The Beauty of Spring

Cultivated or wild, spring flowers are always a welcome sight…

Winter here feels very much like it did when we lived in Southern California. Cool temperatures, oftentimes rainy and sometimes windy. Winter in New Jersey, on the other hand, was a soul-sucking experience especially when it dragged into late April or when the Polar Vortex decides to add to the misery by bringing snow in May!!

Even if it wasn’t snowing it was most likely raining. Everything was grey – the sky, clouds, ground, buildings, even people. It made winter nearly unbearable. I suppose that is why folks crave a break and head south for a dose of much-needed warmth and sunshine (assuming winter sports aren’t your thing). In the 8 years we lived in New Jersey Won and I never took a vacation during winter, typically because the first couple of months of every year were incredibly demanding for me at work (year-end reviews to write and performance evaluations to conduct, annual planning to finalize, annual performance goal setting, the never ending pitch to secure funds for maintenance and major projects, then rejiggering your budgets and plans when the funding is reduced or denied outright, blah, blah, blah…). No matter. We found other ways to cope. We had great friends who were always up for a spur of the moment get-together to commiserate about the sucky weather over a tasty cocktail or glass of wine and some yummy food. I miss you guys!!

We arrived in Portugal on January 13. It is now May 8 and it felt like winter was barely winter. Yes, we had our fair share of rain, but the temperatures were pretty mild and there were plenty of days when the sun was shining brightly. At first we thought it was odd and slightly amusing to see the Portuguese wearing big coats with hats and gloves when it was no colder than 5 degrees Celsius (41 degrees F – which is considered ‘shorts weather’ in New Jersey). However, as we have acclimated to Portugal, we’ve noticed that we are beginning to think it is chilly when it is 14 C (57 F). Ha! The Portuguese will get the last laugh because next winter I predict we will be joining them in wearing coats, hats, and gloves.

Happily, because winters are so mild here, the landscape isn’t devoid of green during the winter, but there are deciduous trees so it was particularly nice to see them coming back to life these past few weeks. And, of course, the flowers. All the flowers are coming into bloom. No matter who you are, flowers have the power to make you feel better. The colors alone brighten your day.

As Won and I have walked our neighborhood and the coastline, we’ve been intrigued with the various plants, flowers and vegetation. I don’t know all the names of the plants (even though I did my best to search the internet), but thought you might find some of them as pretty and interesting as I did.

Let’s start with some that are familiar to most people like ornamental apple blossoms and wisteria. So pretty!

Occasionally, we would come across a plant that was completely new, and to be honest, this one was pretty scary!!! Check out the thorns on that puppy! How would you even weed? V e r y c a r e f u l l y. I have since learned that these plants are called Crown of Thorns and they live up to their name. Yikes!

On one of our exploratory walks near our home we stumbled upon a field of cheery wild daises. Talk about a wonderful surprise! After a bit of research, I learned that the yellow flowers are Pallenis maritima (Asteriscus maritimus) which are native to the Canary Islands and Portugal.

But those weren’t the only flowers we saw that day. When we looked a bit closer we also found morning glories and nasturtiums. Even a thistle has a kind of “don’t touch me” architectural beauty to it.

While all these flowers have been wonderful to see, what I really love is the coastline and all the interesting and colorful plant life there. The ocean is so mesmerizing that if you don’t tear your eyes away and focus, you will miss the incredible variety and beauty right at your feet.

So let’s take a closer look at one of the more abundant plants, the ice plant. It is a succulent that, I learned, is not native to Portugal and is considered an invasive species. These plants produce neon pink, bright yellow and pretty purple flowers from March to June.

Another flowering plant that you see everywhere is scabiosa (also called pincushion). It is a delicate lavender flower on slender stems that rise from a bushy base and wave gently and happily in the breeze.

There are also carpets of bright pink and sunny yellow flowers that punctuate the landscape. That shocking pink/purple “carpet” you see below is osularia deltoides or deltoid-leaved dewplant. I tried unsuccessfully to learn the name of the yellow flowering plant. Deb – do you know what it is? (Deb, a longtime friend, is a master gardener living in Southern California.)

While those can be real show stoppers, I found some tiny little blue and orange flowers coexisting together in a tangle of happiness as well as a blanket of soft lavender flowers against dark contrasting foliage, and one little guy who decided to strike out on his own.

