A few years ago, I was spending some days in the Peloponnese, and found a very exciting book named : "Making a garden on a Greek hillside".
This book was written in the 80s by a South-African urban planner - Mrs Jacqueline Tyrwhitt - who spent the last 14 years of her life in Greece, on a hillside in Attica, situated in the eastern Athens countryside.
In addition to completely designing her garden there, she wrote down every event or technique she experimented in her garden; then this diary was published a few years after her passing away, in 1998.
One of the reasons I kept on reading this book again and again (and happily acquired it through her current publisher) is that our garden in the Peloponnese has many similarities with the one described in detail by Mrs Tyrwhitt. They both face a 6-month drought during summer, a hillside facing south, a thin topsoil with rocky sub-soil underneath.
The next step was planning a visit to this little Heaven. The occasion came during my last stay in Athens, last May 2012. After a few phone calls, I spent the whole morning with Mrs Sally Razelou, the founding member and first MGS* President, who now is the custodian of the garden and who has tremendously improved and extended it since she came to live in this estate in 1992. A very very nice moment, spent sharing her experiment and her constant advice about setting up a garden scheme and gardening with lack of water.
I wish I had such gardening lessons when I was studying in Versailles !
This place is absolutely divine for those passionate about gardening in the Mediterranean climate, or about botany. For those, like me, who also design gardens, it is also really interesting in terms of combinations of plants, where all features of the plants are considered : shape, hardiness, drought-resistance, foliage colour, texture, fruit and flowers, as well as their ability to enhance a planting scheme by association with their neighbour.
Unfortunately, this garden is not open to the public, it is open to the Mediterranean Garden Society members, by appointment.
However, Mrs Razelou agreed that I could post some photographs of the garden, for the pleasure of my readers. I would like to express my gratitude for this visit. Not only because drought-tolerant plants are gorgeous, but also, even in Paris or London, because we now have to employ waterwise methods to help gardens thrive all-year-long, in a long-term approach of sustainable gardening.
More about the mediterranean-climate flora
POLUNIN, Oleg, Flowers of Greece and the Balkans, a filed guide, Oxford University Press, 1987.
TYRWHITT, Mary Jacqueline, Making a Garden on the Greek Hillside, Denise Harvey Publishing, 1998.
More about the MGS* (Mediterranean Garden Society)
The Mediterranean Garden Society website
Louisa Jones**'s blog article dedicated to this particular garden (**: a renowned English author, specialist of the mediterranean garden)