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Administration of the Mediterranean Garden Society
Minutes of the Twenty-Second General Assembly
held at the Ionic Centre,
Lysiou 11, Athens, Greece, Sunday 23rd October 2016
The following paid-up Members of the Society were present:
Alisdair Aird (AA) President
John Joynes (JJ) Vice President, BH Cyprus
Jill Yakas (JY) Treasurer
Vivien Psaropoulou (VP) Secretary
Sally Beale (SB) Councillor, BH Balearics Spain
Jean-Pierre Bouchez, for Northern California
Katerina Georgi, for the Peloponnese
Alan Hawes, BH Costa Blanca
Nikos Vlachakis, BH Greece
Valerie Whittington, BH Crete
Diana Farr Louis
Also present was Sally Razelou, honorary member.
The President (AA) welcomed members to the 22nd General Assembly. He introduced himself and then the members of the Administrative Committee (AC) and Branch Heads/representatives. He reminded us that his term of office and that of the AC would expire at the end of the Assembly and the General Assembly had the responsibility of electing a new AC, which in turn would elect a new President and other officers. Before ending he reminded members that only matters appearing on the published Agenda could be voted on.
2. Apologies for absence:
Apologies were received from: Lindsay Blyth, George and Marilyn Brumder, Cali Doxiadis,Karin Fichter, Katherine Greenberg, Peter Jones, Oron Peri, Maria Sansoni, Jean and Dominique Vaché.
George Brumder’s apology included his best wishes and a warm welcome to the 2017 AGM in Los Angeles.
3. Minutes of the 21st General Assembly
The minutes had been provided to all AGM participants and the President called for a member to propose the adoption of these as a true record. Helena Wiesner proposed and Jane Taniskidou seconded the proposal and the minutes were approved unanimously.
4. Election of the Supervisory Committee
Helena Wiesner, Graham Beale and Jane Taniskidou offered themselves as members of the supervisory committee and were elected unanimously.
5. President’s Report
The President (AA) put the last twelve months in the context of the past three years. It had been a difficult period for the Society, with former branch heads or co-ordinators in the UK, France and Portugal now running separate societies with aims and activities similar to those of the MGS. It became inappropriate for two reserve members of the AC associated with the split to attend AC meetings. The loss of members in the breakaway branches has had a negative effect on the finances of the Society. Greek economic conditions have been a second difficulty, both affecting membership numbers in Greece (the country with by far the largest number of members), and with Greek capital controls increasing the burden on the Treasurer.
A third disappointment was our failure to secure charter change to enable postal or online voting. Discussions about this and other administrative matters were not always harmonious, so it is at least a relief that that is all now firmly behind us. But managing these issues absorbed so much time and energy that the AC was not able to implement some of its plans for the development of the Society, in particular the establishment of the Award of Waterwise Excellence (AWE) and an International Horticultural Advisory Board.
Nevertheless, there have been several positive developments. The Society has reached agreement with the Goulandris Natural History Museum for a new lease on Sparoza until 2030. Under the management of Fleur Pavlidis, the website is constantly evolving in several languages. (More details are recorded below in the Website Editor’s report). The Plant Forum has been very successful, including over 16,000 topics and the most popular topic, “narcissus”, has been looked at over 60,000 times. Over 30,000 people have clicked on the link and on how to join the Society. The MGS Facebook page, which was started two years ago, has been publicly commended by over 2,000 people from all around the world, and many are non-English speakers and young people. A new cover photograph is shown every day and is usually topical.
This year saw a successful tour to Corsica and another to South Africa is about to commence. In 2017, tours are planned to Sardinia and Northern Greece, the latter in collaboration with the RHS Lily Group. In early 2017 there will be a Pan Australia meeting in Mildura, Victoria organised by the South Australia Branch of the MGS and which the MGS is supporting. Plans are already under way for a tour to Uzbekistan in 2018.
Collaboration with other organisers of events is increasingly important, for example with Sue Wake’s botanical art courses in Pelion.
The President drew attention to the Society's total dependence on the commitment of unpaid volunteers, and gave thanks to
- John Joynes, Fleur Pavlidis and Sally Beale for their work in organising tours.
- Caroline Harbouri for editing and producing the excellent journal, The Mediterranean Garden.
- Sally Razelou for her outstanding custodianship of Sparoza.
- The volunteers for their generous contribution to the Society’s activities and organisation.
- The AC for their work and support: John Joynes, Vivien Psaropoulou, Jill Yakas, Sally Beale and special thanks to George Brumder for twelve years of service.
- The Branch Heads and others for internet-related services: Hilary Anastasiadis, Yvonne Barton, David Dickinson, Angela Durnford, Mike Hardman, Alexandra Kyle, Oron Peri and Jorun Tharaldsen.
Finally the President expressed his thanks to all members of the Society and his confidence that he and the outgoing AC were leaving the Society in good hands.
6. Treasurer’s Report
The Treasurer, Jill Yakas, reported that the Financial Statement was prepared according to the accrual method of accounting, a method that gives a more accurate picture of the society’s current financial position. Following a request made at the 2015 General Assembly, the Treasurer has added figures for the 2014/15 financial year on the Income, Expenditure and Balance sheets for the purpose of comparison.
Subscription rates will remain the same for the year 2016/2017. The bank kindly handles payments by credit or debit card for the MGS free of charge so this method of payment, as well as cash payment where possible, is particularly welcome. Subscription payments can also be made on-line through the MGS website however, the Treasurer noted that the Society incurs a charge for such payments.
The annual donation of 500 euros for 2014/2015 was made to The Sir William Walton Foundation, for the garden at La Mortella, Ischia.
The Treasurer would like to thank the private donors who have given so very generously to the Society this year. She is once again most grateful to David Glen for his valuable support with the accounts and to Sue Vlassis for writing the receipts.
7. Auditors’ Report
Erica Mitsidis eloquently expressed her disappointment that the work of the Auditors, meaning herself and Heidi Braatz, was not acknowledged in the President’s or the Treasurer’s report. This unintended oversight was amply compensated with fulsome apologies and thanks by the President and the unanimous applause of the Assembly.
Vice President John Joynes read the Auditing Committee’s Report. The third Auditor, Richard Robinson, resigned in 2015 and the remaining two had continued the routine checking of the accounts.
