|Mediterranean Garden Society|
The Crete Branch of the MGS
Our first event of the year was held on a beautiful sunny morning in Sara and Roger’s garden studio in Kefalas. Their garden looked stunning with plenty of early spring colours.
This very interesting and well-prepared talk focused upon the gardens they had visited over a period of three weeks in November. Sara gave great insight into the philosophy behind Japanese gardens and, during the presentation, spoke of several of their other cultural experiences.
The Hama-rikyu Garden was the Tokyo family garden of the Tokugawa Shogun. It was donated to the public by the Imperial family in 1946.The photograph shows the tidal pond from the Bay of Tokyo.
Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple, Kyoto is a moss garden. It has 1200 rakan, or stone statues, representing the disciples of Buddha. In 1955 a new head priest was appointed, Kocho Nishimura, who was also an accomplished sculptor. He implemented the idea of having visitors carve their own statues for the temple under his guidance. These were all added to the temple between 1981 and 1991 but look much older because they have become covered in moss. Each one is unique and many have whimsical and humorous expressions. We were shown several close-up photographs of these. They were fascinating.
This is a stroll garden and World Heritage site, of which there are 17 in Kyoto. Sara described how the Kinkaku-ji Temple in Kyoto was originally built as an aristocrat’s country estate in 1185. It was taken into possession by the Shogun in 1397 and rebuilt as a Buddhist temple in 1422. It fell into decline but was restored as an Imperial Palace during the Edo period. When the Golden Pavilion was constructed, two floors were covered in gold leaf. After it was burnt to the ground in 1950, an exact reconstruction was completed in five years. It is still used by the royal family for entertaining heads of state.
The Adashina Nenbutsu-ji Temple, in the Kyoto area, was previously a burial ground or a place where the dead were left. There are now 8000 stone statues in memory of the souls of the dead. Every August the Sento-Kuyo ceremony is held where candles are lit in memory of those who died without relatives.
This contemporary garden opened in 1980, incorporating a little of every style, and it excels in the use of ‘borrowed landscape’. It was conceived by Zenko Adachi, a textile wholesaler who collected art. He designed the gardens and collected the plant specimens and rocks from all over Japan.
Rirsurin Garden, Takamatsu, Shikoku, is a 16-hectare stroll garden, originally a late sixteenth-century feudal lord’s garden, which was opened to public in 1875. Six-hundred- year-old cycads grow here.
This was an excellent presentation that gave us a much greater understanding of gardens in Japanese culture through well-researched detail and high-quality photography.
Annika and Stelios, the proprietors of Chloroplastes, welcomed 20 of us to their new greenhouse at the pre-launch of their new nursery development. Annika spoke about their plans for the future and she was keen to involve us as they are MGS members themselves. This took place through discussion regarding relevant drought-tolerant and exotic plants of interest to the group for our particular location. They also offered the area as a possible venue for relevant activities and meetings for our group in the future.
Annika’s presentation included the design drawings and details about the new nursery project as well as features of the impressive new greenhouse. Electricity and internet will be available in the greenhouse so that it may be used for small events, including for some of our MGS events, mainly during the summer months when plant production won’t be taking place.
At the moment much is still a building site, but some structural planting has taken place; the layout is both functional and interesting, landscaped ready for further planting and finishing. Although they are still waiting for the building license for the garden office, the first stage of the project is already in place and should be completed in spring-autumn 2018.
Annika went on to describe the ‘Chloroplastes Nursery Plan’ which showed how long it takes to develop from idea to fruition. First steps were made in 2014 with the purchase of the land of approximately 2500 square metres. Although this is not small, it is not that big when one is starting up a plant nursery with a production area (greenhouse and outside space), a selling area, garden office, show garden and so on. Both Annika and Stelios are aware that combining all their ideas within the available space poses a challenge.
The land was originally an olive grove with 36 olive trees. They wanted to keep most of them but accepted that a nursery needs plenty of open space and have landscaped using the space to best effect. This meant the removal of just eight trees so 28 remain, making it a potentially delightful area.
