|Mediterranean Garden Society|
The Cyprus Branch of the MGS
On a very hot day in June, 22 members, partners and guests of the Cyprus Branch paid a visit to a recently opened project in the Larnaca District of the island, the Cyherbia Herb Gardens. To be precise, the date was Monday 24 June and it was a local public holiday, Kataklysmos (Festival of the Flood). This festival, which is equivalent to Pentecost or Whitsun, takes place 50 days after the Greek Orthodox Easter and celebrates the Flood associated with Noah and the Ark. Actually it was such a hot day that many of those present would have welcomed even a very small deluge. The visit had been scheduled rather later in the year than would have been normal, in order to coincide with the garden’s Lavender Festival. We were welcomed by the owner, herbalist Miranda Tringis, who explained how it had taken eight years of hard work to create the garden.
Having gathered together in the garden’s Tea Room and having been resuscitated following our journeys with glasses of cold herbal tea (I found the lemon balm/lemon verbena with rose geranium impregnated ice-cubes particularly refreshing), we set out to view the gardens. The herb garden area is divided into sections, each with a particular theme. There are nine of these to explore and to examine the herbs related to each theme. Obviously, since many herbs have a variety of uses and attributes, the same ones occur in more than one area.
Pest Control Garden
Traditional Cyprus Garden
Following the walk around the assorted gardens and having survived the heat with the assistance of the sight and scent of the massed herbs, it was time to retreat to the cool shade of the tea room. Here we were revived once more with another dose of iced herbal tea, possibly accompanied by a home-made snack. The cinnamon and rum ice cream sounded tempting, but, unfortunately, by the time I arrived it was no longer available. I can recommend any of the various muffins on offer, however.
Suitably refreshed, the more energetic and adventurous members of the group decided to attempt to negotiate the maze. The aim of the only hedge maze in Cyprus is to reach the raised observation platform that affords a splendid view of the gardens and surrounding area. It also gives an opportunity to plot the route to the exit. I didn’t try my luck on this occasion, but on my first visit, to set up this outing, I had to have assistance from the owner’s husband, who happened to be carrying out maintenance on the tower, in order to find my way in and out again. On this day I believe that only one couple actually made it to the platform, and they had problems finding the exit afterwards.
The less adventurous had the alternative of taking a steady stroll around the island. A Sanctuary Woodland has been laid out in the shape of Cyprus with cypress trees (Cupressus sempervirens) marking the outline. In order to provide some interest and to break up the walk, information boards, seven in all, have been set up at significant points along the way. The owner’s husband described these as his seven wonders of Cyprus.
All in all this was a most interesting visit to a project that has taken many years of hard work to complete and that will, it is hoped, continue to be successful and to provide an entertaining and educational facility for many more years to come.
The visit began in the small lecture hall with the viewing of a short film shot in the general vicinity of the Centre, much of which is in a Natura 2000 site. This 25-minute film explains the geological make-up of the area, the various habitat types and the assorted flora and fauna to be found there, including many endemic species. The film was clear, the narrative concise and the standard of photography excellent. Everyone was impressed by it, with some going as far as to express the opinion that it was one of the best short wildlife documentaries they had ever seen.
The exhibition hall is a mix of diorama, photographic/information boards and display cases containing geological samples and butterflies and other insects. It has several touch-screen monitors strategically located around the room; these present a mesmerizing amount of information under a multitude of categories literally at one’s fingertips.
A small laboratory and library are still being set up, but will, no doubt, prove to be valuable additions to the centre’s educational role in the near future.
The school grounds have been divided into areas depicting the variety of habitats to be found in the vicinity. Information boards giving details of the geological make-up of the soil in each area stand alongside those showing the names of individual plants and their flowering times. The centre has been open to the public for only three weeks and environmental information is still very much in its infancy in Cyprus, although its potential is obvious to see. It will be interesting to pay a return visit at a future date to see just how this project has progressed.