Mediterranean Garden Society
The Crete Branch of the MGS
The Crete Branch is for those who enjoy mediterranean gardens. Members originate from several different countries and for most of us gardening in the Mediterranean is a new challenge. This mix adds interest to the group as backgrounds and gardening experiences are shared in our adopted new or second homes. Gardening here has been traditionally vegetable and olive cultivation; there are few public gardens. Promoting the aims of the society, we exchange ideas and share experiences of particular plants, water management, propagation methods, and controlling pests and diseases. Valuing the landscape and its flora, our programme of events includes wildflower walks and talks.
Our Branch Head is Valerie Whittington (biography). Current and prospective members are welcome to contact her by email and to follow the Branch on their Facebook page.
The photograph at the top of this page shows Balos lagoon, western Crete. Famous for its turquoise water and wild natural beauty, the lagoon and its wider environs have rare species of flora and fauna protected by Natura 2000. Photo Sara Gilding
A Garden visit to Pam and Geoff Dunn’s Guest Housein Douliana, followed by an illustrated talk by Yvonne Innes
Several events have been held at Pam and Geoff Dunn’s home over the years where they have space for us both to meet informally and to enjoy more formal presentations. Members always have the opportunity to look around the garden at these events.
On this occasion, before Yvonne’s talk, Pam showed us around their immaculate garden. For more detail about this lovely garden look at the article written in June 2013. Since that time plants have matured considerably. The photograph above shows well-established succulents and agaves filling the spaces and providing a contrast between the rocks on the side of the path linking the two houses.
Further into the garden there were interesting plants such as Cascabela thevetiaor yellow oleander, Caesalpinia gilliesii (syn.Erythrostemon gilliesii) a beautiful shrub commonly known as bird of paradise tree (it is not related to Strelitzia reginae; which is also called the bird of paradise). Leucophyllum frutescens, or barometer bush, has small vibrant purple flowers when watered or after rain; this is a compact but loosely branched shrub that Pam shapes in her garden.
Following the garden tour Yvonne Innes gave a fascinating talk about her commission for the 2008 Chelsea Flower Show. Yvonne is a garden designer and plant consultant who has extensive experience, including work in Spain and France. After George Harrison’s death she designed a Chelsea Flower Show garden in his memory, commissioned by Olivia Harrison, his wife. The main focus for this evening’s presentation was the background, design and implementation of this particular garden called ‘From Life to Life, a Garden for George’. The design for this memorial garden for George Harrison was a celebration of his life, music and philosophy, created to depict his life and journey from the material to the spiritual world.
George and his wife Olivia loved going to the Chelsea Flower Show each year and they brought many ideas home. He was said to have viewed himself as a full-time gardener and part-time rock star. Yvonne spoke of ‘his incredible eye’ and considers that he could easily have been a garden designer himself. Clearly, this is what he was in his own garden of 60 acres, which had been neglected for many years when he bought the derelict property in 1980. It had originally belonged to an eccentric who had created areas of several different microclimates including rock gardens, caves, moss, water gardens and a lake.
Yvonne talked of the privilege of creating gardens at Chelsea. Given the commission, she expressed how the ‘world was her oyster’, being able to choose her team, plants and materials with no problem. This was, she said, a dream job, whatever you can draw you can build. She is immensely proud of the results, and rightly so.
To provide the context for her design, she started by giving insight into the background of George’s own garden at his home in Friar Park, Henley. She has been involved in designing and planning sections over the years and she retains her links there. This was fascinating and helped provide ideas for the design of the memorial garden. Friar Park remains a private garden; key plants and features chosen for Chelsea were those that were much loved there, such as maples, ferns, grasses, moss, Japanese anemones and other perennials.
So to the design as seen in the photograph below. The model shows the idea of the ‘moving through the ages’ pathway.
Divided into four areas representing different stages in George’s life: the Liverpool Garden representing his childhood, the Psychedelic 1960s Garden (the Beatle years), the Contemplative Garden (post-Beatle years) and the Afterlife Garden.
The implementation of the building work started four to five weeks before the show week. All materials were chosen to be as eco-friendly as possible. For example, red bricks from Liverpool and a bicycle Olivia found that was identical to the one from a childhood photograph of George were used in the first section.
