Washingtonia and the mutiny on the Bounty

How can a tree climb a fence? How does the Supreme Council for Personnel Selection (ASEP) harm greenery? And what is the connection between the mutiny on the Bounty and the National Garden? Talking to a horticulturalist is always interesting. All the more so when the person in question is Nikolaos Tambakis, the head of the National Garden for 30 years. Tambakis has devoted most of his life to the garden, from 1954 until his retirement in 1984. Now he is on the board of the garden’s executive committee, and is writing a book about the history of the place. «It’s fascinating,» he told Kathimerini. «They bought 15,000 plants from a nursery in Milan, which were hauled to the garden from Piraeus by cart. At first, they planted three hectares on the southern side. Gradually they brought in other plants and the garden expanded. They brought in plants that were new to Greece, even tropical plants, some of which didn’t survive in the climate of Attica. The breadfruit tree, for example, which the Bounty set out to get, lived only three years. But there are others which came for the first time and are still there, like the Washingtonia, an American species, which was planted in 1842. There are eight of them. Once there was a spruce from Indonesia which climbed the fence of the garden and now it grows everywhere in Greece. That’s the plant in the book «A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,» because it will grow even through a crack in the pavement. But the rare plants in the National Garden are not what Tambakis struggled to save. «All the leaves on the trees in the garden add up to a huge amount of greenery. Just one tenth of a hectare emits 500 cubic meters of oxygen. For that alone, isn’t it worth keeping the garden in the best condition possible?» For many years, he was distressed to see his work slowly wither away. «When the administration is not interested, all parks go to ruin. One plant eats another; that’s nature. If you neglect them, they’ll diminish. They need constant attention. The National Garden didn’t always have that.» Patience The most recent blow to the garden was when the water supply was cut off. The consequences were far-reaching, Tambakis said. He is satisfied with the refurbishment project. «What we must understand now is that a park that is spoiled can’t be repaired like a building. It takes patience, a lot of time, and hands, which are still lacking. We used to have 45 gardeners, now we haven’t even got 10. When we wanted a gardener we asked one and he came. Now they have to go through ASEP. That’s not the way to get work done.»

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