Mediterranean Garden Society

Optional pre-AGM tour to Corfu – 12 to 16 October

The Pre-AGM tour to Corfu is fully booked but please email Caroline Davies at cdgt@netspace.net.au if you would like to put your name on the waiting list.

The photo at the top of this page is of dawn in Cali Doxiadis’ garden at Gastouri from ‘The Gardens of Corfu’ by Rachel Weaving. We will visit this wonderful garden as part of the AGM Pre-Tour (photo: Marianne Majerus).

Corfu is the name of both the island and its capital, used through history by the Venetian, French and British rulers, but the Greeks call it Kerkyra pointing back to the island’s ancient Corinthian name, usually transliterated as Corcyra. The duality of Western influences and Greek spirit gives the island its unique qualities. Unlike most of Greece, Corfu never fell to the Ottoman Empire despite two strong attempts to seize it. One of the seven Ionian Islands, it came under the control of Venice in 1386 and, over the next few centuries, the Italian language, culture and Roman Catholic Church were dominant. In 1797, Corfu was taken over by the French following the defeat of the Venetian Republic by Napoleon Bonaparte. Later, in 1814, the Ionian Islands became a British protectorate. Over the next fifty years, many public works were completed, such as the town’s water supply, and fine public buildings were erected in the Classical Revival style. Finally, in 1864, Corfu with the other Ionian Islands was returned to Greece with the accession of King George I.   

Since antiquity, from Homer’s “The Odyssey” across the centuries to the Durrell family’s sojourn on the island before World War II, writers, poets, artists and gardeners, travellers, statesmen and members of royalty have all been bewitched by the magical beauty of Corfu with its lush vegetation, wildflowers, and silver olive-groves punctuated by cypresses - a captivation which continues today.

The Old Fortress and the Old Town of Corfu (Photo Martin Farlboner wiki)

Saturday 12 October
Participants arrive at “Ioannis Capodistrias” International Airport Corfu and check in to the Cavalieri Hotel (or selected alternative) close to the old town centre and just a ten-minute drive from the airport. A welcome reception will take place in the evening at the Cavalieri’s Roof-Top Bar & Restaurant (weather permitting – alternatively indoors) for all to meet and hear more details about the tour programme.

For those who choose to arrive earlier in Corfu, Caroline Davies will be conducting an optional walk on Saturday (maximum 20 people) strolling from the Cavalieri along Garitsa Bay and atmospheric streets to visit the British Cemetery with moving monuments and inscriptions beneath the trees in its peaceful garden, established in 1814. We will visit the Corfu Reading Society, in its elegant arcaded building, the oldest cultural organisation in modern Greece, the Byzantine Museum housed in the fifteenth century Church of the Antivouniotissa, and explore the Campiello, the oldest quarter of the town with its narrow alleyways known as kantounia, secluded squares, tall and narrow Venetian buildings with their iron balconies and wooden shutters, and visit the Church of Saint Spyridon, the island’s patron saint, which has been a landmark of the town since 1589, before enjoying lunch at a restaurant in the Liston, with its handsome covered arcades, built by the French in the early nineteenth century.

A good walking ability is needed to enjoy this walk which will run from 9.15 a.m. to 3.30 p.m. with adequate stops along the way to enjoy the various places of interest (approximately 6 km).

Bookings for this walk direct to Caroline Davies (payment on the day to cover admissions/lunch and extensive notes).

Sunday 13 October
We drive to the north of the island to visit Zetouna in the Kassiopi area, which is a superb contemporary garden arranged on a terraced hillside with mixed plantings and contrasting moods. The owner, Rachel Weaving, is the author of the recent book Gardens of Corfu and her garden, with its infinity pool, views to Albania and formal plantings closer to the house, merges with the natural landscape and areas where wild flowers are encouraged to flourish. At this time we should see Cyclamen hederifolium.

Cyclamen hederifolium photographed in Corfu by Caroline Davies

Our next destination is a seaside semi-tropical oasis with palms and a plethora of flowering plants including plumbago, alpinia, hedychium, cannas, abutilons and frangipani, at the St George’s Bay Country Club, Arachavi, on the north coast of the island. The owner, Fried Aumann, began the garden more than 40 years ago, bringing many cuttings and seeds back from his trips to Africa. Our visit will commence with cocktails on the clubhouse terrace followed by a “Corfiot Summer Lunch” at Prospero’s restaurant by the Ionian Sea.

Our last destination is a spectacular private garden on an estate which occupies the two peninsulas at Kanonas and Strongilo overlooking the coast of Albania, a place which has been nurtured by three generations of the same family and skilfully embraces the wild landscape. The natural rock formations contribute a dramatic element with a former quarry transformed into a great pool by the Spanish architect Xavier Barba. Here pendulous forms of clumped rosemary on the cliff face and a long tightly-clipped undulating hedge of rosemary define views of the sea and wild mountains beyond.

The Strongilo pool (Photo Alisdair Aird)

The evening will be free for participants to explore the atmospheric streets of Corfu Town and Caroline will be happy to advise on places to visit.