A great deal of thought has been put into the overall design with several difficulties to overcome, for example in planning the entrance. This was quite steep, so they created a curved, diagonal drive from the road up to the parking area and created deeper planting areas by building small retaining walls. An olive tree was kept in the middle and a small rondel created around it. The parking area is defined and ready to be planted with turf grids greened with a mediterranean lawn. Annika showed a sample of this and it will be interesting to see it completed.
The next stage was to create two buildings, the greenhouse and office, which basically split the area in two sections. Section one is the main nursery area with entrance, parking, greenhouse, office, a rockery show garden along the road wall, selling area and small courtyard by the office. A water feature consisting of a river stream and small pond with a waterfall-fountain is planned. A variety of trees have already been planted, including cypresses for structure, the delightful Cercis siliquastrum (Judas tree) and a selection of more unusual specimens such as Tabebuia rosea (pink poui or rosy trumpet tree from Mexico, Venezuela and Ecuador) and Lagunaria patersonia(an Australian plant endemic to coastal Queensland and sometimes known as Norfolk Island hibiscus or Queensland white oak), as well as the more familiar Pistacia vera and Arbutus andrachne. More trees may be added.
Section two will be at the back of the plot with space for the outside plant production area, a storage room, vegetable garden and a further show garden section.
Next Annika described their plans for plant production.
The emphasis is on a nursery with native plants from Crete, Greece and mediterranean climates in general, with the aim to abstain from synthetic fertilizers and plant ‘medicines’. Thus their plan is to develop something quite specific. As little literature exists, they have had to research thoroughly as well as using their own experience gained over the years with their design and development work here on Crete. They visited nurseries in Italy and Spain and gained much help and support from Olivier and Clara Filippi, owners of the well-known dry gardening nursery near Montpellier, France. They feel that they gained much information and professional advice, especially regarding the technical parts of the greenhouse, substrates, irrigation matters and general know-how.
In the chosen greenhouse it is possible to open all the windows for good aeration; it has automatic irrigation (mist system), but Annika and Stelios expect to do much watering by hand. Plant material will be from their own show garden and from the wild.
The prospective plant list had been sent in advance to all those attending this event, showing the first plant species we would like to start using. Annika went through this in some detail, for example describing the colour, height and flowering times of different cistuses. Since many plants in Crete flower mainly in spring, they also want to use drought-tolerant plants that are attractive in summer and some alternative plants for lawns. Lavenders were also discussed, although most lavenders prefer cooler climates than ours, except Lavandula × heterophylla (syn. Lavandula allardii)and L. dentata. However, they have had success with others from their experience on rockery slopes, so these will be developed too. Typical Cretan species such as Ebenus cretica, Euphorbia spp., Crithmum maritimum and Carlina diae are just a few which are planned.
Open discussion followed in which Annika asked: What plants from our list do you prefer? Which plants are you most interested in (from our list but also others) and in general what is important for you? What do you miss in the Apokoronas region and do you have any further suggestions for us?
After thanking them for their hospitality and very informative presentation, we enjoyed light refreshments and drinks, continuing our discussion and enjoying glorious sunshine. Two days previously we had had torrential rain and flooding, so much so that their newly gravelled driveway was partly washed away.
Annika and Stelios were delighted with our interest in what they are planning to develop and expressed the hope that this was a good sign and that ‘our little native plant nursery project will work well.’
We wish them every success. They follow concepts which are very much part of the MGS’s ideals.
An illustrated talk by Manoj Malde: Beneath a Mexican Sky, a Silver Gilt design winning garden in the Fresh Gardens category at the Chelsea Flower Show 2017
Several of us had eagerly visited the Chelsea Flower Show in May to see ‘Beneath a Mexican Sky’ and to give support to Manoj, a member of the MGS here on Crete. All were keen to celebrate his success as he told us about the planning, sourcing and execution of his Fresh Garden and to hear all about this intriguing design. We were joined by others, who, although they had not seen the garden, were equally interested to learn all about the project.
In providing the background to his garden design, Manoj talked about the influence of the talented Mexican architect Luis Barragán and how he had been drawn to his work through Barragán’s dramatic use of colour, for example, large stucco-rendered walls painted in clashing colours. Also, being of Indian ancestry and having been born in Kenya, Manoj particularly remembers his mother’s flamboyantly-coloured saris; he believes it is no wonder he always gets drawn to colour.
