One of my first ambitious projects in propagating Skopelos-endemic plants in the 39steps garden was with capers. The flower of this flora is delicate and beautiful but the plant resilient, growing out of rock cliffs in the face of adverse weather conditions, and yet they still survive!
Initially I carried back from the wilds of the Skopelos seaside countless seedlings. About 50! Only three survived and only after I removed the nutritious garden soil and replaced this with rocks and rubble! Once rooted, this allowed the root to roam deep down and find its own nourishment. One of these migrants gave shade to the garden table for many happy years. The seedling was established by the side of the arbour and, by pruning and support over the years, I gradually trained some fronds on the upward move to form an attractive trunk. Above, at the top of the arbour, a dense leafy crown of fronds full of blooms then spread covering an area 3 sq.m and giving a cool aromatic shade we enjoyed for many years!
I noticed then that ants liked the seed of the ripe caper fruit. I don't mean the buds which we know as capers and which are found on the supermarket shelves; those are caper flower buds, before they bloom. I mean the small cucumber-like fruit with black seeds. Ants, great cleaners of nature, busily carry the seeds into their nest in the stone walls for whatever purpose they need them. An occasional seed would be trapped in the crevice of the stone wall and germinate and grow into a beautiful overhanging caper plant. They do grow on flat ground but don't do so well! I copied the method used by the ants and placed seeds in the walls in designated spots whereupon - at one time - the area of 39steps was caper full!
My over-the-arbour caper is now gone and there are other attractive plants shading that corner of the 39steps garden! Having satisfied my curiosity about the way capers propagate, I now leave ants to do their work. There are now generations of uncontrolled capers seeded from that early experiment in the alleys and gardens of our neighbourhood in the Old Town, often admired and photographed by our visitors.
Incidentally, the whole caper plant is edible. Also, the buds take their time to open into a beautiful bloom but live only one day before forming into the cucumber like fruit. In the time it blooms, it attracts droves of bees and other insects busily gathering pollen and nectar.
Caper-shaded terrace (as was)
Jenny's caper beneath 39 Steps' stone wall
An ant-spread caper sprouting from the stone wall
Outside eating area, now shaded by vine and jasmine