O.K. so it’s only the end of February, and perhaps we’re being a bit over optimistic, but it’s 18 degrees Celsius today, and after il ventaccio gelido, la neve e il ghiaccio (the horrible freezing wind, the snow, and the ice) that has imprisoned Serena, myself (Geoff) and five crazy cats within our little house for days on end, it’s time to sgranchire le gambe (stretch our legs), fare dell’esercizio (do some exercise), e respirare un po’ d’aria fresca (and breath a bit of fresh air). Well what better way to do that than with one of my favourite hobbies: il giardinaggio (gardening).
I’ve always found gardening a very creative and therapeutic pastime. In fact when we lived in the city and had really stressful jobs it was my giardino e orto (garden and vegetable plot) which kept me reasonably sane, whilst at the same time supplying us with lovely fresh produce throughout most of the year. Living here in Lunigiana, immersi nel verde della natura (immersed in the green of nature) has undoubtedly had an impact on my attitude to gardening. Firstly, the rhythm of life here is completely different, things play out a misura d’uomo (in a more natural and gentle way), and although there is occasional stress I no longer depend upon my garden to keep me sane. Secondly, fresh, reasonably priced local produce is very easy to come by, although of course there’s nothing quite like filling a basket with pomodori or melanzane hand picked from your own orto.
I’ve certainly had plenty of time during these wintery weeks to contemplate il piccolo giardino davanti a casa nostra (the little garden in front of our house), and I’m ready for action! Directly outside the French doors of our kitchen is una terrazza in piagne (a flagstone terrace) and, surrounding that on two sides, a sunny piece of land. About four years ago, knowing that this little south facing area would be subject to some quite extreme temperatures, I began to experiment with a few piante tipiche mediterranee (typical Mediterranean plants): Rosmarino (Rosemary), Salvia (Sage), Timo (Thyme), Santolina Marittima (Silver Ragwort), Cineraria (Lavender Cotton), Elicriso (Helichrysum, or Curry Plant), Oleandro (Oleander), and so on. These plants are all able to resist the hard winters that we can experience up here at 500 meters in the foothills of the Appenino Tosco-Emiliano mountains , but also the scorching solleone (lion sun) and siccità (drought) of July and August.
The garden was developing well, until it became apparent that ‘signor Romarino e signora Salvia’ (Mr Rosemary and Mrs Sage) had visions of grandeur, and were planning a coup. Those two little plants, which I had rescued from the almost certain oblivion of my mother in laws balcony, began their new lives as the first tenacious occupants of my new garden. Then suddenly one morning four years later, I look out of the window to find myself confronted with a pair of mostruose piantacce minacciose (nasty monstrous menacing plants). It’s funny how things creep up on you like that!
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not the typical English gardener who fusses around with aiuole (flower beds – allegedly the hardest word for an non Italian to pronounce correctly, although I always seem to have more trouble with aerei – aeroplanes) and gnome endowed prati inglesi (lawns). I like my gardens (and wives) to have something selvaggio (wild) about them, as the tension between order and chaos has always been very appealing to me. But those pesky Mediterranean herbs were moving things too far towards the latter for my liking. So lì per lì (there and then) I decided on una radicale campagna di potatura e trapianto (a radical campaign of pruning and transplanting)
Read more about la mia battaglia col giardino in my next blog.