Blogs in this series

Life in Culebrón is a disconnected series of pieces about the banal and ordinary of everyday life in an inland Alicante village seen from my very British perspective.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Gone to ground

I may have told this story before. I used to live in Cambridgeshire where agriculture is big business. A farmer friend had a visitor from Kenya. The farm visit over it was tea and scones time. As they went into the farmhouse the visitor asked if there was a problem with the land in the garden, was it not as fertile as the general farmland? My friend puzzled, said that it was good earth. "Then why are flowers growing on it, what a waste of good land, you can't eat flowers."

I think the Kenyan may be wrong, I'm sure I've eaten flowers in salads in expensive restaurants but the general principle is right enough.

I think Spaniards may have a similar appreciation of land - it's either good for crops or it is left to its own devices. True the Arabs built some splendid and fragrant gardens when they ruled Spain but I hear that is an attempt to recreate paradise as envisaged in the Koran. Those gardens were built around shaded patios and fountains.

A Spanish friend looking around our garden was being shown our various fruit trees. She commented, approvingly, that the earth between the trees was "clean" - bare soil in other words. Kept clear of weeds to help prevent fires.

We Brits of course like our flowers. Nearly everyone around here has land and all of our British chums set about landscaping the ground - belvederes, gravel here, plants there. Without constant watering nearly everything dies unless it is native to the area so palms and olives and figs and almonds and rosemary do well but lots of things you would expect to thrive in the sun simply curl up and die or are slaughtered by the first nippy evening.

I was reminded of this when Maggie asked me to escort her to the nearest garden centre. Garden centres are a reasonably new thing in Spain and none of them resemble the UK theme park type garden centres where ice cream vans vie for the business of the hordes of people who dress up and go there for a day out. Spanish garden centres have plants, compost, maybe a few tools and garden furniture but they are pretty basic affairs.

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