One box still left in the pantry, though other boxes have proved far too much, and piles of soggy, yellowed and tasteless apples, thrown guiltily away, still seem to delight the local blackbirds (and probably rats too), down in the wood. And now, with a mild March, the buds on the apples trees are swelling again, and so it goes on: round and round.
Just back from Lincolnshire, where Alec has his country garden, I feel once more the pull of the garden here, and have been potting up seedlings (some donated by kind gardeners in nearby villages down south), and seeing what has survived a summer’s neglect in our Borders garden. Rather a lot, in fact, but of them and our plans for their use, more later.
The two big urns pose their usual problem: what to do in after the tulips are over – this year the sumptuous yellow %%%%. Last years’ nasturtiums were a wonder, pulled in myriad cabbage whites, fell spectacularly to pieces, and generated enough caterpillars to destroy every cabbage in the country. So, something a bit more disciplined, silvery, I think, rather than green, and flowers less of a blaze of colour.
OK, that’s a lead in for the enchanting Lotus berthelottii, rare when I first grew it, now often to be seen at the local garden centre. Who cares. What I hadn’t realised until last autum was that Monsieur Sabin Berthelot (1794-1880) had fallen in love with Tenerife, and specifically the town of La Orotava. In fact, his love is commemorated in an enchanting garden, presumably because, jealous of the handsome acclimatisation garden in Puerte de la Crus, La Orotava wanted something similar, if on a less generous scale. A local aristocrat stepped in, provided some land, gave it some handsome railings, and planted it up. It still exists in a little square behind the town hall, and looks, through those handsome railings, seriously worth visiting. Be more careful that we were: it only opens in the morning. The reason, then, for going back? Magic. Even in the downpour, even through the railings, it had that special feeling that some gardens, vast or tiny, sometimes develop. Perhaps it’s just a trick of the moment. Perhaps it’s just that the plants are growing together with exuberance, and haven’t had, like the plants in the morning’s garden, the dread dead hand of municipal gardening blight them.
But back to the Lotus. It is endemic to the Canaries, and rare in the wild. The brilliant and strange beak-like flowers are adapted to bird pollination but seed, at least in cultivation, is rarely set. It cascades prettily down the sides of big pots, survives a good bit of neglect, though feed it when you remember. Hard frosts kill it off, but overwintered cuttings root fairly easily. Oh, there’s a golden yellow form to be had if you need variety. Quite liking colour clashes, as well as harmonies, we used to team it with magenta Verbena Sissinghurst, but not sure what we will do now.
The heavily municipalised garden starts out wonderfully. Built for a marquis fabulously named Diego de Ponte y Castillo, it’s called the ‘Victoria Garden’ and Victorian is is. Seriously. However, main garden is reached by a walk up on one side of a rocky gully torn out of the hillside by downpours even more ferocious that the one we encountered. Photo. It’s a gorgeously tangles mass of monsteras, bamboos, poinsettias, cyperus …
But then, over the bridge into the garden proper, the scene is rather chastening. Of course, the views out are wonderful – the town below, the white capped volcano above, and though it is indeed fun to see agapanthus, aphelandras and so on treated pretty much as bedding plants, the overall feel where? Blackpool? Eastbourne? Every fountain basin, every runnel, is painted bright swimming pool blue. Every reasonably horizontal path is thick with red stone chips. Every low retaining wall is, even on a grey misty day, blindingly white.
Hasten on to the one once tended by M. Berthelot, or head down to Puerto de la Cruz for a real delight – the Orchid Garden. Or go on to La Laguna, and where roof gutters sport clumps of echeverias, and find then an unexpected pleasure – the cloister garden of the partially ruinous Convent of Saint Agustin. With its original layout, four square and centred on a fountain (scheme familiar since Rome and ancient Persia), the citruses, the strelitzias, the colour of the stone, make it an enchanting place. A return is essential…
The orchid garden will have to wait another post. Yet another embarassment: the islands have a fascinating flora of their own which, alas, we made no effort to see. From our hotel, the white peak of the volcanic Mt Teide accused us every moment we spent on the sun terraces of the hotel.