Mr Greenfingers

By the very nature of city life, if you want to enjoy a bit of greenery more than a couple of dangling geraniums and the odd cacti, you have to visit a formal garden or – in the case of Valencia – the dried up riverbed that now sports a whole series of horticultural endeavours. 

Having been forced to spend childhood Saturday mornings grubbing weeds out of my father’s enormous veg patch, I abandoned the idea of life in the greenfinger trade, but not to the extent that I can live without a few plants around to allow me to get my fingernails dirty and feel like a real son of the soil, when most of the time those fingers are banging away at a computer keyboard. 

When I lived in Manchester I had a wonderful roof garden where I could sunbathe in the altogether without being overlooked. (I can’t guarantee I was never seen but I’m pretty sure that those who did get a glimpse of the beached whale wouldn’t have come back for seconds!) It was right below the flight path to Manchester airport, but I was never able to spot my little green patch whenever I flew into the city. 

My first attempt at greenery in Spain was the Hanging Gardens of Villajoyosa, much appreciated by the locals but eventually so full that I could only water the plants from a distance, which thoroughly pissed off the punters in the patio of the bar below if I missed. A friend once asked if I wanted some pot plants because the light on my terrace was so good and my fingers a verdant shade of green. There was I thinking of a few clematis or a nice jasmine when what he meant was pot plants – marijuana! As I lived opposite an emergency hospital that had police coming and going at every hour of the day, and with that particular pot plant having a very distinctive leaf, I declined. 

One of my criteria when I moved to Valencia was that I must have a terrace of some description as home for some of the more unusual plants that I’d collected, among which was a five metre palm tree I’d found abandoned on the streets of Alicante. 

I rescue plants from the street, swap cuttings with all and sundry, and I’m happy to give a good home to the plants of any friends who are moving on. Now my mini garden is about to overwhelm the space that once seemed to offer so much opportunity for greenfingered dalliance. 

But it’s not only me who enjoys it. Señora Ruiz, the pensioner who lives on the floor above absolutely dotes on it. Many’s the time I’ll be out there doing a bit of deadheading and I’ll hear a voice from above saying, “Señor Derek, I hope you don’t mind me saying so but I think the lestilocrimfalmaldia in the corner is looking a bit jaded and could do with a bit of a feed. Personally I’d recommend duck’s blood with added amonito salvate and with just a touch of decomposted clorofilia, but of course that’s only a suggestion. I’m sure you have your own preferred remedy. The English usually do.” For gardeners, please don’t rush to your ‘Everything you should know about gardening but don’t understand the Latin’ book. Lestilocrimfalmaldia, amonito salvate and clorofilia don’t exist – at least I don’t think they do – and whilst duck’s blood almost certainly does it probably departs this world with the duck’s carcass and not as a soil nutrient. I made them up because I don’t have the slightest idea of plant names or what you put on them. I work on the premise of ‘that big green thing in the corner will look lovely in a pot with the little speckly whotsit with the floppy leaves’. I have a son who is a professional gardener and landscape designer who admits that I have a real crap knowledge of horticultural terminology – but boy, can I make the little buggers grow!

If you would like to know more about Spain, visit my web site, www.derekworkman-journalist.com , and Spain Uncovered

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