Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Winds of Crete

The Winds of Crete - this is the title of a book written by someone many years ago when Crete was still pretty primitive, when the only visitors were hippies, what passed as roads were hazardous, some still donkey tracks really, and there was no such luxury as central heating. If a Cretan felt the cold he merely put on another sweater. The book is somewhere on a shelf. I might read it again sometime. Having lived here for so many years now it would be interesting to read it again. Meanwhile, as I sit here, the winds of Crete are gusting and howling at gale force and have been doing so for the last four or five days. I’ve lost count. Fortunately this time it’s not coming from the south because when that happens we get what has been known as Gaddafi’s rain. Will we now have to change the name now that the crazy dictator is dead? I think not. It will forever be known as Gaddafi’s rain: if it’s rain that is; if not then it’s Gaddafi’s dust as the sands of Libya sweep over the island speckling or coating everything yellow: windows, walls, plants, cars. Unfortunately one gust was so strong it blew open the back glass doors not properly fastened which in turn caused the front ones to slam so violently there was the sound of shattering glass and one beautiful Edwardian door brought out from England lost most of its stained glass. Fortunately the small blue corner pieces etched with flowers remained intact but most of the irreplaceable Victorian red had gone. It’s quite a restoration job Chris has been landed with.
It’s that time of the year once more when fruit trees are bearing. Despite the heavy windfall there is a positive glut of apricots. We have two varieties of apricots, one that bears fruits at this time of the year and the other later. Unfortunately as the house at the moment is in such disarray there is no time to do any preserving with this first lot. There is also a good crop of yellow plums and the pomegranate is covered in blossom and developing fruit. I notice it’s going to be a good year for walnuts as well (there are four walnut trees) as normally they hang singly or in pairs but this year the nuts are in clusters of four, five, even the occasional six. Most unusual.
Now that the M1, or the Ethnic Highway, from the lane to the back doors has bisected the garden, a monstruvious digger cutting quite a swathe through it, it has been decided not to bother with vegetables any more that need so much attention day by day but rather to plant a few more fruit trees instead. None were lost in making the new access, but we did lose a row of lavender, some French lavender, an enormous rosemary, one ornamental tree, a beautiful red oleander I grew from a cutting and a scarlet bougainvillea. Fortunately no fruit trees were lost and there is still a magnificent cerise bougainvillea at the side of the lane, a giant bush rather than a climber, and all the holiday makers who walk by stop to gawp and take photos. Not surprising considering what a blaze of colour it is and at the moment attracting a great many butterflies. There are also half a dozen olive trees, various varieties.
So what fruit trees shall we plant? Well it’s a bit late in life to plant a mango although mangoes I have discovered do thrive here. I wish I had known that years ago. We already have, right at the bottom of the garden, a truly ancient pear. Goodness only knows how old it is. It does bare fruit but the ants usually get to it first. There are three lemon trees, an avocado, a winter fig, loquat, quince, guava, purple mulberry, prickly pear and of course the walnuts and the plum. We had two failures, an apple that simply died and a nectarine that produced nothing but leaf curl which it passed on to the nut-peach, also now dead unfortunately. No matter what one did to eradicate it the leaf curl simply kept reappearing so, although it was a gift, the nectarine was cut down. It would have been in the way of the new access anyway. I was told the apple was a failure because the winters are not cold enough. We had an apple tree in London that was absolutely delicious, not one you would find these days in any greengrocer or supermarket more’s the pity – it was called a Blenheim Orange and for sweetness and flavour was simply out of this world.
In the courtyard there is an orange, the pomegranate, a red plum, mandarin, and a grape vine and in the garden at the side of the house another orange, a Seville orange, another loquat and a white mulberry.
So what fruit trees shall we plant? Well I guess another pear would be most efficacious leaving the ancient to the ants, and a cherry. And there would still be room for more.

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