Words and photography by Pete Wilcock
(click on any image to enlarge)
It is good to often apply a specific word to a project or intent – I feel it gives focus to achieving your overall goal. Don’t ask me why but I love the word ambrosial – it actually derives from Greek Mythology and roughly means something that is exceptionally pleasing to smell, to taste or to see; especially fragrant or delicious to taste – basically worthy of the gods. It is also quite a luxurious word and as that is also one of the intents of this garden it always seemed fitting that ambrosial was the word we allocated to the gardens – and it has seen us in good stead. So whenever I feel the garden is lacking, looking tired or in need of a change I think back on that word quite carefully…
Every spring here on Rhodes I step back into the garden and take a good look at how the plants have all faired after a wet, often windy and (this year especially) cold winter. Arriving mid March everything was surprisingly intact given how cold it had been – if a little dormant. However fast forwarding just three weeks later and the improving weather had quickly kick started new life into the garden – you could almost hear the garden breathing a sigh of relief! This was helped along the way by ourselves with some careful pruning and new planting. I have had a good eye for landscape design pretty much from the moment I left home and set up my first home with PhiIip – having been influenced no doubt thanks to my mum and dad – who were forever planting away and creating different “areas” within their whopping two acres of pure garden in North Wales. One important thing I understood from watching them proudly at work in their garden on those, seemingly now gone, long balmy English summer days, was that regular tweaking was very much part and parcel of making sure a garden contstantly evolves and becomes the very best it can be.
So after all our furniture is all hauled back out again and we have put into place some of our new acquisitions for the house – no doubt “squoze” into our suitcases at the expense of taking any decent clothes with us at all (a casualty every year with all of this luxury villa malarkey) we quickly turn our attention to the garden.
My biggest issue this year was lack of colour – it all looked lovely but very green. The green of the olive trees (and we have quite a few) I particularly love but it was still not enough to make me content. This “ambrosial” garden needed more colour / more flowers. We have plenty of flowering oleander and hibiscus but in early April they are some weeks off from flourishing (and in the case of the oleander a great deal of it we keep clipped down as hedges so we never see the flowering benefits). Roses in the front garden are starting to flower but they are contained to one section of the front garden. Jasmines and honeysuckles are almost there ready to unleash some great fragrances and flowers. But we were still lacking – certainly for these spring weeks – and we wanted to add something longer lasting with blasts of colour added to the borders and to the bases of pots. A trip to Number 1 Garden Centre and our forever helpful friend Girogos yielded some new flowering succulents and an impressive dahlia (that really harks back to my childhood in North Wales as we had a huge amount of dahlias). The biggest purchase was a large quantity of geraniums. I had kind of resisted geraniums for a number of years – wrongly I just perceived them as very old fashioned and all very English country garden (and I have one of those already). The truth is they have a strong presence on this island, thriving and looking spectacular in the sunshine that bathes Rhodes. We threw out uniformity and just grabbed a variety of colours to plant across the garden – only maintaining coordination in grouping matching colours together. So now we have more whites, pinks, purples, yellows and reds across the garden than ever before. The plain scrim for the backcloth to all of this colourful planting are our pale grey rendered walls, the light coloured stone facades and many terracotta planted pots. Ambrosial!
A nice extra detail added for that kitchen garden feel was three strawberry planted at the base of tree. Our lovely collection of potted herbs of basil, mint, sage and (my favourite) rosemary – we have grouped together on a terracotta tray. A simple but effective way to display.
The second area I wanted to revisit this year was the front garden. This area is ostensibly a private driveway / parking area behind electric gates and surrounded by planted borders. This is not a huge area but it is one that creates the first impression on arrival so I am always conscious it needs to look as good as it possibly can (see my earlier blog Make an entrance ) Some years back the area to the immediate right as you drive in had been turned into a seating space with a beautifully rendered low wall containing a row of hibiscus planted inside it to backdrop the traditional mosaic floor in front of it. It looks beautiful and photographs amazingly well – but it was also an area that we never used ourselves – and I was never convinced our guests did either. It needed some sort of separation to become its own area that felt that little bit more secluded and private…
So my solution was to create the tiniest mini orchard possible using a collection of fruit trees all planted in terracotta pots. Fruit trees look just as attractive as conventional container plants – and of course if they are successful they generate a tasty bonus of fruit along the way! Fruit trees in the ground in this garden have only been moderately successful – but a lemon tree we have had for three years has thrived. I knew we could make it work. Joining that lemon tree and the rather perfect specimen in the shape of a pygmy date palm – forming a row along the diameter of this seating area – we have added three further pots housing, individually, a pomegranate tree, a mango tree and a fig tree. It creates the privacy and separation I wanted without exceeding the limits of the very small area I had to play with. They are growing alongside our border of colourful roses and flowery bedding plants at the base of each pot. With a few simple additions tweaked into this area it now has a far more inviting presence. Already the beautiful scents from the flowering blooms (on the lemon, the mango, the pygmy date palm and the pomegranate so far) are attracting pollinating bees – so you can’t say that we are not being ecological along the way.
A series of interior and garden design blogs
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