Of plants and garden centres on Mallorca

Osteospermum

Osteospermum thriving in the stony soil of our garden.

I’ve just had my annual garden centre splurge, buying some plants for our finca in the Mallorcan countryside. Garden centre visits were rather more frequent when we lived in the UK, where these tempting places are also open on Sundays and offer much more than the average jardinería on Mallorca. Many of the UK versions sell decorative items for the home and garden, and have a café where you can indulge yourself in a mid-shop stop for refreshments.

In our early months of living on Mallorca, we were quite disappointed by the garden centres local to us – which were more like plant nurseries than those tempting places we knew in the UK. A favourite had been Burford Garden Centre, in the Cotswolds. Now that’s what I call a garden centre.

We did manage to find some decent plants and some helpful assistants in our local places, and were hopeful that we’d have a good show of colourful flowers later in the spring. Little did we know . . .

Dinner!

Within a week of planting our first purchases, there was nothing left to see. The rabbits – and there were many of them back then – had scoffed the lot! Since then we have become adopted by a family of feral cats (and a few feline hangers-on), and we have rarely seen any rabbits on our land. Can you blame them?

We also discovered that our land isn’t suitable for many plants, being mainly rocky and with only a shallow layer of poor-quality soil. Typical Mediterranean plants do well, but other plants struggle. Succulents, cacti, lavenders, rosemary, and osteospermum are among those plants that do well on our land.

The rabbit experience shaped our gardening habits. I started taking cuttings from existing plants, knowing that if the new plant died (or was eaten), it wouldn’t have cost us anything. Neighbours gave us ‘babies’ from their aloe veras and other succulents. I did invest in two climbing roses last year by mail order from David Austin; one quickly died, but the other is thriving.

A recommended garden centre

Now, I restrict myself to buying new plants just once a year, in the spring. A garden centre we had been using in Manacor sadly closed down recently. We’d bought our lemon tree and previous geraniums from this place, and were always impressed with the quality of the plants. Now the place sells garden furniture (and very good it looks too).

My recommendation for a good garden centre on Mallorca? It would have to be Magatzem Verd in Palma de Mallorca (just off the Via Cintura). It’s probably because the place is most like the garden centres we knew and loved back in the UK. Unusually, on Mallorca, it’s open on Sundays – although we never shop on this day of the week.

On Friday, I steered an enormous trolley around this garden centre, mentally spending a fortune on glorious colourful plants. In reality, it was just a few euros for the year’s new geraniums and herbs.

We must have saved a fortune on plant purchases since moving to Mallorca . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

The guns fall silent

No hunting sign

Apart from the almond blossom, one of the best things about February on Mallorca is that the hunting season has finished. For a few months now we have a reprieve from the shots that have been our early morning alarm call for a few months. The rabbit and thrush population quite like it too . . .

Here’s lead in your Lycra

There’s a large old finca not far from us that was once dubbed ‘the shooting lodge’. Its owners used to allow hunters to shoot on their land; taxis full of macho gun-toting chaps from Palma would arrive at weekends. Their shots would echo around the valley and sometimes it felt like living in the Wild West. Let loose in the countryside, these urban hunters were seemingly unaware of the restrictions regarding shooting close to other properties and highways. On occasions, we even heard lead shot peppering the roof of our little house; once, a passing cyclist got a little lead in his Lycra . . .

Now that ‘the shooting lodge’ has been refurbished and is used as a weekend home, the Palma hunters no longer visit. The shooting we hear is largely that of our Mallorcan farming neighbours, who continue the tradition of hunting for the cooking pot.

But some of the outsiders who still come are not as careful about their targets. There have been cats shot in our valley – whether intentionally or because these men (I’ve not seen a single woman hunting around here) shoot as soon as they see something moving, I don’t know. When I hear the first shots on one of the days when hunting is allowed, I pray that all our outdoor cats will be safe.

The return of Nibbles

Around seven weeks ago one of our cats disappeared. Nibbles has always been an affectionate cat but also inclined to go off for a day or two. We thought he’d return as usual – with an enormous appetite for food and a cuddle. But the days rolled by, and turned into weeks. The Boss and I told ourselves that he had simply decided to move on; we couldn’t bear to consider that anything bad might have befallen him.

On Saturday evening we had a jaw-dropping surprise: Nibbles was waiting outside the door for dinner, along with his siblings. He was welcomed back by the other cats like the prodigal son returning with a Euromillions lottery win. They weren’t the only ones pleased to have him home.

Home sweet home for Nibbles - reclining on our old stone oven outdoors

Home sweet home for Nibbles – reclining on our old stone oven outdoors

With the hunting season over, outdoor cats are now safe from this particular hazard. Just the others to worry about now . . .

A rude awakening

Who said I can’t hunt here? Photo by Jan Edwards

Yesterday, the sound of two early morning gunshots woke me; I turned over and went back to sleep, wondering how the hunters can possibly see anything when it’s barely light. I’m used to the sound of guns going off these days but, when we first moved here, it was like living in the Wild West. At the first shot, I’d leap out of bed and crawl underneath it until the final shot had been fired. OK, that last bit’s an exaggeration but, when you’re not used to it, the sound of guns firing all around you – and the occasional peppering of lead shot on the roof of your home – can be a tad unnerving. And, in the various hunting seasons, shooting is permitted on Saturdays, Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and public holidays.

Run, rabbit, run

Some research I did, a few years ago for a newspaper article I was writing, revealed that there were then around 22,000 people in the Balearics with a gun licence. Not surprising really, as so much of the island is rural. Hunting and foraging are part of rural living for many and, although I don’t personally like hunting, I’m out there with the rest of ’em when it comes to foraging for blackberries or wild asparagus!

Back in our early time here, our valley – with its vast rabbit population – was a magnet for gun-toting Mallorcans: some even came by taxi from the Palma area to give their guns an outing. Most of these congregated at a nearby derelict property, which became known locally as ‘the hunting lodge’. Not all of them seemed to understand the regulations about not shooting close to properties or roads.

Of leadshot and Lycra 

Things have changed in our valley over the past few years: today, there are fewer rabbits around here to shoot (myxomatosis has taken its toll) and ‘the hunting lodge’ has been restored and turned into the country home of a Manacor family – who don’t hunt. The hunters are now more likely to be folks who live in the valley, shooting for the kitchen pot rather than for pleasure.

Whether it’s the reduced chance of bagging a bunny, or the higher cost of fuel to get here, there is definitely less shooting here now. Of course, it could be due to the increased interest in our valley shown by Seprona (the Nature Protection Service of the Guardia Civil, which polices rural matters, including hunting), after – so the story goes – a German cyclist reported a ‘leadshot meets Lycra’ experience while on a bike ride through the valley . . .