Of communis, vulgaris and other exotics…

Communis and vulgaris are species names of many genera of plants. When so named, they usually refer to a type of plant which is quite common, ordinary or commonplace, not to the type of people who grow them ūüôā
We often consider these plants to be nothing special and we’d sooner have something less ordinary in our gardens. The thing about common plants is that they tend to grow well in their native (or similar) regions. That’s why they’re so popular.

I’ve just spent the late summer and fall in the Balearic Islands of Spain and the ¬†Pyrenees in France.
I drooled over the exotic species which surrounded me. Jacaranda trees, Oleander, Bougainvillea, Cacti…
Many of these exotics are available in good nurseries around Nova Scotia¬†but they don’t come cheap. Some of them are featured in our Tropical Display bed at the Gardens.
In their preferred¬†habitat they were so plentiful! So cheap! And oh so… common. The locals were perplexed by¬†my enthusiasm for these ordinary plants. However what is common to some folk are exotic to others.

Bougainvillea and Podranea ricasoliana (Pink trumpet vine) in Ibiza

Is there anything more charming than coming upon a narrow stone lane with Bougainvillea spilling over a wall?
I’ve seen some atrocities committed against this rambling vine, pruning it to within an inch of its life¬†to contain its natural exuberant tendencies.
Like a new love interest… forget about changing them. Love them for what they are or move on.

Podranea ricasoliana (Pink trumpet vine)

The Pink trumpet vine (Podranea ricasoliana) vine is as vigorous and commonly used as the Bougainvillea. It is the pale pink vine growing alongside the fuchsia Bougainvillea in the last photo.

Nerium oleanders in Palma de MallorcaThe Nerium oleander (Oleander) was named because of its resemblance to the¬†Olea (the olive tree, another VERY common plant in these parts. In fact it’s one of the main crops in the area).
In Mallorca the Oleander is as common as our Rugosa roses (Rosa rugosa) and is used in the same manner… as a hedge to screen¬†busy roads. The difference being that rose hips are a beneficial¬†supplement while all parts of the Oleander¬†are poisonous.

Phoenix dactylifera (date palm) at Es Baluard in Palma de MallorcaPalm trees are a common site in the Mediterranean. Unfortunately so is the red palm weevil which arrived in Spain in 1994 from Egypt and has since spread into France and Portugal. It now affects 50% of date palm growing countries in the world.

Palm tree attacked by the red palm weevil.The red palm weevil has turned this palm tree into a dove perch. The weevils bore holes in the trunk affecting it’s vascular system and causing the canopy to die back, starting at¬†the crown and moving onto the lower leaves.

Balcony garden in Perpignan, FranceWhere space is at a premium.
Container gardening on balconies is often the only type of garden one can have. Drought resistant plants are the perfect solution in low water, high heat environments and the Med has many ‘common’ plants to fit the bill. Some results are less common than others.

Balcony garden in IbizaBalcony gardens come in many forms. This one is very simple (plant wise) and very striking.
(Note the Oleander hedge separating this apartment building from the road).

(Chamaerops humilis) Fan palm in Alfabia gardens, MallorcaChamaerops humilis (Fan palms) are the only palm trees native to Mallorca. They grow all over the island, particularly in the rocky slopes of the Tramuntana mountain range, though those are a shorter variety than this one.

Ceiba speciosa (Silk floss tree) in Palma de MallorcaI was first drawn to the Ceiba speciosa (Silk floss tree) because of its bulbous spiny trunk. The spines are water storing vessels.
Then I came upon these gorgeous orchid like flowers and when I looked beyond them, I realized they festooned the spiny trunk I was so mesmerized by.
I had been photographing them all over the island during the winter when they were leafless.

Opuntia (Prickly pear cactus) near Perpignan, France.Who needs flowers when you have glorious orange glochids¬†emerging from the smooth blue/green leaves of¬†this Opuntia (prickly pear cactus). I’m not sure what variety this is but I’d like one.

Ceiba (Silk flower tree) ,Chamaerops (Fan pam tree), and exfoliating Eucalyptus trunks at Alfabia garden in MallorcaCeiba ,Chamaerops, and Eucalyptus trunks create interest in the gardens of Alfaiba even in the winter.

Stalagmite formation in the garden of Alfabia, MallorcaI thought this was a root but it turns out it’s a stalagmite formed by dripping water. This formation occurred outside, not in a cave. The water in Mallorca has a very high level of calcium carbonate and isn’t fit to drink untreated.

Courtyard garden in a municipal building in Perpignan, France.Behind some pretty plain facades are some beautiful courtyard gardens in Mallorca and Perpignan.
While this courtyard in an old historic building (now a Municipal government office) didn’t have any particularly interesting plants, it had some gorgeous hardscape features, including these painted tiles.
It also had the added feature of not being open to the public (unless you happen to be a friend of the person with the keys to the city… literally ūüôā

The common Bougainvillea makes a big statement in the Jardin de Bisbe in Palma de Mallorca.I may have seen literally thousands of Bougainvilleas during my visit to Spain and France but there were times that they literally took my breath away.

A weeping Olea europaea (Olive tree) in the gardens of the Fontsanta HotelA weeping Olea europaea (Olive tree) makes a simple but beautiful display, mimicking the spouting water.
A great garden, like a great meal, is more about what you create with the basic ingredients than the ingredients themselves.

 The Public Gardens close their gates early this year. Sunday, November 16 in the early evening. If you get a chance, go in for a last walkabout.

