Saturday, 2 March 2013

The Alhambra, Generalife and a Thermo Compost Bin

It is late 1990 in a nightclub in London. She takes one look at the stranger at the bar and is absolutely certain that he is the man she will marry. He smiles and asks her to tell him a joke. Without a second thought she launches into a tale of dubious cleanliness involving a famous snooker player of the time. 

The moral of this story? Learn one joke very well as you never know where it will lead you. For us, it led to the Alhambra in Spain, where we celebrated twenty years of marriage (yes, she was right about the stranger at the bar).

Chaenomeles speciosa and citrus fruits
at the Generalife
Call me a quitter, but no words or photos I can publish here will ever do justice to the Alhambra and Generalife. Information about this fascinating UNESCO World Heritage Site abounds, so instead I thought I would show you something rather clever I saw there which we might be able to adapt to our own gardens. Imagine you are taking this photo (yes I know it’s not as good as one you would take, but in my defence, it was a dull day and I was in a heightened state of emotion). You are at the Alhambra and looking across to the Generalife (you can just spot the clipped hedges of the Lower Generalife Gardens towards the centre of the photo). There is quite a distance between where you are standing and those hedges.  


Now imagine you are standing just above the clipped hedges of the Lower Generalife Gardens which we saw in the previous photo and you are looking back across the valley towards the Alhambra. Look at the way those hedges are used architecturally and how they mimic and support the view beyond. 


The hedge hugging the tower in the next photo is on your side of the valley, not on the side where the tower stands. The distance between the Alhambra and the Generalife appears reduced and the buildings and the hedges on either side of the valley blend beautifully. Now the question is, how am I going to apply this to my garden? In truth, it could be quite a challenge as Norfolk isn't famed for its hills and there is a woeful lack of towers and palaces on our little farm, but it has to be worth playing with a few ideas.



Our wedding anniversary shares a date with the first anniversary of the start of our barn conversion and to mark the occasion I decided to indulge in a minor construction project of my own: a new compost bin. Historically, I have been a bit of a traditionalist on the compost front - all New Zealand bins with a brief, ill-judged foray into tumblers, but I have decided to let my hair down this year and branch out into the world of thermo bins. I am now watching the speed of decomposition with great interest - if this had been my opening line in the nightclub, we certainly wouldn't be celebrating twenty years of marriage, although one of us might have celebrated winning a prize for the hastiest exit from a nightclub in 1990... and where would that have left me? Probably staring at an abandoned drink on the bar and toying with the idea of taking it home for use in slug traps. 

Happy first anniversary to our barn conversion

Information about the Alhambra and the Generalife can be found at www.alhambradegranada.org  We booked our tickets early by following a link from this website. It was worth doing - even though it was February, I saw people missing out on a visit because they were too late to purchase tickets. 

73 comments:

  1. How wonderful or you both, it sounds like you had a fantastic time.

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  2. Congratulations on 20 years and you chose a beautiful place to celebrate. Enjoyed your fun story too.
    Great example of repeating forms to reinforce design elements. I love the hedges at Veddw, might be helpful in bringing the idea home.
    http://veddw.com/



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    1. Thank you, Shirley. You're right about Veddw - thank you for the suggestion. I will try to get there this summer.

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  3. What a cute story! Happy Anniversary! What a beautiful place, too. Very romantic. I love that you celebrate the anniversary of your barn conversion! A new compost bin sounds very appropriate. I've not heard of a thermo bin before, but now I'm very intrigued!

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    1. Thank you! It is an extraordinarily beautiful place. The celebratory thermo composter is a Komp one which has been designed to increase heat retention and improve air circulation and hopefully churn out compost at an increased rate.

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  4. It's good to make someone laugh - what a great chat up line!
    A lovely romantic story and congratulations on your 20 years.
    I'm sure however you choose to apply such design to your garden will give you many hours of contemplation, fun and satisfaction.

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    1. Thank you Angie - I have a suspicion we may be measuring the application of this idea in months rather than hours!

