CULTURE

Gardening in Greece made easy

Attractive, compact and eminently practical, Jennifer Gay’s «Greece: The Garden of the Gods» makes a welcome addition to any gardener’s bookshelf. A professional gardener who also writes a regular column for the Athens News (which published this volume), Gay conveys an infectious enthusiasm for Greek plants and their habitat together with a wealth of useful information. Both the seasoned gardener looking for tips on growing things in Greece and the novice who hardly knows their hoe from their humus will find plenty of helpful advice here – all in readily digestible form. Gay enlivens the horticultural with the history and mythology of what she calls the «Greek floral cornucopia.» Outlining the evolution of the terrain and how its rugged isolation engendered an astonishing diversity of plant life, she shares her expertise at incorporating that wealth into everyday gardens. The basic techniques are here, adapted to the special requirements of the local climate and terrain. From the prudent use of water to soil care, compost, mulch and pest control, Gay always emphasizes the need to garden in harmony with Greek conditions, be that on a tiny urban balcony or a weather-beaten hillside. Rather than being proscriptive, she suggests appealing alternatives – ground cover plants or even paving rather than water-thirsty lawns, for instance, or setting one bug to catch another instead of zapping them, and the environment, with chemicals. An alternative spin on what is disposable introduces what some people might dismiss as weeds in their delicious Greek guise as horta or edible greens. The troubleshooting section offers commonsense solutions to typical garden bugbears – harsh coastal climates, excessive wind or heat, overexposed or over-shaded corners. The plant directory, with clear, color illustrations, is a careful selection of 100 plants suited to Greek gardens, helpfully divided into trees, shrubs, climbers, perennials, bulbs, the palm family and succulents. Each has a succinct guide to uses, cultivation and propagation. Handy symbols indicate degrees of hardiness, sun and shade preferences and plant shapes. A plant glossary lists plants by botanical name, family, the English common name and, a special bonus, the Greek common name, where known. For this last detail alone Gay deserves the gratitude of gardeners. Ever roamed the plant nurseries and local markets of Greece in unavailing attempts to find Spanish Dagger or Spiny Bear’s Breeches? The solution to your quest is here. A glossary of terms and a bibliography complete this appealing book.