The Auditors agreed with the President that the lack of support for the amending of the Charter was lamentable, as many things could have been improved on. They had also offered suggestions on non-accounting issues, which were not well received. In view of the role given to the Auditors in Article 29 of the Charter, they feel that the choice of Auditors should be less haphazard than allowed for by the Charter.
The accounts have been regularly checked and no errors have been found, owing to the hard work, diligence and organisation of the Treasurer. They thanked Jill Yakas for her cooperation throughout the year. They also thanked the General Secretary, Vivien Psaropoulou, for her contribution to their work. Due to the financial and banking crisis in Greece, a large sum of the society's funds is held in a safe deposit box. The Auditors felt it their duty at the end of their three-year term to physically count this sum. This was done on 5/10/2016 and all was found to be in order.
Caroline Harbouri, seconded by Valerie Whittington, proposed thanks to the Auditing Committee, and this was unanimously approved.
8. Approval of the Financial Statement for the year 1/10/15 – 30/9/16
Approval was proposed by Graham Beale and seconded by Sally Razelou. All were in favour, none opposed.
9. Presentation of the Budget for the year 1/10/16 – 30/9/17
The Treasurer, Jill Yakas presented the budget with the caveat that, since the Society’s finances depend largely on membership numbers and voluntary donations, it cannot be a definitive statement. The principle has been to take an extremely conservative and prudent view.
For each of the last two years the budget had predicted a deficit of €2000. In the event our management of funds resulted in a virtual break-even in the first year, and a modest profit of €1578 last year. A deficit of €5552 is predicted for the coming year. The Treasurer emphasised that the Society’s financial position is secure, owing to our substantial reserves. However, the deficit is a warning sign and we should carefully explore new sources of income.
10. Election of the Administrative Committee.
The Supervisory Committee carried out the election of the new Administrative Committee by secret ballot. There were eight candidates for eight places. Members and their proxies were instructed to select a maximum of five candidates. The five candidates with the largest number of votes are elected voting members of the committee and are then responsible for electing the President, Vice President, Treasurer, General Secretary and Councillor. The three remaining members, ranked in order of the number of votes received, are Reserve Members. If a voting member leaves the committee before the next election, the highest ranking Reserve Member is offered their place. The revised committee then re-elects all its officers.
The Treasurer and General Secretary of the outgoing committee offered themselves for re-election. Other candidates have not previously served.
154 members voted and 3 ballot papers were spoiled.
The result of the election and of the subsequent election of officers of the Society was as follows, in order of the number of votes they received:
11. Election of the Auditors
Jane Taniskidou, Fleur Pavlidis and Frosso Vassiliadis offered their services as auditors. They were unanimously elected by a show of hands.
12. General Secretary’s Report
The General Secretary (VP) began by announcing the deaths of several members during the past year.
She then referred to her report, which all attending members had had the opportunity to see, and said there was a gain of 150 new members and an increase in the number of members who receive the journal in electronic form. Also there has been in an increase in the number of members who have paid for two or five years, which shows a confidence in the MGS’s future.
As previously mentioned, the Post Office will no longer allow the use of pre-paid envelopes for members living abroad and unfortunately there are now different postal rates for different countries. The General Secretary requested that members pay on time as late payments cause extra work and require her to send the journals separately instead of their being sent by the printer.
In May, MGS member Trisha Dixon brought a group of Australians to visit the garden at Sparoza at the start of their tour of Greece. Refreshments were served by members of the Greek Branch and there was a gain of 5 members and a donation given. Trisha Dixon has recently asked to bring two groups in May and June in 2017 and she has been informed that Sally Razelou has agreed to this and that a donation would be appreciated. A discussion followed about payment by groups and AA said that after discussion at the AC meeting it was considered to be appropriate to request a fee of 10 euros per person for such visits.
A call for thanks to Vivien Psaropoulou was warmly applauded and approved by the members present.
13. MGS Garden at Sparoza Report
Sally Razelou reported that a two-month quasi-drought in winter instead of expected rains had seriously affected the garden. It was somewhat alleviated by the watering system installed by Piers Goldson, to whom she is most grateful.
Among the many volunteers to whom she is also grateful are notably Vina Michaelidis, photographer and head of the team of some twenty volunteers who work two hours once a week. Jason Vassilopoulos comes twice a month from October to April for tree pruning and heavy work. Christina Lambert comes twice a week. In May a volunteer sponsored by the South Australia Branch, Rosey Boehm, made a most useful contribution. Robin McGrew, Greece Branch Head, was a regular volunteer until she moved back to Washington DC. A new volunteer, Lucas Carlow from California, begins shortly.
Sally emphasised that Sparoza is not a designed garden but organic and in constant development. Almost all plants are grown in its own nursery. Among the few exceptions are fifty plants donated by the horticulturalist (and now AC Councillor) Eleftherios Dariotis.
Special mention was made of Marina Adams, who died recently, who had landscaped the original garden for Jaqueline Tyrwhitt and remained a long-standing supporter and friend. Donations in her memory were moving and thoughtful.
Fleur Pavlidis mentioned an unannounced group visit to Sparoza. The organisers were asked for a donation of €200 to which they agreed. It was suggested from the floor that a charge of €10 per head should be made by visiting groups, unless of course, they are members of the Society. This proposal was unanimously approved.
A call for thanks to Sally Razelou was warmly applauded and approved by the members present.
14. Editor’s Report
Caroline Harbouri, editor of the journal, reflected on her role over twenty years. The journal has since grown in quality and content. The perennial problem and regular source of anxiety is the lack of material and she made a fervent plea for articles in any language. She expressed her sincere thanks to writers and artists who had contributed with special mention of illustrators Freda Cox and the late John Jefferis. She thanked those who helped with the production of the journal, especially Sue Vlassis and Vina Michaelidis for proof reading and Dimitris Mandelias for the layout.
A call for thanks to Caroline Harbouri was warmly applauded and approved by the members present.
15. Website Editor’s Report
Fleur Pavlidis reported that there are now MGS websites in French, Italian, Spanish and Greek. The AC has approved expenditure on a new site, responsive and redesigned, which will carry galleries of plant photos. It will be linked to the existing site. Funds have also been made available from the central MGS funds and from the Italian Branch to make the Italian language site mobile friendly. Jon Watts, the manager of all the MGS websites has been especially innovative. The next major stage of development is to make selected parts of the main site adapted to mobile phones.
