The weather here continues to be variable. After a week or more of clear and sunny days we’ve now got a forecast of rain and storms for a week or so. The fire, our only heating, continues to be a feature of our evening schedule. In the garden the plants and trees seem to be split into two broad groups: they’re either growing like crazy or in hibernation mode.
The winter flowering jasmine [Jasminum nudiflorum] has recently burst into a mass of flower. During the warmer months it grows, slowly and steadily, in and around the bougainvillea. As January comes round it starts to burst into ropes of bright yellow flowers. Unlike most other jasmines it has no fragrance but the flashes of colour are welcome at this time of year.
While the jasmine is un-fragranced we are hoping to introduce a highly fragranced plant to the garden. This week we potted several dozen stephanotis [Stephanotis floribunda] seeds. A friend had lovely plant trained across a garden trellis. It had started in a small pot on a balcony and then been transferred into the ground when she moved house. Three summers ago it produced a huge seed pod; two summers ago it produced another dozen or more one of which was gifted to us. The seed pod, which is similar in size and shape to an avocado, has been allowed to dry and split to release the seeds. Should they germinate they may join the other climbers on the pergola. Whilst stephanotis is normally grown as a small house plant in the UK, here it will grown 10 feet or more tall.
The trusty bougainvillea has been taking a well earned rest. It has dropped pretty much all of its leaves and coloured bracts and looks distinctly uninspiring at this time of year. The previous owner declined to prune it at all so we are still, a year on, playing catch up. Dried leaves, flowers and bracts from multiple previous years remain trapped inside a network of old dead wood. Last year we spent hours trimming, pruning and lopping the old wood to try and release them. We managed to remove much of it, hopefully this year’s pruning will deal with the rest. And it became clear this week that the bougainvillea pruning needs to happen soon; the new growth is just starting to appear. This year though we won’t be keeping the old wood for the fire, lesson learnt there!
Each of the fruit trees is continuing along its seasonal path: the lemons have a mix of ripe and immature fruit, the clementines are ready for picking, the oranges are ripening, the peaches are blossoming.
We have high hopes for the peach this year; it is only a small potted tree but in its first year it produced half a dozen wonderful fruit. Last year it was unsettled by the move here, either by the physical transportation or the difference in temperature and altitude. It produced not a single fruit. This week it has started showing signs of life once more with new shoots and four blossoms. There are few things prettier than blossom on a peach tree and despite knowing that our maximum crop this year will be just four peaches we are absurdly happy to see it back with us.
Of the fruit trees only the pomegranate looks desolate; it is hard to imagine a sorrier looking tree than a pomegranate in its rest phase. It is difficult to reconcile its current state with just how lovely it looks when it is in leaf and setting fruit. Even before it gets to the fruit stage, when it is still in flower, it is one of the highlights of the garden; the splashes of scarlet flower are so dramatic and full of promise. Apparently they, as well as flowers, are still placed on the tomb of Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s first wife. Her family coat of arms included the pomegranate, a symbol the of Granada region of Spain.
Finally, a follow-up from last year. In October we mentioned that the unidentified yellow tree was inundated with huge bees collecting pollen. A friend from Ireland subsequently suggested that it might be an Esperanza [Tecoma stans], otherwise known as Yellow Bells or Yellow Elder. Online images seem to indicate that she is spot on in her identification.