Renovating an old house and its land has involved buying many hundreds of plants. Probably well over a thousand. The process starts in January, continues through February, with planting completed by the end of March. After that the weather is simply too dry and hot for new plants to survive. Even now, in our fifth year here, we still have a spring planting project to complete.
Some plants, like the 345 olive trees to turn the bottom field into an olive grove, were bought from a specialist supplier. For olive trees, an Andalucian farmer would go nowhere else but to Seville. Plants to screen the property however, to establish boundaries, give us privacy and hide the odd ugly thing, were bought from our local plant nursery. We always look forward to visiting Rafael’s and he smiles when he sees us arrive. On one trip alone we bought 400 cypresses, cipressas, for hedging. Another trip saw us establish our fledging fruit orchard with pairs of apple trees, pear, plum, apricot, cherry, paraguayo [a type of flattened peach], nectarine and peach. With the generous charm which typifies the local people, we have received una regalito, a small gift, from Rafael in return for each purchase of ours. Sometimes it is a free plant, sometimes a pot of mint or parsley.
But I will always remember the first gift he gave us. We had told him our dream of moving to Spain to a house with orange and lemon trees, being able to pick our own fruit off the tree. This was one dream that has remained unfulfilled however, as our house is at 500m and so too high and cold in the winter for citrus to survive. Rafael however, who lives in a village near Ronda, is at a lower elevation. An old lemon tree stands at the side of his house, and in spring it is dripping with lemons. There is something special about Spanish lemons. Once held and tasted, they put the small thin-skinned lemons of English supermarkets in the shade. Rafael, bless him, filled our arms with lemons that day and we drove home in our car scented with limón and cipressa.
5 to remember
la manzana – apple
la pera – pear
el melocotón – peach
la ciruela – plum
el albaricoque – apricot