Rosa sempervirens covering trees and shrubs near Casa Telhada, 2012
In June, it begins to get too hot in the day to go out and do anything active, but it is the time of long warm evenings. The situation in Portugal is not like that further north: the sun never sets so late, nor does it set so slowly. Whereas in France we might look forward to long warm evenings in August, here it will by then be getting dark early and quickly. So June is the time… Except that it also has to be warm, and this year we have only had a few really hot days.
There are lots of Allium species in Portugal, but one of the largest and most striking is the wild leek. Standing up to 1 m tall, the plant produces a large spherical head of flowers, initially enclosed in a membranous “spathe” which distinctively has a long pointed tip. This eventually splits and falls away, exposing the purple flowers, which attract bees and other insects. This plant is the ancestor of the cultivated leek, which has long been known as a different species Allium porrum. However, current thinking is that these plants are all the same species A. ampeloprasum. Other Allium species, like the onion Allium cepa, are only known in cultivation and have no known wild ancestors.
Most European roses lose their leaves in winter, but in Portugal we have the evergreen rose R. sempervirens, which occurs all round the Mediterranean. This rose provides some of the greenery in the winter landscape. It is not easily noticed until it suddenly comes into flower, when hedges and trees turn white with innumerable flowers of this species. In our area, it occurs all over the place, and indeed was one of the first wild plants we found in our garden. It grows on the rock face to the left of the garage, and we have carefully maintained it, weed-free as far as possible, though it does tend to get tangled up with the noxious bramble Rubus ulmifolius. With its white flowers and red hips, it’s a very worthwhile garden plant.