Beach Strawberry

Following a wandering path in Memorial Day weekend rain, I read through a plastic folder of index cards with notes jotted down when reading gardening books. (Alaska winters are long.) Garden writers’ pronouncements are fodder for reflecting, comparing and contrasting, and it’s interesting to see what caught my attention then.

In Russell Page (“Education of a Gardener”) I read about the book “Spanish Gardens: Their History, Types, and Features” by Constance M. Villers-Stuart. Published in 1929, it was long out of print. I requested it on an interlibrary loan and enjoyed Villers-Stuart’s tale of a journey in search of Spanish gardens. Villers-Stuart writes about El Patio de la Reja in the Alhambra (which she describes as “this Moorish fortress-palace left on southern Spanish soil, like some beautiful and curious shell stranded by a far-receding tide”):

“The planting in this patio is simplicity itself. It follows the usual Eastern plan of using one or at most two, flowering plants to each little square or small enclosure – a plan that might be copied sometimes in restless modern gardens where the effort to please at all time and everywhere at once is apt to defeat its own ends, destroying that unity of effect, the aim of all the arts be they writing, painting, or gardening.”

I like to think about those words in spite of my courtyard garden’s questionable “unity of effect.” Lots happens in that small space – it’s overcrowded and restless – and the beach strawberry rampages.

Tiny blossoms of the native variety and a thicker leafed, creamier white selected variety serve as living mulch, help the soil retain moisture and prevent weeds, and provide habitat for frogs and small critters. The berries (when they get sun), tastes delicious and their sweet fragrance overwhelms  – tempting squirrels to enter the patio de la Francesca.

Beach strawberry seemed temporary at first – but there would be no ridding this garden of it. It softens edges of piled up rocks and broken concrete, it grows under the fruit trees and blueberries. Sometimes I clear a circle for adding compost, or coffee grounds in the case of the blueberries.

Villers-Stuart says the word glorieta “meets one at every turn in the Spanish garden.” She translates it as “tiny paradise” or “private glory.” Perhaps, even with beach strawberry, the courtyard is the “glorieta de la Francesca” – enjoyed by all.

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