Making Room for the Mushrooms

In its new home … for a few days

During my time at the BBC in Oxfordshire, I was invited to be an auctioneer for a charity evening in the small village of Bladen (the final resting place of Sir Winston Churchill).

Before the event began, there was the usual opportunity to peruse the lots going under the hammer. One of these caught our attention: a wooden carving of some mushrooms, standing about as tall as me. It had been carved by someone with considerable talent out of a piece of wood from the nearby Blenheim Estate.

‘Wouldn’t that look fantastic in Mallorca?’ I said to The Boss, mindful that we’d soon be moving from the UK to our new home on the Spanish island. Fortunately, he agreed. As the auctioneer, I couldn’t bid for the item, so The Boss agreed to do it from his seat in the audience.

We weren’t the only ones lusting after this gorgeous garden ornament. Sadly for us (but happily for the charity in question), the carving went for a much higher bid than we could manage.

However, after the auction was over, we met the artisan who’d made the mushrooms and when we told him we’d liked to have bought his carving he offered to make us one, and we agreed on a price.

Mushrooms to Mallorca

Our wonderful mushrooms made the trip to Mallorca without incident and were eventually installed in our fledgling garden in a spot between two agaves. Have you any idea how enormous agaves can grow? We didn’t when we planted these two small ones – gifts from a kind neighbour.

Before long, the mushroom carving was hemmed in by agaves of a matching height. Agaves have dangerous spikes on the tips and sides of the ‘leaves’ and close contact is best avoided. We left our wooden feature where it was until it was no longer fully visible.

Fallen … and split again

When we started our latest garden project (not yet finished, folks), we decided to liberate our mushrooms from their ‘prison’, only to find the wood had dried out and the mushrooms had split vertically into two separate garden ornaments, being held up by their captors. Inevitably, The Boss sustained an unfortunate number of attacks from the spiny agave ‘leaves’ in the process of retrieving our wooden feature. One of which required a quick visit to the local Urgències hospital department, some antihistamine pills and anti-inflammatory cream.

New Lease of Life

The Boss did a fantastic job of glueing the two halves of our wooden garden feature together, and we found a new location for it under our rather handsome tree, where we’d be able to enjoy looking at it. The next job would be for me to give it some wood treatment. But before I could do that, a freak, strong gust of wind blew through the garden and felled the feature – splitting it back into two.

Now, where did we put the rest of that glue?

Jan Edwards ©2021

Summer’s Arrived in Mallorca

Porto Cristo in the sunshine. The biggest boat belongs to tennis supremo Rafa Nadal

It’s officially here: summer 2021. In terms of the tourist season in Mallorca, it’s a late start – although some visitors from Germany began coming at Easter. At the moment we’ve seen few signs of many British tourists, because of the requirement for quarantine on their return home. From various media reports I’ve seen, that requirement could be lifted soon for those who are fully vaccinated. We shall see.

Our part-time neighbour and friend Vicky came to stay for a couple of weeks to check on her property and attend to things that needed doing. She had prepared for the subsequent quarantine by filling her freezer back at home.

The first thing to know about owning a second home in the countryside – a finca – is that there is always something to be done by way of maintenance or repair. A holiday in one’s rural second home usually begins with fixing things or organising a técnico to visit the property to sort out problems.

Beyond Repair

Some things, however, are beyond repair. One of those is the old cart we inherited when we bought our finca. Someone asked me the other day if we still had it. Yes, we do.

A very old bougainvillea keeps this cart more or less standing

During the last winter we looked at its poor state and wondered whether we should remove it. The Boss feared it could collapse and banned me from weeding in the area, just in case. One day I spotted a lot of the creeping weed Galium acarine, sometimes known as sticky bob or sticky willy. We’ve been plagued with it this year and I’ve pulled out metres of the stuff from just about every area of the garden.

