Gardening in Portugal -a posy story

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I went into the garden this morning and picked a vase of flowers. Finally, there are enough flowers growing  to pick a bunch for the house, I have waited a long time for this moment. I arranged it into a posy and took it into the workshop, where Senhor F was working on a woodcarving and presented it to him, for after all, the garden is his too. He smiled and made the right noises,  at least. Having presented it to my one and only, I took it proudly to the kitchen, put it in a simple jug and gazed at it for a long moment. After a while, I went into the hall and set it against the magenta wall for a photo, because that is what you do nowadays, photo everything.

As I looked at the beautiful bunch of natural perfection, I realised that each flower was a paragraph. The whole bunch of flowers was a story.

It starts with the pink roses, sent to me as cuttings from my sister in law’s garden in central France, just as she was leaving her beloved garden which she grew from scratch to go and live in an apartment in Spain. Her love of roses carries on in its blush, every time I look at the rose, I remember how she pored over catalogues to decide which new beauty to add to her collection. Now a couple of her precious specimens lives on in my Algarve garden.

Then there is the  “Sunset rose” a supermarket rose I had my doubts about at first, being British and inclined to subtle colours, but I planted it for my Senhor F, who was born in the Caribbean where bright colours abound and gradually I have come to love it. It shines out its brilliance so strongly you can see it from the very top of the garden. I try not to think that it looks like one of those 1950’s frilly swimming caps. I rather the fact that reminds me that we are in the sunset time of our life…but in a good way.

The Agapanthus behind is from a cutting given to me by my lovely neighbour. She loves them, but one hot day when I was passing I found her labouring to uproot their deep tangled roots out of a bed and move them somewhere else, giving me some precious offcuts in the process. Watching them now in full flower, I am always reminded of her on her knees on that hot Autumn afternoin, struggling determinedly  with her difficult task.

The Clary Sage has become one of my favourite plants in the garden. It’s provenance is is unusual. I bought it from Lidls as a salvia, which indeed it is, but not of the edible variety one would usually encounter in supermarkets. I didn’t know what it was back then and watched amazed when it grew into the beautiful tall biennial which returns to my garden every year, self seeding or grow  with a bit of help from me. The bees love its sweaty aroma, and I don’t mind it either, although someone once gave me some seeds back from a plant I gave her in a bottle labelled “Seeds of stinky plant”

There is also a Plectranthus barbatus flower spike, the plant a huge beast that was sold to me at a local plant fair as a medicinal plant, good for the stomach and liver, three leaves in a tea. I tried it once and a more bitter foul tasting brew you couldn’t find! If it doesn’t kill you, it would have to cure you,

At the back of the display, there is some society garlic, Tulbaghia, brought to me by my sister who is making her own garden north of here, and a little spike of wild Asphodel, which planted itself in my garden from a wild seed and which has become one of my favourite plants, for it is a “lily of the field” and toils not, nor spins. And indeed nor do we much at this point of the year. However, that will change as I have just ordered some seeds and soon it will all begin again, for the seasons they go round and round, as the song says, and so does my garden story.

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