More Trials and Tribulations
I’ve found its not always easy being a gardener on Lemnos not just because of the hot and dry summers that can extend for three or even four moths, and because of the frosts and winter snowfalls, but also because of these winds. However with trial and error I continue to garden, and now love my practical and very beautiful Lemnian garden.
Lemnos is a northern Aegean island and it lies in the same latitude as Rome and Barcelona. Its position is between the coast of Turkey and Greece, not far from the entrance to the Black Sea via the Bosporus. It is not formed as a part of a physical chain or group, but is frequently grouped together Lesvos, Samothrace and Thasos for tourist or administrative purposes.
It is an old volcanic island; in fact there was a remnant still active in the 18C. It is the 8th largest Greek island, and was the first stopover for Jason and the Argonauts. Beside its many sandy beaches it also has some deep bays, one of which was the one used by the Allies just before the landing at Gallipoli while the beaches around this bay were where the injured were first brought, and the setting for the TV series, ANZAC girls.)
The Climate Zone for Lemnos would be called Mediterranean, with hot dry summers (sometimes no rain for 4 months) and wet cold winters. The temperature is typically 2 to 5 degrees Celsius less than in Athens, and Thessaloniki that is it’s nearest large town. The average high in July is 29.0, and the average low in January is 4.2.
But, because of its position, set out in the sea, away from the continents and other islands, the weather can be very windy, hence its nickname "the wind-ridden one" Animoisa (in Greek, Ανεμόεσσα). These winds can be very lovely in the summer when sea breezes cool one during hot summer days, though coming up from the south and Egypt they can occasionally be ladened with sand! In winter the winds come down from Russia and the Black Sea and can keep folk indoors, and bend and stunt the trees.
A Dream Mediterranean Garden in Progress
We now have a beautiful house and garden on the island but in 2002 when our ‘retirement project’ began we were faced with empty block except for one old olive tree and several aging almond trees and in one corner a collapsing three story, 100yr old, stone and tiled house, and in the garden two ruined outbuildings. It had been a dump, a playground, and it was filled with old and dying trees, plus it had been cleared topsoil
Losing plants because of heat especially when I’ve tried to grow something not suited like apple trees, or planted some vegetables too late in the year and they shrivel up when June heats up. And, I’ve lost several citrus trees to frost and snowy winter conditions. Plus there have been sudden unexplained losses, which I’ve put down to unknown beasties in the soil, or to wind shaking and breaking the root system.
|My plum tree died unexplainably just after this harvest|
Lack of Top Soil
Evidently previous users of the house found that it cost too much to pay someone to weed the property and an easier was to hire a mechanical scooper to take off the topsoil. After doing this for a few years they had cleared block of land, but when we arrived it took a year or two to restore and renovate the soil.
There are only two on the island and they have limited stock, full of stuff for ladies balconies, or men’s allotments(azaleas, herbs, vegetable seedlings and olive trees). The tools sold are of poor quality and you have to buy poisons and weed killers are sold elsewhere. But they do have bags of potting mix. We arrived May, too late for seeds, so I have to rely on Anestis to find and plant seedlings.
Takis speaks Greek, but Anestis, my garden helper only speaks Albanian and seeking I only speak English communication gets difficult. Takis is not always around to translate and anyway he does not always convey what I want. But Anestis and I work together using sign language!
We leave in October, too late to prune, so I have to rely on Anestis to do the winter pruning. This sometimes works but in some cases he’ll prune something to death and in other cases, like the roses, he refuses to prune hard enough.
Anestis is willing to break with some local custom but on the whole he follows the lead of the local (male) gardeners. This can teach me a thing or two, such as watering down trenches. But he’s learnt a few things from me (though as a male he’s not willing to admit it) such as mulching roots of trees and veggies in the summer, and composting, using weeds, kitchen waste, grass clippings from the park, and seaweed and straw (when we can get it.)
Then there were the weeds. You always have a ‘bane of your life’ in each garden, and convolvulus is the one in Lemnos. But there were others. They say, ‘A weed in one place is a chosen plant in another’ but as Edna Walling put it weeds are plants that tend to multiply too quickly in a particular area. Sometimes you may want this but more often plants that do this can be…
Rampageous, however some are easily ripped out (Nasturtium, Purslane)
Tender and Wild and as they come and go at their own will they are often welcome, (Capers, Chamomile, Poppies, Vleeta)
Easily Controlled and so I often keep them (Alyssum, Acanthus, Euphorbia, Pokeweed, Marigolds)
Terrorists and the bane of my gardening life, and I hate them with a vengeance in this garden! (Grasses, Bindweed)