An ancient Greek myth warned that if someone tried to pick a water lily, the nymph protecting the lake would seduce them with her song and drag them down into the water forever. That is why the ancient Greeks plugged their ears with wax when they gathered water lilies to eat, according to the director of the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, Maria Lagogianni.
The museum has its own lake with water lilies now – albeit a small artificial one – as well as a new garden with around 700 plants in the atrium, that will be unveiled on Friday after a renovation to mark the museum’s 150th anniversary.
The garden is the work of landscape architect Antonis Skordilis, with the support of Japan Tobacco International.
The NAM atrium garden was first planted after World War II and Skordilis and the Ecoscapes company refreshed the design and plants along the same lines. All the original trees have been preserved, while shrubs, herbs and other decorative plants endemic to Greece have been added around them.
The soil was also refreshed with a special kind that is very absorbent and isn’t negatively affected by being walked on, which will allow visitors to approach the plants rather than having to stick to the path.
“The main idea was to use plants that are associated with Greek mythology and ancient Greece,” says Skordilis.
To this end, the landscape architect has divided the park into sections, each of which has its own theme. Six plants in each of these mini-gardens will be replaced every three to four months to acquaint visitors with their mythological significance. The yew, for example, is dedicated to the Furies, who shot offending humans with arrows dipped in the poison of this toxic plant.
New plants will be highlighted with signposts explaining their role in Greece’s age-old myths.
“We will also associate the plants with the museum’s exhibits and events so as to create the sense of a comprehensive cultural experience,” says Lagogianni.