From Rose Cottage to Casa Girasol: Growing a garden in Galicia

From a well-tended rose garden in the Sydney suburbs to a neglected plot in rural Galicia, Heath Savage puts her green fingers to the test.

From Rose Cottage to Casa Girasol: Growing a garden in Galicia
Photos: H Savage / Casa Girasol

Our home back in Australia was named Rose Cottage when it was built in 1879. A magnificent hedge of pink, climbing, roses fronted the house, and tumbled over a white gate trellis, that we built to showcase the marvellous blooms. It was my pride, and my joy. People would stop as they passed, to admire it, and sometimes to pluck a bud.

An elderly lady arrived one Sunday afternoon while I was out tip-pruning, to ensure a second blooming. She was with her daughter, and shyly asked if she could look around the garden. She explained that she had grown up in our cottage, and was delighted to see the rose hedge flourishing as it had when she was a girl. 

Rose Cottage in Penrith, a subrub to the west of Sydney, Australia.

I gave her a tour of the garden I had planted at the rear; it was filled with ornamental climbers, olive trees, an apple tree, cascades of jasmine, as well as raised beds full of herbs, and a rockery planted with cacti and succulents (to give our resident Blue Tongued lizard a safe home). The lady remembered riding the old bicycle I showed her, which I had found in the tumble-down shed when we bought the house.

It was a wonderful experience, and I could see that she was happy that her childhood home, and garden, was being cherished once more, after decades as a neglected rental house. I looked at our modest cottage with renewed love and wonder.

Plaster mouldings in the interior were of intricate rose patterns. A glorious stained-glass window in the bathroom depicted a single red rose. I grew many roses in the front and back gardens: pinks, reds, yellows; and my pride and joy, a heavily-scented creamy white, which would fill the entire house with a heavenly perfume when cut and brought inside.

I was delighted to find that the gardens of our new home were also filled with roses, all in need of pruning, a drenching with my homemade anti-bug treatment, and a good feed. I brought them all back to life and we enjoyed a superb show this summer. I had to re-home many bushes, to the boundary fence, when I revamped the terrace garden at the front of the house, where, happily, they have flourished.

Naturally, we thought of calling our new home Casa de Rosas, but after some discussion we decided to name it something that reflected its aspect – south-east facing – bathed in sunlight from dawn to dusk. Sunflowers are Sarah’s favourite flower, so Casa Girasol was the obvious choice, confirmed when we jointly decided on the colour for both the exterior and some of the interior walls; sunflower yellow!

A friend appeared with two sunflower seedlings at the beginning of this summer. I planted them in one of the huge half-wine-barrels that are sunk into the terrace as raised beds, where I grow herbs for the garden. They quickly stretched and grew large, fluffy yellow manes that they turned each day as we slowly spun around the sun. Casa Girasol had her first girasoles!

I have many, many seeds to plant for next year, which will go into the ground a couple of weeks before the last spring frost. And when the summer sun shines on Casa Girasol in 2020, our sunflowers, and our new B&B business will, we hope, flourish.


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Which Spanish regions are likely to allow people to remove their masks outdoors?

As Spain's vaccine campaign gains speed and the infection rate drops, there are indications that facemasks will very soon no longer be compulsory outdoors in several Spanish regions.

Which Spanish regions are likely to allow people to remove masks outdoors?

Spain’s Health Emergencies chief Fernando Simón said at a recent press conference that he is hopeful about relaxing the rule about the use of masks in outdoor spaces, as long as the safety distance of 1.5 meters can be guaranteed.

“It is very possible that in a few days the use of a mask outdoors can be reduced. Of course, always guaranteeing that the risks are decreasing,” he said.

However, Simón also added that “reducing one measure does not mean that the same should be done with all measures”. In addition, he asked citizens to go “step by step and be careful until we see the effects that mean we can relax the restrictions”.

Although this will be decided in the next few days Simón does not want anyone to “fall into false assurances”.

Face masks have been compulsory in public in Spain since May 21st 2020, and since March of this year, you are required to wear them in almost all indoor and outdoor settings, even if you’re sticking to the safety distance, unless the activity is incompatible with mask-wearing such as eating, drinking, sunbathing, running etc. 

Regions that could possibly relax restrictions on the use of masks outdoors

If the mask restrictions are relaxed by the government and the health authorities, the regions that could already qualify because of their low-to-medium risk epidemiological situations include Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria, Castilla y León, Castilla La-Mancha, Extremadura, the Valencian region, Murcia, the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands.

Which regions are in favour of the move?

Both Catalonia and Galicia have said that they would be in favour of dropping the use of masks outdoors.

The Catalan government was one of the first regions to open the discussion on relaxing the use of masks outdoors.

According to Catalan Regional Health Secretary MarcRamentol, the Catalan government considers that with at least 30 percent of the population fully vaccinated and more than half of the population having received at least one dose, the matter is worth discussing. 

Not having to wear a mask outdoors will help the summer “feel more like 2019 than that of 2020”, said Ramentol.

President of the Xunta of Galicia Alberto Núñez Feijoo, said last week that he expects the use of masks outdoors will be abolished in July, however on Tuesday, May 18th at the Hotusa Group Tourism Innovation Forum in Madrid, he insisted that it is only “a matter of weeks”.

Although Valencia currently still has some strict rules in place, Regional President Ximo Puig has stated that he is in favour of the mask not being compulsory in open spaces. “We know that in open spaces there is a much lower possibility of contagion and I have been supporting this for a long time – it is not necessary to use the mask in some open spaces, natural spaces or on the beaches,” he said.

Which regions want to keep making masks compulsory in outdoor spaces

Regional authorities in Madrid and the Basque Country, the regions which the highest infection rates in Spain have criticised the national government’s position regarding masks, arguing that’s it’s too soon for masks to no longer be obligatory outdoors.

Andalusia is also against the proposal. Jesús Aguirre, Minister of Health and Families in Adalusia, has said that it would be a mistake since the mask is “the most powerful weapon” with which we have to avoid possible infections within the region.