So far we have had a relatively mild winter. However, it is not over yet and you can't get complacent here. Our area has its own micro-climate so we have lots of moisture or humidity which keeps everywhere very green - so many more shades of green than I remember in the UK. Last year we had so much rain it was unbelieveable. The day we moved in here at the beginning of March, we had around six inches in one day - I am not exaggerating. This year has definitely been better but after about 10 days of lovely sunshine and blue skies with the odd cloud, we are back to days of blue sky making a brief appearance, followed by white, grey, and black clouds, and either short, sharp downpours, monsoon downpours or that great English favourite, heavy drizzle.
Cloud waiting to offload on us as it makes its way north.
A nice dismal sky that looks like it might last all today.
Not much better that way!
The garden certainly enjoys it more than I do. Most of the plants have perked up tremendously and there is vigorous growth on everything now. All my pots are full of life - hyacinths are out and scenting everywhere, the tulips are growing about an inch a day and the crocus are pushing their way through, no doubt to be enjoyed by our friendly blackbirds, buzzards, robins and other small and pretty birds that we have.
Sadly the blue hyacinth that was with the pink one, got battered down so badly by the rain, I had to cut it and bring it inside where it is now scenting the dining room beautifully.
The strawberries really enjoy the rain and are bouncing back to life with flowers already blooming on them.
Glenn's pride and joy at present is Lucy the Lemon Tree as our first 'baby' is yellowing slowly ready for consumption. When we bought the tree last summer, she sprouted lots of 'babies' but sadly they all dropped off except for this one. We have been doing Prince Charles chatting to her since the summer and we have hopefully more 'babies' on the go.
My next major project is to try and make a decent 'flower bed border' across from the front of the house. Our landlords kindly said I could play with about 4 feet of ground next to the tractor track for the grapevines. It already had a selection of rose bushes which were in need of some attention and a yucca tree but basically that was it. I started to deadhead the roses religiously which meant that they only actually stopped flowering in December. There is a mix of red, pink, yellow and a fabulous mixed red/yellow in the bed and this one only stopped flowering two weeks ago.
When we had the glorious few days of sunshine, I went out armed with secateurs and gingerly started to prune, having consulted various websites and Gardener's World for assistance. I got braver and braver and cut out quite a lot of dead wood and although nervous, I am thrilled to see that they have all survived the 'haircut' as they say in Malmesbury, and are starting to grow again. I have also planted another rose - an English one - to one side in the hope it will settled in with the Portuguese ones. The roses certainly love this flower bed as it is total clay and therefore a severe challenge to me as I want to really cultivate it. It is lovely sight from the front door when the roses are in bloom, and for the holiday makers who rent the cottage on the estate, it is the first thing they see as they turn the corner of our house.
I have transferred some plants from the raised bed on our patio to see if they survive - so far so good. I have also stuck, at random, some fuschia and climbing hydranga cuttings and it's now a waiting game to see what happens. My lovely old neighbour in Malmesbury, Ted Weeks, a gardener par excellence - had no truck with cuttings and rooting powder, he just cut and shoved them in and for the few that died, there were always a few that survived, so Ted, I am still following instructions.
We are very well served by Garden Centres in this area. There are three within 10 to 20 minutes of us as well as a Bonsai Museum!!!
The Museum is on the main road leading into Sintra and offers courses and is very well patronised. http://www.bonsaicentro.net/.
We use the garden centre at Praia Grande (http://www.hortopraiagrande.com/) for the simple reason it is on our route home from Almocageme and although smallish, has lovely plants at very reasonable prices. For instance, the lavendar plants I bought were only 2.75 euros each. My English rose was a bargain at 15 euros. They are very nice in there and have a great range of trees, bushes. fruit trees, climbers, herbs, bedding plants, planters, indoor plants including orchids, which are a great favourite here and a lovely tortoiseshell cat.
Aren't the coloured displays marvellous?
Finally, MY pride and joy
Tomato seedlings hardening off and a sign that it won't be too long before summer is here again.