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Spanish Secrets: Secret Garden

"Like a classroom of unsupervised children, the garden had descended into horticultural anarchy...'' Returning home after a holiday in England, Craig Briggs discovers that his Galician garden is in need of a good deal of care and attention.

Arriving home from our holiday in England highlighted the marvel and splendour of Mother Nature, particularly at this time of year. It had been almost three weeks since we’d departed on our journey north, during which time nothing in the garden had been touched. Like a classroom of unsupervised children, the garden had descended into horticultural anarchy.

The straight parallel lines of my neatly manicured lawns had disappeared. Replacing these were tiny meadows of tall seeded straw, interspersed with tufted clumps of deep-green grass.

A varied and unusual array of weeds had taken hold in every part of the garden. These most unwelcome of flora seemingly able to defy the laws of Nature. Rooting without soil and spreading over the hard surfaced terraces.

But in and amongst this cultivated chaos were some botanical gem stones, my personal favourite being the palm tree.

Several weeks prior to our departure for England, I’d noticed five yellowy-green pods growing at the top of the trunk just beneath the spiky-green foliage of the waxy fan-like leaves. The pods were reminiscent of clasped hands at prayer. In my ignorant naivety I thought they might be some kind of fruit, maybe even coconuts.

In our absence the pods had relinquished their secret. Hundreds of bright yellow flowers clustered around coral like stems. The five stems circling the neck of the tree trunk like a floral garland.

Just then I heard a shrill cry of excitement from my wife Melanie.

“Oh, come and look at this”. She called.

Around the corner from the palm, in an untidy flower bed, was our Rhododendron bush. This young bush with its rubbery green leaves had, on numerous occasions over the past two years, been threatened with excavation and exile to a distant corner of the garden.

Whilst showing every promise of flowering, it had never managed to deliver, until now. This small bush was literally covered in beautiful large deep-pink flowers.

Our grape vines, which had started to show the early signs of bud before our departure, were progressing at an alarming rate. Leafy shoots containing miniature bunches of grapes were beginning their seasonal expansion along training wires.

Within days of our arrival home, the lawns had been returned to their parallel uniformity, and the unkempt flowerbeds eliminated of their unwanted weeds.

With the new shoots on the grape vines doubling in size on an almost daily basis, it was time to treat them with sulphur. An essential treatment to ensure the quality of this season's harvest, although why, I really have no idea.

This ancient process involves throwing a handful of sulphur powder on the new green shoots of every vine. It’s preferable to choose a calm day as getting this yellow flour-like powder in your eyes is very painful, a fact that I can personally vouch for.

With the garden groomed and the vines treated there’s just time to enjoy a glass or two of wine, before the whole grooming process starts again.

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