Amy barks up the wrong tree
I have always loved plants.
When I was an infant child, my mother used to stimulate me by asking me to point to the different species growing around the house whilst I sat in my pushchair. “Where’s the begonia?” she would say, and I would smile sweetly, while thinking “Yes, but do you mean the “begonia semperflorens” or the “begonia coccinea”, mother?”
When I grew up and went to university, my mother bought a Baby Tears plant (or “Soleirolia soleirolii” for those plant lovers among you) and explained to me that she would always know whether I was happy or not at university if the Baby Tears was green and healthy or not. From then on, the Baby Tears became something of an obsession and when I came home during the holidays, one of the first things I would do was to check whether my plant avatar was indeed happy and healthy. If it wasn’t, I would take myself straight down to the local pharmacy for a dose of vitamins and then straight down the pub for some natural fertilizer.
When I met my partner in Marseille, I was living in a flat with morning glory (“Ipomoea nil”) creeping up the outside walls and threatening to come in through the front door, and ivy (“Hedera Helix”) growing up the inside walls and threatening to strangle me as I slept. In spite of my obvious first love for greenery, he still decided to stay.
And now, we are lucky to have our own plant babies. Lili and Lulu, (in human form), the most beautiful flowers of the valley, and, since September this year, 30 olive trees which we will love and care for while we comb their lovely branches for olives this month, for it is harvest month and we are about to make our very first olive oil.
Thoughts from an Italian Garden
In this strange, unsettling year of 2020 where even the most ordinary things have taken on extraordinary dimensions so that we no longer know if we’re living in March, June or November, the simple rules of social living have gone out of the window and we’re not quite sure if it will ever end, I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy the unchanging cycles of the seasons in my garden, here in the south of Italy.
The first lockdown coincided with the advent of spring which meant I had the time to plant and prune as the roses and hydrangeas began to bud. At the same time, the birds started mating and I had to do the hard work of cleaning up after the ravages of winter: of course, my machinery was all seized up after four months of disuse and it took weeks to get the wild grass eliminated and to scrub down the patio and pathways. But the cats followed me around and basked in the sun, a pair of peregrine falcons nested in the camphor tree and little by little, the garden became a mass of green and colour as the scent of wisteria filled the house.
As spring turned to summer and the heat stopped up all desire to work, I took to basking like the cats, or staying late into the night talking with friends, the background sounds of cicadas giving way to the crickets and the occasional night-owl. Colour was everywhere: the bright yellow lantana, the purple South African plant whose name I don’t know, the red, white and pink roses, the bottle brush trees and the clouds of daisies and gaura, with a hundred butterflies flitting through the haze. If it were not for the mosquitoes, it would have been paradise.
Now, as we prepare for another lockdown, it’s autumn, the nights are drawing in and the leaves are falling. The roses are flowering again and in these mild days of an ending October the coral tree dominates the garden with its tall spikes of red flowers. But the nights are growing cold and I need to chop wood and prepare for the winter days ahead.
Many things have changed this year, but as I prepare to cook the mushrooms we picked this afternoon in the forest, some things never change.
Green fingers by Katie
In Yorkshire, I grew up surrounded by green. My family lived next to a wood and our garden was small but abundant with wild flowers, thick grass, invasive ivy and three silver birch trees.
We even had an extra plot of land where my father would show me how to grow all sorts of vegetables like peas, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots and we’d often have competitions to grow the highest sunflower.
Moving to Marseille, I realised that I had taken all this greenery for granted and how much I owed to the English weather. I tried to fill my life with plants but little did they know that it was just the beginning of my reign of terror. I shamefully started accumulating pots of soil and dead twigs, unable to throw them out.
Then, when I moved into a new flat with my husband, my mother-in-law bought me a yucca as a house warming gift. She was well aware of my reputation as a notorious plant killer so she told me she had chosen something that needed the least attention possible.
“Maybe this is the one”, I thought to myself. The next day I chose a bright pink pot for “Yuccalanda”, repotted her and lovingly placed her in the corner of my balcony. There she stood for the next few years; through mistrals, rainstorms, scorching summers. Never complaining, just surviving.
I must admit, once she’d accumulated a few spiders, my visits became less and less frequent. (Also, I had a real baby and choices were made.) Until one day, I went out to my balcony to visit her and found that she had given up and wilted. Disappointed in myself, I gave her some water (for old times’ sake) and left her in her corner.
Happily, this wasn’t the end for my tenacious Yucca because the very next month, new leaves were already sprouting. Like a phoenix, but green!
Proof that even when times are tough and space is restricted, life still finds a way and we should never give up hope.
I certainly won’t give up until I’m once again surrounded by green and with Yuccalanda by my side, I can do anything!