The main site gets about 10,000 unique visitors per month. Among the most popular pages are those about olives, including a diary written by Brian Chatterton. Similar pages on citrus have also become very popular.
Thanks to the efforts of Jorun Tharaldsen, most of the branch pages continue to be kept up to date but she would like to see even more branches taking advantage of the site to advertise their events.
The Greek language website, now taken over by Nikos Vlachakis, gets about 1,000 unique visitors a month, the French site under Jean Vaché about 800, the Italian site under Yvonne Barton 600 and the new Spanish site under Alan Hawes has increased to 400 in just five months. Yvonne Barton reports that on the Italian site the most popular page is 'Un giardino senz'acqua' (Dry garden). Also frequently visited are 'Eventi' (Events) and 'Giardini dei Soci' (Members' gardens).
It was asked from the floor whether the Olive and the Citrus pages could be put up in Greek. Fleur replied that this was up to the Greek Website Editor to organise.
A call for thanks to Fleur Pavlidis was warmly applauded and approved by the members present.
16. Preliminary plans for the 2017 General Assembly
The Secretary read a report from Shelley Harter, Co-BH Southern California, stating that the AGM will be held in Southern California from Thursday, 26 October until Sunday, 29 October. The itinerary includes a visit to the Getty Centre in Los Angeles and to excellent private gardens in the Pasadena area, while the General Assembly will be held at the Huntington Library. An optional pre tour is being arranged to Santa Barbara from 23-25 October with visits to Lotusland, Casa del Herrero, private gardens and to a winery. An optional post tour is being considered.
A range of hotels will be recommended and the cost will be reasonable. She added that everyone is welcome and she is sure that it will be an AGM unique to Southern California and hopes that many members plan to attend.
17. Any Other Business
a) It was announced that the recipient of this year’s €500 annual donation is to be the Philodassiki Botanical Garden at Kaisariani, which members had visited on 21 October.
b) From the floor:
John Rendall pointed out the shadow over the society of the declining number of members.
Valerie Whittington suggested alerting Branch Heads immediately new members join. Leaving it to the new member to contact the Branch Head, as is currently the procedure, risks losing the goodwill of the member and their immediate participation in Branch activities. This suggestion was seconded by Alan Hawes. The General Secretary undertook to re-evaluate the current procedure.
Sally Beale appealed for Athens-based volunteers to help the General Secretary with her more onerous tasks, especially with overseas postage of the Journal. This suggestion was endorsed by Caroline Harbouri.
c) Jill Yakas informed members that the MGS tote bags were available by giving a donation.
18. Conclusion and thanks
After thanking the Ionic Centre staff, the President thanked members for their outstanding help in organising and hosting the programme of visits and events, notably Eleni Martinou, Vilka Agouridis, Jennifer Gay and Piers Goldson, Sophia Stathatou, Helli Pangalou, Nektarios Vorres. He thanked Patricia Kakounis for her excellent organization, and above all Robin McGrew, Vivien Psaropoulou, Jill Yakas for arranging the meeting.
On behalf of the members, Barbara Diamantides offered thanks to the outgoing President for his dedication and hard work throughout the year. Sally Beale added her appreciation of his calm and graciousness amidst the turbulence of schism and constitutional change. These thanks were warmly endorsed by the applause of members present.
Finally, the President noted that the prudent work of the Treasurer Jill Yakas seemed to have slipped through the meeting without being accorded the thanks due to it and a round of applause showed general agreement. He thanked all the members of the Society for their support and wished it well.
The Assembly concluded at 12.45.
Minutes of the Twenty-first General Assembly, Ischia, Italy - Sunday 25 October 2015
The following paid-up Members of the Society were present:
Alisdair Aird (AA) President
John Joynes (JJ) Vice President, BH Cyprus
Jill Yakas (JY) Treasurer
Vivien Psaropoulou (VP) Secretary
Sally Beale (SB) Councillor, BH Balearics Spain
Christine Savage (CS) Reserve
Branch Heads/ representatives
Angela Durnford, BH Italy
Maria Sansoni, BH Austria, Germany, Switzerland
Edith Haeuser, BH Costa Blanca Spain (outgoing)
Alan Hawes, BH Costa Blanca Spain (incoming)
Shelley Harter, BH Southern California
Jean-Pierre Bouchez, for Northern California
David Parker, for South Australia
The President (AA) welcomed members to the 21st General Assembly by introducing first himself and then the members of the Administrative Committee (AC) and Branch Heads/representatives. He went on to extend a very special thank you to Alessandra Vinciguerra, President of the William Walton Foundation and Director of the gardens at La Mortella, for her kind invitation to hold the General Assembly (GA) in such a magical location. He also thanked Sally Beale for her outstanding work in organising both the AGM and the pre-tour, and Angela Durnford for the optional post-tour that was yet to come. These comments met with loud applause from those present.
Before ending he reminded members that only matters appearing on the published Agenda could be voted on.
2. Apologies for absence
Apologies were received from: Lindsay Blyth, George Brumder, Keay Burton-Pierconti, Anthony Daniels, Karin Fichter, Johannes Fichter, Caroline Harbouri, Heather Martin, Robin McGrew, Fleur Pavlidis, Nikos Pavlidis, Rosie Peddle, Oron Peri, Jean Vaché, Elizabeth Vinci Boon.
3. Minutes of the 20th General Assembly
The minutes had been provided to all AGM registrants and the President called for a member to propose the adoption of these as a true record. Helena Wiesner proposed, Deborah Lindsay seconded and the minutes were approved unanimously.
4. President’s Report
The President (AA) reported that the economic situation in Greece had called for extra vigilance to ensure the safety of the Society’s funds. This had been achieved, and the practical difficulties of working within capital controls etc. largely overcome, due mainly to the invaluable work of the Treasurer (JY).
He said that another difficulty had been that the former MGS Branch Heads in France and UK had started their own separate local mediterranean gardening organisations, and that this had lost us many members. However, there were promising signs that new members, who prize the international scale and value of the Society’s aims, were joining at a rate that will more than compensate for this loss.
