It’s Spring and I’ve been feeling a bit desperate. Spring should be the time when everything is busting out all over, but unfortunately there isn’t a great deal of planting to bust out in my garden yet. We have done a lot of work, enough to make us ache all over. I have an additional blog to support new arrivals to The Algarve here which explains what we’ve been up to, making a gravel bed.
So, it was some pleasure that I stumbled upon a wonderful blog, part of which I reblogged in two earlier posts, describing the process of creating a garden in Lazio, Italy. The writer is a very experienced gardener and designer and gives me inspiration and strength to believe in the possibilities, even though sometimes it feels very difficult to garden on this windswept hillside with little water. Onwards and Upwards!
So come with me on a little walk around the garden, what there is of it. There HAS been progress, of course there has. It was a building site under two years ago, I remind myself frequently. Here is what it looked like then.
I have tried to see the garden in sections. It’s the only way I can stop myself feeling engulfed. This is not a huge garden, but for us, who have been used to a backyard terraced garden in South london, cheek by jowl with others, it is daunting enough! And I am in my third and final age, so five years is a long time for me. But I can’t go faster than the plants grow. I have to take a step at a time.
Small triumphs are that we have nearly completed the gravel terraced area on top of the bank, mentioned above. It has been really hard labour, hauling gravel up the hill. I haven’t been able to plant the whole area because of shortage of funds, but have several grasses, pennisetums and iris sibirica which I am growing from seed and hope to plant in the Autumn, along with lavender cuttings. This side of the terrace was planted last Autumn. The lavender hedge was grown from cuttings, so I am hopeful that I can replicate it fairly cheaply in other areas of the garden. The clay soil here is good for striking cuttings, if you get it at the right time when it is wet and warm enough, but it can be a bit hit and miss, so I have also done some in pots.
There is at least bit of Spring going on here. I have planted grasses at the top of the bank, which I have cut back, so it’s somehwat bare. I also buried some dutch irises I bought at the MGS fair in between other plants . I haven’t a clue what they are all called, either common names or Latin ones, but I must sort this out. I am always muddling up plant labels and forgetting what I’ve planted where. There are so many different irises, bearded iris, dutch irises, flags etc. I sometimes wonder where they are all growing together, if one sees itself as more superior to the other. I imagine the bearded irises (I think they are Iris germanicus) mocking the slightly more gentile dutch variety. (Reading this back, I think I have spent too long on my own with the plants!)
In the vegetable garden, my sister sent me some Jerusalem Artichokes from her garden in Wales (or Fartichokes, as she calls them) I think they should do very well here and indeed they are popping up their little shoots already, bless them. I had them on my allotment in Dulwich and enjoyed growing them and eating them. I even had them in a tiny back garden in Crystal palace, where they were a talking point for the neighbours.
Señor Faztudo has made me a glory hole. We have created a fenced off and gravelled area below the shed where I can potter and plant to my heart’s content. We are very different, in that he is obsessively tidy and I am pathologically messy. We usually work it out somehow!
I have planted a Lidl’s rose of unnamed variety to grow up the fence, which is supposed to climb and cover everything with pink roses, along with some ivy. It was one euro 49 cents in a sale.(I can’t afford David Austin at the moment!) In the meantime, I have some horrible green screening to hide the mess and I have planted some succulents in old cat food tins and hung them from the fence. It’s a kind of temporary joke and a nod to my hippy days and I like it.
The camellia below is very pretty, but really a gardening mistake. I wanted something to plant in the flower trough near the front door, but then realised it was full of alkaline soil. It likes acid soil. So I have put it into a pot and I water it every day with coffee grinds which are a little acid. It seems happy. It looks good against the pigmented plaster, I think.
In the vegetable garden, we are cropping peas, mangetout and lettuce and Portugese kale. I have planted some courgette seeds in my newly created lasagna bed, but the blackbirds have dug them all up looking for worms, so I will have to plant them again. Some of my small tomato plants have been eaten by cutworms, but I have more plants to replace them.
I haven’t got much room for potatoes, so I have planted some in a sack, as an experiment. Watch this space. Once they sprout you just put more soil in and they are supposed to keep putting tubers out.
I have developed a love affair with succulents and cacti and have been potting them up in the Glory Hole. I found out recently from a fellow Algarve gardener they are better grown on in light shade, so I’ll be moving them to a shadier place when it gets hotter. The scallop shells, which are plentiful on the beach here, make a good shade protector and look pretty, I think.
The succulent gravel garden is doing well. This was grown in the place where the builder’s mixed all the concrete to build the house and was really the only choice for a garden here. It’s difficult because the area by the wall is in deep shade, but I am pleased with its progress, albeit slow. I have put the pots as an edging, with a dogs skull I found on a walk. Poor dog. He had healed injuries on his skull which suggested a hard life. I wanted him to rest in peace, as a thing of beauty.
Other jobs we have completed is to feed all the fruit trees with lovely sheep manure. Unfortunately the sheep manure came with rather a large number of ticks which we have been removing from the cats and even ourselves this week. Ah, the trials of gardening! But I’m sure it will be worth it when we bite into those succulent oranges…in about three or four years time! So that’s the update. Now let’s sit under the olive and have some tea. How is your garden getting on?