Monday, October 3, 2011

Green

Spring is in the air... and in the trees and all over the ground as well.

Someone once told me that here in Brazil, if you throw away an apple core then before you know it you'll find yourself with an apple tree and I can well believe it. Stuff just grows out here and especially, it would seem, in my garden. The problem is not getting it to start, it's getting it under control once it's taken root. I tell you, if John le Carré had set that novel in Brazil, the hero would have had his work cut out for him just living up to his title.

Okay, I actually thought that was quite clever, but for those of you now trying to work out exactly what Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy has to do with my overgrown greenery I'll point out that le Carré also wrote The Constant Gardener. Get it now?

Anyway, it's true. Gardens out here take a lot of work if you want to keep them under control and looking nice, and from what I see as I wander around this particular part of São Paulo, people like their gardens to look very, very nice - the area is, after all, called the Jardins (Gardens). But then most people who live around here also have the perfect solution, which is to get someone else to do your gardening for you. After all, if you have a maid or driver (or both) on hand, you may as well get them trimming the hedges and watering the pots whenever they’re at a loose end.

Sadly, I don't have a maid, or a driver - or even a penchant for gardening for that matter - and so my garden is nothing like the much-loved and carefully-manicured oases of my neighbours. In fact, there are certain parts of it that I know for a fact haven't been visited for well over a year now. And when you remember that we're talking about nothing more than a large collection of pots and an area of lawn the same size as our bedroom, that's somewhat lax on my part.

I do water it occasionally - whenever I remember before it's pitch black outside - but as far as I'm concerned, if it rained during the previous fortnight, then the garden will be fine. And if it didn't, it's bound to rain again within the next fortnight so there's nothing to worry about. And yet the thing is still thriving. Weeds are stretching up strong and bold throughout the lawn, the trees out front are so tall now they're starting to interfere with the infrared security cameras and there's a vine that's made it all the way up the pole to the power cables and is probably part of the local grid by now.

Last year I accidentally killed off all Helen's daisies by failing to realise they even existed until they no longer did. This year, they're back! We have a spindly little tree in a pot out back. Until recently it was nothing but twigs but suddenly I look at it and it's blossoming - literally - and is threatening to provide us with a seriously impressive crop of pomegranates. And the list goes on. Palms… zoom! Ferns… whiz! Herbs… well, okay, the herbs weren’t my finest hour, but they’re not actually dead yet, which is pretty impressive in itself, I think.

So, now believing that my fingers are naturally green and not just that way from all the leaking felt pens, I’ve decided to embark upon a little horticultural project on the grounds that no matter how badly it goes, the end result will probably still live to tell the tale. Basically, it involves grafting orchids onto the trunks of trees. Surprisingly, this is done quite a lot out here. Maybe it’s done quite a lot everywhere. Maybe that’s actually how orchids are supposed to grow. I have no idea. I thought they grew in little pots along with their own instruction booklet and a sachet of liquid food.

What you do is take the plant, wrap the roots in coconut fibre and then literally just tie the whole thing to a tree trunk and leave it. I suppose you probably have to water it from time to time as well, but everything else, the plant does for itself. Surely, even I can manage that?

There’s just one problem. We don’t have any trees in our garden big enough for the job. What you need is one of those good, solid things that’s been around for decades and can easily cope with a couple of parasites hanging off its trunk. The best we have is little bigger than the plants I’m going to stick on it and I suspect it will end up looking faintly ridiculous. Also, it’s tucked away in a corner where we’ll never really see the orchids anyway. Still, this is not going to stop me…




…well, I’d call that a limited success. Sadly I broke one of the stems trying to get it out of the pot so what ended up being tied to the tree was just a few leaves and a load of roots. The second one worked fine, except that I probably could have done with a spare pair of hands to help hold everything in place while I tied it. Still it’s there now, tied down to within an inch of its life with one of James’ old shoe laces. It may not look pretty, but it’s certainly not going anywhere in a hurry.

But now I come to think of it, I forgot to water them afterwards. That was yesterday, and as it’s 27 degrees today and set to get hotter over the weekend, perhaps I ought to give them a little drink before they shrivel up completely.

Anyway, this is what it should look like if you do it all properly.

And fortunately, for those whose gardening skills aren’t up to even this level of competency, Brazil offers an alternative. It’s called a árvore do jardineiro preguiçoso and as you can see, it produces a slightly odd-looking but very easy-to-maintain flower all on its own without any intervention whatsoever. Now that’s my kind of tree!

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