If you love birds and spring flowers, March, April and May on Syros are bliss. The weather has reached that stage where the air temperature is the same as your skin, so you can barely feel the wind. The sky is a cobalt blue, and the air is full of birdsong. Right now, the natural flowers of the island are in full colour, a palette that changes subtly week by week. You can see these carpets of colour along the roadside, in meadows, under olive groves and right down to the ocean line.
Here, in the Good Life garden, we try to preserve existing plants, correctively prune the old olives, figs and grapes and repair the ancient walls built by stone-masons long gone. We also have to enrich our clay soils for the vegetable gardens and find organic ways to protect them from snails. So March and April are dedicated to the garden. Which means we work in ideal conditions. Why?
Spring is musical. Birds are mating and nesting. We have a favoured spot here in Poseidonia, a circular protected bay that attracts migrating birds who pause to rest and refresh themselves on the way to northern Europe. This week a Hoopoe bird pecked under an olive tree, I could see it’s black white striped wings and crest against the old stone wall. Overhead, later that day, seven herons flew in raggedy formation. And the next morning a lone cuckoo cried, definitely lost on his way to somewhere else. But our own birds, crested larks and Sardinian sparrows are nesting and calling out to each other, showing off in general, very lovely music it is too.
Blossoms are coming out. The rotting almond tree that we cut down last autumn, leaving only one slim, healthy branch, has now risen up and is covered in pale pink perfumed flowers. The dry patch of land above our property is rich in colour, wild yellow Phlomis, clumps of white Rosa sempervirens, silver grey sage leaves with purple flowers on elegant stalks, tiny pink raggety Anne’s, even miniature iris’s so small you tread on them without noticing.
Down in our own managed gardens, the good work of winter shows that by transplanting wild spring flowers we are developing colour in every area. The geraniums and daisies have turned into huge bushes, lavendula’s, cistus, salvia’s, rock roses and clematis cirrhosa. Cuttings and seeds have been collected from the untamed areas around our little farm and planted over the past few years. Now it feels like a real Mediterranean garden – wild flowers mixing with nursery plants.