Manoj described Beneath a Mexican Sky as an homage to Barragán’s work. A large courtyard area is intended as an ‘inviting and calm space. Barragán’s signature colour-washed walls in clementine, coral and cappuccino provide dramatic backdrops to the planting scheme. Zinc micro-cement steps floating across a large aquamarine pool often seen in Barragán’s work. He loved horses and often created a pool for them to cool off in. The spirit of the horse is included within the garden through a copper wire sculpture by Rupert Till.’ (From the promotion brochure.)
Since he graduated from the English Gardening School, it had been Manoj’s ambition to create a garden at the Chelsea Flower show. Having gained inspiration, the journey towards completing the garden started in October 2015 with the aim of producing something new with fresh ideas, hence the Fresh Garden category. Having gained experience on the planting team in 2016 with Nick Bailey’s, Beauty of Mathematics Garden (see the article about this by scrolling down to September 2016), he felt ready to take on the challenge to create a garden of his own.
Thus the story began. Manoj described various stages: from producing doodles, a mood board of ideas and research developed into a small sketch on A4 paper. We learned how he found a contractor for the building work and made his choice of nursery; we heard too of various trials and tribulations, and of how sponsorship was gained before he could make his submission to the Royal Horticultural Society in July 2016 with some confidence now that he had a sponsor, contractor and nursery on board. Then, once the submission was in, he had a ‘long agonising wait’.
We learned that there are two judging stages for entries. One was in August, with feedback provided in September before the final judging took place. On October 6th Manoj received an email inviting him to build his garden at the Chelsea Flower Show in May 2017.
Manoj explained that the plans submitted were necessarily fluid, requiring a preliminary plant list but not set in stone at this stage. The hard structure is designed, but the planting plans are suggestions only to allow for flexibility, apart from structural plants such as trees and important large shrubs. However, the theme promoted the use of ‘drought-tolerant plants that merge mediterranean style with country cottage planting.’ The garden was designed around two mature multi-stemmed Arbutus unedo (strawberry) trees to provide structure. Agaves provide strong features softened by herbaceous planting.
Submission accepted, the garden’s allocated space measured ten by six metres and was to be produced on a tight budget. Manoj stated that ‘Now the real work started.’
The next section of the talk was particularly interesting, with fascinating photographs to illustrate various stages of the development of the project. Manoj will be repeating his talk in January 2018 for members and friends who were unable to come on this occasion. The rest of this story covering how the garden was finally developed will wait until then.
A ‘bring and share’ supper on a Mexican theme completed the evening in the convivial surroundings of Pam and Geoff’s lovely terrace. With thanks, as always, for their hospitality.
Text by Valerie Whittington
ANNUALS and BIENNIALS
CACTI and SUCCULENTS
My own succulents really suffered from the inclement weather this winter, including heavy snow which was half a metre deep in my village, followed by abundant rain. Many succulents, particularly Agave attenuata and aeoniums, were affected and still look battered. Three Euphorbia tirucalli, one a metre and a half high, did not survive. As a result, I thought many of us would benefit from a workshop which looked at various aspects of growing succulents in our climate as well as their maintenance. Rosemary Thomas agreed to share her experience and knowledge of these plants; we also enjoyed the wonderful collection in her garden.
After a welcome drink on this very warm morning, Rosemary showed us around her special courtyard garden. Surrounding the house, it enjoys a good balance of sun and shade throughout the day with especially created shady spots and suits her prime specimens well, whether planted in the ground or displayed in a myriad of interesting pots.
Open views to the sea on one side backed by a very high wall at the back provide both shade and protection as well as the opportunity to hang or display items on the wall of the house or boundary.
The workshop following our information-packed tour of the garden included:
This splendid session was rounded off by a convivial lunch in the local village taverna where we were joined by several of our partners. Rosemary was presented with a gift token from a garden centre as a thank you from the participants.
Rosemary’s garden was also visited in December 2013, scroll down this webpage to read and see other photographs from that visit.
Text and photographs by Valerie Whittington
The walk was a relatively easy, enjoyable stroll as we walked down into the valley with lovely views of the mountains in the distance, with a fairly steep, although short, hill on our return. The surrounding countryside was green and lush with plenty of wild flowers to enjoy on the way.
