle for the past twenty odd years over what we call The Bottom. When we first arrived here in 1986, it looked like this:

Three months later, it looked like this; by the simple expedient of doing this:
After that first trial by fire, it was left pretty much to its own devices for months, but the following Spring, I was amazed by how many different varieties of wild flowers sprang up on this patch of hillside. I added to them over the years by collecting seeds from plants I found growing further up the hill as I walked with the dog. The Mastic bushes that had been razed to the ground all sprouted again, and the Black Caps found them ideal nesting places. When we had The Top more or less gardenified, Bossman started itching to turn The Bottom into some kind of regimented Council Park, and attacked it with a large heavy Flymo borrowed from a friend. The Battle commenced...and we came to a compromise eventually: The flymo could be employed once a year after the main flowering season was over, and the seeds had had time to set and scatter, and the leaves of the corms and bulbs had died back. From time to time we felled a pine tree for firewood, or because it was getting too close to overhead cables, but in general, this truce held firm until the arrival, two years ago, of Ivan the Bulgarian, the Ghengis Kahn of the gardening world, and self appointed chief hatchetman to Bossman. Anything that grew out of line was ruthlessly cut back, regardless of where it was in its growing cycle, no bush got a chance to flower, in the Bottom or the Top, and if I happened to be out when he came, out came his strimmer and The Bottom would get a short back and sides. Bossman would look sheepish and assure me that he tried to stop him but he doesn't understand my Spanish...

This all came to a head last Autumn, when I walked Bossman round the garden, pointing at bare bushes and bare soil, asking Do you remember when this had flowers....when there were roses here....when this was a field of wild gladdies..? We fixed Ivan up with two other gardens and a pool to look after, and bade him goodbye. Compromise was again reached; the path from the Top to the bottom gate could be mown, but the rest would be left to recover. I have been waiting to see what survived Ivan's onslaught, and although there are some species missing altogether, there is still a good variety. I have always had it in mind to keep a record, so I am starting to take some pictures, and will add them here as I get myself organised. Just to wet your appetite, a general view of The Bottom as it was this morning, and a closer view of the commonest flower at the moment; the coltsfoot. I'll post again in a little while when I have this morning's photos in some kind of order. I have three books by Clive Innes; Wild Flowers of Spain. I am using these as a starting point for identification, as I don't know if my old Flora will have Spanish species...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wednesday, March 11, 2009