By Clodagh and Dick Handscombe Spain’s best known gardening authors
The Dilemma of Life in Spain
The Spanish Mediterranean coastal strip is said to have according to its average temperatures and rainfalls the best climate in the world for humans, pets, plants and wildlife. A place where you can enjoy an outdoor lifestyle most of the year and gardening is a joy whether growing flowers, hers fruit or vegetables. Yet many people find the climate oppressive and the live style boring to the extent that many go back to the UK to live or for much of the year. Yes there are an ever increasing number of associations and clubs but most involve indoor activity rather than stimulating ways to enjoy the climate that most of us came out for in order to avoid the depressions of October until April in rainy climes. Also the reasons that most expatriates avoid Galicia the Brittany and Wales of Spain in spite of the very inexpensive country properties in that province.
One thing that helped newcomers acclimatise twenty five years ago was that central heating and air conditioning especially if run from a heat pump or geothermal electricity was expensive or unknown so few houses had them. Spaniards and expatriates valued the trees they inherited in their gardens and planted more plus interesting hedges to ensure sufficient deep enjoyable shade for the summer and sheltered sunny spots for the winter. Within a couple of years expatriates became acclimatised to the vagaries of the weather including the unexpectedly hot summer weeks and colder than expected winter days and recognised why Spaniards took siestas after lunch and wore warm clothes in the winter. Also the absence of English television and the long waiting lists for telephones reduced the temptation to spend many daytime hours in doors as one had done in the UK and of course was not yet Spain’s most popular sport – probably even greater than football!
Gardens enabled one to make the best use of the Spanish climate and there were and still are many things to do in the garden beyond lying in the pool cutting the thirsty lawn and raking/weeding the stone chippings. Many of them things with interest and challenge. Just the things to prevent boredom from developing. We list a dozen below.
Twelve interesting things to do in your Spanish garden
- Develop a lively garden or terrace something that you enjoy and are proud of. Something that draws you out soon after daybreak and keeps you out beyond sundown. Part Two of our book ‘Your Garden in Spain’ is focussed on helping you design and construct a garden that matches your intended lifestyle while minimising the maintenance needs and watering bills.
- Develop collections of interesting plants . Part Four of the above book describes some four hundred plants with photographs in most cases. There are many types that would be a good basis for collections such as cacti succulents herbs and bulbs and within the types spectacular possibilities such as sages and irises for developing collections. Just flick through the pages for inspiration. Even with vegetables interesting collections of tomatoes and beans can be developed especially if you search around for old regional varieties.
- Grow an interesting diversity of seasonal vegetables . ‘Growing Healthy Vegetables in Spain’ identifies over a hundred types of vegetables that one can grow on the Costa Blanca and how to do so in containers and window boxes on apartment terraces as well as in ones garden.
- Start to grow things from cuttings and seeds . This opens up many possibilities for growing interesting plants that are not often seen in Spanish garden centres and if they are available growing your own can be very economic. If you have never grown things from seeds or cuttings before there are comprehensive chapters in ‘Your Garden in Spain ‘ and ‘Growing Healthy Vegetables in Spain’.
- Attempt to cross pollinate or graft plants for new cultivars . That is a fascinating and challenging hobby requiring attention to details and patience.
- Breed birds or fish in aviary and pond . Another fascinating hobby and one that could lead to some useful pocket money as there is a constant demand for interesting fish and birds amongst Expats and Spaniards.
- Decorate pots for a container garden . There are plenty of plain pots of all shapes and sizes that can be decorated for display use with or without plants.
- Become an active member of a gardening club . Or indeed start a new one as there are areas and large urbanisations along the Costa without convenient local gardening clubs. Surprisingly there are very few branches of the Mediterranean Gardening Club of which we are members in Spain.
- Go through our books and select new ideas to implement each month . ‘Your Garden in Spain’, ‘Growing Healthy Vegetables in Spain’ and ‘ Growing Healthy Fruit in Spain’ are full of practical ideas and seasonal essentials waiting to be implemented. They are available in bookshops and branches of Carrefour as well as by mail order on Amazon, www.santanabooks.com or good bookshops .
From now on we hope you find that you no longer find the time to become bored!
© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe November 2009.