By Clodagh and Dick Handscombe – Gardeners authors and broadcasters living in Spain for 25 years.
Trees in Spanish Gardens
These days it is often forgotten that trees are an essential part of successful gardens in Spain and have been since the time of the Roman and Arab eras. For how else could one provide the shade and windbreaks essential for living comfortably in a hot/cold Mediterranean climate and inexpensive fruit and nuts essential to a healthy Mediterranean diet.
In addition trees provide some of the best spring and summer flower displays in the garden, a privacy and security, pollution control including the absorption of carbon dioxide and fire wood for wood burning stoves and the fires for traditional outdoor paellas. Yet from the time of building ships for the battle of Trafalgar, the making of charcoal for the early steel works and the clearance of areas for the hotels and houses for holiday making and then resident foreigners Spain’s trees have been under siege and losing the battle.
But luckily the next two months are a good time to reverse the trend by planting more screening, flowering fruiting trees around and within your gardens.
WHAT CAN BE PLANTED IN SPAIN?
There are four main group of trees to consider.
Fruiting trees ranging from tall growing walnuts to moderate mandarin bushes to dwarf peaches in tubs. Our book ‘Growing Healthy Fruit in Spain’ covers the growing of over seventy fruits in Spain including some sixty that grow on trees. The Healthy in the title relating to the health benefits of including fruit and nuts in ones diets and the growing of then ecologically. And how inexpensive that now is. Yesterday we purchased a litre of an ecological fertilizer for olive trees for 17 euro. It is sufficient for feeding a hundred young or 50 old trees for a year. We have twenty of each in an abandoned olive grove that we are recuperating so it’s sufficient and at less than 40 cents a tree a year!
There is an amazing range suitable for the subtropical coastlines and cold winter inland zones. Our best selling book ‘ Your Garden in Spain – From planning to planting to maintenance’ lists some thirty flowering trees ranging from the January acacias, Easter Judas trees, spring jacarandas to the end of summer spectacular end of summer floss or chorisia trees.
Likewise there are plenty of evergreen tree suitable for Spain ranging from clipped topiary boxes to bay trees for privacy and cooking to evergreen oak trees and giant magnolias. ‘Your Garden in Spain’ lists twenty of the most popular and easiest to cultivate.
Palms have been part of the Spanish landscape for two millennium but now many especially the Phoenix date palms are under serious threat from a red palm weevil brought into Spain within the trunks of cheap imports of infested trees. However 13 of the 15 palms listed in ‘Your Garden in Spain’ seem to be rarely affected to date. But if you don’t want to take the risk of buying an expensive large palm only to lose it a few years later one can plant tall yuccas and cordylines. Yes they don’t grow as tall as date palms but they do give a tropical look to a garden.
The 2010 challenge!
So with so many trees to chose from and the need to hide surrounding houses and get some real shade for the coming summers why not plant a few new trees before the Spring even if only a perpetual Lunar lemon which after a few years will be able to provide a lemon a day – not only because it keeps the doctor away but also for the sun downer g and t. And fruit trees can also be grown in containers on apartment terraces as will be explained next month.
N.B. Clodagh and Dick’s books can be obtained from high street and internet bookshops in Spain and the UK. For a special New year offer for the above two books plus ‘Growing Healthy Vegetables in Spain’ try www.santanabooks.com.
© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe February 2010.