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Lessons from a Greek garden in the Mani

by John Hayes

For the full text of this article see The Mediterranean Garden No 64, April 2011

John and Mary Hayes made their garden in the southern Peloponnese – almost as far south as it is possible to be in mainland Europe – on the site of an old flour mill, containing a giant, buttressed, free-standing stone arch. The mature trees which surrounded the site offered some respite from the summer sun; the existing structures, once restored, would provide shelter on three sides from strong winds, and there seemed to be plenty of scope to build some raised beds, retained by stone walls. The aim was to combine summer colour with waterwise principles.

The star performers have been those small trees, shrubs and perennial plants which looked good in the garden’s first summer (2006), which have grown and matured and still look good today. They are the ones that visitors always remark on. They include Fremontodendron mexicanum, assorted cannas in pots, Achillea taygetea, Tulbaghia violacea, Acanthus mollis and A. spinosus, Perovskia 'Blue Spire', Sphaeralcea 'Newleaze Coral', Rosa banksiae 'Lutea' and Aeonium 'Swartzkopf'. They have thrived and performed beyond all expectation. The supporting cast which play their parts but without particular distinction include Allium christophii, Nerine sarniensis and N. bowdenii, three varieties of Hemerocallis, Lychnis coronaria, Salvia coccinea 'Lady in Red', Salvia leucantha, Rudbeckia 'Goldsturm', Eschscholzia californica, Lavandula angustifolia and L. dentata, Ceanothus thyrsifolius var. repens, Leonotis leonorus and a range of succulents. These plants have all served their purpose to provide support for the star performers and offer a range of interest (flower, foliage, form and aroma) throughout the gardening year.

Looking down on part of the garden from the middle
terrace: a shaded sitting area beneath the large arch
and a gravel bed containing mainly succulents in the
depression where millstones once turned.

A view of the garden taken through the arched
entrance in the giant stone arch which formed
part of the old flour mill.

Alliums in the foreground, behind which are the spikes of Acanthus mollis
with yellow Rudbeckia 'Goldsturm' to the right.

Some hard landscaping constructed to imitate a dilapidated stone wall.
Strelitzia reginae in the foreground and Fremontodendron mexicanum
in the background.

Gravel bed containing mainly succulents, including Aeonium 'Swartzkop'
with pots of cannas on the stone wall in the background.

A view of the large arch from the old flour mill.
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