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Mediterranean Climate Gardening in Cyberspace
An excerpt from The Mediterranean Garden - No. 14   Autumn 1998

I always find it interesting that about the same time Derek Toms raised the concept of a Mediterranean climate focused garden society (via horticultural journals in the UK), I was also voicing similar thoughts among horticultural discussions on the Internet. The immediate proliferation of horticultural 'meeting places' on the newly created cyberspace environment is a statement about our need to be connected to the natural world. Unfortunately, in a virtual world 'without boundaries', the importance of a regional approach to horticultural practices was often overlooked, generating lots of confusion and seeming contradictions in the information shared by participants in these forums. On those rare occasions when the writer revealed his/her geographic location, these discrepancies were better understood.
     
In searching for a more climate-focused forum for my own interests in gardening in Mediterranean climates, I found little in the way of real assistance. What I did find was a large number of other individuals desirous of the same. Some research and experimentation on my part helped formulate what type of format would be appropriate and universally available to the most people. Then, several months of canvassing educational institutions supporting that type of computer forum brought me to Dr. Dave Burger, head of the Environmental Horticulture department at the University of California, Davis.
     
He agreed with the concept and decided that his department should host such a group; thus the mediterranean climate gardening e-mail discussion was born in 1994. Since that time, averaging 350-400 subscribers, members of the Internet horticultural community have called it one of the most friendly, informative and useful forums of its kind. Those interested in participation can [enquire] via the e-mail address or check our informational web page.
     
Over the years, further advances in Internet technology brought into being the World Wide Web, where information could be 'published' on virtual pages, viewable around the world to anyone with the proper software. As this type of Internet communication has become more ubiquitous, it was only natural for the Medit-Plants concept to venture into this realm as well. Earlier this year, the creation of a fledgling web site devoted to mediterranean climate gardening was placed in cyberspace and continues to grow and expand as the word gets out and there is more participation. The intent of the site is to house any type of information that is relevant to our focus, including: plant profiles, book reviews, essays on pertinent topics, featured public and private gardens, profiles of interesting people, horticultural societies and groups, information about professionals and their businesses, resources, artwork, etc. Even if you have no experience with Internet publishing, or the Internet itself, it is possible for us to create web pages for your information if it is pertinent to the focus of the site. Professionals are asked for a nominal fee (much less than they would pay for their own, separate web site) to support the project; non-profits are given space at no charge. All are encouraged to participate in whatever manner suits their needs. Negotiation for many new participants is currently underway.
     
Since the MGS's goals were perfectly aligned with the goals of this new web project, I asked that they become the featured society of the site. After ongoing communication with the MGS leaders (facilitated by my good e-mail friend Lord Hugo Latymer), there are now several pages devoted to the Mediterranean Garden Society on the site, and all pages contain acknowledgement and 'links' to these. As the MGS finds new projects appropriate to publication on the Internet, I am sure there will be further expansion and development.

Seán O'Hara.

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