The Cyprus Branch of the MGS
The plant below may not look particularly spectacular but it is none the less special. Centaurea akamantis is an extremely rare Cyprus endemic that is confined to one small area in the Akamas region. It was only discovered within the last 15 years, by a government forester. Needless to say it is strictly protected by the articles of the Bern Convention. I hasten to add that I acquired my specimen legally. The Agricultural Research Institute is carrying out trials to assess it for garden use and I got it from them.
Minthis Hills housing complex
On Tuesday 14 June a number of members, spouses and guests paid a visit to the Minthis Hills housing project in the Paphos District of Cyprus.
Monika Noppa, the landscape architect in charge of the garden designs and environs, explained what they were attempting to achieve and the thinking behind their efforts before beginning to show us around the site. We began with an area that was planted with native plants from the immediate area, which, once established, was destined to become a sort of outdoor fitness centre. Various items of equipment will be positioned around the site in order to provide residents with a means of keeping fit or just a way of enjoying themselves. A nearby site was being used as an area for trialling a wide assortment of plants to assess their suitability and ability to survive in this environment. The ones that pass the test will eventually be labelled and become a living catalogue of plants that can be used to help residents to choose those that they may wish to incorporate into their gardens. Purchase of a property in the complex includes the creation of the garden and the owner is consulted in this process.
We then moved on to examine a couple of the completed gardens. The main aim is to attempt to keep the plantings to the front of the properties fairly neutral, i.e. no garishly-coloured exotics, while the gardens to the rear can reflect the owner’s wishes a little more. The villas are all built on the ridge of a slope overlooking the valley below and the gardens flow down into it, gradually blending into the natural landscape as they move away from the house.
Everything possible is being done to maintain the integrity of the surrounding landscape.
One nature trail has been completed on site with others in the planning stage. On this occasion time, and the June heat, were against us so we were unable to investigate it. However, we plan to return next year in March or April when the wild flowers will be at their best.
All in all an enjoyable day and a refreshing change to see a housing development that places such an important emphasis on reducing its impact on the local environment.
Visit to Troodos Geopark and Botanical Garden
A large area of the Troodos Massif that includes forested areas and old mine workings has been designated as a geopark. Part of this initiative involves the renovation of one of the buildings that once belonged to the now defunct asbestos mine above the village of Amiandos and its opening as a small museum. The building housed the elementary school for the children of the mine workers and it is now being used to educate visitors to the site about the geological history of the area and of Cyprus in general.
Members of the Branch were pleased to welcome a couple of Australian MGS members who were visiting the island as they joined with a locally-based geology/earth sciences group, spending the first part of the morning on a guided tour of the establishment.
The remainder of the visit was spent in a different area of the old mine workings, seeing the continued progress of the reforestation work and the associated botanical garden. Several members had brought along light refreshments and an impromptu picnic was enjoyed in the shade of mature black pines (Pinus nigra).
In February, branch members paid a visit to a private aquaponics venture. Following extensive research in an effort to discover a method of growing vegetables in the most organic and efficient way possible, the owner had decided upon aquaponics. From the start of the system with the tank of fish, whose waste products provide the nutrients to feed the plants, down to the lowest tank, from which the water is filtered and returned to the beginning, the whole system was of immense interest. Although the utilization of so much water may seem at first to be contrary to mediterranean gardening principles, the whole system probably actually uses less than would be consumed by conventional irrigation methods to produce an equivalent crop. (An article covering this visit in more detail can be found in TMG 84, April 2016.)
Homes and Gardens of Malia
On the morning of Saturday 17 May 2014, 22 members, partners and guests descended on the village of Malia, situated in the foothills of the Troodos massif. The number in the group had to be restricted due to the somewhat intimate size of the properties to be visited. Once all were gathered in the village square, beneath the shade of an enormous plane tree, we were welcomed by Elizabeth Thorneycroft, who gave us an introductory talk on the history and current situation in the village. Elizabeth is an expert on Eastern Mediterranean history and a permanent resident of Malia.
