For every day in May, when the lot of a gardener is to deadhead tulips in the warm sunshine, there are days in February like this.
My boss said to me when I arrived, “You’ll be surprised, the weather here doesn’t do things by halves”. I nodded sagely and promptly forgot all about it, lulled into a false sense of security by day after day of brilliant Provençal sunshine. It hadn’t rained in two months; the lawns were parched and dry - I was gardening in a T-shirt, in January, what did I care?
Then, after a wonderful Gardeners’ Lunch on Friday [along with the ominous sounding Olive Man, who made me secretly laugh to myself by claiming that salad was a terrible poison to his system whilst excusing himself for a cigarette], the heavens opened. Opened wide indeed; it rained constantly for forty eight hours, and as we started work on Monday it turned to snow.
Snow that would make Val d’Isère proud. [shown here just as it was beginning, more here]. Our gorgeous views of the Bay of Cannes, Cap d’Antibes et al, disappeared in a swirling maelstrom of snow and fog. We were left with six inches of the white stuff. Beautiful you could say. Yes, undoubtedly. But but danger lay within. The snow just kept on coming, a silent but deadly smothering to the holm oaks and the gentle clouds of misty green olives. Their generous, wide spreading branches and broad leaves just aren’t adapted to a heavy load of snow. Try and draw an olive tree, then a Christmas tree, and try and imagine which can shed the snow more easily. You’ll see what I mean.
A statuesque holm oak by the front gate was the greatest victim. Its dense evergreen foliage must’ve quadrupled in weight under the snow. The cold harsh light of morning found it twisted, wrenched from the ground; smashed into two of The Olive Man's treasured olive trees. None of us had realised quite how huge it was. Just as we’d thought we were making progress in the woodland, a giant curve ball, another week of destruction, was thrust upon us.
The roar of chainsaws and the crackle of burning leaves continues apace. Oh well.. plus ça change...