Monday, 19 March 2018

My Rescue Non-Cacti

I had been following the development of my cacti which were pretty sad when we bought them but have been coming along well with lots of branches. Reading Tom Stuart-Smith's guide to the Secret Garden I was surprised to learn that they aren't cacti at all. In fact they are a type of Euphorbia, Euphorbia ingens. All euphorbia have an irritant sap so I won't have temin my garden in Wales. The latex of E ingens is particularly toxic and can cause not just skin irritation but Blindness and severe illness. I certainly wouldn't have bought them had I realised but they seem a bit dangerous to get rid of.
I was also surprised to learn that Agaves and Aloes aren't closely related at alltheir similarities being a result of paralell  evolution. I think I have both but can't tell which is which.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

New Sockets

The electric saga continues. Someone from the Electric Board came on the sixth and installed a meter and then Sparks came in the afternoon and fixed the sockets and connected up so the kitchen is now served by a separate consumer unit and I can have the chip pan and oven on and don't have to turn one off to boil a kettle and we don't have to turn any heating or air-conditioning off to use the kitchen appliances. A vast improvement! But the works have to be inspected and I am a bit confused because I thought we were told they would be coming on 18th March. That is tomorrow and a Sunday. One thing I'm sure of is the Electric Board doesn't work Sundays.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Tagazhout Bay

Tagazhout north of Agadir has long been a surfer's paradise.The area to the south of the village was planned for development more than a decade ago and hoarding went up along the Essaouira road and heavy machinery moved in. Then came "la Crise" and all work stopped. Nothing had changed much last time we took that road with the Quaker in 2016. However some work must have progressed because when Sweetheart wanted to stay at a luxury hotel for a couple of nights and go horse-riding on the beach the Tagazhout Hyatt seemed to fit and that apparently opened at the end of 2015. 
Everything certainly has changed now. The Essaouira has been diverted inland and the old road now leads only to the new bay tourist development. There are lots of apartments being built, some finished, and a couple of large american luxury hotels.
The Hyatt is not on the beach where the building work continues but on a buff overlooking the bay and is wrapped round by a golf course.It has a humungous swimming pool and a smaller one which is kept at 28C all year.

 This latter was the attraction for sweetheart but in the event the larger pool was 19.8C and she preferred that. It's certainly a place for a luxury holiday with activities because as well as the golf there is horse and camel riding locally,quad bikes and of course the surf beach. There is a spa with treatments, sauna and jacuzzi and table tennis pool and table football.
Unfortunately we were unlucky with the weather which was more Rhyl off-season and the sunset ride was more of a soaking with any hope of a sunset being completely obscured by sea level cloud. It gave sweetheart and beloved an excuse to sample the sauna and jacuzzi and fortunately the weather then cleared and normal service was resumed so we could sunbathe by the pool with cocktails and a book.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Moroccan Mojitos

Sweetheart arrived yesterday. She escaped snowdrifts in Buxton which had been cut off but the road to the airport is the road to the hospital so it was cleared just in time. She is finding 20C very satisfactory.
I had managed to get some Havana Club in the Victoria Drinks Shop in Marrakesh and on Thursday following a "snow day" spent largely in the pub she had given me clear instructions for a Mojito.  Unfortunately she had omitted limes from the ingredient list. I don't suppose it would have made much difference as limes are not common here but possibly Marjane would have had some if I;d searched. However it is the height of the orange season. So, if life gives you oranges make Mojitos. 
We went to the Jnane Soussia for lunch.

 The usual Sunday lunch moroccan crowd were absent , presumably too cold and windy, but Sweetheart thought the breeze just pleasant. I have never worked out why the Jnane Soussia's kefta are so much better than everyone else's but they are.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

The secet Garden; The Exotic Garden

The smaller courtyard has been restored as an "exotic" garden. It is the courtyard nearest to the entrance and would have been used for entertaining visitors whilst a dog-legged entrance to the Islamic garden would have allowed the family to retain their privacy. The garden is filled with plants from similar climates from all over the world and partly reflects the concept of an "Eden Garden" wherein "the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food".Excavations showed that the original garden level was 80cm below the paths but it has been restored with a minimal height difference to make it more accessible. 
Planting includes Date Palms

 and Jacaranda, Yucca and Kalanchoe but a considerable reliance on Agaves,Aloes and Bromeliads. There are fountains

 with resident terrapins

 and seating areas.