Before the troubles that led to the political division of the island, the residents of the village had been predominantly Turkish Cypriot (approx. 88 %). Following the upheavals of 1974, the properties of the Turkish Cypriots were used to house Greek Cypriot refugees from the Turkish-occupied area. However, with the village being inland and agricultural in nature, and the refugees being mainly from coastal districts and skilled in the ways of the sea, they gradually gravitated to areas where they felt more at home and could find employment suited to their old way of life. The houses, thus abandoned for a second time, became neglected and fell into disrepair.
Many have been saved from total destruction by what have come to be known as ‘weekenders’, people looking for a property to use as a weekend retreat. Permission was sought from the appropriate authorities and was granted under certain conditions. Basically they must be refugees; they must renovate the property at their own expense (along with paying a peppercorn rent to the appropriate government department); they must understand that they have no right of ownership as one day the rightful owner may be able to reclaim it; all renovations must be in the style of the original.
The houses are, in general, quite small but have been beautifully restored and the gardens, most of which are courtyards, lovingly planted. Several of the occupants were extremely welcoming, opening their gates and doors to us and telling their individual stories, many illustrated with before and after photographs.
At the end of a very interesting and intriguing morning, several of our group stayed to enjoy lunch served under the plane tree where we had begun our tour. While cradling a cold, reviving beer in this quiet, out-of-the-way village with only 57 permanent residents, I couldn’t help but think back to my early experiences of Cyprus in the 1960s, and maybe even earlier, so that I could almost imagine Lawrence Durrell strolling around the corner and sitting at an adjoining table, with a bottle of the local wine of course!
Cyherbia Ηerb Garden visit
On a very hot day in June, 22 members, partners and guests of the Cyprus Branch paid a visit to a recently opened project in the Larnaca District of the island, the Cyherbia Herb Gardens. To be precise, the date was Monday 24 June and it was a local public holiday, Kataklysmos (Festival of the Flood). This festival, which is equivalent to Pentecost or Whitsun, takes place 50 days after the Greek Orthodox Easter and celebrates the Flood associated with Noah and the Ark. Actually it was such a hot day that many of those present would have welcomed even a very small deluge. The visit had been scheduled rather later in the year than would have been normal, in order to coincide with the garden’s Lavender Festival. We were welcomed by the owner, herbalist Miranda Tringis, who explained how it had taken eight years of hard work to create the garden.
Having gathered together in the garden’s Tea Room and having been resuscitated following our journeys with glasses of cold herbal tea (I found the lemon balm/lemon verbena with rose geranium impregnated ice-cubes particularly refreshing), we set out to view the gardens. The herb garden area is divided into sections, each with a particular theme. There are nine of these to explore and to examine the herbs related to each theme. Obviously, since many herbs have a variety of uses and attributes, the same ones occur in more than one area.
This is dominated by swathes of lavender that was in full bloom, but sage, rosemary, bay laurel and lemon balm were also in evidence. The alleged ability of a decoction of the leaves of bay laurel (Laurus nobilis) to relieve aching limbs when added to bath water may be worth remembering for later in the day.
Marjoram, hyssop and rue grow here, alongside ironwort (Sideritis perfoliata) that is used to make an invigorating tonic known as ‘mountain tea’ and, possibly taking pride of place, the legendary Aloe vera credited with almost magical healing properties.
Here we find the old, tried and trusted favourites such as rose, rosemary and, inevitably, lavender.
Pest Control Garden
This is an area that I find particularly interesting and one that I need to investigate further. Claims such as that the scent of fennel masks the smell of plants targeted by harmful insects, that oregano oil can be used as a pesticide and that cold chamomile tea is an effective against aphids, brown rot and mildew cry out for follow-up research.
Once more we meet those old standbys rosemary and Aloe vera, but not all the herbs grown here are for cosmetic application. Some are intended for gynaecological use, yarrow and Vitex agnus-castus, for example.
The refreshing qualities of an iced tea made from lemon balm and lemon verbena have already been touched upon. Here these plants are joined by rose and chamomile among others.
This is rather similar to the Aromatic Garden with lavender very much to the fore, along with rose, lemon balm and rose geranium.
Many of the typical Mediterranean herbs can be found here: basil, tarragon, chives, bay laurel, savory and oregano etc.
Traditional Cyprus Garden
Here we see a collection of some of the many herbs, both cultivated and wild, that have become a part of the traditional Cypriot cuisine.
