The Evolution of a Mallorcan Country Garden

We bought our rural finca in Mallorca in July 2002, although we didn’t come to live here until April 2004. The previous owners—who have become good friends—had the place as a holiday home and did little to the land at the back of the house. I, however, had Big Plans. There would be rows of lavender, vegetables growing, and fruit trees. In my dreams.

Shoulder-high asphodels awaited us. A whole field full of them. When I looked up ‘asphodel’ in my dictionary, I found ‘an everlasting flower said to grow in the Elysian Fields (literary).’ Everlasting is a good description: it’s really difficult to get rid of them; you can cut them down, but underneath the ground, they grow from bulbs that look like bunches of obese grapes. How many of those must we have dug out of the ground? However, I’m sure the gods and heroes of Ancient Greece appreciated their asphodels.

Creating a Garden

Over the past sixteen years (gardening didn’t begin until after we’d moved here), we’ve almost eradicated the asphodels. The odd one pops up and I quite like the flowers when a vast swathe of them isn’t dominating the land.

We decided to create a garden, which would extend from the house down to our second set of gates. The Boss did the heavy stuff and I ‘designed’—as I went along—what said garden should be like. It had to be Mediterranean, because our water is brought to us by tanker and we didn’t want hefty water bills. And, after all, we do live on a Mediterranean island.

Baby aloe vera and agaves formed the start of the garden, thanks to donations from kind neighbours. Digging holes to plant them brought home a cruel truth: our land is almost all rock and stones. The depth of the soil is only a few centimetres in places. Rather than plant things where we wanted, we ended up planting them where it was physically possible.

Looking through some old photos a day or two ago, I found one that reminded me what our garden looked like in 2006. It’s amazing what you can achieve with limited soil or irrigation—and no gardening expertise whatsoever.

Jan Edwards ©2020

Looks like the beanstalk – but where’s Jack?

In the early days of setting up a garden in the field of our finca home in rural Mallorca, we had no idea quite how large everything would grow. It seems that the lack of soil depth on our rocky land has been no deterrent to growth: aloes, agaves, ‘swords’ (I have no idea of their official name), and yuccas, have all grown to sizes beyond our expectations.

I used to wonder when our garden would be considered ‘mature’. Well, I think it’s now: one of our ‘sword’ plants has sprouted something akin to the beanstalk of the famous fairytale, and resembling a giant stalk of asparagus. If only. Think of the culinary treats . . .

Sky-bound

Sky-bound

We know that the stalk will eventually throw out a flower and, once that has died, it’s goodbye plant. Although it’s quite exciting to see this thing grow (and it’s making fairly rapid progress out there), this mighty plant, having flowered, will wither and keel over. We’ve checked its future trajectory and our roof seems to be in no danger, but The Boss will have quite a job to dig the dead plant – and what are probably quite impressive roots – out of the ground. A decade ago it was a small and rather sickly thing when a kind neighbor gave it to us to help fill some of the yawning space that was crying out to be a Mediterranean garden.

No wonder it's called the sword plant . . .

No wonder it’s called the sword plant . . .

Although the evil spikes on the end of each sword-like leaf have punctured various bits of our bodies during gardening sessions (ouch!), we’ll still be sorry to lose such an impressive architectural plant.