The lady of Elche statue and pond at the Huerto del cura
The Gardens at Elche - The Huerto del Cura

The Gardens at Elche - The Huerto del Cura are a gorgeous jewel of a garden and well worth the visit to the historic town of Elche. Not only is it situated within one of the largest palm groves in the world, it is just a short drive from Spain's Alicante airport. That being said, just how do you get to the Gardens of Elche - The Huerto del Cura?

There are two things you need to be aware of before you go to The Huerto del Cura. You can't just arrive in the town and expect to find your way to the gardens of Elche. Why? Because the signposting to the gardens is intermittent at best and increasingly non-existent the nearer you get so be prepared and take a suitable map or preferably a satellite navigation or mobile phone downloaded with European mapping.

Entrance to Elche Gardens - The Huerto del Cura
The Gardens at Elche - The Huerto del Cura
Secondly, if you are driving yourself then parking can be a real headache in Spain. Of course taking a taxi or organised excursion will always be a more relaxing although more expensive option, unless you are driving a car specifically hired for this visit.

Please note that a recent survey found that it takes an average of eight minutes to find a legal parking space in any of the main towns, and nearly twice as long in large cities.

With this in mind be aware that the Huerto del Cura does not have off street parking and on my last visit to the Gardens at Elche - The Huerto del Cura there were no spaces available at all on any of the nearby side roads.

Cactus display at Elche gardens - The Huerto del Cura
The cactus gardens at Elche - The Huerto del Cura
Be aware that the garden entrance is on Calle Porta de la Morera isn't particularly conspicuous and is also frustratingly a one-way street so you can't just turn round of you miss it or a suitable parking space making a 5-10 minute long drive round the one way system before you can get back to it. To be honest, you are unlikely to find a space on Calle Porta de la Morera so it is advisable to continue onto the roundabout by the police station and turn right along Carrer Xop Illicita.

You are far more likely to find a spot here, but don't make the mistake of parking in a police reserved space. If you have no luck on this road then continued to the end and turned right again onto Calle Mangraner where you can expect to find a reliable amount of parking spaces. Admittedly it is a bit of a walk back to the gardens but what else can you do. Just don't forget where you parked and if you used satellite navigation do not leave it out on display as this can increase the risk of your car being broken into!

Images credit - Simon Eade

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Mexican Fleabane Erigeron karvinskianus growing in wall
How to grow Erigeron karvinskianus

Commonly known as the Mexican Fleabane, Erigeron karvinskianus is vigorous, spreading perennial plant which is native to Mexico, Central America, Colombia and Venezuela. Yet despite its native tropical and subtropical habitats it has managed over a short period of time to acclimatise to the cooler regions of northern Europe where it has become naturalised. It even has a foothold in the temperate climates of the south coast towns of England.

Mexican Fleabane Erigeron karvinskianus leaf flower
How to grow Erigeron karvinskianus
It was first described in 1836 by Swiss botanist Augustin Pyramus de Candolle (1778 – 1841) The species name is in honour of Bavarian naturalist Wilhelm Friedrich Karwinski von Karwin, who according to de Candolle collected the plant in Mexico.

Under favourable conditions you can expect Erigeron karvinskianus to reach a height of up to 15 cm. It has narrow hairy leaves which are prone to dying off at the base if the is induced to bolt.

The aster-like blooms are approximately 1 cm wide with a golden-yellow central disc and a fringe of white ray florets. As the blooms mature the florets turn a pinkish-purple.

Erigeron karvinskianus will perform best in a fertile, well-drained soil that does not dry out in summer. It will need sunny position but will benefit with some midday shade. It is ideal for growing in wall or paving crevices, but be aware that it will often self-seed and become invasive in mild areas. The seeds can even be mixed with a little clay and pressed into hollowed mortar joints in walls. To encourage a second flush of blooms, cut Erigeron karvinskianus back to ground level in autumn.

As tough and as vigorous as this plant is, avoid areas prone to excessive damp or waterlogging if you want it to overwinter successfully.

Erigeron karvinskianus received the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1993.