AA then reported that as not one of the Charter-change proposals put forward by the AC, including those suggested by members, had achieved anything like enough support to be brought to a vote at this General Assembly, the AC had decided to end further consideration of the subject. He stated that although a handful of members were very disappointed by this, most would be relieved that the MGS could now peacefully return to plants, gardens and gardening.
AA then briefly mentioned progress being made in other areas, such as the growing internet output, the identification of plants worthy of the Award of Waterwise Excellence, and the newly suggested cuttings exchange to parallel the free seed exchange that is run with such excellence by Chantal Giraud.
The Society’s expanded travel programme had included successful trips to Morocco and Northern Greece, besides Branch-organised tours which members from other Branches could join. Consideration was being given to adding short residential courses in such subjects as botanical painting, mosaic work, photography, landscape/garden design, propagation methods and the like. A request for a show of hands from those who thought this worth pursuing met with an enthusiastic response.
AA closed by thanking all those volunteers who work hard for the Society and its branches, with a personal word of thanks for his colleagues on the AC.
CS claimed that the creation of the MGF (the new organisation she presides over) had been beneficial rather than detrimental to the MGS, seeing it as not competing but working alongside the MGS. Angela Durnford felt that the quarter of the membership which was prepared to back one suggested Charter change did not constitute a handful but was a significant number. Martin Jones thought members should be given a copy of the Charter on joining the Society. VP pointed out that the Charter is available to all members on request. Katherine Greenberg stated that it is most unusual for other societies to provide all members with a copy of their bye-laws. Also, replying to Angela Durnford, she pointed out that although one-quarter of the members had backed the changes, it still meant that three-quarters were in favour of the status quo, an even more significant number.
5. Treasurer’s Report
The financial statement was prepared according to the accrual method of accounting.
The Treasurer (JY) reported that despite the current financial difficulties in Greece the MGS’s finances remain relatively stable. The Safe Deposit Box that was closed last year has been reopened and the MGS’s funds have been removed from the Time Deposit account and placed into it for safe keeping. This transaction was carried out on the day that they matured but, unfortunately, means that they will no longer be earning interest.
She stated that subscription rates for 2016 will remain the same but as those for members outside Greece had been unchanged for eight years they may have to be increased for 2017.
JY regretted that the Society is no longer able to accept foreign cheques as the bank has begun to charge exorbitant amounts to clear them. However, the same bank handles payment by credit or debit cards free of charge so this method of payment, as well as cash, is particularly welcome. Subscription payments can be made on-line through the MGS website, but she wished it to be noted that this method of payment incurs a cost to the MGS.
The cost of garden assistance at Sparoza will be reduced in 2015/16 as there will be no garden assistant living in but assistance will be provided on an ad hoc basis.
JY reported that the annual donation of €500 for 2013/14 was made to the Amici dei Giardini Hanbury.
She concluded by thanking the private donors who have given so very generously to the MGS this year. Finally she gave most grateful thanks to David Glen for his valuable support in preparing the accounts.
Jean-Pierre Bouchez wished to thank the Treasurer for her foresight in safeguarding the Society’s money. Graham Beale added his thanks for all the good work she had done over the year.
Miles Halford requested that under Income and Expenditure the item headed Donation from UK Branch members be amended to read Donation from UK Branch. He continued to say that the members of the UK Branch had been given the opportunity to decide as to where an accumulated sum of money from organised trips should be given - a) returned to the members b) to the new organisation, MPG or 3) if no reply was given, to go to the MGS. He added that the bulk of this donation was from members who did not reply so therefore, it was a goodwill donation from the Branch, not its members. JY replied that as the money came from the members originally she was disinclined to remove the word even though she was not aware that if no reply was given, the money would go to the MGS and she still insisted that it was MGS members’ money. AA said that from his own experience, he had not replied as he wanted his money to go to the MGS and he saw it as a donation from himself, as a UK Branch member. Miles Halford reiterated that it had been encouraged to be a goodwill donation to the MGS from the UK Branch. AA said this difficulty was compounded by the fact that as the Branches hold accounts and the UK Branch had held a bank account, the former UK Branch Head, Heather Martin has refused so far to send copies of the former UK Branch accounts and bank account to the Treasurer, as is required of the Branch Heads.
6. Auditor’s Report
The Auditor’s Report was read by Erica Mitsidis on behalf of herself and Heidrun Braatz, both having approved and signed the report.
First she informed the members that there are now only two Auditors following the resignation of Richard Robinson at the end of February. As opposed to last year’s two reports, the auditors this year had limited themselves to the financial aspect of the Society while following closely the workings of the AC.
Regarding the finances, in connection with Sparoza there had been a further reduction in running costs since the post of student garden assistant was no longer filled. This resulted in a considerable saving. There had also been a saving in the reduced number of journals printed and posted. Other expenses were routine and kept to a minimum. The books had been found to be in perfect order while queries raised by the Auditors had been satisfactorily dealt with by the Treasurer who had always been ready and willing to provide clarification and necessary explanations.
AA expressed his thanks to the two Auditors for their work.
7. Approval of the Financial Statement for the year 1/10/14 – 30/9/15
Approval was proposed by Graham Beale and seconded by Christine Savage.
All were in favour, none opposed.
8. Presentation of the Budget for the year 1/10/15 – 30/9/16
CS raised the question of the amount of the accountant’s fees. JY said she was investigating alternatives but stated that she was satisfied with the work carried out by the accountant currently employed.
Martin Jones suggested that funds could be raised by making TMG available to non-members on payment. The AC agreed to consider this at their next meeting.
9. Secretary’s Report
The Secretary (VP) commenced by announcing the deaths of several members during the past year and a moment’s silence was observed in their memory.
She then referred to her report, which all attending members had had the opportunity to see.
AA highlighted the financial problem stemming from the Society's high proportion of Life Members, who had joined at a fee that had not corresponded to an actuarial assessment of the lifetime cost of servicing them. Effectively this meant that although Life Members were no longer contributing to the Society financially they were still incurring costs. VP reminded the assembly that Life Membership had been introduced in 2001/2002 and had closed in 2011/2012. Some Life Members had acknowledged the problem by contributing voluntary donations and Katherine Greenberg suggested a reminder be sent to Life Members.