Following the walk around the assorted gardens and having survived the heat with the assistance of the sight and scent of the massed herbs, it was time to retreat to the cool shade of the tea room. Here we were revived once more with another dose of iced herbal tea, possibly accompanied by a home-made snack. The cinnamon and rum ice cream sounded tempting, but, unfortunately, by the time I arrived it was no longer available. I can recommend any of the various muffins on offer, however.
Suitably refreshed, the more energetic and adventurous members of the group decided to attempt to negotiate the maze. The aim of the only hedge maze in Cyprus is to reach the raised observation platform that affords a splendid view of the gardens and surrounding area. It also gives an opportunity to plot the route to the exit. I didn’t try my luck on this occasion, but on my first visit, to set up this outing, I had to have assistance from the owner’s husband, who happened to be carrying out maintenance on the tower, in order to find my way in and out again. On this day I believe that only one couple actually made it to the platform, and they had problems finding the exit afterwards.
The less adventurous had the alternative of taking a steady stroll around the island. A Sanctuary Woodland has been laid out in the shape of Cyprus with cypress trees (Cupressus sempervirens) marking the outline. In order to provide some interest and to break up the walk, information boards, seven in all, have been set up at significant points along the way. The owner’s husband described these as his seven wonders of Cyprus.
All in all this was a most interesting visit to a project that has taken many years of hard work to complete and that will, it is hoped, continue to be successful and to provide an entertaining and educational facility for many more years to come.
Environmental Information Centre, Episkopi, Paphos
On Tuesday 26 March, 15 members and their guests paid a visit to a newly-opened Environmental Information Centre in the village of Episkopi in the District of Paphos. The Centre is located in the old village school buildings that have been specially renovated for the purpose.
The entrance to the building
The visit began in the small lecture hall with the viewing of a short film shot in the general vicinity of the Centre, much of which is in a Natura 2000 site. This 25-minute film explains the geological make-up of the area, the various habitat types and the assorted flora and fauna to be found there, including many endemic species. The film was clear, the narrative concise and the standard of photography excellent. Everyone was impressed by it, with some going as far as to express the opinion that it was one of the best short wildlife documentaries they had ever seen.
The exhibition hall is a mix of diorama, photographic/information boards and display cases containing geological samples and butterflies and other insects. It has several touch-screen monitors strategically located around the room; these present a mesmerizing amount of information under a multitude of categories literally at one’s fingertips.
A small laboratory and library are still being set up, but will, no doubt, prove to be valuable additions to the centre’s educational role in the near future.
The school grounds have been divided into areas depicting the variety of habitats to be found in the vicinity. Information boards giving details of the geological make-up of the soil in each area stand alongside those showing the names of individual plants and their flowering times. The centre has been open to the public for only three weeks and environmental information is still very much in its infancy in Cyprus, although its potential is obvious to see. It will be interesting to pay a return visit at a future date to see just how this project has progressed.
Text and photo by John Joynes
Cyprus Branch Anniversary Meeting
The traditional Cyprus Branch Anniversary Meeting was held at the Kapetanios Hotel, Limassol on Saturday 4 February 2012. Twenty-two members and guests gathered together for this event. The Branch Head passed on a few items of news and discussed the happenings at the MGS AGM in Mallorca 2011.
One of the main points of interest in the general discussion was the DVD Women in the Dirt. Several members expressed a desire to purchase a copy of this excellent work and one member has provisionally agreed to review it for the MGS Journal.
Visit to the mygreencycle green waste recycling plant
MGS member Dimitri Shukuroglou is the owner of an agricultural products company. When I heard that his company had opened a green waste recycling plant on the outskirts of Nicosia, I contacted him about arranging a Branch visit. Dimitri, along with his wife Annelise, was on hand to welcome us, while Plant Manager, Nikos Mavrokordatos, explained the recycling and composting process. Once the green waste is collected, it is sorted and shredded before being laid out in rows for the composting process to begin. The temperature and humidity of the piles are checked daily, and when necessary, they are turned by a machine that can also inject water if required. When the composting process is completed, the material is sieved and the resulting compost is bagged for sale. Plans are in hand to produce a variety of specialised potting soils by adding different ingredients during the composting process. It is also hoped that in the future plants can be opened in other areas of the island.
