It has taken me some days to come down to earth from having had all my Christmases and birthdays come all at once. And for good measure, having had unspoken wishes granted by my fairy godmother. M says I look like I’d been given the keys to a candy store. What I’ve been given is much, much better – I’ve been given free rein to pick what I want from a nursery. I kept asking M to pinch my arm to make sure I wasn’t dreaming it all up.
For those of you who’ve been following my posts, you already know that I’ve had two rather unsatisfactory gardeners. When it came time to hire another to plant our first trees — 10 feijoas (Acca sellowiana), 6 cypresses (Cupressus sempervirens ‘Totem’), and 2 bamboos – you can imagine how anxious I felt. Feijoas are rare, and I wanted them to have the best possible start. So, I kept the two gardeners — father and son — company throughout. I ensured the depth and width of each planting hole was generous, much as I would have made myself. To improve the trees’ settling in, I had bags of worm compost (humus de lombriz) ready. Most of the feijoas were already fruiting, so they had to be handled very gently and not removed from their pots until the absolutely last minute so as not to get their roots exposed. I took charge of the watering — giving the trees two sessions of generous soaking to settle them in well: the first as the tree was placed into the ground to ensure no air pockets around the roots, and once again when the topsoil was firmed around the roots. I also insisted on the humus being scattered generously around the roots.
While chatting with the gardeners, the father mentioned that his brother had passed away two weeks before, and his nursery business had to be closed. Having seen that I had herbs growing in the raised bed, he suggested that I might want to check out the aromatic plants — they were the ones most likely to have survived two weeks without being watered. Now I’m not one to refuse an offer of plants, even if I came away with just a couple of survivors. Besides it was an opportunity to visit the neighbouring village. M and I drove over that same afternoon. And again the next day. And again after the weekend! The stock that had survived was beyond all expectation. Each time, we came away with the van full to the roof — easily over a hundred pots.
Mediterranean natives with grey-green and silvery-green foliage — diverse thymes, sage, lavender, rosemary both creeping and upright. Verbenas, pink lantanas, yellow lantanas, lemon verbena (for tea), a tall shrub with orange tubular flowers whose dried seedheads circled the stem like Phlomis, and many other plants whose names I do not know (nor did the gardener). There were also arborvitae (Thuja) — the emerald green variety and a yellow-leafed one. And there were even chrysanthemums full of buds, ready to bloom. In a word, my idea of Heaven! Although I had planned to put in the garden structure first — fruit and shade trees, nitrogen fixers, and windbreaks, when opportunity knocks and offers me groundcover now, how could I refuse?
This has got to be the most amazing helping of unexpected grace: one perhaps highly unlikely to ever come my way again. (Although I am not discounting a repeat occurrence — one never knows.) I must have found favour in the eyes of all the gods — gardening and otherwise — for this to happen. Just consider the following synchronously happening:
- I have the appropriate place, climate, and enough space to accommodate all these plants. Had this happened at another time or another space (say Bonn or Leamington Spa), not all these plants could be fitted into the most suitable place for them. The space in my previous front gardens, although they faced south and therefore ideal for these Mediterranean plants, was rather limited.
- Most of these plants have been on my wish list for years and years.
- Having them now is brilliant timing in this environment –- just after the rains have moistened and prepared the parched earth for new plants. The beginning of autumn is the best time to plant in the Mediterranean because the soil is still warm, but temperatures are cooler, facilitating the establishment of new plants.
- The drip irrigation system will soon be in place, otherwise watering all these plants would be overwhelming. And wasteful of water as well.
For all these wonderful plants — these incredibly generous presents from my gardener, I feel totally blessed. Moltes gracies indeed!!! The garden has been furnished overnight, and in true modest fashion, he said, it was just giving us and the garden un poquito de alegría. Well, it was definitely more than just un poquito.
All 38 Thuja (arborvitae) trees and innumerable lavenders, thymes, and other plants were planted in just 4 hours by A, his son B, and A’s friend JM. Here are some of new plantings.