Mediterranean Garden Society

Election of Administrative Committee members and reserve members

The photograph at the top of this page shows MGS members at the Spring Plant Exchange held at Sparoza in April 2022 (Photo Catriona Gallagher)

The new five-member Administrative Committee (AC) and three reserve members will be elected during the General Assembly of the Mediterranean Garden Society on Sunday 20 November 2022 in Athens. Voting is by secret ballot. The five candidates who gain the most votes are elected to the Administrative Committee and the next three in order of the number of votes they receive are elected reserve members of the AC. The officers in the AC – President, Vice President, General Secretary, Treasurer and Councillor - are elected by the five voting members of the new AC during their first meeting following their election by the General Assembly.

Please note that for practical reasons, in order to carry out their duties, both the General Secretary and the Treasurer must be residents of the Greater Athens area.

Proxy ballots
Instructions on how to send proxy ballots will be communicated by the Secretary in a direct email at in due course. Please add to your address list and send an email with your current email address to the Secretary if you are concerned that the MGS may not have it on file.

The candidates for election to the Administrative Committee are:

Bernhard Leibkutsch writes:
I am a Swiss and German national, living in Geneva and with a strong connection to the Mediterranean world. My Mediterranean garden is on the island of Ibiza and is somehow a mixture of garden and landscape where I practise the waterwise method, sometimes to extremes.

I have been a member of the MGS for eight years and for the last three of them have been a reserve member of the Administrative Committee, trying to serve actively as the President encouraged us to do. With the insight gained during these years and well aware of the obstacles lying in our way, consisting not only of climate change, I was persuaded to stand again as a candidate. At 62 years of age I hope I am still young enough to co-develop the future of the MGS, whether this be for the holy grail of Sparoza, for the incredibly good and important journal, for our international network or for all the other equally important issues which will be necessary for the Society’s future development. Gardens, private, public, urban or country, have an important impact on people and can change people’s behaviour. As a Society, we can play a leading role in this change.

I would very much like to help the MGS face the challenges lying ahead. If elected I could not serve as General Secretary or Treasurer but I am willing and able to take on any of the other three roles,  President, Vice President or Councillor.

Robin McGrew writes:
I am an architect focused on energy conservation and environmental sustainability. I was the Greek Branch Head of the MGS and a Sparoza volunteer between 2014-2016. My husband and I are in the process of renovating a home on the island of Andros in Greece where I plan to develop a garden and hope to spend several months a year. I have served as Councillor on the AC for the past term and would be pleased to continue in this position for the next term.

With the loss of Sally Razelou as custodian of the garden at Sparoza and the Covid pandemic further indicating the need to amend the MGS Charter, the society is at a turning point. Caroline Davies, Jill Yakas and Jane Taniskidou are stepping down as President, Treasurer and Secretary respectively. They have all three worked immensely hard in many ways over the years and especially in the past three years to make the transition at Sparoza and pave the way for a possible Charter amendment. While I am not able to offer my services for one of the leadership positions on the next AC, I think I can make a valuable contribution in advising the new AC leaders on past efforts and ideas going forward.

I care deeply about the future of the MGS because I value the support it provides to gardeners in dry climates and the community it creates. I believe in the Society’s mission to promote climate-appropriate plants and planting techniques and to preserve local ecosystems. I will endeavour to aid the society in continued pursuit of this mission.

Carolyn Mitiskostas writes:
Having lived in Greece for the majority of my life and travelled a good deal around the country I have come to appreciate and love its beauty and culture. Finding Sparoza was a real treat, combining my love of flowers with meeting like-minded people.

I was a senior school maths teacher for 37 years at a British international school. I loved my job, but am now a very happy pensioner. I am an amateur ceramicist and a happily involved granny, however, I am always eager to be involved with something new. I am super-organised and super-efficient after a lifetime of scholastic bureaucracy. I am happy and willing to offer my services to the Society.