There are also strange flowering plants both large and small. The large one below, a century plant, is about to bloom (that thing is TALL!). The small one, which, based on my search, is a genus of orobanche (aka broom-rape). I almost picked it…I need something to clean my champagne flutes.

The last few flowers I want to share were so pretty and perky I just had to include them, but don’t know their names. [Update: The day I posted this, my friend, Taffy told me the flowers below are gazanias (African daisies). Thanks Taffy!]

While I was researching the flowers I have seen, I also learned that the national flower of Portugal is lavender and that lavender belongs to the mint family. Scilla, daffodil, thyme and marjoram, laurels and clematis are also native to Portugal. No dill though…(still grumbling about that, but my friend Birgitt in Germany is sending me some seeds!! Thanks, Birgitt!)

In addition to all the flowers I have seen, non flowering plants add striking texture, color, and movement. Check out that silver plant on the left, it looks like its from another planet. I was intrigued to see those snails tucked up inside that agave century plant on the right.

Lovely grasses create beautiful movement.

And there were even more interesting types of succulents! (Update: A big thanks to Taffy once again for researching and identifying the following succulents. You’re the best!)

And then there were these fuzzy plants, similar to lambs ears. They came in small (10 cm/4 in width), medium (20 cm/8 in), large (31 cm/12 in) and extra large (61 cm/2 ft). I think they might be verbascum thapsus (aka great mullein or common mullein), but not sure.

Before I sign off, I thought I would share a few pictures of the ocean and its many moods. It’s simply magical.

Portugal is charming the socks right off me. I feel like I could walk the same stretch of coastline and find something new to delight and surprise me every single day. The ocean’s moods are enough to fascinate me alone. Walking along the coastline is always a refreshing, cleansing, and delightful experience. I hope you can come for a walk with me soon.

From Portugal with love,

Beth

Published by Beth Thomas-Kim

After working in corporate America for companies like Mattel, Nestlé, and Johnson & Johnson, I retired and moved to Portugal in January of 2020 with my husband Won and our 12-year old wire fox terrier, Sweet Pea. We now live in Monte Estoril, a lovely seaside town just outside Lisbon. We spend our days happily exploring this beautiful country and learning about its fascinating history, engaging culture, warm and welcoming people, delicious food and wine, and stunning architecture. This blog was started primarily as a way to keep family and friends updated on our transition from the US to Portugal. Now, my subscribers include people from all over the world. Enjoy!

20 thoughts on “The Beauty of Spring

  1. Damn, I don’t know whether I’m happy for you and Won or sad for Chris and I! It looks so perfect I wish I could see it person and spend time taking it in. Enjoy every minute Beth-you and Won deserve it!

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  2. Sooo lovely! And you sure that bottom flower isn’t digitalis (foxglove)? Thanks for sharing these gorgeous pics!

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  3. Damn, BETH, great post for the plant lovers! I have to look up some of those that I’m not sure of but the orange one and the yellows around it are gazinias. Your readers might like to know that the century plant once it throws up that huge tall spike in blooms is the end of the plant. It dies but produces many many babies during the process. The tall one that you say looks like lambs ears is mullen.

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    1. You’re right!! I just looked up gazanias (African daisies) and sure enough, that would be the flowers I didn’t know. Thanks! Also, I have seen some dead century plants with the large stalk and wondered if they died after “giving birth” and you’ve answered that question for me too. I appreciate the confirmation on the mullein guess. Really appreciate it and super happy you liked this post. 🙂

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  4. Beth,
    Your description of NJ winters as soul sucking is so true! I was about to buy some annuals to put in pots outside, on May 7, then heard it was gonna get really cold and might snow…
    Anyway, I enjoyed your flower pics.

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    1. My son, Matthew, sent a picture this morning that showed a dusting of snow on the ground. Groan…. I’m glad the pictures I included brightened your day, though! I’m sure you will be able to get those annuals in the ground soon. Sending you warm hugs.

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  5. Hi Beth!
    Did you know that Thistle is called “Cardo” in Portuguese? The flowers are picked, dried and ground in a mortar and pestle and used as a way to curdle sheep’s milk. The traditional shepards still use this old fashioned way to make the authentic, stinky, gooey and oh so yummy cheese. And now… I’m craving it again!!!
    I’m beginning to see a pattern here…your latest posts are all reminding me of Portuguese cheese lol.
    Maybe it’s telling me a trip is in order!