The company sign
The Plant Manager, Nikos Mavrokordatos, explains the
composting process to some of the group while owner
Dimitri Shukuroglou and his wife Annelise, look on
The raw material
The machine used to turn the piles
Turning the piles
Members examining the finished product
The end product
Photos by Patricia Ramsay
On the morning of 27 November, 18 members, guests and potential members of the Cyprus Branch gathered together in the Conference Room of the Kapetanios Hotel in Limassol. MGS member, Maggie Niagassas, began her presentation with a short talk about the history of botanical drawing from its beginnings and its progress right up until contemporary times. Maggie covered the various aspects of the discipline, botanical art, botanical illustration, botanical drawing, and her talk was illustrated with a large selection of stunning examples of the work of a number of artists using a variety of mediums.
Following the presentation everyone was invited to try their hand at drawing a Ficus elastica leaf using coloured pencils. Such was the enthusiasm generated by Maggie's talk that the whole group took part and, thanks to her expert tuition, many surprised themselves with the results they achieved.
Judging from comments received on the day and subsequently this was a very successful presentation that was enjoyed by all who took part. As there are so many facets to botanical art/illustration it may be possible to arrange further, follow-up, presentations in the future.
Askas Nature Trail
The village of Askas is situated to the east of the Troodos massif at an elevation of 900 metres above sea level. It is the home village of MGS member Yiannos Orphanos and it is here that he has created a short nature trail. For much of its length the path leads through hazel groves, cherry orchards and vine terraces. These small patches of agricultural land cling to the hillsides and have for generations been accessed by quite steep paths. Yiannos had the idea of linking two of these paths, on opposite ends of the village, and thereby creating a walk that, as he describes it, goes up, across and down.
On Sunday 23 May a contingent from the Cyprus Branch was joined by guests from the Cyprus Third Age (Limassol) Gardening in Cyprus Group (a total of 25 persons) at a taverna on the edge of Askas village. Following a short introductory talk by Yiannos, the group set off to undertake the walk. As has already been mentioned, part of the trail passes through cherry orchards and, as the cherries were beautifully ripe, the temptation to sample a few proved irresistible. In fact this was not a transgression of the country code since the trees in question belonged to Yiannos' sister. A very enjoyable one and a half hours later, a stroll rather than a route march, saw us back at the taverna for refreshments and, for some, lunch.
Yiannos Orphanos before the walk
A view of part of the walk
Fifth Anniversary Meeting of the Cyprus Branch
The event was held at the Kapetanios Hotel, Limassol and was attended by sixteen members and three guests with a number of other members sending apologies.
The meeting provided an opportunity for the Branch Head to review the 2009 AGM held the previous November, especially for those members who had been unable to attend any of the events. It was also a chance to thank publicly all Branch members for their support and encouragement during the planning and execution of the AGM Programme. Certain members were singled out for special thanks for their various contributions to the success of the enterprise:Yiannos Orphanos, for his tireless work on so many aspects of the Programme of Events which would have been so much less interesting without his input (not forgetting the substantial contribution from his wife, Spyroulla); Mary Michaelides, for her excellent presentation, delivered with her usual infectious enthusiasm and exuberance; Elena Alonefti, for designing and producing the highly imaginative and beautifully executed mementos for the Welcome Packs; Renate Schaeffer-Low, who generously accommodated and looked after Sally Razelou for the duration of her stay – Sally expressed her own appreciation at the General Assembly far more eloquently than I can; Helen Thompson and Dinos Pelekanos, who volunteered to assist in the meeting and greeting of the 'Athens contingent' (Dinos setting out from his village in the mountains in a torrential rainstorm with near zero visibility in order to keep his promise).
With the small amount of 'other business' concluded, the social networking was resumed over a buffet lunch. This was altogether a pleasant and satisfying start to what we hope will be a new year of interesting visits and meetings.
On Tuesday 24 November the Cyprus Branch Head, John Joynes, accompanied by two other Cyprus members, Margo Levy and Mary Michaelides, handed over the 500-euro annual MGS donation to Stelios Constantinos (President of the Parents' Association) and Stella Stavrinidou (Coordinator of the Environment Programme) to assist with the maintenance and improvement of the Agioi Anargyroi Primary School Botanical Garden. An additional sum of 770 euros that had been given as voluntary personal donations by MGS members who had visited the school was also presented. Stella and Stelios wished to pass on a very warm thank you to the MGS, and especially to those members who gave so generously, on behalf of the school, the children and the parents.
