“Flamenco is not just a music – for many it is a way of life, a philosophy that influences daily activities.” So says the Rough Guide to Andalucía and on our recent visit to the Sierra de Aracena in the hills to the north of Seville, I found myself wondering if the passion and flamboyance of flamenco can also be applied to gardening.
Flowers are in technicolour in the far south of Spain, with vibrant pinks, reds, oranges and yellows juxtaposed like the vivid colours of flamenco dancers’ costumes. Jasmine cascading down from balconies on a hot summer’s night, sends out wafts of sultry sweet fragrance as evocative as any music.
Spanish gardens – often just a collection of pots offering an oasis of greenery outside the whitewashed houses of the hill towns – reflect the local way of life in more ways than one. While in Britain we seek out sunlight for planting, in Andalucía it is in the shade that plants flourish. The theatrical flowers of the oleander mimic the way that life is lived in public in the village square.
In the tranquil herb garden of the Molino Rio Alajar where we stayed, the intense sun brought out the flavour of tomatoes and basil in a way that it is impossible to imitate back home. The greenery of the surrounding countryside bears testament to the lush nature of these hills which enjoy a (slightly) cooler climate than Seville. But the seep hose wending its way up the oleander walk to our cottage, working away morning and evening, served as a reminder that in the heat of summer, which can regularly reach 40°C, even plants used to this climate require a lot of watering.