|Mediterranean Garden Society|
Custodian of the MGS Garden
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
The garden was founded by Miss Jaqueline Tyrwhitt who came to Greece in the early 1970s on retirement from her post as Professor of Landscape Design at Harvard University. Having chosen to buy a plot of land on a dry, stony hillside overlooking the Mesogeio plain, Jacky Tyrwhitt decided that it would be pointless to try following the gardening practices of her native England in such an inhospitable environment. She therefore set out to create a garden using plants which came from, and were thus adapted to, the mediterranean-climate areas of the world. This was a radical plan at the time and the planting of the garden proceeded by trial and error.
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 countries. Thus in 1994 the Mediterranean Garden Society was born and its members have produced its quarterly journal, The Mediterranean Garden, ever since. The 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.
With the garden still strictly under the control of Mrs Razelou, the funding by the MGS of a student gardener each year since 1999 has meant that she has been able to expand the planting beyond the original limited extent of the garden within the estate to create two new areas of unirrigated ‘improved’ wild garden. The majority of the new planting has been propagated in the garden’s small nursery and surplus gems are frequently offered at the Sparoza plant exchanges. The time-consuming routine maintenance is carried out by a dedicated group of volunteers who work every Thursday morning. 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 upheld by the lavish use of water, is a celebration of the natural aestivation of drought-tolerant plants.
The garden continues to evolve, the latest development being comprehensive labelling of the planted and wild plants. Plenty of information about the garden can be found on the MGS website, including a plant list and a link to the blog of the present student gardener.Members of the MGS together with their garden-loving friends are welcome to visit Sparoza as many times as they wish. Appointments can be made via email@example.com.
The Web Site
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,