The Friends will be hosting their annual Holiday Celebration on Thursday, December 11 from 5-7Pm at Horticultural Hall. Invites will be emailed later in the week but we wanted you to pencil us in.

We will have Public Gardens calendars for sale at the event and online. I will post on Facebook page and on our website when they go on sale

In the meantime, stay warm. Hasta pronto!

All copy and images copyright © Serena Graham-Dwyer, 2014. If you wish to use any part or whole of an image, in any manner, please contact us.


The Gardens of Mallorca (or… why I keep returning).

Those of you who follow my photo tours know a couple of things about me. The first is that I love gardens ( the Halifax Public Gardens in particular), and the second is that I love to cycle.
My two passions have led me to the beautiful island of Mallorca which is situated in the Mediterranean just south of Barcelona, Spain.
My husband and I first came here four years ago to prepare for our cycling adventure across France.
We instantly fell in love with this small Spanish gem and its warm-hearted people and decided to make it our winter home.

I am slowly getting to know the flora of the island which is quite different from ours, as this is a warmer and much drier place.
This is a land of oranges, olives and almonds, Bougainvillea and cacti. Agaves grow like weeds here (like in Australia). Lush is not a word you would associate with Mallorca.

Cultural center in Palma de MallorcaOrange trees are used extensively in landscape designs around the island because of their colorful fruit and their highly scented waxy white flowers. The fruit from this variety aren’t valued for their flavor. Soller, a valley located in the Taramuntana mountains on the Northwest of the island, was a major orange grower and exporter in the mid 1900 until their crops were wiped out by disease.

S'Hort del Rei below Almudaina PalaceS’Hort del Rei sits below the Almudaina Palace in the capital city of Palma, and like many of the important gardens around the island, was designed or influenced by the Moors, who occupied the island from 900 to 1200. They introduced irrigation to this parched island which only has 74 rain days a year (one of the reasons why I spend time ¬†here).
Torrente de Sa Riera in Palma de Mallorca

As Mallorca has few rivers, torrentes (canals) have been built to direct the heavy rains of winter from the mountains toward the sea. During the summer they are totally dry. The Torrente de Sa Riera  which runs down the center of Palma, has been beautifully landscaped and is lit up at night.

Raixa in MallorcaRaixa is a 12 century garden which was recently renovated by the government of Mallorca. It was originally designed by the Moors and like most of their gardens, water is a prominent feature. The garden tumbles down a mountain, and rainwater is ingeniously collected and distributed through a series of very esthetic pools, runnels and fountains, watering the plants and orchards along the way and reserving the rest for later use.

The forecourt in Raixa, Bunyola, Mallorca.The forecourt of Raixa features another Moorish garden element – shade. Traditionally Islamic gardens feature both water and shade (both rarities in Mallorca).

Water reservoir at Raixa, MallorcaThe water reservoir at Raixa looks more like a pool, and features huge carp.

Platanus tree at Alfabia gardens MallorcaPlatanus trees are everywhere in Mallorca and in Europe as well. The Grande Alleé at the Gardens were fashioned after the European ones which are usually planted with Platanus (Plane trees).

Jasmine vine in Fornalutx MallorcaJasminum grandiflorum (Spanish Jasmine) a member of the Olive family have begun to bloom everywhere and in the last couple of weeks dispersing their sweet scent .

Olive tree in the Botanical Garden in Soller, MallorcaOlea europaea (Olive trees) are numerous and ancient on this island and produce the most wonderful fruit and oil. In fact the botanical name means ‘Oil of Europe’ and it has been attributed to prolonging life expectancy. Their gnarled silver trunks are an attraction in their own right.

Botanical Garden in Soller, MallorcaThe Botanical Garden in Soller exhibits plants typical of the Balearic and Canary Islands. It sits in a valley surrounded by mountains, making it difficult to focus on the plants.

Runnel at the Soller Botanical Garden, MallorcaRunnels disperse the water throughout the Botanical Gardens, a common feature of gardens everywhere here.

Aeonium arboreum at the Botanical Garden in Soller, MallorcaAeoniums (a native of the Canary Islands) are found everywhere in Mallorca. I have one as a houseplant at home, but it has never flowered so I was surprised by these red flowers. They reminded me of the Euphorbia milii (Crown of thorns) we have in the Tropical display beds at the Gardens.

Billbergia nutensI spotted this large clay pot filled with what I thought was a grass with pink tips. On closer inspection the pink tips turned out to be stems from which descended the most interesting flowers. It proved to be a bromeliad named¬†Billbergia nutens (Queen’s tears) from Brazil (no wonder I loved it) .According to Wikipedia, it’s the most common Bromeliad grown… common where?

Prunus and topiary at the Alc√°zar in C√≥rdobaI snuck this one in. This garden is in the Alc√°zar of C√≥rdoba on the mainland. During Easter weekend I toured C√≥rdoba in the pouring rain (the most rain they’ve had in 50 years). This corner of the garden lifted my drenched soul. So did the Mesquita and the wonderful food, but that is another blog in itself.

I apologize for not having posted sooner. I had that dreaded flu for the whole month of January, then I left for Spain and time just slipped by.
On Monday the Gardens re-open for the season (feels weird saying that since they have occasionally been open this winter). I know it’s been a hard winter but soon the sun and the warmth will return and we’ll once again be moseying down the Gardens path.
I don’t return until the end of April so I won’t be sharing any photos until the beginning of May. I can’t wait to see what’s popping up.
Thanks for your patience.
Hasta pronto!


All copy and images copyright © Serena Graham-Dwyer,  2013. If you wish to use any part or whole of an image, in any manner, please contact us.