Wednesday, December 10, 2008

My Garden and I

After the lushness of a North Hampshire garden where we had worked very hard to create a pretty traditional cottage garden envied by not a few, we gave it all up and put ourselves into a situation with acres of semi-desert a lot of almond trees, prickly pear, a few scattered olive and carob trees.The bonuses were some fig trees and mediterranean pines. Our intention was to try to live reasonably harmoniously and hoping to be able to provide some kind of cash from a crop. In theory well and good but actually a really daunting project. People used to say "You'll be back - you will miss the green of England". I have to admit there was a point early on when I thought they were right... How do you start where do you start? Then the old joke about the elephant... how do you eat one.... one bite at a time... came to the fore. Terrifying not even to know where to start, what the climate was really going to do during a year. Small little steps close to the house started to make a difference. Loads of failures as we didnt realise that over 700 meters certain things like oranges and lemons generally dont thrive. So one piece of advice is to cultivate a good relationship with the local boss of the nearest garden centre. This part of Spain doesnt have too many of the kind we had left behind in UK.

Using what were already vaguely interesting areas like this old cottage ruin with the delapidated bread oven, I developed a bit of a cottage garden as I would have had in the UK garden. And it worked because it is on the north side and has shade even on the hottest day except in the evening. So here are roses wild irises which grow in this region, marigolds from someone elses garden which just keep on self seeding as long as I keep them tidy. And I put in a lovely white verbena which just gets bigger and bigger each year.

Then I was taken by a friend to see someone's rather lovely garden, a person who had done a degree at the the RHS who had designed it with absence in mind. But in the end it is all about working out a structure. Our first big decision was to put in a natural looking swimming pool which was to be the underpinning of the garden project. This was planned and built to order – it required cutting a swathe through a large area of prickly pear and moving a large volume of earth to level off the hillside. Serious calculations had to be made about how to keep the soil from being washed away from where the man made slope fell away to the south. More than a year later the pool is there and slowly mellowing and blending into the vista before us. We have to share it with all sorts of wildlife of course.... Ever been in a pool where the swallows will take a drink while you are swimming? Or watching bee eaters plonk in for a cooling off while you sit nearby. And the ultimate one day was to watch our neighbourhood fox come up in broad daylight for a drink watched by Steve our cats and dogs.

Many of my plants and bushes in my garden here have to fulfil function and beauty criteria. We paid a local guy to teach us to sort out the existing trees. The almonds had to be pruned the land scraped, and up came the wild flowers in due course. So that was early Spring taken care of. The South side just has to be cactus, succulents, yuccas, agaves and so on because of the extreme heat and lack of shade – all can survive drought but give good structure and shape. The pomegranate tree really looks like it is going to do the business this year. We use large lumps of rocks among the plantings to stabilise the soil and it gives shelter to a myriad of creatures particularly a creature I have become fond of already the natterjacks. On the whole the rabbits have got the message and have moved away from the house and only occasionally try their luck at night. But for a while they were busy munching most of the young plants we put in. Given drought conditions they will risk everything for a bit of greenery. We have now fenced off a small area for some vegetables but more of that anon.

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