Having levelled our higgledy-piggledy plot to build our cottage, the builders had also laid waste to what was going to be our garden, leaving it a dusty wasteland – or a blank canvas, depending on your point of view.
So, a dusty wasteland then…
Jonathan’s blog, written in March 2014, with Cass’s comments in lady-like pink, and Jonathan’s rebuttals in manly blue.
There were a few musts for the garden: Cass wanted a cascade of bougainvillea over the balustrade (who doesn’t?!), a jacaranda, a fig, an olive, jasmines, plumbago, lantana, and a veg and herb area.
And there were a few mustn’ts, too: first of all Cass doesn’t approve of certain colours in the garden – yellows, oranges, certain reds, and even, I think, a particular shade of pink (she claims it’s a stylish aesthetic, I tend to think of it more as a sickness.) Sigh. *explains AGAIN* You can put all those colours together of course (except salmon pink. I’m not even sorry) and it’ll be a lovely hot, vivid riot. They just turn garish and wrong to me when mixed with purples, lilacs and lavenders, the powder blue of plumbago, and hot and cool pinks. Then it’s less ‘lovely riot’ and more ‘angry disturbance’ – to my eyes anyway. High maintenance much?
Also, watering in Spain is both expensive and a proper chore under a hot sun, so irrigation pipes are a necessity. As is gravelling over the open spaces between the plants – lawn is an extravagant no-no and, in the heart of the countryside, all that weeds need to triumph is for good men to do nothing!
Putting in the plants was fun only in that the tool used in Spain isn’t a spade so much as a cross between a hoe and an adze – called una azada – and using it made me feel like a genuine horny-handed son of toil. Really, can’t we keep some things private? The trees, on the other hand… The trees arrived on the back of a lorry with a huge crane that then swung them through the sky and lowered them into place. Startling to see a two-hundred-year-old, two-ton olive tree suspended above your head!
By the way, important to know that I’m no gardener. Back in the UK I could always mow a lawn in nice straight lines, and bring dying things back to life with water, and even prune the odd thing into a nice shape, but I don’t actually KNOW anything. But maybe all men eventually turn into our fathers in some way. For years I had watched mine potter around in the garden, fussing over some pest or other, forever training reluctant plants to grow in the direction he wanted them to grow in, while I shook my head and rolled my eyes at how lame it all was. Only now do I discover that in fact gardeners aren’t sad old farts at all, but heroic, eco-warriors, saving the planet one plant at a time. Well, maybe not, but we’re not sad old farts, anyway. Definitely not. Well, yes, definitely not that, but you were a bit scary about the grass in London. Lots of dark, incomprehensible muttering in soggy spring. But the lawn was lush by summer. Do you mean actually ‘lush’, or more ‘lush, innit?’ Or both? I mean the one in proper English. Ooh, excuse ME!
And after just a couple of years, most of our plantings have been a success. The bougainvillea has survived a couple of cold winters, and if it isn’t exactly cascading yet, we comfort ourselves that the roots, at least, must be doing their subterranean thang.
We had figs from the first year though they brought wasps to the garden, hmm, might not have thought that one through, lemons and limes in the first year (but not since, and still no cherries), and the four varieties of jasmines are heavenly. But the great successes, for me, are the tomatoes and chillies.
I’d grown tomatoes in the UK, but never picked a red one. By September I’d have an impressive collection of greenish, marble-like fruits, and my friends would (only partly sarcastically) be offering recipes for green tomato chutneys. Is that even a thing? But here in Spain… cherries, pears, beefsteaks – and all glorious, pillar-box red, and juicy, and TASTY! And I grew them. Me! Well, okay, nature grew them, but I am the heroic eco-warrior who fussed over them. He’s mine. All mine.