The photos show John Joynes and Margo Levy presenting Stella Stavrinidou with the MGS donation and John Joynes with Stella Stavrinidou following the presentation of the MGS members' voluntary donations.
MGS Annual General Meeting
From 5-10 November the Cyprus Branch played host to the MGS’s 2009 AGM. The undoubted success of the event was a tribute to the members of the Branch, 22 of whom were able to play a role in all or part of the proceedings.
The Programme of Events offered a wide and varied range of activities and experiences. The majority of participating members seemed to be especially impressed by the embryonic garden at Delikipos, the small, school Botanical Garden (the short introductory DVD featuring the children was an enchanting foretaste) and the work of the Forestry Department. The sheer scale of the work involved in the reforestation of the asbestos mines was an eye-opener. Our two speakers also held their audience spell-bound, Mary Michaelides with her infectious enthusiasm and Oron Peri with his encyclopaedic knowledge of bulbous plants.
The restaurants and tavernas chosen to provide meals played their part, serving up some excellent and varied dishes.
Overall I believe that the Cyprus Branch members can hold their heads high, having provided an interesting and enjoyable AGM 2009. We look forward to renewing old acquaintances and making new friends at the AGM 2010 in Hania, Crete.
Visit to Agios Anargirou Primary School Botanical Garden
On Saturday 25 April 2009 members of the Cyprus Branch went to school. The school in question was Agioi Anargyroi Primary School, Larnaca. The reason for the visit was to see the small Botanical Garden that had been created in the school grounds by the Staff and Parents. The garden was begun just over a year ago and was the brainchild of the President of the Parent's Association, Stelios Constantinos, and the school Environmental Programme Coordinator, Stella Stavrinidou. Stella was responsible for the overall design and layout of the garden based on the educational philosophy of the school and according to the needs of the Cyprus National Curriculum. The roughly triangular shaped plot being divided into several distinct areas, endemic plants, aromatic and medicinal plants, etc. A dry river bed spanned by a wooden bridge features water-side plants.
This excellent project is not merely intended for the pupils of the school or to provide a quiet spot for the teachers to enjoy their coffee break. It is designed to be an educational tool and to provide an example for other state schools to follow. To facilitate this Stella has produced a DVD of the garden (featuring some of the pupils), an information leaflet and a workbook containing questions and projects that pupils from visiting schools can take away and work on in their own lessons.
Altogether a fine example of how a well planned garden can act as an educational resource and also be appreciated by the neighbouring community. Not one case of vandalism has been recorded over the year, even though the garden is situated just a few hundred metres from a 1st Division football stadium.
Photo by John Joynes
A Garden in the Making
On Saturday 15 November 2008, 28 members and guests of the Cyprus Branch visited a garden in the making. Situated between the villages of Kornos and Deliskipos, in the Larnaca District, this garden is being created using the combined talents, enthusiasm and ideas of MGS member, Yiannos Orphanos and the property owner. The 'garden area' near the house will blend smoothly into wilder areas further out until eventually flowing downhill into a small olive grove. A woodland seating/dining area and a large vegetable patch (in the shape of a leaf) are among the many other features to be incorporated into the finished product. All who attended were very grateful to the owner for his hospitality as well as for allowing us to see the beginnings of what promises to be an amazing garden.
Photos by Charithea Joynes
We visited two nurseries specialising in Cactus & Succulents (Christina Pieri Djama Garden Centre, Dherynia and Cactus Island, Paralimni.)
This visit was a follow-up to the excellent talk given by MGS member and co-founder of the Cyprus Cactus & Succulent Society, Mary Michaelides. With the desperate water situation that we are currently experiencing in Cyprus this may be the way for our gardens to go in the not-too-distant future. Plants like the ones in the photos, (Aloe arborescens and Aeonium arboreum var atropurpureum), may become even more common than they already are.
