Suit & Tie Horticulture, Oporto, Portugal

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A  few weeks ago I needed a bit of time away from Madrid, exploring a new city somewhere else, and Oporto, Portugal became the desired destination. Second time in Portugal, first being Lisboa (link), another city worth visiting again. It was a pleasant surprise to find so many terraces and balconies in Oporto hanging lush and green packed to the rails with plants, more so than I see in Madrid. The reason for this, I believe, is this is a coastal city with more moisture hanging in the air, a more hospitable climate for growing something green. Wandering through the city on foot, I passed over and over these small plant shops, flashing their wares in the windows.  The first few I passed were closed for lunch, but found this one called Casa Horticola, or Horticulture House.  The windows alone beckoned me from across the street, packets of vibrant color upon closer inspection turned out to be vintage seed packages. Nose pressed to window, I drooled at the items on the other side of the glass.

Untitled-1Untitled-2I saw seeds, bulbs, starter plants, vegetables, colors, flowers, cut flowers, possibilties, my future terrace all green and lush. I vowed to return and ravage the shop of goods to take home to my nearly empty terrace back in Madrid.  IMG_2613I went back later the same day and my jaw dropped when I went in. Marble counter tops, old style register, a scale, original molding details painted beautifully, and this was before fondling the merchandise, the goods that I came for.  It was as if time had stopped.   Focus, focus.  I began thumbing through everything, salivating like a kid in a candy store. The fact that I did not speak Portuguese nor the men working there English was not a problem, we managed. Through smiles and nods and slaps to the back of my hand, he took me through his store, guiding me through a plethora of many purchases of promise.  Dahlia tubers, ‘Bantling’, ‘Kenora Macob’, and ‘Shining Star’.  And lilies galore, such as ‘Gran Paraiso’ and ‘Geneve’. A Zantadeshchia may have jumped in to my basket too.  Artichoke seeds, cactus zinnias, everlasting flower and a pair of bulbs of Nerine ‘Ou Raguis’ which love to bake in heat, perfect for Spain I thought.  Did I really need a reason? IMG_2621

The posters of gladiolus on the walls beckoned me the way pin up girls adorn the inside of mechanic shops, ‘Hey Big Boy, over here, do you like what you see?!” Oh, yes, yes I do I thought, and gently tossed some into my basket as well, with the man guiding me back to reality.  ‘These, not those, you will like these better, trust me”, he seemed to be telling me without words.  I listened and took Gladiolus ‘Trader Home’, ‘Violetta’, and ‘Silver Spark’ (or was it ‘Spic and Span’??! His handwritten packages were hard to decipher). I’m buying frilly Gladiolus I thought and realized I needed to stop.  I ended my shopping spree, 30 euros later and two large bags, I left feeling guilty. “What happened? Did I buy more than I needed to?” It didn’t matter, I couldn’t wait to pack these treasures into the terrace containers at home.

IMG_2612Before I left, I asked the man, by way of hand gestures, if one photo of him and the shop was allowed, so he got behind the handsome counter, straightened his tie and stood proud.  How can  you not want to shop in such a magical shop guided by a horticulturist in a suit and tie? One of the best moments in Oporto, if you ever go, please visit…. Casi Horticola (link) – James

Tuesday’s Terrace: Oporto, Portugal

 Praca de Lisboa green roof in Porto, Portugal


Bringing a Mediterranean touch to Tuesday’s Terrace is “Praca de Lisboa” in Porto, Portugal. This green roof utilizes the large area with a simple but effective mix of olive trees, Olea europaea, and a large expanse of lawn. This combination turns it into the perfect urban oasis a world away from bustling city streets below, where a spot of green is a welcome sight and escape amidst a sea of orange terracotta tiles.   – James


Floral Friday- Sweet Portugal Mix

Floral FridaysSome flowers stand well enough on their own to make a statement, without the addition of other foliage and flowers. These Sweet Williams, Dianthus barbatus, enhance the simple but beautifully adorned Portuguese pottery. Taking the same flower and just mixing with other varieties of itself proves successful.  Hope you have enjoyed this Floral Friday…- James

Tuesday’s Terrace: Portugal

IMG_3642Usually around the middle of February is when the colder months start to get to me from spending more time indoors than out.  My mind starts thinking of warmer, sunnier days and wanderlust kicks in too, a sense of escape from the current climate, the anywhere but here syndrome. So this weeks edition of Tuesday’s terrace has all of those bases covered.  Let’s imagine ourselves in Portugal, admiring that bright pop of color bougainvillea is providing for us while we feel the hot sun on our backs. Yes, the architecture is gorgeous, yes, we love vacation, ooh those plants, but this weeks Tuesday’s terrace is less about that and is more in favor of daydreaming about that seasonal feeling of summer heat, that warmth that is felt when it is absorbed by stone and radiates from the ground below lapping at our skin. It’s nice to dream of the warmer months ahead… Counting down the days (here)…..  – James

Tuesday’s Terrace

IMG_4106This weeks terrace sets a beautiful mood, as seen in an inner patio in Portugal.  The Cyathea is growing in a shell inspired planter which over time has been covered by a dense green carpet of moss. The ferns unfurled fronds look majestic in this peaceful setting, with its cool blue and white mosaic tile design and surrounding columns and arches, a regal plant in a stunning courtyard.  – James

Portuguese Dreams

Hello Eric,

How are you these days? Well I hope.  All is great here, we have been busy in the gardens here cutting meadows and raking hay.  It is physically satisfying work and as we raked the hay into lines, I couldn’t help but be reminded of  Van Gogh’s  haystack paintings.

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During my time here in England, I realized I had not yet taken a vacation while at Gravetye so the time was overdue for one.  Fortunately I got to travel to Portugal for a week, specifically Lisbon, the capital city.  Did you know that in the U.K. it is standard to receive 28 days a year for vacation?  Incredible, I almost felt guilty for taking that much time (almost). Now if the U.S. adopted that policy, I just might consider coming back, maybe..  Anyway, I remember a time that you told me you have traveled to Portugal, and until now, I finally understand the mesmerizing effect the city can have on someone, and know exactly why you enjoyed it.

It is a city that seems to be a hybrid of Paris and Madrid, extremely hilly and with very romantic architecture.  There is nothing I enjoy more in a new city than wandering and never knowing what to expect around each corner and I wasn’t disappointed, and I can say that Lisbon is looking to easily become a new favorite destination.  The artistic side of the city was present around every turn, and can say that I have a new found passion for hand painted tiles that adorn many of the buildings throughout. Since I couldn’t fill my bags with them, I settled on adding two new pieces of pottery to my collection. I will spare you the details of my trip but wanted to share with you the images of the art, horticulture and the flavor of the city that made me drool in Lisbon… And just like that my Portuguese dreams are over and I have traded the hot dry heat of Lisbon and am back in the warm freshly cut meadows at Gravetye.  Until next time my friend, I hope this finds you well and smiling……  James

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The camera..

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The camera makes everyone a tourist in other people’s reality, and eventually in one’s own.- Susan Sontag