CULTURE

Coastal route is being planted

The embankments of soil separating Poseidonos Avenue from the newly laid tramlines along the coastal road in Moschato and Neo Faliron have just begun to be planted, marking the final stage in the construction of the service and providing future passengers with a restful view of greenery on one side of the tracks to contrast with the busy road traffic on the other. Over 8,000 shrubs and trees will hold the soil, create a microclimate, and perhaps even serve as an example for gardeners with similar landscaping problems at home. Work has just started on planting various shrubs along the bank, according to architect Vicky Kesisoglou, an urban design specialist with the tram construction company (Tram SA). Mixture of plants The list of plants for Moschato includes a number of Mediterranean species, such as myrtle; aromatic rosemary and lavender; the drought-tolerant Hypericum (with bright yellow flowers); the ubiquitous and hardy oleander (that also withstands exhaust fumes well); as well as the less often encountered but attractive Lagerstroemia, which produces bright pink flowers in August; the sturdy windbreak Elaeagnus and lantana, another vigorous, summer-flowering shrub, along with Grevillea, fast-growing evergreens whose nectar is particularly attractive to birds. The planting comes none too soon as, though not high, the embankments are steep and the soil not well-established, much of it having been trucked in over the past few weeks. The roots of a row of established palm trees along Poseidonos Avenue at the top of the bank have been exposed by the excavation for the tramlines. Any sudden summer shower is not only likely to wash away the soil but further undermine these trees. The new plants will be watered by an irrigation system connected to bore water in municipalities that have it, otherwise by the Athens Water and Sewage Company (EYDAP) network, which will have outlets at each station. Amateur gardeners who commute to and from Piraeus along Ethnarhou Makariou Street should be on the lookout for the vegetation to appear. Ground covers Steep slopes are always a challenge in any garden; the usual solution is to create terraces, but where the slope is too steep and short, other solutions have to be found. Stabilizing soil on steep embankments is extremely difficult. Even if the entire embankment has been planted, ground water seeping through can still cause erosion, but generally plant roots hold the soil in place and the leaves protect the soil, slowing down the rate at which water soaks into the ground. Turfgrass is the most widely used, but many other low herbaceous and woody plants are suitable, particularly native and naturalized species which require less fertilizer, pesticides and other maintenance. Turf has the added disadvantage of being difficult and sometimes dangerous to mow on slopes. In fact, many sources claim that using grass on a slope will not prevent erosion but that slopes covered with a mix of native shrubs and trees and perennials are more successful. Ground covers are one of the best erosion controls and include any plant material that covers the ground surface so that rain cannot fall directly on the soil, wearing it away. Mixtures of ground covers can be used to vary height, texture and color and to reduce heat, glare, noise, and dust. Dry, sandy soils Using plant material is one of the best methods of controlling erosion caused by coastal forces in dry sandy soils such as that along the Athens coast. In sunny conditions, the following are some of the many perennial groundcovers considered suitable: Artemisia (silvery foliage); Campanula (bellflowers), although these like some shade; Ceratostigma plumbaginoides which spreads underground runners in loose soil; Coronilla (golden flowers from winter to spring); Dianthus deltoides, also known as maiden pink, which flowers for months in summer; all species of Geranium, Gypsophila repens (small white summer flowers); labor-saving Iberis sempervirens (candytuft); the summer blue flowers of Nepeta; Phlox subulata, which forms a mat; Potentilla, which tolerates the poorest soils; the succulent Sedum and the furry-leaved Stachys. It is more effective to vary planting on a slope than to cover it all with the same plant. A mixture of plants will result in layers of vegetation that will reduce the impact of the rainfall on the ground. The best way to ensure that new plants endure is to look at the plants already growing on or near the site as the basis for new plant selections.