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  5. Great story. I love the clever use of those hedges. Wonder if I could apply something along those lines to make more out of my views.And I want details of the compost bin construction!

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    1. Thanks Janet. It's easy to construct (even I managed it in under 10 minutes). It's a Komp composter - not something to my taste aesthetically, but I have heard good things about the rate of decomposition.

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    2. Brilliant, thank you, I have two older compost bins that look very similar and work amazingly fast - even when you are lazy like me and never turn the heaps! Ugly but effective.

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    3. I don't like turning heaps either - fast compost is great, but fast compost without having to turn the heap wins hands down!

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  6. Definitely a terrific story. Seeing the Alhambra is on our must do list.

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    1. Oh yes - you MUST go! It is still on our to-do list, because having seen the dormant plants, we want to go back and see them in bloom.

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  7. Taking ideas from grand gardens and seeing if I can reinterpret them on a small scale has become a recent hobby. I'm sure you will figure it out somehow, the flat lands of of East Anglia will make it all the more intriguing.

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    1. Hi Susan - do you think if I got my hands on enough top soil I could landscape East Anglia to include a few more hills? It might make the design task less challenging.

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  8. Congratulations - you are probably right about the compost bins.

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  9. Happy Anniversary! What a great 'chat up' line! I'm looking forward to hearing about the compost bin and whether it would be quicker this way. Take care. Chel

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    1. Thank you Chel C. Fingers crossed the composter will live up to its reputation, because I am going to need loads of compost this year.

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  10. What a lovely place you chose to celebrate - congrats.

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  11. Congratulations, what a lovely place to celebrate! Looking forward to seeing how you interpret the ideas in your own place.

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    1. Thanks! I have a feeling we may have a long wait until the plants reach the size we need to carry this off.

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  12. I loved reading your story, the Alhambra is indeed a great place to celebrate, my husband and I visited it some years ago. Congratulations!

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    1. Thank you Janneke. It is a wonderful place.

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  13. That's lovely ... congrats to you both on the anniversary. Thanks for thoughts on capturing, echoing and playing with the surrounding environment - your photos demonstrate your points really well. I noticed a similar effect with perennials last summer in Rotterdam (http://ericasgarden.blogspot.ie/2012/07/wide-sky.html) in memorial gardens on the banks of the wide Maas river.

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    1. That is a great suggestion and more realistic for a garden in Norfolk. Thank you!

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  14. Congratulations on your anniversary. Funny, I knew straight away that I'd end up marrying my hubby too. What a lovely place to celebrate, I can't wait to see how you use some of the ideas in your own garden.

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    1. Thanks Jo! It is a fabulous place to celebrate - and unforgettable.

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  15. Hello, I really enjoyed reading this story. Congratulations on your 20 year anniversary. I visited the Alhambra just over 20 years ago (1991) and I do remember it as beautiful, with plenty there to inspire.

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    1. Hello Wendy - thank you. It is a wonderfully inspiring place.

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  16. Congratulations on your anniversary! Nothing wrong with your photos - they look good, illustrate your point perfectly, and having me wanting to book flights to Granada straight away...

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    1. Thanks - and thank you for your generous comments about my photos.

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  17. Wonderful you had a nice anniversary - 20 romantic years is quite a nice number. Great trip and story too. What a beautiful place to.

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  18. I can remember a golf course design workshop I attended and how one of the main design concepts for planning a putting green was to shape the elevations according to the shape of the horizon. Much like these designers did with the hedges and walls. Thanks for stopping by, by the way.

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    1. Hi Greggo - I hadn't thought of it like that. I shall be looking at golf courses with fresh eyes.

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  19. Congratulations on your 20 years of marriage! Alhambra would be a perfect choice to commemorate the anniversary. The guitar sound of “Memory of Alhambra” sounded softly in my heart while reading.

    Yoko

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    1. Thank you, Yoko. I now wish I had background music to this post - thank goodness we have cultured souls such as yourself to add that extra dimension.

