Saturday, 13 October 2012

Holidays in Spain

Hours spent gardening: 0
Hours the Spanish were seen to be gardening: 0
Number of plants in full bloom: 1000000
Number of plants observed to be dead, dying or failing to thrive despite being completely ignored: 0
Spanish gardening magazines purchased: 0 (language skills limited to ordering wine in all three colours at the bar)

Just back from two weeks in Andalucia spent lolling around swimming pools, on beaches or the terraces of bars.  There was not so much as a gardening magazine in sight.  Spain, I was told by the owner of our apartment, has two flowering seasons.  Everywhere we went, there were plants bursting with blooms, yet not once did I see a Spaniard feeding, deadheading, trimming or training a single plant, never mind spraying on some terrible chemical to get rid of an infestation or disease.  Time is spent gossiping with neighbours, taking an evening stroll, propping up the bar at the venta or taking a siesta.  That's rural Spain for you.  The only concession the Spanish made to gardening was to set up lots of sprinklers, preferably ones that go on abruptly and automatically in the twilight so as to both scare and soak the guests.

Village street in the Ronda mountains

A traditional matador in the famous bullring of Ronda

I came back to find that a combination of heat and downpours had left the garden coated in autumn leaves.  Next door's cats had filled the veg patch with cr** in spite of the alarm.  The petunias had breathed their last breath, tomato plants dessicated without producing fruit and the lavender had collapsed under its weight. Spiders are everywhere and there is a profusion of miniature, unsquashable slugs.  Our friends appointed to water had kidnapped my chilli plant, feeling it needed a better south facing home. I have yet to succeed in its release.  Apparently it has now sprung into bloom and is producing a chilli crop sufficient to feed Mexico.

Monty Don, the celebrity gardener, wrote on organic gardening in the August edition of Gardener's World.  Monty tells us to 'relax your grip', advising that the organic garden 'heals itself' and that we should garden with nature rather than fighting it.  The organic gardener becomes part of a finely balanced system rather than lord and master of the realm.  Something tells me that Monty never came back from his holidays to find his garden gone wild in his absence.  It took two of us four hours to gain control. Does Monty just sway a bit with the breeze and it all comes together?  I must have a lot to learn.

Pretentious Andalucian touch I added after the holiday


  1. 2 weeks in Spain?? Amazing! My vacation this year has so far only involved a bottle of wine and a tropically scented candle. Monty Don sounds either well medicated or completely high. I think deducing the Spaniard's secrets to gardening may require a several months stay for 'research'. I'm coming along!

  2. Ha ha, I laughed outnloud at the thought of Monty being completely high as he is so unlike that really! He has become a kind of rural sex symbol for the way he throws out his organic advice in a soft voice. Us Brits are turned on by crazy things.

  3. I think I would care less about my garden if I could be in Spain for 2 weeks...I figure it will all spring back in due time...jealous of that trip!!

  4. I like going away from my garden for a bit - it's always interesting to see what's happened in your absence. We went away for a week in the summer and came back to everything flowering like crazy. We're headed to Mallorca for a week this weekend, so we'll see if my optimism pays off again...

    I try to practice the "relaxed grip" and for the most part it seems to work. Apart from the whole cat shit thing...

  5. Hi Claire, hope you had a nice holiday and brought back some sunshine! Please send some over to East Ham if you have any left, I am in desperate need for a few days of nice, warm, sunny weather! (It is hammering down with rain as I write this....) By the way, I tried the 'organic gardening' thing this summer, well not deliberately, but between 2 operations, long stays in hospital and recovery periods my garden didn't get the usual selection of spraying. By end of July I could have opened a zoo for unusual bugs! Things are not back to normal yet, think I need a cold winter to get rid of the rest...

  6. Hi Claire, very jealous about the two weeks in Spain, however, we're going on holiday soon so I can feel smug then. There was once a time when I wanted to have complete control over the garden and have everything in its proper place, all the time, all prim and tidy, but life's too short. I'm now part of the "let it flop and self seed" crowd and the garden looks better for it.

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  8. Glad you had a good time; I'm sure that there like here in Italy the summer is almost without flowers except perhaps in well watered pots! Christina