Gardening in Portugal- The Gifts in my Garden

“She breathes in dirt and exhales flowers” (Unknown author, but I love that quote)

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It seems strange, but for the past four years  of building this garden, I haven’t had much time to concentrate on the plants. I do have a quite lot of plants now, but the garden is big and the plants are still small and sometimes it’s hard to even realise they are there!  Although  I have a fairly well developed idea of how I want the garden to be planted and I have already different “zones” we have been spending our limited resources on finishing terraces, garden buildings and hard landscaping, and haven’t really focused on what is growing in the garden. I have just poked plants in here and there in the general  position I want them to grow and hoped for the best whilst I concentrate on improving the soil, finishing off the structures and grow a little food.

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With this in mind, I went out in the garden yesterday with my roses coloured glasses on. I wanted to take a fresh look at the  plants I already have in the garden, the plants I need and perhaps even more importantly, the plants I desire!
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As I looked around, and focused in on what was actually growing, I felt a huge debt of gratitude, as I realised most of the plants in my garden have been given to me. Here a delicious pot of spiky aloes, which I don’t even know the names of, given to me by a friend with a wonderful collection, there a beautiful camellia or a hibiscus. Many roses, given to me as cuttings by dear neighbours and friends, even some sent in the post from France by my sister in law. Wild flowers growing from seeds plucked from the waysides by my Portuguese teacher, who knows so much about their origins and medicinal uses, Absinthe (Artemisia absinthium) and Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) grown from donated cuttings and Lippia Alba, common name here, Cida, a plant used for tea by someone who thrust a whole pot of rooted cuttings into my hand at the Seed and Plant exchange in the Autumn. During a time when the world seems to be getting more insular and less friendly,  my emerging garden is bright with the generosity and good heartedness of fellow plant lovers and gardeners.  I’ve been donated beautiful pots too and even tools. I’ve been given furniture and decorations for my hippy shed, which I enjoy with much pleasure as I sit there. To help build my lasagna beds I have received coffee grounds collected from the local cafe, newspapers, leaves, horse manure and even shredded bank statements which were great added great benefit to my sludgy compost! Even  some of my chickens are presents. I am humbled by the generosity of so many people as I walk around the garden. People are so kind.
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Looking at different pats of the garden, , I realise already have a good collection of succulents, a wide range of aromatic plants, including several types of lavender and rosemary, cistus and phlomis, thymes  and salvias, some ornamentals including hibiscus, oleander, plumbago, Ceanothus, a rose collection, many of then unnamed and grasses and irises, both winter and summer.

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I also have a few tender and beautiful pot plants, a camellia, a holly fern,(Cyrtomium falcatum), a couple of  frangipanis (Plumeria) and some lilies. I’d like more decorative and unusual plants , but the care they need will make them plants for some time in the future, once I have the greenhouse and can care for them better(  Señor Faztudo is still hammering away in the garage, as I write) Pouco a Pouco, as they say here!

So that’s more or less what is emerging,  not including all the food plants and trees. What do I need? I need more drought resistant, chicken proof plants, to fill in the spaces, nepetas, other species of cistus, euphorbias, varieties of iris, maybe more grasses. I need some pyracantha to make my chicken corner more impenetrable to predators. I need more Dutch irises…you can never have too many Dutch irises! 
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But what do I desire? Ah now…there’s a thought! I desire a moringa  tree.(Moringa oleifera-my sister gave me some seeds but I can’t find them anywhere!) I desire all the aromatics in the world. I desire a bigger collection of aloes as I’ve fallen passionately and hopelessly in love with the spikey fellows. I desire stinging nettles growing just where I want them to grow and comfrey so I can use it to feed my vegetables. I want celandines and poppies and borage, but do they want me?  I crave a rhubarb plant but I don’t think that’s going to happen. I almost desire more space….no wait!  A gardener’s greed knows no bounds, but it’s a happy greed. It doesn’t kill you with calories or pollute your lungs, it just soothes your heart and soul and keeps you fit. My plants reward my time with them and the more whole I become and the more healed I am from the mad hurry of city life,  the better they grow.
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7 thoughts on “Gardening in Portugal- The Gifts in my Garden

  1. Jane, such a delight to see so much flowering and thriving in your garden. I am so jealous that you have tansy…..I love it. We tried with rhubarb, but it doesn’t get cold enough here, generally, for it to survive. This is true for so many plants we love (are we so much hotter here than where you are?). I tried peonies too and they were a no-no, but I know they grow in Portugal.

    Nowadays we try to concentrate on drought resistant plants so our succulents are becoming more varied. I think you must be an instinctive gardener and the plants know you love them. It really is warming to walk round the garden and see stuff given to us by friends.

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  2. Thanks for your kind words. The tansy has been a delight and really grew huge. I grow it down in the nascent orchard, as a sort of hedge, both to keep the medfly at bay and because I love it..it’s so green in the Spring. The chickens nibble on it, which I’m pleased about as the countrywomen around here used to use an infusion of it to give their children against worms! I have been amazed by succulents and the huge variety, their different needs, their shapes and their flowers! Who knew? In the UK they were just supermarket plants I never gave another glance to. How arrogant of me! I just re-read some of your blog posts. I have put very bright artificial flowers in my hippy shed…I love them, so gaudy and bonkers, but yours, in posts, look very realistic. My gardening thoughts and love to you both across the border there.

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  3. Oh Lucky you! You have Ranunculus ficaria growing there! I tried it here but it was too dry for them.
    By the way…Lippia alba’s portuguese name is Cidrão (not Cida) 😉

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  4. Thanks Alexandre, the Runuculus Ficaria was growing wild just over the fence, and I was delighted when it decided to come across to our side this year, I love it. We are North facing, which I think helps it a long a bit, but Imdont water this patch at all, it’s under a large olive and a carob. Thanks for the corrections, keep them coming please. I do hope Cida doesn’t mean something awful in Portuguese!

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  5. Hi Thanks for the blog…we are just starting here..and learning……every days a schoolday when it comes to gardening in Portugal.
    All the best Roy and Susan

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  6. Thankyou for reading it! Isn’t it wonderful to always be learning though, that’s part of the adventure. I’ve found the most important thing is not to let your garden become a problem in any way, just take it little by little and believe it will reward you. I used to feel really desperate at times in the beginning, but then I realised there was no need. As long as you have the intention to make a garden, it will unfold as it should. Good Luck to you both with the journey!

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