On the hill leading from Floriana to Pieta, there is a garden. The entry-way is so unobtrusive that you will almost miss it; and people seem to do so because, most days, it is empty. Even on a public holiday we were the only people there except for two other couples.
It has a name, of course, but I like to call it The Secret Garden. My secret garden. Secret, because it’s almost always deserted and secret because my inquisitive nose has smelt out a mystery (or rather my writer’s soul has created one just for the fun of it; because it would be inconceivable for me to live without a little mystery in my life).
It’s a leafy sort of garden with huge trees providing a cool oasis on the warmest of days. But sadly, it lacks flowers, except for the wild ones which grow out of the most unusual cracks and crannies. For some unfathomable reason, no one thought of planting flowers here; of coaxing rainbows out of the earth. But I have. Because in my most secret heart, I have made it mine and I would fill it with a riot of blooms and colours.
For I would plant hydrangeas and arum lilies in the shaded spots and roses where the sun shines for a few hours and then hides its face. And geraniums of course, in the full light of the sun, because that’s how they like it and no Maltese garden is complete without them. Sunflowers, to follow the course of the shifting light. Rosemary, lavender and thyme for their glorious scent. Succulents at the edge of borders. Pittosporum to form fragrant hedges and bougainvillea, that hardy, quintessential creeper, that requires so little care and rewards us with buckets of blossoms. There would be water-lilies in the renovated pond and a frog or two or three but the carved lions would remain as they are now: pock-marked with age and weather-worn.
I can see it so clearly. My wild, secret garden. With it’s five different levels and its carving on the walls and its stunning views and its crowning glory – a watch-tower from which to survey, well, everything.
There is so much whimsy here, from the military crests carved into the bastion walls, to remnants of statues and a miniature sculpture of the Castle of Gibraltar (of all things).
This all-but-forgotten garden below a line of fortifications known as the Bastion of Provence, has it all; and then some. But it could have so much more. If it were mine.
With a sigh I wrest myself out of my newest reverie and slowly walk down the garden path, out the doorway and into the world. For any wanderer’s soul, like mine, visiting this garden always feels like falling through the looking glass. There is something strangely ephemeral about it. A curious feeling that time ceases to be. That nothing is but what is not. So we will bid it goodbye for now lest I continue to wander in the land of dreams.
And what of the mystery, I can almost hear you ask? Well, I think that for now we will leave it be, because mysteries tend to lose some of their lustre with the telling and some secrets have to remain just so. Secrets. Whispered by the breeze in the indifferent ears of time.
Location: Sa Maison Garden, Sa Maison Street, Floriana (May 2015)