Not just a Kifissia plant sale

The Kifissia Flower Show, for the past few decades a familiar sight this time every year in Athens’s upmarket greenbelt suburb, has been given a new lease on life with the addition of themed exhibits, talks by experts, demonstrations and the inclusion of exhibits by environmental organizations. Now celebrating its fifth decade organizing the show, the Municipality of Kifissia has recently been transforming it from mainly a plant sale by the city’s leading suppliers into more of a true gardening exhibition. «We wanted to add another dimension to the show,» municipal councillor Eleftheria Liapaki, who heads the organizing committee, told Kathimerini English Edition this week. «Apart from the usual plant sales, we wanted to make people aware of the various possibilities for plants other than their decorative potential, for example how they can be used for their scent, as food, and their medicinal uses.» This year exhibitors were asked to base their displays on a particular theme. The results include mini-Cycladic garden showing the most drought-resistant species, a traditional Kifissia garden, a tropical garden and a shaded veranda to a «garden of the senses» for the sight-impaired to enjoy through touch, smell, taste and even sound – by means of a mini-waterfall cascading over rocks. The last exhibit was set up by the Balkan Botanical Garden in Kroussia in northern Greece along the lines of a plant display in its own grounds. There is also an emphasis on rare plants, some of which have been brought to Greece for the first time from botanical gardens abroad. They include a Gingko biloba planted in the park’s central avenue, donated by the Vienna Botanical Garden, which Liapaki visited last year and which also supplied a Wollemi pine (Wollemia nobilis), once thought extinct until 120 specimens were found growing in a gorge in Australia’s Blue Mountains. The Wollemi displayed in Kifissia, the first of its kind exhibited in public, will be planted at the Diomedis Botanical Garden after the show is over. Other rare species include the Weltwichia mirabilis from Namibia, rare orchids and roses such as the mauve Rhapsody in Blue. Organic products on sale Specialist groups represented include associations devoted to roses, palm trees and succulents. Stands have also been set up by the Society of Friends of the Valonia Oak Forest in Aitoloakarnania (which encourages people to plant this species of tree on their own land) as well as the Friends of the Forest based in Varibombi in Attica, the Balkan Botanic Garden in Kroussia in northern Greece, and the Diomedis Botanical Garden in Haidari, Attica. Representatives of the Institute of Agricultural Science at the Syngros Estate – which provides short courses in farming and horticulture, including organic methods – are on hand to give details about the courses available. In addition to the plant exhibits, organic products are on sale from the Epidaurus Agrotourism Festival, Samos and other regions. Though the municipality of Kifissia is celebrating its 52nd anniversary as organizers of the show, the exhibition actually began long before that, when local gardeners working in the area’s large estates banded together to exhibit the plants they had grown, then chiefly fruit and vegetables. It later grew to include decorative plants grown for the estates. It was then taken over by a tourism committee before coming under the jurisdiction of the municipality. Since taking over the show’s leadership, Eleftheria Liapaki, herself an agronomist, has worked to develop contacts not only in Greece but also with botanical gardens abroad. Apart from the Vienna, the organizers have also collaborated with the Frankfurt Botanical Garden, the Diomedis and Balkan botanic gardens, as well as the municipality of Stavroupolis in northern Greece. Horticulturalists have been on hand every day to answer questions from the public about their gardening problems and give advice. Every day, between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., experts have been offering lessons in environmental issues for school groups. Other events taking place include: a demonstration by the Stemnitsa Traditional Gold and Silversmiths Workshop titled «Flowers and Jewelry» tonight at 6.30 p.m.; an Ikebana demonstration tomorrow at noon; a children’s festival both tonight and tomorrow night at 8 p.m.; and on Sunday, the municipality and Friends of the Forest have organized a blood donation drive, while during an evening closing ceremony, prizes will be awarded for the best displays. The Kifissia Flower Show, Kifissia Municipal Park, right opposite the Kifissia ISAP urban train station. Open from 10 a.m. daily until Sunday.