GARDENING : Charlie Wilkins on why the grass not that much greener in the Mediterranean
THE return of thousands of holidaymakers from the sunny Mediterranean reaches a climax in the coming days, their long-awaited break over for this year.
Many will immediately book next year’s break in the belief that the other man’s grass, if not actually greener, is decidedly sunnier.
Such a temptation is strong in the wake of this year’s disastrous summer, but don’t be fooled into thinking that the weather down south is perpetually hot, dry and sunny!
If you buy a holiday home in Spain (for example) you must be prepared to keep it heated during December to February or you may be faced with burst pipes, leaking radiators, sodden bedding and sticking doors.
On the Costa del Sol, the rainfall begins in late October and as much as 75% of the annual precipitation falls between then and March.
The month of December will see three inches of rain fall in Malaga, with more again (five inches) as you approach Gibraltar.
On the slopes above the town of Ronda, (50 miles inland from the coast) expect 15 inches of rain.
Frost is rare on the coast in southern Spain with Malaga experiencing one frosty night every 20 years or so, but 10 miles inland it is quite regular during winter.
Occasionally, pipe-bursting nights of minus 10 degrees centigrade occur causing havoc, not alone in buildings and homes, but in olive and orange groves too. Back on the coast, it is rare and indeed a novelty to experience snow — but inland the mountain passes are often snowbound and the Sierra Nevada is now becoming one of Europe’s fastest growing winter sports centres.
The Mediterranean climate then, is distinguished by its hot, rainless summers, its warm rainy autumns and very cool, wet and windy winters and springs.
As to gardening, you’ll certainly have fun with olives and citrus fruits, with bougainvillea, hibiscus and scented, exotic Jacarandas; but forget the likes of fine-grassed lawns, spring bulbs and the delightful herbaceous perennials.