A short discussion ensued with members offering further suggested solutions. AA thanked all the contributors for their suggestions and assured them that the AC would take them into consideration.
Angela Durnford queried the number of members listed for Italy as not corresponding with her Branch numbers. VP replied that this was due to the fact that the numbers quoted were based on mailing addresses only and with some members having two places of residence this meant that they could be included in two Branches.
Angela Durnford extended thanks to the Secretary.
10. MGS Garden at Sparoza Report
The Sparoza Report was read by Sally Beale on behalf of Sally Razelou.
Sally reported that the garden was looking magical following the breaking of a 6-month drought with 102 millimetres (4 inches) of rain falling in late September. She could not remember anything like it in her 23 years of tenure. The garden assistant, Daphne Ott, had left at the end of January, since when Sally had been assisted by the volunteers, with help as needed from Jason Vasilopoulos, Isobel Sanders and Miyon Yoo. In March 2016 Rosey Boehme will be staying at Sparoza on a month’s bursary, generously sponsored by the South Australia Branch.
Sally concluded by sending special greetings to Alessandra Vinciguerra whose visit to Sparoza remained a very happy memory for her.
Jeswyn Jones asked if there would be a garden assistant next year. AA replied that under the present arrangement the garden was flourishing and that given the current financial circumstances there would not be a garden assistant next year. He went on to say that the AC is looking into plans for Sparoza’s future.
Deborah Lindsay suggested that investigating methods of gaining finance for the garden might include such things as endowments from wills, or seeking sponsors to provide scholarships for horticultural students, especially Greek ones.
Jean-Pierre Bouchez suggested publishing Sally’s report on the website.
11. Editor’s Report
The Editor’s Report was read by Sally Beale on behalf of Caroline Harbouri.
The Editor expressed her gratitude to all who had contributed to the Journal, while repeating her perennial request for members to continue to send in articles, letters, queries, book reviews, and anything or everything that they, or others, may find of interest. She also asked members to consider whether any friend, colleague or acquaintance might contribute an article.
She wished to thank Dimitris Mandelias, who puts the layout together, Christos Sermaidis, the printer and Sue Vlassis for her proof-reading.
12. Website Editor’s Report
This was read by John Joynes on behalf of Fleur Pavlidis.
The Website Editor reported a steady increase in the material presented. The practice of illustrating articles from the Journal with photos on the website has been established. These photos are annotated with quotations from the articles, partly for the benefit of non-member visitors to the site who may be encouraged to further investigate both the site and the MGS. There are on average 12,000 unique visitors to the site each month.
The MGS seed list has been augmented by an excellent article from Chantal Guiraud who runs it.
The sites that provide information, such as on the growing of citrus trees and olives, are proving to be extremely popular.
Yvonne Barton, the Italian site editor, is doing sterling work on developing the site and has plans for adding more articles on the Italian language mini-site.
In conclusion the Website Editor stated that the emphasis for the coming year would be on reformatting parts of the site to make them fully compatible for viewing on smart phones and tablets. She would be working with the website manager, Jon Watts, towards this end.
Angela Durnford reported that the Italian mini- website was already attracting 400 unique visitors per month.
Graham Beale asked if a centralised mini-payment page could be added to the website. The AC agreed to put this to the Website Editor.
Christine Savage suggested that new members be asked how they heard about the MGS.
Alan Hawes asked about the possibility of starting a Spanish language page and this will be investigated.
12a. Members’ Forum Report
This was read by Sally Beale on behalf of Anthony Daniels, one of the Moderators.
Anthony Daniels reported that there had been fewer postings this year than previously, but that it remained the only place where members could share ideas directly with other members on topics of interest other than gardening.
12b. MGS Forum Report
This was read by AA who reported that it was run by himself, Fleur Pavlidis and Oron Peri. It has become a very popular internet port of call for anyone interested in mediterranean-climate plants and gardening. Recently it recorded 246 different people looking at it at the same time, a record to date. It has almost 2,000 overall topics covering dozens of separate subjects and thousands of colour photographs. The most popular subject – narcissi for mediterranean gardens – has been consulted over 50,000 times, with other topics being looked at over 20,000 times.
He commented that as anyone is free to consult it, not just MGS members, it’s a valuable source of new members, with a button connecting people directly to the MGS website.
He ended by thanking not only Fleur and Oron, but also the Forum’s 500 or so contributors.
12c. MGS Facebook Report
This was read by AA, who runs it. He reported that the Society's Facebook page is now almost two years old, and is seen as another way of alerting potential members to the existence of the MGS, with again a push-button link to the website How to Join page. To date more than a thousand people have announced that they ‘like’ it, and a quick scan shows that they come from a far wider range of countries than the visitors to the website. More surprising is that something between a third and a half are NOT native English speakers.
AA noted that the Italian Facebook page is also doing extremely well.
Alan Hawes stated that he has started a group in Spain using the WhatsApp application. He suggested that other BHs should be encouraged to do the same and that he would be prepared to advise and assist anyone who wished to set one up.
13. Preliminary plans for the 2016 General Assembly
As 2016 is an election year the GA will be held in Greece, with the General Assembly being held in Athens on 22 October, probably followed by a Corfu tour.
A lively discussion ensued among the members present with several suggestions for venues and formats being received from the floor. AA thanked everyone for these, which would be taken into consideration by the AC as part of the detailed planning process.
AA reminded the assembly that the AGM 2017 was scheduled to be held in Southern California. Shelley Harter, BH Southern California, reported that Santa Barbara was being considered as a possible base, and asked members for suggestions.
14. Any Other Business
a) Sally Beale announced that the recipient of this year’s €500 annual donation was to be the gardens of La Mortella.
Alessandra Vinciguerra thanked the MGS and its members, and went on to say that Lady Walton had loved the MGS, the arrival of the Journal, and the idea of linking mediterranean gardens in different countries. She said that the donation may be used in some way that would advertise the MGS.
b) There being no other business raised, the President thanked Alessandra Vinciguerra for inviting and allowing the MGS the use of the facilities at La Mortella, and especially the Concert Hall to hold the GA. He thanked Dmitri Tereshchenko for managing the microphone set-up so well. Thanks also went to all those who had made the meeting possible, with especial thanks to Sally Beale for her outstanding organisation and he finished by thanking all for attending.
