If you haven’t much colour in your garden or on the terrace why not consider a few bedding plants? Some supermarkets and garden shops seem to have plenty, already mature, pot plants just waiting to be transplanted. I can think of a few that are really colourful, don’t cost a great deal and will give that little bit of colour until the rest of the garden comes to life.
I have seen hyacinth bulbs in all their different colours just about to come into bloom. All garden shops have any amount of geraniums in all their pinks and reds. I don’t know why the geranium isn’t the flower of Spain because they are so popular here and really thrive both in the garden and in pots. They seem to flower all year round and are the easiest of all plants that I know of that all take root from a simple cutting. As the plant grows older and taller just cut it back and transplant some of the healthy looking cuttings you can be sure most of these cuttings will thrive.
My original geranium plant was given to me as a simple cutting 45 years ago and I still have more than one in different parts of the garden. The geranium does have one nasty predator and that is a little grey moth that lays its eggs in the leaf joints, here the grubs burrow into the stem making an ugly black hole which kills the plant.The only solution is to cut off the damaged stems, cut them back to a healthy length with no black holes or dead stems and replant them. The rest of the plant will simply bush out again when the affected parts have been cut out. There is a pesticide spray available from the garden shops which is recommended to keep in hand to try and eliminate this pest.
Other than that the geranium is really the easiest of all plants to grow in this climate. Now to other options, cyclamen are another pretty bedding plant for both outdoors and in pots to be found in a variety of reds, pinks and white. There is a miniature cyclamen as well and, believe it or not it grows wild on this island, it is quite surprising what you may well find when going along the lanes on country walks. This does well in pots but must be watered from the bottom of the pot standing in a drainage plate to help avoid water sitting on the top of its corm-like root system. Indoors it prefers not to be near the heating units but otherwise can be considered and easy plant to have either indoors or out.
A nother spring time plant I have seen is the primula family in all its bright colours. It is not really a Mediterranean plant but the mere fact it can be found in garden shops is a good enough indication that it can be fun to plant something a little different. We probably consider it more of an Easter time flower but our milder winter sees the primular in flower now which is of course strictly speaking still the winter season.
As we see the municipal workers really cutting back all the trees in the public gardens and along the roadsides is a good enough indication that trees and shrubs do thrive on pretty harsh pruning every year. In the case of many of the flowering shrubs and trees it seems to encourage far more flower the following flowering season even though it is hard to have to cut back so radically to encourage new growth. Bougainvillea is one of those tall shrubs that really needs to be kept in check. I have even seen it cut right back to a boxed style hedge and I can tell you, that really is a picture when the whole hedge is a neat block of colour. Others of this family which are more commonly known to cover a pergola or gateway need to be cut back to the trunk because the coloured bracts only grow on the new wood so it really does get out of hand if not cut back every year.
And now on to the harvesting of some of the earliest fruit to ripen, the citrus family. There is the variety that really is ripe now and here I refer to the Bitter or Seville Orange. Totally inedible, this bitter fruit is known as the root stock of most other citrus fruit trees, here I mention that lemon, mandarin, tangerine and all the different Oranges are all grafted onto the Bitter Orange tree. My own Bitter Orange started its life as a beautiful lemon tree which after about 8 years in a patio, we transplanted to our present garden. It didn’t like the transplant and simply died back, there the stump stood for another year only to find it sprouted from just above the ground but was obviously below the original graft because it reverted to a Bitter Orange.
I admit it took a further 8 years to produce fruit which is normal for Citrus fruits but the Bitter Oranges which are totally inedible do make the most wonderfully tasty orange marmalade and they are ripe for picking from about now onwards.
So as I frequently mention, gardening is often about eating your own produce, and who doesn’t enjoy a slice of toast and home made marmalade for breakfast!!