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A Northumberland Alpine Gardener's Diary

This entry: 14 May 2013 by John Richards

Last words on Crete, and back home.

A few more goodies from Crete.

The last two episodes have covered our two weeks in Crete at the end of April, and I cannot leave the subject without illustrating a few more interesting and/or spectacular plants we saw in that richest of all Mediteranean islands.

First, campanulas. I had already illustrated the large endemic biennial bellflower from the east of the island, Campanula pelviformis, which we were pleased to see in several localities. On previous visits, majoring on the west of the long thin island, I had only seen C. tubulosa amongst the endemic species. This is moderately frequent on vertical cliff faces in the west. It is another biennial, and is a recognisable relative of the many local forms of the C. rupestris aggregate on the mainland and many of the other islands, although the rosette leaves are unusually entire. This time we saw it in several places, most often in gorges, but here on the spectacular cliffs beside the road both above and below Asigonia.


A few more goodies from Crete.

Much more exciting, partly because I believe it is a good deal rarer, and is not only perennial, but also has much more spectacular trumpets than C. tubulosa, is another endemic, C. saxatilis. This is a plant that had managed to evade me on a number of previous spring visits. We saw it on screes beside the road above Kissou Kambos, east of Spili, which climbs into the mountains and eventually reaches the famous Gerakari road (with the orchid hill already mentioned).

I was initially baffled by the identity of a tall campanula with large flowers that we found on cliff faces near the bottom of the Kourtaliato Gorge, north-east of Plakias. This stands some 30 cm high, and has surprisingly large flowers. In the end I thought it is probably a rather entire leaved form of one more endemic bellflower, Campanula laciniata, another Cretan speciality I had never seen before.

Most of the endemic bellflowers occur in the many famous Cretan giorges, and there are many other wonderful endemics that inhabit these gorges. Regard for instance the ghostly hanging clusters of the large subshrub, Coronilla globosa (here growing in the Theriso Gorge)

The last picture was the right way up, by the way!

There are four or five endemic Hypericums in Crete, each with its own geographical area. In the eastern Sitia mountains grows Hypericum amblycalyx, here growing on cliffs by the road to Oreino.

There are not as many onosmas in Crete as in Greece, and O. erecta, shown here, is found in the Peloponnesos too. It was in magnificent form as we dropped into the Katharo Plain, above Kritsa.

One cannot mention Cretan cliffs and gorges without discussing the exrtraordinary Petromarula pinnata, a large, monocarpic, primitive member of the Campanulaceae, which is endemic to Crete, one of its ancient survivors. It is surprisingly common, and very variable.

The next photo shows it growing with the famous dittany, Origanum dictamus, another endemic of renowned healing powers, in the Theriso gorge.

We found the lovely shrub, Styrax officinalis, surprisingly common. I adored it and want to grow it.

One last Cretan photo. An abiding memory was vast colorful swags of weeds everywhere, such a rare sight in Britian today. The predominant colour here comes from Corn Marigold, but the whole area, north of the Kourtaliato, was full of eye-dazzling colour.

Back home

It really is time to catch up with the garden, which, although still greatly delayed, is finally producing masses of colour, helped by the absence of any recent frosts (touch wood! I hear rumours about tomorrow night!). Here for instance is the view out of the window as I write this, with Pieris 'Firecrest' predominating.

Back home

As seen in the last photo, the scarlet rhodos, Rh. 'Carmen' and 'King George' are very good this year.

Rhododendron augustinii, taken from cuttings from the Kilbryde strain of 'Magor's Best Blue' is flowering for the first time. Its parent died, possibly of honey fungus.

Some of the woodlanders are good this year. Here is Hylomecon japonicum, followed by Trillium kurubayashii, and Sanguinaria canadensis 'Multiplex'.

At this time of year, much of the garden is a carpet of various colours of wood anemone, A. nemorosa. This self-sows, as does the British strain of the oxlip, Primula elatior.

The little Caucasian Primula juliae has found a place that suits it, a north-facing crevice in a surprisingly stony limestone raised bed.

The same raised bed has pulsatillas, P. halleri, P. vulgaris 'Rubra, and the hybrid between them. The second photo is of the hybrid.

Finally, I am enjoying this combination of Gentiana clusii and Ramonda nathaliae in a trough together. Enough already!!

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