The dreaded weed was threading its way through the old bougainvillea which grows from under the cart. Well, that had to go, or I feared we’d have no beautiful bracts this summer to add colour to this patch of our land. When The Boss spotted me at work near the cart he came to join me and we tackled the weeding together.

Up close and personal, we discovered that although the cart has collapsed on one side, rocks (of which we have a lot) and the old bougainvillea are forming the equivalent of a girdle to keep it all in place. The cart lives on … and the tidying of the sticky bob that The Boss and I did has paid off, as you can see.

Busy, Busy …

Our friends Maureen and Peter, other part-time English neighbours, wrote to me a few days ago, pointing out that they hadn’t seen a blog post for a while. We’ve been busy.

There have been various appointments here and there – one of which was to organise new persianas – the slatted window and door shutters that are a common feature of Spanish properties. We had the wooden ones replaced at the front quite a few years ago and now it’s the turn of some of the shutters at the back of the house.

I’ve also been busy working on getting my debut novel Daughter of Deià published. Because I have little patience, I am leaning towards the indie publishing route. Traditional publishing takes a long time and that’s if you can even find a publisher who’ll take you on. It helps to be a celebrity, apparently. I’m not.

My research into self-publishing, or indie publishing, suggests I am at the base of a steep learning curve, but I love learning new things, so I’m girding my loins for the journey and looking forward to holding that published book in my hand.

Wherever you are, I hope your summer has begun well and that you have the pleasure of looking forward to a holiday, somewhere, soon.

Jan Edwards © 2021

Of Plants & Garden Centres in Mallorca

Osteospermum

Osteospermum thriving in the stony soil of our garden

I’ve just had my annual garden centre splurge, buying some plants for our finca in the Mallorcan countryside. Garden centre visits were rather more frequent when we lived in the UK, where these tempting places are also open on Sundays and offer much more than the average jardinería on Mallorca. Many of the UK versions sell decorative items for the home and garden, and have a café where you can indulge yourself in a mid-shop stop for refreshments.

In our early months of living on Mallorca, we were quite disappointed by the garden centres local to us – which were more like plant nurseries than those tempting places we knew in the UK. A favourite had been Burford Garden Company in the Cotswolds. Now that’s what I call a garden centre.

We did manage to find some decent plants and some helpful assistants in our local places, and were hopeful that we’d have a good show of colourful flowers later in the spring. Little did we know . . .

Dinner!

Within a week of planting our first purchases, there was nothing left to see. The rabbits – and there were many of them back then – had scoffed the lot! Since then we have become adopted by a family of feral cats (and a few feline hangers-on), and we have rarely seen any rabbits on our land. Can you blame them?

We also discovered that our land isn’t suitable for many plants, being mainly rocky and with only a shallow layer of poor-quality soil. Typical Mediterranean plants do well, but other plants struggle. Succulents, cacti, lavenders, rosemary, and osteospermum are among those plants that do well on our land.

The rabbit experience shaped our gardening habits. I started taking cuttings from existing plants, knowing that if the new plant died (or was eaten), it wouldn’t have cost us anything. Neighbours gave us ‘babies’ from their aloe veras and other succulents. I did invest in two climbing roses last year by mail order from David Austin; one quickly died, but the other is thriving.

A Recommended Garden Centre

My recommendation for a good garden centre on Mallorca? It would have to be Fronda (formerly known as Magatzem Verd) in Palma (it’s just off the Via Cintura and with a smaller branch near the Fan Shopping Centre at Coll d’en Rebassa). It’s probably because the place is most like the garden centres we knew and loved back in the UK. Unusually, on Mallorca, it’s open on Sundays – although we never shop on this day of the week. It doesn’t yet have a cafe, but maybe one day?

On Friday, I steered an enormous trolley around this garden centre, mentally spending a fortune on glorious colourful plants. In reality, it was just a few euros for the year’s new geraniums and herbs.

We must have saved a fortune on plant purchases since moving to Mallorca . . .

©Jan Edwards 2015