Virginia Murray writes:
I was born in Hertfordshire in 1968 to one keen gardener and one bonfire expert. I worked as a barrister in London and the Midlands and moved to Greece in 1997 where I qualified as a Greek lawyer. Since then, when not working in the renewable energy sector as partner of an international law firm, I have gardened with varying levels of success in central Athens, the northern suburbs and more recently in the much less Mediterranean climate of Western Macedonia. I am a fluent Greek speaker; I have a Greek husband and two university-aged sons. I bring no gardening expertise to the table, but I am quite good at helping to organise events and keeping the peace. I have also served as Vice-President of the British-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce and am a trustee of Campion School in Athens.

Jacqueline Potter-Nammensma writes:
For 27 years I have been the proud owner of a garden in the South of France. I retired a year ago from my job as an executive in a large international company. My international career started in the hotel and leisure industry, followed by 25 years in the IT industry. I am of Dutch nationality and am 60 years old.

I am a passionate gardener and over the last 25 years had the opportunity to develop, in partnership with my husband, a large garden of almost one hectare around our house. Today the garden is planted with a huge variety of drought-tolerant plants, grown mainly from seeds and cuttings from all over the world.

I have been an MGS member since the first MGS journal came out. I believe that I can bring to the role of Committee member some of the experience and skills that I acquired during my career, as well as the experiences and ups and downs I went through when developing a garden on a very tough
plot of land.

The MGS and its members around the world have shown unparalleled leadership in the area of sustainable gardening: it all started with Jacqueline Tyrwhitt’s Sparoza hillside of course. Today so many of the MGS members’ gardens are living examples of waterwise gardening.

In addition, activities led by so many MGS members in their local communities are contributing to ‘walking the talk’ locally. I believe that, with the help of the other future Committee members, as well as MGS members in the various countries, we can play an active role in making the world a better place - leverage initiatives by ‘walking the talk’, share even more experiences and best practices, but also have fun as a community, whether during trips, via video conferences or in local meetings.

If you elect me as a Committee member, I shall be very proud to serve the MGS to find new ways to resolve issues lying ahead and make the Society even better than it is already.

Sophia Stathatou writes:
I was born in 1952, was educated in Greece and the UK, and live in Athens. I have been working for the Philodassiki (Friends of the Forest) at Kaisariani for 15 years where I am responsible for the Botanic Garden, the area immediately surrounding the monastery and the monastery garden, as well for the creation and running of our new educational garden.

I have known and admired Sparoza for very many years and have followed its progress closely, first when run by Sally Razelou and now under the care of Lucie Willan. These two gardens – Sparoza and Kaisariani – are beautiful in their different ways; however they share many of the same problems arising naturally from restricted time and limited funds, and unnaturally from Covid and its attendant difficulties.

Gardeners throughout the world are dealing with the consequences of a changing climate right now, as well has having to plan for future changes. I believe that the MGS should be discussing this and providing information and guidance to its members. One of the great advantages of a Society like the MGS is that the members themselves can share their experiences.

Leaving aside for the moment this immense question of climate change, I am concerned with the difficulty, faced by both the Philodassiki and the MGS, in attracting younger members to play an active part in the future of these wonderful places. My hope is that the more people talk about these concerns and difficulties, the more we might come up with some solutions, helped along by a spirit of optimism.   

Jill Yakas writes:

English by birth, I have Greek nationality and I speak Greek. Responsible for introducing Sally Razelou to Sparoza, I am a founding member of the MGS and I have been Treasurer since 2010. 

My professional life in Greece began when I introduced the work of known and up-and-coming British artists to Athens through three successful exhibitions at the British Council in the 70s. I later set up and ran a unique art gallery in my home, focusing on the work of foreign artists in Greece. My garden, designed and planted in the 1930s, provided a wonderful backdrop for exhibition openings, which often accompanied by a live performance group, would spill over into it, creating an atmosphere unrivalled on the Athens Gallery circuit. Many like-minds met, ideas were exchanged and friendships made. Concurrently, I published fine art cards and distributed them in Greece and the UK.

The MGS, when founded, consisted of a friendly group of people who shared a love of gardening. Our goal was to spread the message of climate compatible gardening as widely as possible. If elected, I hope that with an amended Charter I can implement changes to make the accounting system easier to maintain, and as a long-standing committee member bring some continuity to the new committee. I am willing to act as Treasurer.

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