Photos by John Joynes
Visit to Strakka olive plantation
The Strakka organic olive plantation is situated on the outskirts of Lefkosia (Nicosia), sandwiched between the suburbs of Lakatamia and Dheftera. To property developers it is seen as prime land for housing but, fortunately, the owners are determined to resist any pressure and would much prefer to see the estate declared a National Park than be built upon. The land has been in their family since 1942 but its history can be traced back much further, at least 500 years, to the Venetian occupation of the island. The name Strakka dates from that time and means a place of recreation and relaxation. It was used by the Venetian owners as an area for hunting and generally "chilling out" away from the confines of the city.
Since 1942 the present owner’s family has grown citrus, olives and vines at various times. Currently the estate grows a mixture of citrus alongside 7,000 olive trees of four different varieties. The estate became fully organic in 1999 and having received their certification, a process that takes three years, have been able to market their produce as organic since 2003. The olives are cold pressed and the oil from the four varieties are blended to produce an oil of good colour and flavour. The total output of the estate is exported to the UK, none is sold on the local market. The General Manager, Andys Pentayitis, gave the MGS members a very informative and interesting tour of the plantation and also the storage areas, explaining the reasoning behind each procedure involved in the final production. He also told us of their latest venture, to produce two aromatic oils, one of lemon and the other of orange, using organically grown citrus, of course. As we left Andys very kindly gave everyone a bottle of the lemon flavoured oil to try with a request to report their opinion after trying it.
Using succulents in Mediterranean gardens, a personal experience
MGS member, Mary Michaelides, is a succulent enthusiast. This enthusiasm is shared by her good friend, Elena Alonefti, and together they recently founded the Cyprus Cactus & Succulent Society. (I'm pleased to report that their optimism was well founded and their society has got off to an excellent start). Mary began by growing succulents in containers before deciding to attempt to integrate them into her garden. Gradually, her traditional square of grass surrounded by herbaceous borders was transformed into a succulent garden. This transformation was the subject of her presentation, ' Using Succulents in Mediterranean gardens, a personal experience', at the Acropolis Park, Nicosia. Mary still grows succulents in containers, she has over 200 of them, but her imaginative and artistic use of them as garden plants alongside more conventional drought tolerant ones has created a garden that is both aesthetically attractive and water-wise. Mary's presentation was greatly appreciated by all who attended and opened many eyes to the fact that cacti and succulents deserve better than to be considered as a separate entity used solely in containers or 'desert' gardens.
House of Roses
Agros is the Rose village of Cyprus. Rosa damascena in particular is grown and harvested there for the manufacture of assorted rose-scented products. On Saturday 19th May twenty members and guests of the Cyprus Branch paid a visit to the House of Roses to see the process for themselves. May is harvest time with groups of workers setting out at dawn to gather the blossoms. These must be picked before the sun becomes too hot and destroys much of the essential oil. Needless to say we did not witness this but arrived at a more respectable hour after the blooms had been collected and were undergoing the distillation process. On arrival our lady members were invited to experience the sensation of 'lying on a bed of roses'. The techniques involved in producing the various items were explained and the products sampled; rose wine and liqueur internally, rosewater and assorted creams and potions externally.
Some of our lady members lying, or at least sitting, on a 'bed of roses'
Gathered flowers of Rosa damascena
Exhibits in the Rose Exhibition
Visit to Olympic House, Nicosia
22 members of the Cyprus Branch, plus a visiting UK member, met outside the Olympic House in Nicosia. This is a new complex built to house the offices of various sports federations involved in the Olympic movement. Currently there are 36 sports represented. The gardens surrounding the building were designed and planted by MGS member, Yiannos Orphanos, who was present to explain his design concept and choice of plants.
Five areas along the front of the building have been delineated and designated to represent the five continents. Each area is planted with a formal block of a single species, e.g. Tulbaghia violacea for Africa and a gold-leafed Duranta repens for South America. Gravel in the colours of the Olympic rings, red, blue, green, yellow and black, enhances each area. These squares are mirrored at the rear of the building, except that here a variety of plants from the subject continent are planted in a more naturalistic setting. To one side of the complex plants from Greece, home of the Olympic Games, blend into ones from Cyprus, including several endemics. At the opposite end an avenue of 36 olive trees, one for each sport, divides the building from the car park.
Altogether an imaginative and well thought out design that Yiannos hopes to improve upon over time as he sources more country-specific plants either to add or to replace existing ones.
