Back to the garden

I realise it’s been a while since I’ve posted much about the garden. That’s not because nothing is happening there and not because we haven’t been there much. Everything is growing well in the slightly damper than usual, but still warm, weather we’ve been having this month and on dry days we’ve watered, still using the good supply of free water from the stream that runs down the hill from the source – La Resclauze, or La Resclausa in Occitan – and usually keeps running until at least the end of June.  Yesterday evening we spent a couple of hours in the garden, watering, weeding and tying tomato and cucumber plants to their supports, and I took some photos of what’s happening there now:

The sweetcorn plants have grown incredibly quickly – some of them are as tall as I am now – and the male flowers are starting to appear at the tops of the plants.  These should soon be followed by female flowers.

The aubergine plants are flowering – they’re such pretty flowers that if these plants weren’t useful suppliers of vegetables I think they would still be grown just for their decorative qualities – and one tiny aubergine is beginning to grow.

The snails are enjoying some of the aubergine leaves, but so long as they don’t eat too much I don’t mind.

One of our apricots is beginning to ripen and we still have a good crop on the tree despite the rain and strong winds last month having knocked a lot to the ground.  This Roussillon variety is a late-ripening apricot and we usually harvest the fruits at the beginning of July – of course, they’re the tastiest apricots I’ve ever eaten!

Oleanders are flowering everywhere, especially in villages where they have been planted in public spaces, and in our garden.  There are several variations of colour in the flowers, from white to apricot pink to dark red, but this pink is my favourite as it reminds me of the oleanders outside our house in Libya when I was a child. (They’re pretty, but beware: every part of this plant is extremely poisonous.)

Today we took some time off to go to the sea and found it surprisingly rough and the beach almost deserted.  Not tempted to swim, we had coffee and rose-water flavoured pastries at a new Tunisian café next to the beach.

>Good or bad? / Bon ou mauvais?

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I found these beetles on our Borlotti bean pods. They didn’t seem to be eating the beans. Does anyone know whether they’re good or bad?

Est-ce que vous savez si ces scarabées sont bons ou mauvais?

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The bees are good, I know, and so is the lavender / les abeilles sont bonnes, je le sais, et aussie la lavande.

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And the oleander flower are lovely, smell wonderful but the whole plant is deadly poisonous / Et les fleurs du laurier rose sont jolies, il sent très bon, mais le plant entier est vénéneux.

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>Mediterranean summer

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What is it that symbolises the Mediterranean for me? The olive tree, of course. It grows all around the Mediterranean, as well as in other parts of the world, and this kind of climate is the only one it thrives in. People in the Midi, as in other Mediterranean countries, have a special attachment to it. Its such an important tree that it deserves a post all to itself – and Ill do this one day soon. For now Ill just say that I think it is the most beautiful of all trees and I cant imagine now living anywhere where it doesnt grow.

Then theres the smell of thyme as I crush its leaves when I walk through scrubby garrigue, the flowers at the side of the road in springtime, the taste of it in cooking, leaves sprinkled on tomatoes, on goats cheese. We grew it in Wales, too, but without the heat of the Mediterranean sun it was never the same.

Summer begins properly for me when we hear the cicadas – theyve just started here in the last week. Their chattering begins when the temperature reaches 26 degrees C, and as the sun rises in the mornings and reaches higher up a hillside you can hear each tree being switched on as the cicadas sense its heat.

And oleanders. Their flowers in different shades of white, pink, red, are all coming out now, lining the road at the entrance to villages, in gardens and parks. Theyre all beautiful (although poisonous), but for me its the pink ones which are the real oleanders – the ones we had in the garden when I was a child in Libya.

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And the Mediterranean sea itself: