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A walk round the National Garden

by Fleur Pavlidis
newsandviews/photos by Vina Michaelidis

The first king of modern Greece built his Palace in Athens in the 1830's with a grand 'Royal Garden' whose design and planting were supervised by his queen, Amelia. Under the Republic of Greece the Palace is now the Parliament and the estate, renamed the 'National Garden', is open to all, but Greeks think kindly of Amelia whose love of gardens saved this large tract of land from development and concrete in the twentieth century. Led by young landscape designer, Elissabet Bargianni, the Greek Branch toured the garden on a warm November morning. Many of the old trees date back to the first planting. Eli pointed out the original watering gullies – a traditional method of watering using temporary dams which is still used in rural greece, although being overtaken now by automatic watering with plastic hoses. From the beginning this had been a collector's garden and we were shown a magnificent Cypressus macrocarpa soaring up probably to its maximum high of 35 metres, and some huge Phytolacca dioica with their swollen trunks creeping over the surface of the ground like treacle. Other trees like a group of Jacaranda mimosifolia and a Chorisia speciosa had been badly damaged by the hard frost of the previous winter and needed pruning to restore their shape and beauty. The garden with its greenery, water and shade amidst the hard landscape of the city has never ceased to be loved by Athenians and tourists alike, but we understood the size of the task of maintaining the garden as a place of balance and harmony as well as of botanic merit.

The age of the trees and the availability of water in the garden has
resulted in specimens far taller than the usual Athens city trees.

Members of the Greek Branch with new Branch Head, Barbara Diamantides in red.

A Phytolacca dioica with its spreading trunk.

A sinister Phytolacca dioica trunk creeping over the paving slabs.

The original watering gullies still used by the gardeners. Water is channelled
along the gullies from area to area by means of temporary dams.

Our guide to the garden.
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