That’s a pretty stupid goal to have set myself. First of all, how would you ever know yours is the most beautiful garden in the mediterranean? It’s not as if there were a Michelin star award system for gardens where inspectors swarm round with clipboards, smelling your jasmine and measuring the girth of your bottle palms.
Next, even if you do create what you think is beautiful, will other people feel the same? Isn’t being in a garden an entirely emotional, subjective and highly individual experience? I don’t care for roses, for example, and won’t have them in my garden. Yet a mediterranean garden without roses is for some as unthinkable as a night at home watching a movie without a curry.
I have to accept that we will never know if we have created the most beautiful garden in the mediterranean, nor will we ever agree on what is beautiful. But it won’t stop me trying.
Parkinsonia microphylla, or palo verde – the green stick tree that captivated my husband in California
At least we’ve put things in place now and the bones of the garden are visible. Like this small copse of trembling Parkinsonia at the entrance. It bursts into bright yellow flowers after rain and its tiny leaves shake without even a breeze.
The kitchen garden with its crinkle-crankle wall is built, fitted with electricity and water and the orchard is in – all the citrus you could want, plus walnut, pistachio, avocado, mango. It now waits for me to be there more to plan out the herbs, vegetables and flowers that will make it a truly remarkable pottager.
The mixed wood on the west hillside.
And the wood on the west side of the hill, wrapped up against the cold last winter, with pods of fleece like little ghosts, has survived its first year and is beginning to give definition to the paths we carved last year. In amongst the native retama, carob and oaks, we have planted acers, liquidambar, pines and elms to give colour. Now we wait for them to mature.
The palms we planted several years ago have grown rather slowly but these cycas have done really well. I love cycas. They look as if they’re made with cheap but strong plastic. The kind that scratches you as you walk past. But actually, they’re one of the strongest and oldest plants on the planet. Cycas survived the meteor that destroyed the dinosaurs. They love our dry warm hillside and have doubled in size and produced so many offspring already that we’ve set up a nursery and will transplant them when they’re ready to leave home.
And the path that entices visitors down to the southern end of the plateau, to enjoy a sundowner cocktail or sit around the fire pit and tell stories is in place. And the steps off that end down the “walk of saints” have been poured. It’s all there. We’re just waiting for it to grow. We have done the major structural work and should, perhaps, take this time to pause, reflect and dream of what it will look like in 20 years time, when it will finally be ready.