Branch visit to Athens
Members of the Cyprus Branch at Chrysanthi Paragou’s
At the MGS garden at Sparoza members were given a guided tour by Sally Razelou
Return trip to the Water-lilies
12 members of the Cyprus Branch gathered in Psemilophou. This small village, just to the south-west of Lefkosia (Nicosia), is where Andreas Protopapas grows and breeds his award winning water lilies.
For the majority this was a second visit, the first, in August 2005, having inspired them to create a water feature, however small, in their own gardens. This return trip was with the express purpose of acquiring plants to stock these.
The choice was large and difficult and Andreas was kept busy delving into tanks and even donning waders to plunge into the larger ponds to collect selected specimens. A most enjoyable morning ended with everyone heading home with heads full of planting advice, plastic bags full of dripping water lilies and assorted containers full of mosquito fish!
Nymphaea 'Moorei' ('Mooreana')
Photograph by John Joynes
Agricultural Research Institute
The Branch paid a visit to the Agricultural Research Institute of the Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment. Our host Dr Dora Chimonidou began by giving a brief slide show presentation outlining the set-up and aims of the Institute. This was followed by a tour of some of the Departments in order to see at first hand the work being carried out.
Floriculture - here they are using Damask roses (Rosa damascena) in an attempt to re-introduce fragrance to some of the more bland varieties of hybrids. They also have an ongoing programme of evaluation of native plants for garden use.
Entomology - their Plant Protection programme is working on Integrated Control and Biological Control Systems in an attempt to reduce the dependence on chemical control.
Engineering - are experimenting with different techniques for drying various fruit and vegetables. They are also carrying out comparison research into the energy levels produced by a range of bio-mass materials.
Molecular Biology Laboratory - to see the state-of-the-art equipment they are using in the detection of and protection against plant and animal pathogens.
Altogether an eye-opening glimpse into a small part of the fascinating work being undertaken by a group of dedicated scientists and auxiliary staff.
A more detailed article on the above visit is planned for a future edition of the Journal.
A waterwise golf course
A golf course may not be the obvious place for a gardening group to visit. Indeed, the Aphrodite Hills complex turned out to be much more than just a golf course. Covering 240 hectares in total, on both sides of a deep valley, the site includes a large hotel and two villages, one with a village square of shops, restaurants and even a chapel. Our main interest, however, was the extensive landscaping that had been carried out employing mostly native and drought-tolerant plants and using a muted palette of mainly blues and yellows. We were particularly gratified to discover that an increasing amount of water for irrigation (especially of the fairways, greens, etc) was provided from the complex's own, underground, sewage treatment plant. If golf courses must be created in water-hungry countries, then this one at least was attempting to limit the impact on its local environment.
A new garden on a razed site
The winter rains hit Cyprus with a vengeance on Friday 18th and Sunday 20th November. Severe thunderstorms accompanied by torrential downpours turned roads into raging rivers, causing traffic chaos and mayhem island-wide. Luckily, sandwiched between these two extremes, Saturday 19th shone bright, clear and sunny and was the day the Cyprus Branch had arranged their latest visit. Landscape designer and MGS member Yiannos Orphanos had asked one of his clients for permission to show us around her garden. The prospect of having 20 total strangers wandering around your garden is fairly daunting but the lady of the house was totally unfazed and gave us a warm welcome.
The garden had only been created this spring, final planting having been completed in July, but everything had apparently established well and showed a maturity beyond its age. The site had been flattened and scraped clear by the house builders and Yiannos' first task was to attempt to create some interest using different levels. Several large stones/boulders that had been removed from the site and abandoned nearby were recovered and utilised to great effect. Yiannos' planting throughout used drought-tolerant plants, many of them Cyprus natives, such as Thymus capitatus and Cistus sp. In one very neat touch he had combined the indigenous Pistacia terebinthus with the tree named after it, Schinus terebinthifolius (Brazilian pepper tree). His unusual use of Horsetails (Equisetum) drew a lot of attention but even that couldn't compare with his lawn area - not the usual high maintenance grass but a native broad-leafed variety (Phyla filiformis). Tough, springy and spreading, it needs little water, rarely ever needs mowing and remains green through even the harshest summers.
This garden, though not large, is an excellent example of what can be achieved using native plants, even some that may be considered as little more than weeds.
