Two years ago I had a lot of large tractor holes dug for a lot of trees. I want to be known as the lady (ok woman) who planted trees when I go. And my ashes can be flung around them.
So no grand ambitions then.
However, due to commitments elsewhere, and a hard-hitting recession, I simply could not fill all the holes. The trees had to be “rústico”, in other words, suited to the terrain around here, and I could not go putting into too many fruity ones as the forest rangers would be down on me. For some completely wrong reason they love planting fast growing non-native pines that go up in flames and make a tinderbox of the mountainside.
No, no, no
So this year I tried to get my act together and a few days ago Felix and I drove to a nursery in Los Coves de Vinromà to see what was up. We hummed and ahhed about it beforehand as two years ago it was a sorry site. Three years before it was what I would call an impressive serious business with honest prices and tremendous stock.
Always best to give another chance, I told Felix, even two, and he agreed. So off we went in his aging white faded van whose days he admitted were numbered. It has only done 300,000 kilometers, he stated, but its wrecked as they have mostly been on mountain roads.
It was wrecked in more ways than one. A bit like a traveling dustbin I would say, and this is no insult. My own vehicle is approaching that state. I swear I have seen grass growing from the roof rails.
About 10am we rattled into the nursery and descended. A line of processionary caterpillars stretched across the parking area. In fact about 6 lines in various areas and for a nursery this did not bode too well. The consequences of contact with the processionary caterpillar are legendary, both in humans and animals.
(By the way they nest in those pine trees the forest rangers like to plant so much!)
I took a hurried photo and skittled on nervously.
We walked through various dilapidated tents containing a scattering of very thirsty trees. Many were clearly dead, and others you could not pick up for the roots had long ago penetrated the bottoms of their containers and entered the earth in desperation.
So yes, a truly sorry site, and I immediately thought, no third chance. We trailed forlornly around. A biting wind accentuated the morass. Empty plastic containers served as unintended mulch under old gnarled olive trees. Nothing had names, nor prices, but quite often the signs of nitrogen deficiency.
Oh well, I said, at least we tried, but lets just see what the prices are and whether they have any healthier cypresses?
We both looked at a line of the same; in human terms they would be described as tramps.
At that point the lady of the sorriest nursery in the world came out to ask if she could help. She spoke valencian with a heavy country accent. Of course I could hardly understand her, but Felix (also not from these parts by the way) could. He asked about the cypresses. This is all I have this year, she shrugged.
They were a decent size and not quite dead, yet. I carefully checked through them for any signs of processionary caterpillars, but only came across the odd bird’s nest.
How much I asked Felix.
How much, he asked her.
4 euros, and with a little bit of water they will come back in full form, she said.
So we took the best 8.
And so it went on, and the more time the lady spent with us, the more helpful she became, discarding some of our choices, and digging out better ones. As regards the pomegranates, which I absolutely adore as they are easy to grow and very beautiful (I think the abandoned tile factories on the flat plains should be re-invented as pomegranate farms), we had to call it a day.
These really need some water, I told the woman pointlessly, they are done with, “acabado”! Yes, I know she said, gesturing around the place, but everything needs water and I have no time.
And love, I added.
Yes, she said, love. I need love too.
And that is when I really decided that this woman was first class. Her nursery might be disintegrating around her, but there is only so much a person can do. Her daughter was around, but no sign of a man and my imagination ran riot. Was her husband dead? I had seen him three years before. Better not to ask.
Anyway, as this is not exactly a publicity piece, I will not post the name of the place as anyone who cares to can find it out by the name of the town and that will be because they will want go there too. And I did not take a portrait of the woman for the same reason.
But I can tell you, from having thought “forget it in a year of Sundays”, In the end we bought 29 trees for 104€ and two thrown in for free. 8 cypresses, 15 olives, 6 cherries, an apricot and a … gosh I cannot remember what else, to be precise. I have never been to a more run down place and never had such good attention at such a bargain price. The lady was just the real deal, if you know what I mean. She extracted what little of value she had for us, with no thought of her own gain.
What did Felix and I do next? Well naturally we went off in his rattling van, sorry trees poking out all over the place like stray dogs and cats, to celebrate! He ordered a range of tapas, a bottle of white wine, and then he absolutely FORCED me to have a carajillo. The first I have had in two years, but I just had to have it as he normally drinks red and the white was for me. Toasting each other for a morning’s shopping well done, he declared, if these trees did not die there, I think they will survive anywhere.
I could not agree more. And yes, next year we will be back for more.. well, if our orphans make it.
Tap Spanish flag at top for spanish translation by Anna Belles