The emphasis is still on the authenticity of the buildings an the planting. when compared tho the Marjorelle, created by an artist, I think  the have passed on an opportunity to add colour.

I had quite fancied one of this Kalanchoe beharensis when we bought the banana plant but the pepinieresaid it did nothing  -just had big leaves. Not true! Look at the flowers on it.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

The Secret Garden - The Islamic Garden

 The Palace has two courtyards and their gardens have been restored to a design by the English Garden Designer, Tom Stuart-Smith. The larger courtyard has been restored as an Islamic garden.
Islamic gardens, or chahar bagh, are based on the description of the garden of paradise in the Q'ran. They are enclosed gardens divided into 4 quarters separated by canals or rills fed by a central fountain. This represents the four rivers of paradise, water,milk,honey and wine. The gardens are for looking at from shaded pavilions on the outside with paths along the divides into quarters. The planting is at lower levels to the paths and rills partly to allow gravity irrigation. The planting areas would be filled with aromatic plants particularly fruit trees. The sunken base to the garden would allow the tree canopies to be at  the same height as people on the paths so that they were best able to see the blossoms, pick a fruit and smell the perfume.

To me the secret garden version seems very English. The quarters are only slightly sunken and are penetrated by paths leading to seating within the quarters. 

The planted areas are separated from the paths by clipped rosemary hedges. 

The garden is planted with fruit trees. Care has been taken to use plants which have been available in Morocco for the past 600 years so the main trees are citrus, fig, olive and pomegranate planted in rows and clipped and date palms interspersed in odd clumps as they are in the Agdal.

 Other aromatics are planted sometimes in pots such as Artemisia.

I have some problems with the rosemary hedging. Original chahar bagh would not have  had hedging because of the height separation but is is usual in modern gardens to separate areas with hedging . This is usually hibiscus but other plants are used. However rosemary is not a common plant in Southern Morocco. I have seen rosmarinus repans used as a potted plant in Riad Hida in Ouled Berhil but rosemary in general is uncommon. It is not used in cooking, nor generally obtainable in the souk, and can be difficult to source even in the hypermarket, so I assume it is only used in more northern parts.
I think, because visitors penetrate the garden in a western manner, the designer has not been content to leave bare earth between trees and has sought to provide ground cover. He takes his inspiration for this from the persian concept of a bustan which he understands to be a flowery meadow, a bit like the medieval concept of a flowery mead. However an internet search shows only references to an enclosed orchard  so something may be being lost in translation.

 Here he departs from the rigours of using only native plants and uses stipa tenuissima an ornamental grass native to Texas and Mexico as the  basis of his meadow.It is clipped every 6 weeks so it ranges from short and clumpy to long and waving.

Within this are planted closely clipped lavender and a range of plants each flowering over a short period such as Iris, Turkish Sage, Society Garlic and Californian Poppies so that the picture is constantly changing.

The  hydraulics are restored  and fed by the  the original basin

The elaborate central fountain is circular in shape as are all the fountains in the garden. This one is set into a square pool. In Islamic iconography a circle represents heaven and a square the earth so the paradise fount of heaven is giving abundant water to the earth.

This has been used to feed fountains only 4cm lower in the different quadrants. 

Overall the impression is of a garden designed to a brief for Chelsea. I am somewhat surprised a version did not turn up there as I am sure it would have been successful.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

The Secret Garden

The Secret Garden is in the Marrakesh medina near the Mouassine  Mosquue. It was restored and opened to the public in March 2016 and I had not seen it before.
It is built on the site of a former palace first built in Saadian times but rebuilt in the 1860s. In  1912 it was taken by a now redundant courtier who lived there with his 3 wives and numerous children.until his death in 1934. Because of Islamic inheritance laws the site was divided and subdivided until at the millennium it was owned by 130 different people, some owning only a few square metres and with many ramshackle makeshift buildings covering the site. By 2007 an Italian had managed to aquire most of the site and in 2013 a restoration programme was started. Initially an archaeological was made which found traces of the original Saadian buildings and crucially the original water distribution system. 
Marrakesh owes its existence to a complex system of underground pipes and canals  first constructed by the Almoravids in the 12C which brought  water from the Atlas. The water was distributed with a supply to each mosque and its associated fountain which is why the palace was built near the mosque. The garden system worked by tiny changes in level allowing the whole garden and fountains to be fed by gravity. The buildings were restored and decorated with tadelakt,

 stucco and zellige. The intricate traditional painting of the pavilion over the central fountain was still being completed.

and the internal roofing replaced