It must be a wonderful thing to be always in control; to always know that things are and will be well because you have willed it and made it thus. Also, apart from being a neurotic self-centered approach to the world, it also indicates the assumption that without your personal human involvement the world would be in doomed. Thankfully at Sparoza we have no such airs. It is also more fun to approach everything with vision unjaded and hand light with hopeful expectation. And though we may instigate most of the horticultural experiments in the garden, the evolution and outcome of the garden is its own doing and we must step back and marvel at the brilliance, determination and often uncooperative obstinacy of our leafy companions.

Aloe earlier this month

Aloe now

Furthermore what is even more fantastic is to get what you want without have to actively do anything. You get the satisfaction of knowing what is best and this is then delivered by a benevolent other; like the weather. Last week the drought broke and we got 19mm of rain over 3 days. The change to the garden is breathtaking. After seeing these pictures of the same Aloe before and after the rain you will believe me when I tell you that I laughed with joy. There are other signs of life surfacing throughout the garden.

Sally and the compost

The other morning Sally checked the compost and I couldn’t help but feel for myself. About 10cm down it is hot and active. During the summer and into the dry autumn we watered the compost almost every day to keep it from drying out and dying. This has obviously paid off. The compost pile at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh is a beast that can reach the size of two shipping containers. In the bitter Scottish winter it is a refuge for foxes and other beasts which make nests in its steaming, pungent furnace. It’s temperature, even in the winter, could reach into the 30 degrees.

Our compost setup at Sparoza is much more modest yet much more sophisticated; the three subterranean bays have been configured especially for the climatic conditions. They have limestone walls and an earth floor. If the compost had been kept above ground in aerated bays it would dry out and if it was kept in plastic tubs it would get too hot and putrefy. Being underground surrounded by stone and with a free draining and open top allows our compost (with the help of a little water) to retain the correct balance to be healthy and a benefit. We are always looking for more matter to compost and so If you are planning on visiting us or are, indeed, a regular volunteer why not collect your compostable kitchen waste and add it to our soily brew? I love compost because there is no end to its cycle. You are what you eat and then through this process you become what you grow. Even your hair and nails are compostable and high in nitrogen, a necessary element for plant health.

Narcissus obsoletus

Prospero autumnale in the phrygana

Sternbergia sicula

Zephyranthes ‘Labuffarosa’

These are some of the geophytes in or coming into flower at the moment. I only just noticed the Narcissus today, I have never seen them before and they have the prettiest little white flowers with a modestly small but brightly golden ring at their centre. Nothing like the frumpy washed out giant cultivars that have come to represent the genus. The Prospero autumnale, until recently Scilla autumnalis, are popping up all over the paths in the phrygana and the Sternbergia sicula have been pushing their way through the coppery earth for a month now. The rains have made them much more vigorous. They radiate an internal light that transcends the distorting heat haze and the dimming clouds. The name Zephyranthes is derived from Ζέφυρος (the Ancient Greek god of the western winds) and ανθός (Greek for flower).


In addition to the weather, which is un-tetherable, there are other things at Sparoza which we often choose to not  ‘control’ such as unplanned self-seeders. On either side of Sally’s front door there are beds planted up with wonderful salvias, lavender, roses, succulents, shrubs and climbers. In the early summer Miyon Yoo (my predecessor and friend) and Sally discovered a Datura (probably Datura inoxia) seedling which must have germinated randomly and unexpectedly from a very old or well-traveled seed. There has never in Sally’s memory been a Datura like this one in the garden. The seedling was left and has developed into a beautifully formed plant. The shady green leaves are held upright towards the light and the soft flowers only last a day but are produced in abundance in the plant is regularly deadheaded. This is a rather unpleasant task as the entire plant in sticky and has, to me, a very unpleasant smell.

Flower bud

Flower unfolding


This Datura, though unplanned is an exceptionally beautiful addition to the front of the house and has such pretty and interesting features. The flowers and seed contain compounds that are poisonous but in South America, where it originates, the plants is used as a ceremonial intoxicant. I have also heard of it being used in Greece as a traditional natural hallucinogen.

On this note I will leave you with a tempestuous evening scene overlooking the Sparoza pools and the Mesogheia plane. I have yet to pass a day or night at Sparoza without being left aghast or delighted (usually the two at once), both equally riveting sentiments.


5 thoughts on “For the Love of Rain and Compost

  1. That aloe is amazing! As is the Narcissus … I like that the advert I have at the bottom of the blog is an offer for three packs of daffs. Do you know the common name for the prospero autumnale? Lovely little flower that’n. xx

      • Wonderful, thank you! No real garden to speak of, sadly,but we do have very large windowsills on the south facing, so I’m going to be dgoing lots of window boxes. And trying to get an allotment too! Very jealous of your compost bins!

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