Yiannos Orphanos, centre, introduces the garden he has recently designed
and planted to members of the Cyprus branch
A lawn created with a native plant, Phyla filiformis, surrounded by
beds of drought resistant plants
A water-lily expert in Cyprus
If you wanted to find a world-renowned authority on water-lilies, Cyprus would probably not be high on your list of places to look. However, it is here that Andreas Protopapas, an electronics engineer by profession, has pursued his hobby for the last 20 years. During this time he has honed his skills in growing and breeding water-lilies, introducing a number of new hybrids in the process. He has supplied the Royal Horticultural Society with examples of these for use in their gardens at Wisley and only recently has earned a major honour from the United States. In the International Water-lily & Water Gardening Society Annual New Water-lily Competition, Andreas was awarded top prize in the hardy water-lily category for his entry: Nymphaea 'Maria'.
So when the Cyprus Branch of the MGS was offered the chance to meet Andreas and to visit his facilities we realised it was an opportunity not to be missed. A small but enthusiastic group met at the village of Psimolophou, to the south-west of Lefkosia (Nicosia), full of anticipation and questions. After an extremely pleasant and highly informative visit we left much wiser and even more enamoured of the beauty of water-lilies than when we arrived. Being August, many of the 150 varieties that Andreas grows had finished flowering and preliminary arrangements were made for a return visit next year, around May/June, when the majority should be at their best. This should also allow those members who were unfortunately unable to attend another chance to meet this remarkable man and his beautiful plants.
A Nursery to suit Cypriot gardens
'O Dendros' nursery, near Nisou village on the southern outskirts of Lefkosia, is owned by MGS member, Yiannos Orphanos. It is from here that he runs his landscape design business. Yiannos specializes in creating gardens suited to the harsh climate and poor soil that the majority of gardeners in Cyprus have to contend with. He is a man who knows his subject and his plants and is totally committed to passing on the message regarding the use of drought-tolerant and native plants whenever the opportunity arises.
So, when 27 members of a combined MGS/University of the Third Age Gardening Group descended on his nursery he was typically unfazed and ready to answer all questions. A detailed tour of the nursery provided enough fascinating information about each plant to cause writer's cramp and brain overload.
A light lunch in a local establishment, accompanied by a cold beverage of choice, allowed time for rest and reflection before our return to the nursery for the serious decision making. Which of those, "I know exactly the place for that" or "That's just what I've been looking for" to buy... As the cars were loaded everyone seemed to agree that it was good to find a nursery, and a nurseryman, that concentrated on plants that would survive the local environment and not on 'flashy exotics', that look fine in the 'Garden Centre', but rapidly decline when exposed to the harsh reality of the real world.
Branch visit to Amiandos Mines reforestation area
Asbestos mining was carried out in Cyprus for over 80 years, ending as recently as 1988. The excavations left a huge scar on the landscape and the extraction process rendered the remaining soil sterile.
24 members, partners and guests of the Cyprus Branch were given a guided tour of the work being carried out, primarily by the Forestry Dept, to repair the damage. Our guide, Forestry Officer Dinos Georgiades, gave a detailed and informative presentation of the methods, plants used and financial cost of the operation. He also showed us the site of the proposed Botanical Garden that will feature native, especially endemic, plants. The main work on this is due to begin in the autumn and hopefully will be completed within a year.
Following the visit refreshments were taken at a café a little way down the mountain, overlooking a narrow gorge with a small stream. This provided an opportunity for members to get acquainted and discuss what was a successful first Branch outing.
Tulipa cypria, a Cyprus endemic
Painting by George Sfikas
John came to horticulture late in life and had never even owned a garden until he settled in Cyprus. He grew up in Derbyshire in the 1950's before leaving to spend 22 years with the RAF serving in a variety of posts in the UK, Singapore, Berlin and Cyprus. A spell as a civilian with the West Yorkshire Police followed before, needing a change of pace, he enrolled as a mature student at Capel Manor College, Enfield, Middlesex for a one-year National Certificate course in Horticulture. In 1997 he returned to Cyprus to put down roots and to attempt to catch up on lost time, horticulturally speaking. Perhaps because of this he admits to suffering from that great gardening sin, impatience.