Bendafé after the rain, December 2010
The weather continues as in late November. The rain has let up, and there are bright clear days, not too cold. But not a good month for flowers ! Here, all the same, are two, one a plant which curiously chooses to flower at this season, and the other a plant which flowers at all seasons.
This Japanese fruit tree, in the family Rosaceae, is related to the European medlar Mespilus germanica, but produces fruits which are much nicer to eat. In central Portugal, there seem to be several trees planted in every village. With their large dark evergreen leaves, they form a feature of the landscape at all seasons. The tree in our garden was part of our initial planting in 2007 and has rapidly grown to quite a size. It’s in the deep of winter that the tree produces its great pyramidal inflorescences, rather like a horse chestnut’s. These are followed in the spring by the orange plum-sized fruits, with three or four large nut-like seeds rather than a stone. We have had a few fruits from our tree, but it is not yet big enough to flower profusely. With its spreading branches and persistent foliage, the tree provides shelter from frost (or sun, according to season) for various garden plants.
(Mexican fleabane, Mexican daisy)
This Mexican composite, distributed around the world as a garden plant, has firmly established itself as a weed of old walls. It can hardly be called “invasive”, however, since it really only grows in a man-made environment. It is the New World equivalent of Cymbalaria muralis (ivy-leaved toadflax, known more poetically in French as “la ruine de Rome”), which came to Europe from the Middle East. Mexican fleabane flourishes in parts of western Europe where the winters are not too cold. It is established in southern England, and is a particularly striking plant in Guernsey. In France, we had lots of it in our courtyard at Guerville, together with C. muralis and the native Parietaria judaica (wall pellitory), and we find the same trio around the house in Portugal. The daisy flowers start pinkish and then turn white, and provide an attractive feature on walls and stony ground. Fortunately, it is easy to keep it in check.