The Assembly concluded at 12.45.
Minutes of the Twentieth General Assembly - Sunday 19 October 2014
The following paid-up Members of the Society were present:
Alisdair Aird, President
John Joynes, Vice President, BH Cyprus
Jill Yakas, Treasurer
Vivien Psaropoulou, Secretary
Sally Beale, Councillor, BH Balearics Spain
Heather Martin, Reserve, BH UK
Christine Savage, Reserve, BH Languedoc France
Mark Barnett for South Australia
Kate Chattaway for South Australia
Malcolm Faul, BH Victoria Australia
Maria Sansoni, BH Austria/Germany/Switzerland
Bracey Tiede, BH Northern California
Patricia Cullinan, BH Central California
Shelley Harter, BH Southern California
June Grindley, BH Provence France
Valerie Whittington, BH Crete Greece
Angela Durnford, BH Italy
Rosie Peddle, BH Portugal
Lindsay Blyth, BH Andalucia Spain
Edith Haeuser, BH Costa Blanca Spain
Annette Bauer Hahn
Elisabeth Vinci Boon
Jocelyn van Riemsdijk
| Graeme Caple
Barbara Doblas Jones
President Alisdair Aird welcomed all members to the twentieth General Assembly, and apologised for the late start of the meeting, which was due to heavy traffic in the town of Menton. He noted that this was a special anniversary year, and particularly thanked the members from California and Australia for attending. Special thanks were given to this year's organiser, Heather Martin, and her team, and also to Christine Savage and her team for organising a well attended pre-tour. The thanks were greeted with loud applause from the floor. The President then asked the new AC to introduce themselves, followed by the Branch Heads or their representatives.
2. Apologies for absence
Apologies were received from George Brumder, Carol Connolly, Kaye Cossar Stokes, Carole Cross, David Glen, Katherine Greenberg, Reginald Neuman, John Rendall, Jay Rendall, Ronald Steele, Pamela Steele, Jane Taniskidou, Lars Vestergaard.
3. Minutes of the 19th General Assembly
The minutes had been provided in the Welcome Packs to all AGM registrants, and the President called for a member to propose the adoption of these as a true record. Jerry Tilston requested that the minutes be amended on page 7, paragraphs ‘d’ and ‘e’ Helena Wiesner proposed the approval of the amended minutes, with the final clause of ‘d’ changed to “spontaneous expressions of disapproval from some of the assembled members” and ‘e’ to read “to the applause of some assembled members.” This was seconded by Jean-Pierre Bouchez, and the amended minutes were approved unanimously.
4. President's Report
The President opened by mentioning the sad deaths of several members this last year, and a moment of silence was observed in their memory.
The President said that the new AC faced challenges in maintaining the Society's traditions and standards, while looking forward to new growth and extended influence within a spirit of collaborative endeavour. He noted that due to difficult financial conditions and raised costs, there had been a modest increase in subscription charges in Greece, which may be followed by a general increase in 2016.
The President said that there were some indications that enough members were leaving the MGS and instead joining new local garden societies which have emerged from the UK and French MGS branches for this to be a cause for concern, and that BHs in those countries will have to work at ensuring that these new societies add to MGS membership rather than reduce it. Christine Savage said that the new French society was not affecting general membership trends. Rosie Peddle said that the activities of the similar new local society in Portugal are always open to MGS members, and reaffirmed a commitment to support the MGS and work alongside it. The President expressed gratitude for this support. Sandra Burrows suggested that the way the MGS is run is responsible for the loss of members, not the new societies, with agreement from Eric Legrand. June Grindley asked where the 200 new members who joined in Athens last year were now, and Michèle Bailey stated that the new societies have no obligations to the MGS as they are not affiliated with it.
The President continued his report, saying that the new AC is committed to a simpler system, allowing for easy postal or perhaps even internet voting. He explained that although the AC would prefer to implement the new system as soon as possible, it had decided upon careful reflection to wait until 2016, so that there will be no risk of another legal challenge making the running of the Society impossible. Voting for change in 2016, and implementing it in 2019, would reduce the risk of legal challenge, and give the AC time to set the new system up efficiently.
The President thanked the Editor of TMG, Caroline Harbouri, for twenty years of excellence in the publication of both TMG and the free information leaflets she produces, and noted the fundamental importance of TMG to the success of the Society.
He then thanked all those who work on the Society's internet presence, including the website, the plant and gardens forum, and new social media sites. He mentioned the MGS's projected Award of Waterwise Excellence for the best drought-resistant garden plants, the expanded MGS tours programme, the plan to set up a horticultural advisory board, the Society's renewed impetus on the educational front, a new garden volunteers scheme, and hopes to develop a conservation register of members who care for endangered plants. The South Australia branch had generously offered to fund a student volunteer/gardener at Sparoza.
Finally, the President announced that Daphne Ott is the new garden assistant at Sparoza to replace Isabel Sanders, who has finished her two-year term there, and reported that Sparoza features prominently in a major new garden book published this month by Phaidon. The President closed by thanking the AC and all who give their time and energy unstintingly to the MGS.
5. Treasurer's Report
The financial statement was prepared according to the accrual method of accounting.
The Treasurer reported the conversion of all foreign funds into Euros, now in a time deposit account, and the closure of the safe deposit box.
She explained the decision to raise subscription rates by five Euros for members in Greece, saying that the postal cost for mailing journals outside Greece is no longer significantly more expensive than within Greece, and thus it was felt that a subscription difference of ten Euros could no longer be justified. She mentioned the likelihood of a general subscription rate increase in 2016.
Due to a change in Greek law, the MGS will no longer have to pay property tax up front via the electricity bill at Sparoza, then wait for a refund from the owner of the property.
The Treasurer recorded that the annual donation of 500 Euros for 2012/2013 was made to the Philodassiki Botanical Garden, Kaisariani, Athens.
She concluded by thanking Eurobank for handling credit card transactions free of charge, and the private donors who have helped the MGS this year. Finally she thanked David Glen for his valuable support in preparing the accounts.
