|Mediterranean Garden Society|
Custodian of the MGS Garden
Branch Pages Editor
To learn about how the MGS got its start, see:
Making a Garden on a Greek Hillside
About the MGS
The Mediterranean Garden Society (MGS) is a non-profit making association founded in Greece in 1994 which acts as a forum for everyone who has a special interest in the plants and gardens of mediterranean climate regions. The forum operates through the quarterly journal, The Mediterranean Garden, with articles and book reviews almost exclusively written by members; this constantly up-dated web site; and, on a more local level, through events organised by branches formed in the countries where our members live and garden. The principles espoused by the MGS are demonstrated for the members’ benefit in an experimental garden just outside Athens on a property belonging to the Goulandris Natural History Museum and generously placed at our disposal.
*NB The word "Mediterranean" with a capital M is used to denote the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Basin, while the uncapitalized word "mediterranean" is used to describe the type of climate shared by these countries and other regions of the world.
Why a 'mediterranean' garden society?
It is the goal of the Mediterranean Garden Society to develop alternatives, no less attractive or alluring, which are truly based on a mediterranean way of gardening. The plants to be used, as natives to the mediterranean climate areas of the world, will of necessity be more or less drought resistant. Waterwise gardening has to be one of the basic tenets in countries where summer drought can last for four months and more - areas where the cost of water can only increase and availability decrease.
A further principle is the protection and nurturing of the existing flora. A mediterranean plot where trees and shrubs grow slowly and tortuously is no place for fashionable 'make-overs'. Mature, existing trees offer immediate shade to both people and new plantings, and wildflowers lighten up the spring garden without any effort on the part of the owner. With a little flexibility existing plants can be worked into the design of the new garden.
In fact the design of the garden is where the principles of mediterranean gardening are rooted. Instead of rolling lawns and beds of plants all bursting into flower at once in the summer, a mediterranean garden is a more complex collection of hard surfaces of local natural and man-made materials, shaded areas, water features and plants flowering in turn for all twelve months of the year. In some parts of the garden scent will be more important than flowers for the number of mediterranean plants with scented leaves is amazing: not only herbs but geraniums, salvias, helichrysums, tanacetums and many more. Again, plant shape can be an important design feature, for instance many native mediterranean plants have a naturally cushion-like shape while the small leaves of plants like box, Pistachio and Teucrium fruticans make them ideal subjects for clipping.
Finally, the special needs of garden maintenance have to be faced. These centre on the subject of soil improvement, much more through mulching and composting than through digging.
The Mediterranean Garden
The MGS garden at Sparoza and its place in the history of the MGS
Twenty odd years later, when Miss Tyrwhitt had been dead for ten years, another formidable lady gardener arrived at Sparoza. The new tenant, Mrs Sally Razelou, found herself perfectly in tune with the philosophy of the garden’s creator, and continued to seek ways of creating beauty by working with, rather than against, the natural climate and conditions. She gathered around her a small, multi-national following of like-minded gardeners who eventually felt the need to pool their resources and experiences and produce a regular publication on gardening in mediterranean-climate regions. Thus in 1994 the Mediterranean Garden Society was born and its members have produced its quarterly journal, The Mediterranean Garden, ever since. The three-acre garden at Sparoza became the MGS garden; its mission is to demonstrate how a garden of beauty can be created without the use of fertilizers and pesticides and with the minimum of irrigation during the summer drought.
In 1999 the garden was formally designated as the MGS garden at Sparoza and its up-keep has since then been sponsored by the society. It continues to becared for by the Custodian, Mrs Sally Razelou, with the help of volunteer members, paid gardeners working once a week or once a fortnight and occasional resident volunteer students or members who stay for periods of up to a month.
The time-consuming routine maintenance is carried out by the dedicated group of volunteers who work every Thursday morning. The cheerful camaraderie of the group makes many of them regard this morning as a highlight of the week.
Between the years 1999 and 2015 the MGS sponsored garden assistants to spend ten months of the year at Sparoza. Garden assistants have included students coming straight from relevant courses of study and professional gardeners seeking to expand their knowledge. The garden assistant scheme is presently suspended. Accepted for short-time work-experience in the garden have been students from a French college of landscape design and from public gardens in England. Past garden assistants and short-term volunteers have regarded their time at Sparoza as an exceptional educational opportunity since chances to gain experience in such a mediterranean garden are very few and far between.
With the garden still strictly under the control of Mrs Razelou, the extra help has meant that she has been able to expand the planting beyond the limited extent of the original garden within the estate to create two new areas of unirrigated ‘improved’ wild garden. Most of the plants used in these areas have been propagated in the garden’s small nursery and surplus gems are frequently offered at the Sparoza plant exchanges. Experimentation is still very much a facet of the garden. New plants are initially tested within the irrigated terraces, after which those which show potential are propagated and moved out into harsher positions. The rich natural flora of the hillside continues to flourish side by side with introductions both of other Greek native plants and of tough plants from other mediterranean-climate regions. The summer garden, rather than being an alien imposition of lush green maintained by the lavish use of water, is a celebration of the natural aestivation of drought-tolerant plants.
The nature and lay-out of the garden and the fragility of the environment unfortunately make it quite unsuitable for opening to the general public or to commercial groups, but the garden welcomes groups from educational institutions and occasionally from other walks of life. Their donations are useful for the maintenance of the garden.
The MGS and the internet
The MGS Facebook page caters to the Facebook followers and some of the branches also maintain Facebook pages. The MGS Forum is where discussions about plants, gardens and gardening takes place with multiple postings every day from members and non-members alike. Member volunteers run all the many internet manifestations of the society. The websites and MGS Forum are managed by Jon Watts of Hereford Web Design.
Members living in more northern climes join the MGS because of a general interest in mediterranean plants or because they have a second home and garden in a mediterranean area. Once a year a large number of members gather together for the Annual General Meeting which is accompanied by a few days of excursions. Old friends meet up and new friendships are made.
Members who would like to have a copy of the English translation of the MGS Charter, or who have any questions about the MGS, please get in touch with the Secretary.
Photographs by Fleur Pavlidis, Terry Moyemont,