The ages pathway was made in colours reflecting that stage of life. Brian Clarke, a glass artist, produced the amazing mosaic of Liverpool and the Liver Building for the childhood section. This was an impressive 1.2 metres wide. Yvonne chose to make a vegetable garden alongside this with plants such as peas, beans, parsley, cabbage and kale. George’s father was a keen vegetable grower and this was strongly reflected in his interest in gardening from an early age.
Colour changes from blue to red, orange and yellow as the path moves into the Psychedelic garden. Then it changes from blueish into white. Planting alongside reflects these colour changes admirably.
The Psychedelic Garden is jam-packed with hundreds of plants of vibrant colours. Yvonne had submitted a plant list with the design plan to provide the effect she wanted, but she explained that the planting list you start out with is not necessarily the one you end up with, as plant crops may fail or their names are changed etc. So it is really a sort of plants 'such as' list with a few definite ones which plant enthusiasts will be able to identify themselves. The whole Chelsea week is so rushed that there is not time to redo the list with the additions of plants you have managed to scavenge from local nurseries.
Plants such as Acer palmatum "Atropurpureum" and Heuchera micrantha "Palace Purple" provide purple foliage, with Allium "Purple Sensation" and Lupinus "Masterpiece" for purple flowers. Examples of yellow and orange foliage were Heuchera "Caramel" and Ligustrum ovalifolium "Aureum", while for yellow and orange flowers Achillea "Moonshine", Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus and Forsythia "Lynwood Gold" were planned choices. Centranthus ruber, Lupinus "My Castle" and various roses were examples of red flowers. Blue and silver foliage examples were Achillea "Moonshine" and Santolina decumbens (syn. Santolina incana), while for flowers Ceanothus "Blue Mound", Delphinium "Bluebird" Lupinus "Gallery Blue", and Rheum and Hosta varieties. Pittosporum "Garnettii" and Miscanthus sinensis "Variegatus" provided variegated foliage.
The post-Beatles garden was a contemplative garden. For this, Yvonne chose Betula utilis var. jacquemontii (Himalayan birch), having a more static, formal, upright habit than a silver birch with a denser crown, ideal for use as a specimen tree. Moss, a variety of ferns and wild grasses from Friar Park were also incorporated into the design. A water wall with a larger than life picture of George was featured at the end of this section.
The Indian Temple was erected with beautiful artisan touches, it was intended to be ethereal. We were shown details of the tiny mosaic finish and lattice work inside the pavilion and the benches which were covered with beautifully made cushions. The base of the pavilion was inscribed: ‘Floating down the stream of time, of life to life ... with me’ (An extract from lyrics written by George).
In the After Life garden, the planting was primarily white with choices such as white roses and lupins, Phlox paniculata, Cornus controversa "Variegata", Heucheravarieties and Hosta "Bressingham Blue. The result was exquisite.
This was a fascinating presentation. All of us at the event were of an age when we knew of George Harrison but not necessarily the details of his life and values. Listening and seeing aspects of this that led to the design and making of ‘From Life to Life, a Garden for George,’ a memorial garden at the Chelsea Flower Show, was a privilege.
Yvonne described her involvement in making this garden as an amazing experience; everyone wanted to be part of it and to give of their best. It seemed appropriate to learn that the pavilion went to Friar Park.
We were delighted to welcome Yvonne Innes to Crete and thank her for an inspiring presentation and experience. She is a fellow MGS member, now living in the South of France. Our branch prides itself on welcoming members from elsewhere.
A bring and share supper on Pam and Geoff’s delightful terrace completed the evening, thank you both. Also thank you to Pam for showing us around the garden.
Text and photographs from Pam’s garden by Valerie Whittington
Photographs from Chelsea by Yvonne Innes
For older reports and articles please check out the archived (non-responsive) Crete Branch page.
Branch Head Valerie Whittington
Valerie retired with her husband, Clive, to live full-time in Crete in 2005, having had a holiday home here since 2000. Their house is built on an exposed, windswept hillside with cold harsh winds in winter and severe, hot, desiccating ones in the heat of summer; this hillside was previously home only to goats.
Gardening is Valerie’s passion and, with little previous experience of plants of the mediterranean, she is developing a garden which is in keeping with the landscape, which attempts to be waterwise and where new plants coexist with the original flora.Valerie has written about her garden for The Mediterranean Garden, No. 63.
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