In Luxembourg, we are still in sub-zero temperatures, with ground frost and snow. The only thing that seems to be growing is the city of mole hills spreading it's way across the lawn and into the garden beds. I can probably say goodbye to the tulip bulbs I planted.
In Positano, it's quite a different scenario.
The continuous rain this year hasn't dampened the enthusiasm of the roses which continue to bloom, nor that of the native white jonquils fragrant and invasive, sitting prettily under the orange trees and flowering in drifts along the cliff-side gardens down to the beach.
I am rarely in Positano at the right time for gardening, being chained to the school calender for trips. We are obliged to take on a gardener for seasonal jobs, rather than let the place run to seed.
But there is a thing about gardeners in Italy and myself. We don't quite see eye to eye about what is acceptable and what is not.
I revel in nature and the surprises it presents in different places. Italians like to control it or fashion it into tidy rows, with weed free straight lines and pruning everything to an inch of its life.
Several years ago, we were looking for someone to tend the garden in Positano in our absence. We had a few waiters-cum-gardeners-cum-painters-cum-handymen visit, after I had tidied the garden to what seemed to us to be a pleasing standard.
As I showed them around and waited for the compliments, all I heard was 'ahi' or 'ehi ' and an intake of breath.
You see my (unrealistic) dreams of a tropical paradise in the heart of Positano, with jungle vines vying for space with dilapidated dry stone walls, or a sort of mediterranean adaptation of an English Cottage Garden, has to contend with the Italian conception of 'bello'.
Or in other words this :
Our present gardener who prunes the grape vines and plants a few vegetables in our absence insisted that my husband take a photo of the fruit garden so he could show me his work.
Nada, Niente , nothing there. All cleaned up, dug under and clear of growth. And he was very proud of it to. What you can't see is the peas, broad beans and a few head of lettuce that he put in for our consumption in April. But otherwise this is it.
Our gardener Michele, from days long past, used to say that 'if you couldn't eat it, you shouldn't be growing it'. His only exception to this rule was a Calla lily or Dama in Camicia in the corner of the fruit garden.
I have convinced our present gardener that the ornamental plants are just as important to me as the vegetable part, but it seems that sometimes, I am talking to an (ivy clad) brick wall.
Our huge rose bushes were pruned literally to death and their replacements will take a long time to reach the height of the 30 year old giants.
I have to repeat each year that want the bougainvillea to trail down the wall so that he doesn't chop it back too drastically, and to let jasmine scramble naturally in the sun rather than tie it back.
I know Plumbago is rampant, but letting it sucker in the stone wall gives us privacy from the neighbours.
I don't mind that the blood red hibiscus in the corner looks old and forlorn because I planted it there the year I arrived in Positano. In it's hey days, it made its way into many a guide book's photos, the scarlet taken against the blue of the sea.
I'd like plants, please. Verdant and with flowers, scent and colour. Low maintenance, low watering and able to get along without my help for months on end.
I know, many of you will be thinking that a plastic plant will probably do the trick.
I am so unreasonable. I only have to go to Positano unexpectedly to see what a great clean up this gardener does to prepare for our stay.
A good dedicated gardener is now a rarity in these parts. That is, one that actually admires and tends ornamentals as well as the edibles. In the past, people in Positano would come and beg for work. Now it's considered too strenuous for most people who prefer to have a comfy hotel job, to the point that the neighbours come and beg the gardener to look after their houses too.
I'm tempted to take the ball and chain off my legs and tie it on his.