Given the high rainfall and snow during the winter, spring had arrived late this year making predictability of wild flowers uncertain. The actual date of our planned walk had to be confirmed at short notice. Sarah had been monitoring the alliums in bud, and trying to predict when they would actually flower was tricky, but our eventual choice of Friday 28th proved perfect.
We were not to be disappointed. Off the main track, we followed one of the old donkey tracks a short way. Sara had had to come along with secateurs earlier in the week to ensure we could pass by more easily as it was there was a short scramble over a few rocks and into the field closed off by plegma (wired fence). Thank goodness for the plegma as an absolute feast for our eyes awaited us rather than lunch for marauding sheep or goats.
The outlying part of the field was a beautiful, colourful mix of gladioli, smyrnium and alliums with the reward of our walk beyond. It was stunning.
Jam-packed together, the stately alliums (Allium nigrum) in all their glory with buds open wide to greet us. We were thrilled.
Highly satisfied and after much clicking of individual cameras, we set off on our return to visit Jan and Vangelis’ garden in Kefalas. This totally different Mediterranean garden made a fascinating addition to seeing the alliums.
Vangelis is responsible for the 'Welcome to Kefalas' monument as you approach the village from Xerosterni. Their garden is a unique testament to Vangelis’ creativity with stone.
On arrival, we were greeted enthusiastically by Jan and Vangelis; they were pleased that we were interested in visiting their unique garden. After a brief welcome and introduction to the garden we were able to wander and explore at will.
The house was built in 1995 but the garden was developed over the last ten years after Jan and Vangelis married. It is called Jan’s House. For ten years of his life Vangelis had been a hermit making his home in a cave by the sea. He proudly showed us photographs of the home he had made within the cave complete with bedroom, living area and kitchen, all with home-made furniture. A few years ago I had the privilege of visiting the cave which is only accessible by boat and a short swim and had always wanted to peep inside this garden.
Jan and Vangelis described how, bit by bit, the garden has developed. Jan was occasionally irritated because more and more of her vegetable garden was taken over by Vangelis’ structures. She now has a very beautifully designed raised bed complete with mosaic pebbled walls.
Pots are integrated into paths or walls, sometimes planted with flowers or exotic shells.
Made to feel very much at home, we enjoyed real Cretan hospitality under the shade of their pergola with raki and biscuits.
This was a fascinating garden to visit and a privilege. With grateful thanks to Sara for arranging the walk and garden visit and to Jan and Vangelis for sharing their ‘treasure’ with us.
Text and photographs by Valerie Whittington apart from those credited to Sara Gilding.
This interesting event was held at Pam and Geoff Dunn’s house, Douliana, Apokoronas in February. Six members from Crete visited South Africa on the MGS trip in the latter part of 2016. Twenty-four very different gardens and landscapes were visited, including important botanical gardens, community endeavours and several private gardens. This was an excellent joint presentation by Pam Dunn, Bob Lyle and Valerie Whittington.
All had slightly different perspectives and their reports were based on what had appealed to them most. The photographs shown covered a full range of all we saw and were most impressive. First, Val Whittington gave an overview, putting some context to the whole trip. Pam Dunn talked about the flowers she had particularly liked and Bob and Jill Lyle concentrated on the wild flowers we had seen. I particularly enjoyed being reminded of some of the wonderful things we saw.
This was received with great enthusiasm and followed by a delicious bring-and-share lunch.
For a full account of our visit to South Africa, please refer to TMG 88, April 2017, or the MGS website with photographs, where part one of Val’s report is published. Part two will feature in TMG 89, July 2017.
Text by Clive Whittington, photographs by Valerie Whittington
Valerie retired with her husband, Clive, to live full-time in Crete six years ago, 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 originally wrote the following article about her garden for The Mediterranean Garden, No. 63.
Designing and working with the natural landscape on a windswept, rocky hillside in Crete.
Fourteen lorry loads of ‘top soil’ covered this section BUT rains came early and much was washed away before I was able to plant anything. This is clay soil, which is very poor. Erosion is a continuing problem.
My aims are:
When it came to planning and design:
So what are the key factors in achieving my aims?
So where am I now?