I’ve never had much interest in gardening. My mother planted ours and would spend her time pruning, seeding and planting. She would want special earth and would buy flower pots from far-away Albox (this, long before the first British home-buyer ever appeared there). My father planted a large number of trees in the field behind and above the house and would water them with big plastic bottles filled at the fountain and lugged up there in his little Renault.
The property, to begin with, was fed water from a tank and a pump, filled by the water-truck from Turre. Much later, we got mains water from a company called Servamosa and, when that company became a part of the current water supplier called Galasa, all of the 10,000 public shares of Servamosa, shares that each family or business held in our pueblo, worth 500 euros or so each (we had nine), were – whoops! – lost in the best Spanish tradition.
Never mind, we had water, and for many years a gardener, Cristóbal, who squirted everything with enthusiasm, explaining that ‘of course the flowers fall off when you spray them, they’re flowers’. Cristóbal fancied himself as being the wise old Son of the Soil and would laugh as my mother lost her temper with him, ‘But Señora, how can you know? This is Spain!’
He had another problem, being partial to watching the women as they lounged around the swimming pool. One time, a scantily clad house-guest marched up to my father to complain that the gardener had been peeking at her while she was having a shower. My dad threw her out, claiming that it was much easier to get another house-guest than it was to find another gardener.
But that was then. My parents both died and, after I married, I took over the estate.
In fact, as far as gardening was concerned, the estate pretty much looked after itself. Between the rare rain that falls here and the even rarer moments of me watering with an increasingly leaky hose, the garden was obliged to make its own way. The smaller stuff died out and the stronger plants survived and spread.
Twenty agreeable years passed and the garden was by this time violently overgrown and, in the opinion of one of the larger pepper trees, in need of a miracle.
In the summer of 2009, a brush-fire raced across the entire municipality, pushed along by a high wind. The garden got its miracle all right, and I was left with a sad mixture of charred firewood, soot, dead trees, charcoal and smoking stumps. We lost several out-buildings and some neighbours lost their homes and the cars. The Spanish authorities reacted magnificently – by doing absolutely nothing at all.
But that’s why we love it here. They only remember you when they want something.
The garden needed lots of work and, now matured (and in need of daily exercise), I took to clearing the place up. A year later, it goes on, with me sawing down dead branches or trees, planting, pruning and watering the survivors.
Oddly enough, that pepper tree was right, it does look a lot better now.