6. Auditors' Report
The Auditors' Report was read by Erica Mitsidis, on behalf of herself, Heidrun Braatz and Richard Robinson, all three of whom had approved and signed the report.
Erica Mitsidis explained the role of the Auditors and said that they usually concern themselves only with financial matters. However, this year, the book keeping being in such good shape, they decided to take a wider view of their role and investigate the discharge of administrative responsibilities by the AC. The AC had been notified in advance of this decision.
The Auditors found the Society's processes and procedures poorly documented, and the membership management system very labour-intensive. They recommended the implementation of a computerised membership system to alleviate pressure on the Secretary. They also found discrepancies between the wording of the Charter and its application, namely that at the AGM in 2013 Charter Articles 15,16,17 and 28 were not complied with. Several of these discrepancies have since been remedied by the AC.
The Auditors congratulated the Treasurer on her excellent book keeping, but were unable to approve the accounts without qualification, as repairs to Sparoza were being treated as rental pre-payments while there was no long-term lease in place. The Auditors considered the financial security of the Society a priority, as well as a review of the Charter. It was recommended that all members should be able henceforth to make known their proposals to the AC for Charter change, and that these should be on the Agenda for the AGM in 2015, reflecting the points of view of a changing Membership as the Society grows over time.
A Minority Auditor's Report from Richard Robinson had been printed privately and handed out to members on the buses during the previous day. The existence of the Minority Report had not been known to the AC until three days earlier when it was mentioned by one of the AC reserves at the AC meeting. It was essentially the same as the Majority Report except for the final page. Richard Robinson's report found the Treasurer and Secretary to be responsive and constructive towards the Auditors, but he claimed that the attitude of the AC as a whole was unhelpful and unconstructive. It added that the AC had not approached the Auditors for discussion and claimed it had not been forthcoming in the production of requested documents. Richard Robinson's report echoed the need to revise the Charter, asserting that proposals for change to the voting system should be available at the AGM 2015 as a preliminary Charter change. A second stage would be to equip the Society for the future, though no specifics were mentioned, and the proposals thereto should be ready for the GA in 2016. Richard Robinson's report claimed that the Society's lawyer, Mrs Irini Grammatopoulou held similar views, and that she reiterated these at the 2013 GA in Kifissia. Erica Mitsidis said that this could not be so as Mrs Grammatopoulou had not been present at that meeting, so it was established that Mrs Grammatopoulou must have made the comment in a private conversation after the meeting of the GA. Following the reading of the Minority Report, Erica Mitsidis made clear that Richard Robinson was not speaking for the other two Auditors in his views of the relationship with the AC. She went on to elaborate, saying that the AC should not be expected to approach the Auditors, and that in her view the new AC is both constructive and friendly. Heated debate from the floor followed the conclusion of the two reports, Michèle Bailey asking why Richard Robinson was not provided sooner with certain documents he requested from the AC, and the President replying that he had been sent them as soon as he had asked the right person, the Secretary. Ian Davis required clarification of the nature of the Sparoza lease, and the Secretary explained that the lease is in place until 2016, and that this will be extended until 2030. Corinne Jones proposed a motion objecting to the extension of the lease until 2030, and requiring that the Greek branch become wholly responsible for the running of Sparoza, as well as bringing forward a vote on Charter change for postal and electronic voting to the GA in 2015. The President pointed out that only those motions which had been included on the Agenda could legally be voted on. Ian Davis disputed this, but Caroline Harbouri confirmed that it was so. Peter Clarke repeated his comment that the proxy system is discredited, asserting that in 2013 a number of proxies had been 'lost' by the Secretary. Caroline Harbouri disagreed that the proxy system is discredited, saying that no one who wished to vote had ever been unable to do so.
Christine Savage said that this was not the case in Adelaide in 2012 as she and George Brumder had coordinated a proxy voting system where some members were unable to find people to represent them. Also in Athens in 2013, some people had been prevented from voting because they were unable to find a proxy to represent them. Tracy Mitsidis, explaining that he spoke as a Greek lawyer, clarified the legal position, stating categorically that according to applicable law, and to the MGS Charter, no matter not specified in the Agenda may be voted upon at a GA. He also explained the detailed voting numbers required for any Charter change proposed at the 2015 GA to be brought into effect. Interrupting the heated debate, Seán O'Hara commented that he remembered well the early days of the Society when business was conducted within a camaraderie of friendly expansion and inclusion, and regretted the present atmosphere within the Society.
He urged members to reconsider the spirit of the organisation, that of bringing together people from around the world in a positive manner. This was met with loud applause. Graham Beale proposed a motion to accept the Majority Auditors' Report, seconded by Helena Wiesner. With their agreement no vote was taken, as the Agenda called only for the Report's presentation and not for its approval. Although Corinne Jones' initial motion was out of order, an indicative show of hands was taken, with 49 in favour, 20 against, and 14 abstentions.
7. Approval of the Financial Statement for the year 1/10/2013 – 30/09/2014
Approval was proposed by Corinne Jones, and seconded by Patricia Cullinan. A show of hands showed all in favour, with none opposed.
8. Presentation and approval of the Budget for the year 1/10/2014 – 30/09/2015
Corinne Jones again voiced her concern over the MGS's financial support of Sparoza, and Maxine Webster agreed. Corinne Jones proposed a motion to give legal notice to the owners of Sparoza that the MGS will discontinue all financial responsibility for that property on or before June 2017, and that communication will be established with the Greek branch to ensure a smooth transition of the running of Sparoza to that body no later than July 2017. Marian Letcher seconded. Tracy Mitisidis repeated his affirmation that no vote can be taken on any matter not on the Agenda, and this was reinforced by the President. Corinne Jones insisted on her motion's being voted upon in spite of the legal opinion of Tracy Mitsidis and the President's declination. Maria Sansoni suggested ways Sparoza could be saved, Clive Whittington suggested it be turned into a research centre, and Edith Haueser said that the garden should be opened to the public. Upon the insistence of Corinne Jones, her motion was put to a show of hands with 14 in favour, 54 against and 31 abstentions.
