Gardening activities have been neglected recently but now I’m paying the price.
The reason for neglect is justifiable – when you have visitors it seems unfriendly to excuse yourself to do weeding and pruning each night on top of the necessary watering. But the consequences are that the weeds make the most of their opportunity.
On our own our lives are quiet and a 10 day visit that includes two lively children takes a few days to recover from. So the weeds had a good two weeks to undo my previous efforts at garden management. And they took full advantage of this opportunity. Getting back on top of things in the continuing heat is a slow business. The knack of early rising still eludes me, so my gardening time is the last couple of hours of daylight assuming the heat of the sun has begun to ease.
The vegetable garden took at least 2 days to weed. As we’ve harvested and discarded unsuccessful crops we’ve opened up areas of ground. On the one hand this gives the weeds more scope, but on the other these areas don’t get as much water, so some weeds are struggling to survive. This makes the weeding a bit easier, even though there’s more of it. We’re plagued by a fast growing shrub that has deep set, stubborn roots. The easiest ways to deal with it are either tugging it out or cutting it off at ground level. As the shrub is sticky to the touch, cutting is becoming the preferred option, although this guarantees it will come back more quickly.
In some of the flower beds the weeds had started to overwhelm the flowers, and faster growing ground cover plants had started to move in on their neighbours. One of the challenges is the roses. Greeks love their roses, but don’t seem to choose anything other than multi-thorned varieties. Trying to coax weeds from around the roots and stems of thorny roses is no joke. It’s the same with pruning: holding on to that cutting without stabbing myself is also a matter of luck. And in the heat the blooms don’t last long so pruning is an ongoing task.
Slowly the beds are starting to look better. Weeds are disappearing and plants are looking tidier. Several are coming back into bloom. It’s difficult not knowing what many of the plants are or anything about their care. Back in the UK, every plant from the garden centre came with a name label, and usually basic care information. Here, it’s different. It’s not just that this is an established garden; it’s the same when you buy plants. Provision of information isn’t the norm.
And our landlady doesn’t know either even though she chose most (if not all) of them. She was never intending to have a hands-on caring role for the garden so her involvement ended once the choices were made.
The challenge for me is that I don’t know what I should be pruning and what I should be leaving; what needs more water, what less; where to put new plants and cuttings that keep appearing etc. Personally I lean towards letting nature rule rather than excessive pruning, but maybe I need to take a different approach with some plants. Maybe if I pruned more there would be more flowers. I just don’t know. And solutions aren’t easy.
I’ve tried the internet to find out more about the plants but I can’t find a site where I can just look through pictures until I spot what I’ve got. On most plant identifier sites you need to know the name (if I knew that I wouldn’t have the problem) or be able to answer questions about the plant such as leaf structure, growing habits etc. which are often phrased in scientific terms that mean nothing to me.
I think the solution will have to be taking pictures then visiting the garden centre and trying to match them up with plants on sale; then asking the owner for care details without buying anything. It’s either that or buying a book. Unless we can find one in English that’s an expensive way to find out the names of a handful of plants. But maybe it could be useful for the future – although I’m hoping to collect quite a lot of cuttings from the plants already here anyway.
There’s another unwelcome aspect of gardening in the evenings: my quota of bites is rising steadily. I was doing pretty well, just getting the occasional pink lump appearing somewhere but since getting close to the plants again I’m starting to look much pinker and lumpier. Still, there’s an excellent natural remedy close at hand: basil. I just break off a leaf and rub it on the bump until the sap comes out. Usually I only have to do it once, and most of my bites are disappearing quickly. For me, basil is much more effective on insect bites than anything that comes out of a tube.
But every cloud has that silver lining: I’m getting some exercise; and some knee bending and stretching is good for these lazy bones!
And can you believe it – we’ve had our second thunderstorm this month. That’s right – it’s August, it’s Greece and we’ve had rain 3 times! More silver linings:
If it’s raining round Athens it will help put the fires out
No watering duty for at least one night (yeh!!!)
Everything will look and smell fresh again
The cooler air is much more comfortable
Here are pictures of some of those flowers that make the garden such a delight. Wish I knew what they were called!