Campo Cuttings with Lorraine Cavanah

  Lorraine Cavanagh is the author of 'Mediterranean Garden Plants' the best selling Mediterranean gardening book on the Spanish Costa's. Lorraine's garden centre 'Viveros Florena' is on the Algarrobo/Competa Road at km 15.  Lorraine writes a monthly column for The Grapevine providing advice and an insight into gardening in the Axarquia.


Mediterranean gardeners´ would agree to hate it´s the Bermuda Buttercup (though it´s not from Bermuda and nor is it a buttercup!) also known as Cape Sorrel or Sourgrass – oxalis pes caprae. On the basis of better the devil you know, let´s take a closer look at this plant and how to control it.

The sorrel family is one of the biggest in the plant world with some 850 family members and they´re almost as widespread and insidious as Coca Cola. Only the poles are not invaded by oxalis.

I know many people, newly arrived, who have carefully dug up clumps of the vivid green clover-like leaves with the striking yellow flowers and carefully replanted them in their garden. You can understand the mistake because there is little more stunning than a sheet of yellow Bermuda Buttercup marching through an ancient olive grove under blue winter skies. Indeed that was how it was first introduced to Europe, way back in 1757. Plant collectors brought it from the Cape area of South Africa and introduced it as a stunning ornamental to gardeners in London. For the next century it spread through Europe, particularly Mediterranean areas where the climate suited it well. Nowadays it grows in southern Europe, north Africa, south-west Asia, Pakistan, India, Australia, the south island of New Zealand, China, Japan, the states of Florida, California and Arizona in the U.S. and western South America – quite a spread. But then none of you gardeners will be surprised by that, I´m sure! In many of those areas it is classed as a noxious and invasive weed.


As a child I always had a couple of walnuts and a tangerine tucked into the toe of my Christmas stocking. I wasn´t very impressed with them then but tradition is tradition and it is still carried on in our house every year. Of course, fruit and nuts then were much more valuable and seen as riches in those long-off days! Nowadays most of us know that nuts help us live longer so we are lucky to be able to grow quite a variety of them here. Here are four giants for the best nutty Christmastime.


Comfrey is a magical plant! It nurtures plants, animals, insects and humans alike and is remarkably disease-free itself. It makes wonderful compost, fertiliser and mulch. Things don´t get much better than that! Every gardener should have a comfrey patch and especially if you are organic.

Comfrey is one of the best investments for a healthy and productive garden. Most people reach for a quick fix when their plants are ailing but quick-release fertilisers will only promote lots of lush sappy growth - a banquet table to aphids and a breeding ground for fungal disease. Far better to slow feed your plants; maybe they won´t be quite so big and lush but they will be healthy, strong and softly glowing with health. In fact, we could all do with some of that!


Following on from last month´s sultry read, let´s look specifically at some 50 plants that fall into the grey, silver, blue category and that you will be able to find here and use if your heat and drought resistant gardens:

Starting big, some of the best trees would be:
Olea Europea, our beloved olive has to be, of course, top of our list. You´ve only to look at them marching across hot dry plains to understand their resistance. An absolute classic and try tea made from the leaves too. Cupressus Arizonica, the Arizona cypress has lovely silvery grey needles and is, probably, the toughest conifer you can buy even happy in salt-laden coastal positions. It will reach some 15m high with a 5m spread. Eucalyptus species are often much maligned but they have their place and a multitude of uses. Throw a few leaves in a bowl of boiling water and breathe in the relaxing and clearing vapour. And, of course, many of the acacia or mimosa family have greyish foliage, especially the lovely acacia baileyana.


I´m sure you´ll all remember – and have read – that blockbuster book of a couple of summers back, 50 Shades of Grey and the two sequels. Well, this summer I´m offering you two further sequels so that you´ve got something really good to read over the summer months. Take it to the beach with you!
So here we go with 50 Shades of Grey, Silver and Blue, in two parts.

In honesty, I don´t think I´ll make the best-seller lists, nor sell over 100 million copies like the original book, nor be printed in 52 languages. I´m not much good at writing eroticism (or maybe I´ve just never tried) so the level of blueness will be dictated by the plants and the sultriness by the weather! I can tell that you´re disappointed already! But you will be able to loan it to your friends and get it back covered in grubby fingerprints and wineglass stains - just the same really.

My first experiences – and passion - for grey, silver and blue were in Africa, with a climate very similar to ours here and far from the verdant greenness of English summers and mundane browns of English winters! These steely shades look great under searing sunshine and, more importantly, are nearly always associated with drought resistance and heat tolerance.

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