Bracey Tiede suggested that the deficit in the budget was due largely to increased postal charges in Greece, and not to MGS financial support of Sparoza. She encouraged the members to subscribe to the electronic version of TMG in order to reduce costs and be more environmentally friendly. Carol Smith suggested a way to encourage members to take the electronic journal was to increase the subscription for the paper journal. Ian Davis moved to propose to accept the budget with the proviso that there will be no deficit in the next fiscal year, but the President pointed out that it was impossible to give such an undertaking. Graham Beale proposed a motion to accept the Budget as read, seconded by Bracey Tiede. A show of hands marked 48 for with 49 against, and 6 abstentions.
The meeting broke at 13.00 for light refreshments.
The meeting was reconvened at 14.10. The President reiterated that the Charter does not require the GA's approval of the budget, which is only a projection. Noting the concerns of members that a rejected Budget might affect future spending plans, he pledged that the AC would do all it could to bring income and expenditure more closely into line during the rest of the year.
Anthony Daniels suggested investigating postal rates in other countries to see if savings could be made, and this was agreed by the Treasurer.
9. Secretary's Report
The Secretary read her report, which all members had had a chance to see. She encouraged payment by credit card as the most cost effective way to process renewals. There were no questions on the Secretary's Report.
10. MGS Garden at Sparoza Report
The Sparoza Report was read by John Joynes, on behalf of Sally Razelou. The Report introduced the new garden assistant Daphne Ott, mentioned plants of special note, and did not elicit any questions from the floor.
Immediately following the Sparoza Report, Chantal Guiraud gave an interesting and instructive report on her work with the Seed List, describing how it began as a small, personal project and has now grown into a renowned and valuable asset. Her report was met with enthusiastic applause.
11. Editor's Report
Editor Caroline Harbouri commended twenty years of excellence in writing and drawing in TMG. She would like more articles about gardens open to the public, as well as reports on specific gardens, or the people who work in them, design them and run them. She thanked all those who work to ensure the continuing high standard of TMG, mentioning especially John Jefferis, Freda Cox, Veronica Hadjiphani-Lorenzetti, Megan Bozkurt, Gabriel Rochard, Cordelia Donnelly, Sue Vlassis, Dimitris Mandelias, and the printer, Mr Sermaidis, who is reliable, conscientious, polite and pleasant. The President thanked the Editor for her hard and invaluable work over twenty years, which elicited enthusiastic applause.
12. Website Editor's Report
This was read by John Joynes on behalf of Fleur Pavlidis and Jorun Tharaldsen. They thanked everyone who had helped with the site, including the professional web manager, Jon Watts, and announced the aim to increase the MGS's internet presence. Fleur reported over 10,000 unique visitors every month, and said she hopes to see the setting up of a new Italian-language mini website when funds become available.
13. Members' Forum Report
The Report was given by Moderator Anthony Daniels, who explained how the MF had come into being following a vote at the Adelaide GA in 2012, and how it works as the only site where members can discuss MGS issues other than gardening and as somewhere they can view administrative documents. He thanked the President for noting its value. 209 members are now registered, and Mr Daniels urged anyone interested to approach the Moderators. There were no questions on the MF.
14. MGS Forum Report
The Report was read by Moderator Alisdair Aird, who reported an increase of 25% in visits this year. More than 2,000 headings cover garden-related topics, plant information, diseases, growing conditions etc. as well as unexpected subjects of current interest. The Plant Identification section has proved particularly popular. Alisdair Aird reiterated the importance of the MGSF as many people's first introduction to the MGS.
Alisdair Aird introduced Seán O'Hara's new Facebook group, Mediterranean Climate Gardening, entirely independent but with close links to the MGS and over 1,000 members already. Members are encouraged to join.
The MGS's own new Facebook page is becoming increasingly popular, with up to a thousand or so people visiting it per week. Members are encouraged to send in their own photos.
15. Plans for the 2015 General Assembly
AC Councillor Sally Beale reported that she will be organising the 2015 AGM on the island of Ischia in Italy. The General Assembly will be held at the beautiful gardens of the late Sir William and Lady Walton, La Mortella, by kind invitation of the Curator, MGS member Alessandra Vinciguerra. The GA will take place on October 25th, 2015, with the usual three-day programme preceding it.
The President announced the appointment of a new Branch Head for Greece, Robin McGrew. Shelley Harter announced that the Southern California Branch will host the AGM in 2017, and said that all input will be welcome.
16. Any Other Business
The President thanked all for attending, and there being no further business, the Assembly concluded at 15.35.
a) The President named La Mortola as the recipient of this year's 500 Euro donation, and he gave special thanks to Carolyn Hanbury for helping Heather Martin with the organisation of this year's AGM. The Amici de La Mortola will receive the gift on behalf of the garden.
b) Christine Savage stood to give a description of the new association founded in France, and explained how it got its name, Mediterranean Gardening France, how it operates and what are its aims. She said that since the AC Meeting in July it had become clear that she had a profoundly different standpoint to that of the AC, and regretted the AC's unhappiness with the new associations in France and the UK. She tendered her resignation as Branch Head for the Languedoc, but felt honour-bound to see out her term as AC Reserve.
The President thanked Christine Savage for her long and active service as Branch Head, and was reprimanded by Jerry Tilston for not enunciating that he was sorry to see her go. The President replied that that went without saying.
c) Jerry Tilston placed another matter for discussion, that of the refund of five-year memberships to dissatisfied members, stating that a donor had been found to refund the outstanding sum to one disaffected member. At this, Michèle Bailey stood (to laughter from the room) to announce herself as the disaffected member in question. In spite of the offer from an anonymous donor, Michèle Bailey stated she refused to be 'bought off' and would remain a member for the duration of her outstanding subscription.
d) Sandra Burrows attempted to open a discussion on a topic extensively already discussed and agreed upon earlier in the meeting, that of the potential revision of the voting system at the 2015 AGM.
e) Anna Ritsatakis said younger members should be encouraged to join the MGS and suggested holding a cheaper AGM programme to attract them and AC Vice President John Joynes appealed to members for help with ideas to recruit young people and get more children involved in educational programmes. Kate Chattaway suggested the website should be available in PDF form for use by teachers and educationalists.
Tracy Mitsidis appealed to all to send items for inclusion in the next year's Agenda to the AC.
To applause, Jean-Pierre Bouchez thanked all the volunteers who work so hard within the MGS to run the Society, and pleaded that the meeting should end on a positive note.