Flowers in Sicily
Flowers in Sicily are few but flashy and exuberant even in summer, when most of the landscape is dressed in dusty green, brown and hay colours. Here are some of my favourites.
In summer, the southern part of Autostrada A14 running along the Adriatic coast of Italy is famous for the white, pink and red oleanders that line the motorway and give the impression that you are driving through a sea of flowers. In Sicily, some stretches of the Autostrada wraps you in the intense purple of the bougainvillea demonstrating that when it comes to flowers Sicily is more regal than any other Italian region.
Though a native of South America, bougainvillea plants thrive in Sicily, where they are loved for their ability to provide shade and a happy splash of colour They are cultivated in public gardens and private homes, where you can see them climb walls or innocent lamp posts.
Nerium Oleander is also a popular flower in Sicily, though its colour range is more limited and less intense. These plants lend themselves well to ornamental gardening and they are often stemmed up and used as trees to line inner city avenues.
Park gardeners are also very fond of the Lantana shrub with its unbelievable colour mixes, while the wild summer flowers are generally smaller and more subdued in colour. One exception to this rule is the prickly pear that flowers in bright yellow, orange and burgundy. The essence of these flowers is cherished in homeopathic circles for its harmonizing qualities, and they definitely make the thorny aspects of these cacti more pleasing.
The most useful and proliferous wild flowers in Sicily are however the caper bush. Caper plants grow spontaneously in all cracks and crevices on the island, and the large white flowers with characteristic violet stamens can be found clinging to virtually every limestone wall. Still, the caper flowers are rarely noticed. Either because they start withering after about 24 hours, or because one of the local housewives has nipped the buds and pickled them in salt for use in salads and pasta sauce, before the flowers had a chance to unfold.