Spring in Malta
Dean Grant reminds us that Spring is just around the corner and now is the time to ensure your gardens are ready for the long summer ahead.
Having been back in the UK for a few weeks, the first thing you notice (obviously) is the weather. Those typical, cold and grey January days with slate grey skies and a smattering of snow. If you are lucky you are blessed with one of those beautiful, bright, clear days where it’s so cold your ears feel like they will drop off! All the trees are devoid of foliage and the ground crunchy underfoot, but, if you look closely enough you can spot the first vestiges of spring trying her hardest to burst forth with new life. The crocuses, which are just poking up through the soil and adding that much needed splash of colour, are the first hint that spring will soon be upon us. These will be followed closely by the snowdrops and daffodils, and all the fresh green foliage on the trees bursting forth.
This made me think of springtime in Malta. Winter in Malta is very short, almost countable in weeks as opposed to the UK’s months. Here you can go from wearing boots to flip flops almost overnight. Spring is even shorter, blink and you will miss the ‘mezzo tempo’ as our Italian neighbours call it.
And so it was I was driving through San Gwann a few weeks back and I noticed the Almond (Prunus dulcis) trees already in flower, this is a whopping four months earlier than the UK. But do the pretty white flowers of this tree signify Maltese spring is in the air? Or is that left for the shocking pink of the Cercis siliquastrum commonly know as the Judas tree or Sigra ta` Guda. This beautiful small tree springs to life in March with its attractive and interesting flowers brightening many journeys around the island.
This tree with its vivid flowers and interesting form is a fantastic choice for smaller gardens, as it remains a small tree, offering a much needed splash of colour for those smaller urban gardens and larger grounds alike. If you look closely at the tree whilst its in flower you will notice something quite unique, the flowers often grow directly from the trunk (known as cauliflory). I recall being fascinated by this tree as a child watching the flowers emerge all over the trunk in a neighbouring garden.
Now that there are signs of life within the plant world and the sky is cobalt, this is the last chance to ensure your garden and courtyards are ready for the long summer ahead. If you have any pot bound plants, it is worth investing in larger pots and potting on these plants with tightly packed root balls. Invest in good quality compost and always ensure the pots have sufficient drainage, as Mediterranean plants don’t enjoy being waterlogged. Check your irrigation systems too, be sure it’s all working for the summer. The orange season is behind us, so this is the perfect time to prune your trees and remove any dead or dying wood, this will ensure you continue to get bumper crops in years to come.
And for me, the most wonderful thing about Malta’s short spring is the countryside. To take a walk in Buskett Gardens or to head up to Ghajn Tuffieha and relish all the native flora and fauna growing from every nook and cranny is magical, so when you see those Judas trees in flower, act fast as summer is only a heartbeat away! But please, spare a thought when you are out enjoying those cliff top walks for those in England where spring has barely sprung!
Dean Grant works in both Malta and the UK as a garden designer and landscape consultant and can be contacted through his web site www.deangrant.co.uk