Main image credit - Simon Eade
In text image credit - Hectonichus


 bird's foot trefoil Lotus corniculatus flowers and leaves
How to get rid of the bird's-foot trefoil - Lotus corniculatus

Although rarely seen in a well managed garden, the bird's-foot trefoil - Lotus corniculatus, is a surprising attractive specimen as far as lawn weeds go. Its exotic, eye-catching blooms are in part due to its origins in the grasslands in temperate Eurasia and North Africa and its classification within the family Fabaceae.

 bird's foot trefoil Lotus corniculatus flowers and leaves
How to get rid of the bird's-foot trefoil - Lotus corniculatus
As a lawn weed, it is conspicuous in bloom and will develop an extremely prostrate habit when mowed. This means that it has a change to establish relatively unnoticed before its flowering season. Furthermore, it is better equipped to cope with poor soils enabling it to easy outcompeted with the grass if the nutrient levels are not improved.This is because (like most species within the family Fabaceae it has the ability to fix nitrogen using specialist bacterial in its root system.

It characteristically grows in grassy places in full sun and well-drained soils although is deep, branched root system will tolerate both wet and moderately dry conditions. It performs particularly well in poor, low nutrient soils, and in particular lawns which are not routinely fed and/or have the clippings removed when mowed. It is also tolerant of poor drainage and soil salinity

Note. In warmer climates where summer temperatures are regularly over 24 degrees Celsius Lotus corniculatus can become susceptible to fungal diseases.

Organic control of the bird's-foot trefoil - Lotus corniculatus

Your best and only organic control option is to dig out the plant and root system by hand. Be aware that the bird's-foot trefoil can prove to be particularly invasive and all attempts to remove it must be thorough or it will simply grow back.

Chemical control of the bird's-foot trefoil - Lotus corniculatus

The bird's-foot trefoil is known to be intolerant of high levels of nitrogen so a twice yearly application of lawn food will help to keep your lawn from being out-competed by it. However to fully eradicate it you will need to apply a selective broadleaved weedkiller. You can purchase products such as Resolva lawn weedkiller concentrate by Westland from your local garden centre.

If you have the appropriate herbicide spray certificates you can consider Tritox, Intrepid 2, Greenor, Bastion T, Dormone or Supertox 30.

Main image credit - Simon Eade
In text image credit - FredrikL√§hnn public domain


Corydalis cashmeriana flowers
How to grow Corydalis cashmeriana

Although difficult to grow in the milder regions of the United Kingdom, Corydalis cashmeriana is arguably the most attractive of all the species and cultivars within this genus. Native to Kashmir, the northernmost geographical region of the Indian subcontinent, it is a gorgeous hardy perennial noted for its comparatively large, salvia-blue blooms and is particularly suitable for rock gardens or alpine houses. For those of you who care about such things the species name Corydalis is derived from the Greek meaning 'crested lark'.

Under favourable conditions you can expect Corydalis cashmeriana to reach a height of 15 cm high and a spread of 25 cm. The dissected blue-green leaves are 3-lobed and biternate. The brilliant clear-blue blooms are approximately 1-2 cm long and appear from May to August on racemes 5-8 cm long

In its native habitat Corydalis cashmeriana is usually found in open screes and scrub in an acidic, well-drained humus-rich soil. Under cultivation it require cool, humid conditions which makes it difficult to keep in the milder weather experienced in the south of England.

As you would expect, it will perform best in full sun planted in cool, humus-rich lime-free soil. Experience has shown that Corydalis cashmeriana will perform better outside in western Scotland than anywhere else in the UK. Avoid planting near deciduous plants as any leaf drop on corydalis can cause them to rot off. Remove any leaves that fall on the foliage as soon as possible.

The soil within its natural habitat will be generally poor, but a monthly feed of 50% of the recommended dose of liquid soluble fertiliser will be fine.

In England Corydalis cashmeriana is best cultivated in an alpine house in 15-20cm terracotta pans of John Innes compost 'No.1'. Keep the soil just on the moist side over winter and avoid waterlogging as this can increase the incidence of root rots. Repot annually in March, but avoid disturbing the root system as much as possible.