    Love the pictures!!
    Liz

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    1. Thanks for the background, Liz! I think your intuition is right…a trip should be on the planner as soon as things stabilize around the world. It would be great to have you here to help us learn more about Portugal. Hugs to all. Stay safe and healthy!

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  6. The yellow one looks like scots broom (we say brem in Holland). Great plant for dry ground. I remember the other plants but forgot their names. Will see if I can find it. Great pictures!! I can feel the wind and the sun and smell the sea!!

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    1. You may be right about the scots broom. The images I found on the internet look very similar, except that the scots broom pictures have long stems and the bushes I saw were all close to the ground. It’s entirely possible, though!! Thanks!

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  7. OK, a bit more info on the plants! The silver plant (right after the gazinias) frustrates me too. I tried to find it…maybe use a plant app. I use plant snap. Then the 3 succulents you posted: the 1st is cotyledon, the second is probably an echeveria (there are 1000s of varieties), and the 3rd is a euphorbia (rigida) or gopher plant.

    BTW, that second to the last photo of the whole posts, the clifts from a distance, what a knock-out photo!! Are you taking these with your phone??

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    1. Wow!! You’ve done some research and I’ve updated the post accordingly! I’m so impressed. Thank you! I have taken all the photos with my cell phone. It’s a Google Pixel 3. Sometimes I can’t even see what I’m taking because the sun is so bright. 😅😎🇵🇹. Everything is so pretty it’s hard NOT to get a good shot!

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  8. Beth
    Wow, just wow. I’ve immensely enjoyed your blog; great read – from the nascent relocation idea, the preparation & research, the Sweet Pea adventure (what an adorable dog), surmounting bureaucracy with aplomb, and having the most positive outlook imaginable.

    As Tina Fey said, “I want to go to there”! We are contemplating living part-time in Malaga, Spain upon retirement, but now maybe we should consider Portugal? I speak Spanish not Portuguese. We’ve visited Portugal twice: The Algarve coast driving north to Evora, the second time Lisbon, traveling north to Fatima, Porto & Braga.

    I really appreciated all the planning, documents & logistics of your adventure. This is my kind of approach to such a multifaceted endeavor. It’s truly inspiring to think that you did this at this stage of your life, not the same as a gap year abroad before embarking on college studies.

    The photos are amazing: gardens, beaches, plants, museums & buildings. You notice & appreciate the beauty and design in the seemingly mundane: mosaic tiles in sidewalks, architecture of houses from mansions to modest homes, even street signs. The food is so enticing: fish, the mega-store with all the selections of seafood, cheeses, prosciutto, breads all make it so much better to be able to cook at home. What a wonderful cornucopia of options to explore. You posted such great photos of your dad, a handsome man with a great smile. You obviously share many of his traits – love of food and a sense of adventure.

    Since you posted some YouTube links (yes, the Ozzy Reviews…cheese race made me laugh so hard I got cramps in my cheeks), you might enjoy Netflix, The Great British Baking show, where one of the challenges was to make pasteis de natas! The museums capture only so much of the rich history of Portugal and Manueline style is so attractive. We stayed in a pousada in the Alentejo district that was in the Manueline style and we were transported back in time.

    Keep up the blogs and photos. Are you learning a bit of Portuguese? I wish you luck in getting the permanent resident visas.

    Leslie

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    1. I Leslie! Wow…I’m totally impressed that you slogged through all my blog posts and retained so much detail. Seriously! I’m delighted you are finding them interesting and informative. Thank you so much for your kind and generous compliments. To answer your question about learning Portuguese; yes. We are doing our best with resources on YouTube (like the Portuguese Lab, which also has a great podcast too). I have heard that the Portuguese are not happy if you default to Spanish, but so many people here speak English we haven’t really had too many problems. Regardless, we do plan to get a tutor when it is safe and appropriate to do so. Please keep me posted on how things go with your plans. Would love to stay in touch!

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  9. You took all these awesome pictures…wow
    Loved the ocean ones the best….I can see Won cliff diving

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    1. Thanks! The pictures in all my posts are taken with my Google Pixel 3 mobile phone. The technology is so good and so easy to use, it’s hard NOT to get a good picture. My biggest challenge is sorting through and then choosing a few from the gazillion pictures I have taken once I have to write a post. That’s what takes the most time for me.

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