I have loved plants, gardens and gardening for most of my life but the love has changed over time and although I really hated weeding and the picking and cleaning of blackcurrants in my parents garden when I was a child I do quite enjoy it now. My first garden was a small square piece of land at my aunt Martha’s old summer cottage in Dalbyhage in southern Sweden. In this little plot, close by her gate, I planted vividly orange nasturtiums and bright yellow marigolds together with radishes and lettuce. I took great pride in my miniature garden by the green iron-gate although it was Martha who kept the garden alive between my visits during its short existence.
When my parents build their house in 1969 I was 9 years old and although I spent a lot of time in the garden I did not participate much in its maintenance nor did I play any major roll in its creation. During this period I spent much of my spare time horseback riding and it was not until several years later I took an active interest in plants again. This time it was not garden plants or vegetables that caught my interest but house plants and I managed to harbour quite a collection in my small room. It was during this period my friend and I began to work at the local nursery in our small village during school breaks. This job really was a love-hate affair. I loved it because the owner gave me cuttings and odd plants that he wasn’t able sell so that I could extend my collection of plants, but the work in the humid greenhouse taking cuttings from scented geraniums made me swear that I would rather die than work another summer in that horrible, horrible place again. Little did I know that years later I would start and run my own nursery.
I did not get my own real garden until I met my husband 25 years ago and we together embarked on a quest to create a garden with plants from around the world that also fitted in with our house built in the early 1920s. The original garden was created mainly as a utilitarian garden with vegetable plots surrounded by low box hedges and lots of fruit trees. Some of the old fruit trees were in bad condition and either gave way during stormy winters or had to be cut down due to diseases or brittleness. We tried to save as many trees as possible and to build our new borders so that they fitted and harmonized with the existing box hedges. We built a pond to encourage wildlife and we planted lots of different bamboo, a plant group that later become the backbone of my nursery trade. At the end we had more than 30 species and varieties in our small town garden, which is quite an impressive number of bamboos for a Swedish garden. As our plant collection grew and the employment situation at the university changed we left science behind and I started my plant nursery, BlueSage. It started off as a mail order business but ended up as a small retail nursery and show garden for bamboo and rare plants. It was great fun but very hard work and when the opportunity arose to move to Corfu we decided that it was time to do something new.
To own one’s own small olive grow may not be such a big deal when you live in Corfu where there is said to be between 3 and 4 million olive trees, but if you come from Sweden it is rather exotic. We have only 23 olive trees on our plot and some of these were big and overgrown with ivy, Hedera helix, and rough bindweed, Smilax aspera, when we moved in and they had to be trimmed back quite drastically. It is a daunting experience to put the saw to a large, old tree but it was necessary to free the them from the climbing vines and to rejuvenate them and they all have recovered from the process and look very beautiful and healty. Our plot of land is long and narrow with a natural path meandering around the edges making it ideal for planting interesting and beautiful plants that can be admired when taking a leisurely stroll in the gaden. The plan is to keep and grow as many native Corfiot plants as possible and we have trimmed and cleaned up several strawberry trees, Arbutus unedo, some bay laurels, Laurus nobilis, many mastic bushes, Pistacia lentiscus, and we are keeping many of the kermes oaks, Quercus coccifera, trimmed back as low bushes along the stone walls. There are several species of orchids including the autumn flowering lady’s tressel, Spiranthes spiralis. Other native plants that make great garden plants are the wild crocus, Crocus boyri, the naked lady or autumn crocus, Colchicum cupanii, and the dark grape hyacinth, Muscari commutatum, to mention but a few.
As we have had to focus our attention on getting our house in order for year round living there has been little time left over for the garden and the work has just begun. So far we have started a vegetable plot, planted some fruit trees and berries, and started a border where we have planted shrubs and perennials suited for mediterranean climate. The idea for this border is to use plants from places with mediterranean climate from around the world. We have a lot of work ahead of us but I look forward to it and hope for a good winter and spring for planning and digging.