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God is in the Details

by Isabel Sanders
photographs by Isabel Sanders and Davina Michaelides

Photographs to illustrate the article published in The Mediterranean Garden No 79, January 2015

Isabel Sanders was the Garden Assistant at Sparoza for two years between 2012 and 2014. Her strong, capable outward persona disguised her inner sensitivity towards the plants in her charge. But here in an article about the wildflowers at Sparoza we see that side of her and understand why her stay at Sparoza was so rewarding for us all.

She describes how some of the native crocuses are self-seeding in the wild areas of the garden, in particular the ‘dumpier’ species like Crocus cartwrightianus and C. laevigatus.

This year C. cartwrightianus outdid itself and all the others. The flower is variable in its coloration, ranging from white to purple with strong veining. As the ancestor of the cultivated saffron crocus, C. sativus, it has conspicuous red styles that extend beyond the pollen-clad anthers. The styles can be used in cooking but are not as intensely flavoured as those of the cultivated saffron crocus; however, what C. cartwrightianus lacks in flavour it makes up for in looks. Unlike the genetically dulled colours of its progeny, it can produce spectacularly saturated tones of violet, saffron and Buddhist yellow. An endemic of the Cycladic islands, western Crete and Attica, it is in its element on the hill of Sparoza and has a predilection for seeding in areas with the most foot traffic. Walking along the paths in the ‘phrygana’ area or up the dirt track on the hill, one must dance around on tiptoe in order to avoid trampling the flowers.”

Crocus cartwrightianus

Crocus  laevigatus

On the other hand Crocus goulimyi has self-seeded into one of the terraces.

“At Sparoza there is a very tightly-knit group of Crocus goulimyi that must, in fact, be a bundle of clones. This group has never seeded into its surrounding area in ‘Derek’s Garden’. Nonetheless, deep in the garden, within a wall under a very old rosemary a courageous C. goulimyi has made a new home and is also vegetatively spreading, though not yet seeding.”

Crocus goulimyi

Crocus goulimyi self-seeded in the gravel in the terraces

When describing the abundance of annuals which seed themselves at Sparoza, she mentions some which have been introduced and cannot be ignored.

“.... prima donnas posture for attention. Delphinium staphisagria waves its leaves at the sky, Salvia sclarea var. turkestanica builds velvety rosettes and Consolida ajacis crowds the beds.”

Delphinium staphisagria

An unusual two-tone sport of Consolida ajacis or larkspur in the Sparoza terraces
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