Facing climate change at home

A garden in the style of Provence greets visitors at the entrance to this year’s Kifissia Flower Show, where the theme is climate change. Exhibits on water-saving gardens and an emphasis on native Mediterranean plants show gardeners how to choose plants suitable for dry climates. «Our focus this year is both education and the market – we want people to learn how to buy plants,» said Nikolaos Thymakis, horticulturalist for the Municipality of Kifissia and its annual Flower Show, now in its 53rd year. «We want to encourage people to plant everywhere, in their gardens, on their balconies and inside their homes,» he said. Apart from producers’ stands where around 2,000 different species are on sale, there are exhibits on the theme of drought-tolerant plants and displays by a number of organizations dedicated to protecting the natural environment. The Friends of the Forest, the Hellenic Society for the Protection of Nature, WWF Greece, Greenpeace, the Amadryada Association of Friends of the Oak, from Aitoloacarnania, the Botanic Gardens of Greece, the Hellenic Cactus and Succulents Society and the Mediterranean Garden Society are there to present and talk about their work. Maggie Dimitrakopoulou of Amadryada put the problem of preserving biodiversity into perspective. «It isn’t just a question of protecting a particular tree. These forests are disappearing because of man’s activities, but if the trees disappear, then life will no longer be sustainable in that part of the country. If the trees go, the climate will not be able to support plants that provide fodder for sheep and goats.» «We tried to get as many groups as possible that work toward protecting plants in Greece,» said Thymakis. The focus is a welcome one for all those looking for cultivated Mediterranean plants, which many nurseries do not stock. For example, Euphorbia harachias (spurge), which grows everywhere in the wild here, is not cultivated for sale in Greece, but is in other parts of Europe. Themed exhibits include one devoted to indoor greenery, including the humble spider plant (which, according to a NASA study, is the single best plant for absorbing pollutants), plants for the office and a water structure display for the entrance to an apartment building. Bougainvillea and rhynchospermum grace the entrance to a display of a front garden for a detached house. Terrace gardens are represented with two exhibits, one in the Botanic Gardens stand, the other designed by Aris Poulimenos using cacti and succulents. Exhibits focusing on a single species of plant include one by the Greek Palm Society, another on hydrangeas, cacti and succulents and two on bonsai, one of which is by the Greek Bonsai Collectors’ Club, exhibiting for the first time. This year, visitors are being asked to vote for their favorite plant from among a group of five different species. The winner will be used as the trademark of the Greek Florists and Garden Design Association. The Kifissia Flower Show is also continuing its fruitful association with the University of Vienna, which has contributed 35 different geranium varieties to the park. A program of special events includes a talk this evening at 6.30 p.m. on conserving the Mt Pendeli environment. At 11.30 tomorrow morning WWF and the Hellenic Society for the Protection of Nature have presentations on climate change. On Sunday, a discourse on the work of Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus, born 300 years ago this year, is scheduled for 6 p.m., followed by a concert of classical music. The Friends of the Forest will discuss ways to protect the Mt Parnitha forest next Wednesday, May 9 at 6 p.m. The flower show is open every day from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. until May 13. New network for Greece’s botanic gardens On the second day of the flower show, representatives of 10 Greek botanic gardens met to set up an informal network aimed at developing cooperation and exchanges of information and plants, as well as to organize representation abroad, co-ordinator Taxiarhis Andritsopoulos told Kathimerini English Edition. The representatives decided to keep the structure of the network informal so as to avoid bureaucracy. They established minimum specifications for botanic gardens joining the network, one being that they must be open to the public, even if by appointment only. They need not have solely Mediterranean plants but a certain percentage of the plants must be identified and classified. The 10 founding members of the network are the Balkan Botanic Garden at Kroussia, Kilkis, the Diomedes Botanic Garden outside Athens, the Kaisariani Botanic Garden of the Athens Filodasiki Association, the Neohori Botanic Garden, the botanic gardens of the universities of Athens and Thessaloniki, the Municipal Botanic Garden of Stavroupoli, Cephalonia Botanica, the Flora and Fauna Conservation Park of the University of Crete, the Botanic Garden of the University of Vienna, and the Kifissia Flower Show. Eleni Maloupa, of the Balkan Botanic Garden, is Greece’s representative at Botanic Garden Conservation International (BGCI), whose aims she presented along with the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation. Michael Kiehn, of the Botanic Garden, University of Vienna, Austria, explained that in Austria there is a similar informal network.