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John Joynes
Ithakis 17, Kolossi
Limassol 4632, CYPRUS

στα ελληνικά

The Cyprus Branch of the MGS

Past Events   2016    2014   Older

June 2013
Cyherbia Ηerb Garden visit

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.

Bath Garden
This is dominated by swathes of lavender that was in full bloom, but sage, rosemary, bay laurel and lemon balm were also in evidence. The alleged ability of a decoction of the leaves of bay laurel (Laurus nobilis) to relieve aching limbs when added to bath water may be worth remembering for later in the day.

Medicinal Garden
Marjoram, hyssop and rue grow here, alongside ironwort (Sideritis perfoliata) that is used to make an invigorating tonic known as ‘mountain tea’ and, possibly taking pride of place, the legendary Aloe vera credited with almost magical healing properties.

Aromatic Garden
Here we find the old, tried and trusted favourites such as rose, rosemary and, inevitably, lavender.

Pest Control Garden
This is an area that I find particularly interesting and one that I need to investigate further. Claims such as that the scent of fennel masks the smell of plants targeted by harmful insects, that oregano oil can be used as a pesticide and that cold chamomile tea is an effective against aphids, brown rot and mildew cry out for follow-up research.

Ladies’ Garden
Once more we meet those old standbys rosemary and Aloe vera, but not all the herbs grown here are for cosmetic application. Some are intended for gynaecological use, yarrow and Vitex agnus-castus, for example.

Relaxation Garden
The refreshing qualities of an iced tea made from lemon balm and lemon verbena have already been touched upon. Here these plants are joined by rose and chamomile among others.

Potpourri Garden
This is rather similar to the Aromatic Garden with lavender very much to the fore, along with rose, lemon balm and rose geranium.

Kitchen Garden
Many of the typical Mediterranean herbs can be found here: basil, tarragon, chives, bay laurel, savory and oregano etc.

Traditional Cyprus Garden
Here we see a collection of some of the many herbs, both cultivated and wild, that have become a part of the traditional Cypriot cuisine.

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.

March 2013
Environmental Information Centre, Episkopi, Paphos

On Tuesday 26 March, 15 members and their guests paid a visit to a newly-opened Environmental Information Centre in the village of Episkopi in the District of Paphos. The Centre is located in the old village school buildings that have been specially renovated for the purpose.

The entrance to the building

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.
Text and photo by John Joynes
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