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  20. LOL, love your decomposition chat up line! It would probably appeal to someone like Monty Don who is always on about leaf mould. I'm sure you wouldn't have ended up alone although it's hard to meet compost lovers in nightclubs.

    Love the Alhambra, in fact I am always mentally redesigning other people's gardens on a Generalife scheme, telling them they need walkways and waterways and so-on...it's madness really here in my world of tiny city gardens. I dream on...

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    1. What an inspired idea, Claire - compost lovers' night - Peter Stringfellow is missing a trick.

      Good luck with introducing the Generalife scheme into tiny city gardens!

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  21. Your analysis of how the hedges worked with the landscape really brought out the amazing synergy. What a fun trip.

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    1. Thank you, Carolyn. It was a fabulous trip.

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  22. Congratulations on 20 years. What a view looking across at those towers! That must have been an amazing trip. and now knowing what good things might come I must go off and learn a good joke or two..

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  23. I like the moral of your story: Learn one joke very well as you never know where it will lead you. Congratulations on your anniversary!

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  24. Many congratulations on your Wedding Anniversary and the barn conversion too :-) The topiary really is very effective, the designer had a very good eye. Love the colourful Japonica photo too.

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    1. Thank you. The Japonica was really beautiful - even on a dull day and so lovely to see it combining with the citrus fruits.

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  25. Congrats on your anniversary...it's amazing where a hello leads to.

    Jen

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  26. I love the hedges, especially the tower hedge. I'm sure it could be put to use on a smaller scale too.

    Congratulations on your anniversary.

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    1. Thank you! I agree with you - it should work on a smaller scale.

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  27. Congrats on 20 years! What is a thermo bin? I only maintain worm bins since I don't have space outside for a composter. Plus, the compost would freeze in the winter.

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    1. Thank you! It's a bin designed to speed up decomposition. So far, no compost, but I think compost in 2 weeks in snowy Norfolk is a little unrealistic!

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  28. Congratulations on 20 years (wow). The first thought I had about those hedges when I saw the pictures was that they were planted exactly to mimic the towers and buildings in the backround and it works really well. Shame the weather wasn't a bit sunnier so you could enjoy it more but it sounds like you had a good time regardless. Keep us posted on the compost bins!

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    1. Thank you Sunil - it was a pity it wasn't sunny, but it was beautiful nonetheless. No compost yet, but it's early days.

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  29. Clapping Wildly ... loved this post and the pictures were gorgeous.

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  30. A lovely wide diverse ramble and I MUST go back to the Alhambra and the Generalife. Love the yew topiary. Too many a long year since I visited, long before, even, a honeymoon.

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    1. Yes you must go back! It is a must-see place which has the happy knack of metamorphosing into a must-see-again place after a visit.

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  31. An Alhambra inspired compost bin to celebrate 20 years of marriage and a one year barn house conversion! Congratulations! You have me smiling, and the photos are lovely! I loved your romantic story. I also knew I was seeing my future husband the day I met Lou.

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    1. Well done for spotting Lou - I haven't a clue how that spouse-recognition thing happens, I'm just delighted that it does!

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  32. Awww..such a sweet story :-). Wishing you many many more happy anniversaries. Those hedges and the towers really look majestic.

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    1. Thank you! Majestic is the right word.

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  33. So looking forward to following along with you on your journey! Those hedges are stunning and do add such a dramatic affect to the landscape. I think recreating something dramatic like that on your land would be fantastic!!!!! Cheers to you and I enjoyed reading your story!!! Happy anniversary and happy composting!!!

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    1. Welcome - and thank you for your good wishes and encouragement. I think it would be fantastic too, but I still have no idea how I am going to achieve it!

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  34. What a real treat! It is a beautiful place. I am in awe. Thank you for sharing it with us.

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    1. It is a beautiful, awe-inspiring place. Right now, as I watch the snow fall, I could do with going back there for a few days.

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  35. Dear GRAS expert SHOULD have read #Terrified Tuesday

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