Monday 14 October
Our first destination this morning is set on a spectacular site overlooking the Doukades valley on the edge of the traditional village of Doukades in north-western Corfu. The restored historic garden which surrounds the stone mansion of the ancient Theotoky family is filled with towering palms, pines, oaks and cypresses, casting intricate patterns of light and shade, with flashes of colour from the oleanders, hydrangeas and pink belladonna lilies. Our personal tour with Mrs Theotoky will include the main rooms of the house. We will also walk into the picturesque village square.

Centenarian Canary palms at Doukades, established by George Theotoky, Greek Prime Minister 1899-1909 (Photo: Marianne Majerus)

We then have an attractive drive to the Theotoky Estate Vineyard in the Ropa Valley, close to the village of Giannades. One of the oldest wineries on the island, it still produces the family’s famous wine (James Bond’s preference in “For Your Eyes Only”) and both virgin and extra virgin olive oil. Our visit will include a tour of the winery and the cellar with background on the Estate’s history and harvesting of the grapes and olives, as well as a visit to the historic library, ending with a wine-tasting.

Lunch will follow at Lucciola restaurant at Sgombou in a delightful garden setting, where Angeliki and Yiannis specialise in Greek mediterranean food using fresh produce from small local producers with their menu changing according to the season. Just a short walk away is Casa Lucia where we will enjoy coffee and cake with MGS member, Valerie Osborne, before exploring her charming property. Val and her late husband restored a cluster of old olive press buildings, some dating back to Venetian times and built additional picturesque cottages in harmony with the old. The gardens unite the various buildings – a blend of Mediterranean and Eastern flora. At this time too, the autumn-flowering orchid, Spiranthes spiralis should be in bloom and an arrangement of rocks and cascading rosemary is aglow with Sternbergia lutea.

Sternbergia lutea(Photo Caroline Davies)

The evening will again be free to enjoy Corfu Town.

Tuesday 15 October
We start our day at “Koukouritsa” set on a conical hill at Evropouli no distance from Corfu Town, a typical example of an eighteenth-century Corfu manor house and once the country home of the Capodistrias family. It has recently been restored to house the Capodistrias Museum dedicated to the life of Ioannis Capodistrias (the first elected Governor of Greece) and displays his personal belongings as well as family heirlooms. After years of neglect, the five-hectare garden has been restored by local volunteers who contributed plants and cuttings known to have been grown by the family. Our visit will include a tour of the museum as well as the garden with background from Daria Koskorou, Museum Director, and morning coffee at the café in a grove of huge pine trees at the top of the hill with views in all directions.

View from the Capodistrias museum (Photo Capodistrias Museum)

We drive a short distance south of Corfu Town to the fascinating Gastouri garden of Cali Doxiadis, who was the fourth president of the MGS. A long-established ornamental Mediterranean garden surrounds the old country house once home of the Dousmani family. Cali has restored the house beautifully and retained many elements of the old walled garden where her pots of unusual and decorative plants enhance every season. At the same time, she has experimented with new plantings and design ideas to suit the environment, many wildflowers abound in the olive grove and there is a productive vegetable garden. Our visit will include a magnificent buffet lunch as well as a tour of the garden with Cali. 

Old terracotta urns, once used for storing and exporting olive oil, are a characteristic element of Corfu style in gardens old and new (photo: Marianne Majerus)

The evening will be free to enjoy the old town, but Caroline will be happy to offer suggestions on where to go for dinner.

Cost and accommodation
The cost of the Corfu pre-AGM tour will be 260 euros per person - not including accommodation and will cover luxury mini-bus travel (for access to the gardens), the welcome reception, lunches and garden visits. Numbers restricted to 45 people.  

Accommodation in Corfu will be at the Cavalieri Hotel, 4 Capodistriou Street, where rooms are being held (12-16 October) in the name of the Mediterranean Garden Society, reference Caroline Davies, at the special rate of 97 euros per night for single and 107 euros per night for twin/double accommodation including a buffet breakfast and all taxes apart from the new tourism tax of 3 euros per room per night. When making bookings please quote the MGS ref CD, as above and send your emails to the manager, Mr Elias Capodistrias, email: admin@cavalieri-hotel.com. Unfortunately, rooms are not available at the Cavalieri for any of the preceding nights, but there is availability at the Corfu Palace Hotel, Leoforos Democratias 2, (a 5 minute walk away) at the special rate of 136 euros for a double and 99 euros for a single which includes breakfast and taxes. When making bookings please quote the Mediterranean Garden Society and send to the Reservations Manager, Mr Dionysus Sgouros at info@corfupalace.com. The Bella Venezia hotel, Zampeli 4, is a 3-minute walk from the Cavalieri, email: info@bellaveneziahotel.com. Rooms start at 104 euros for a double including breakfast/taxes, but no rooms are being held for the MGS. If booking elsewhere, please note the buses will be leaving from close to the Cavalieri each morning.

To book your place at the AGM and on the tours in the AGM programme click here.


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