Friday, 12 March 2010

March 12 visit

~ Marjorie Holmes report ~

Meeting with Mayor ~ Yesterday, Thursday 11th March at 10:00am, I attended a very friendly meeting with the Mayor of Corfu, Mr Sotiris Mikallef.

Also in the elegant mayoral office were:

  • Dr Spiros Giorgas
  • Mrs Rodoula Markati (Head of Public International Relations)
  • A gentleman from the press who seemed to be reporting our meeting for his paper.

    We had a wide discussion of the problems of the Bosketto Garden and I was given a beautiful photographic brochure of Corfu inscribed by the Mayor.

    Help and Liaison ~ On a more practical level, it also seemed we found a solution to providing me with assistance in the Bosketto as well as liaison with management:

    Mrs Markati arranged a meeting for 10am today (March 12) at the Bosketto where I was led to believe a member of the garden staff would meet me who would be my ongoing help and point of contact for passing on my ideas and suggestions.

    As I say, this was my impression as I drove down to the Garden the day after the mayoral meeting.

    Needless to say, no one was there to meet me.

    I had brought some large plants which I first placed by the main gate as I looked around for anyone who might be my delegated contact.

    The plants were planned for a shady area near the south entrance, more or less opposite the toilets. At present, this area looks like a large circular sandpit with a number of dead twigs poking through.

    In fact, these are roses but, even in full flower (unlikely since they are in the deepest shade) the only people likely to see them would be those emerging from the toilets.

    Phormium to the rescue ~ I thought a Phormium - two metres high with long spikey green and cream leaves - would look dramatic and a suitable replacement.

    Accordingly, I dug out a good specimen from my own garden and brought it along, together with suitable evergreen ground cover to fill the base soil around.

    Delegated Gardener ~ I assumed that the 'gardener' delegated by Mrs Markati would be waiting to meet me at the gate but I could see no one. I placed the phormium just inside the gate and walked around in case the rendez-vous was elsewhere.

    There was activity down by the playground - now explained to me as managed by the Rotarians and separate from the Bosketti. There was a truck and workmen and I also saw Frederiki supervising the clearance of pruned trees.

    clearingIt was the first time I had seen her since our preliminary meeting at the Bosketto on February 16.

    She asked what the big plant was and I told her, adding that it was my idea to place it in the barren rose bed and remove the sad roses from their unsuitable location.

    I also pointed out the dead shrub on one side of the south entrance gate and suggested a pair of oleanders which are evergreen and in flower during the whole summer.

    Interfering Busy-body ~ At this point I have to say that Ms Brigioti's general attitude and way she spoke to me seemed somewhat ungracious. But I now realise that no one has at any time bothered to tell the ground staff what I am doing there.

    As a result - I am regarded as little more than an interfering busy-body.

    Losing Battle ~ I had been warned beforehand, and I see now that people were right: it has been a losing battle all along.

  • No co-operation

  • No interest

  • Certainly no help

  • I have provided plants of all sizes from my own garden which would have cost a lot to the Municipality were they to purchase them.

  • I have also suggested several labour- and time-saving solutions which have fallen on deaf ears.

    Before leaving, I placed the large Phormium next to the caretaker's hut at the south end. I shall return to plant it on my own and after that will think carefully about setting foot in the Bosketto Garden again.

    ~ Gentleman Gardener ~

    ~ March 16, further thoughts ~

  • Rotarian Playground ~ During my meeting with the Mayor I discovered that the children's playground is under the auspices of the Rotary Club and not part of the Municipality.

    No Reaction In that case, since I never received any reaction to my notes warning me that I was wasting my time, I hope my notes and ideas were passed to the Rotarians for their own benefit.

    The rubbish collection area is particularly important.

    binsAt present there are a sort of canister attachments to trees and lamp-posts - quite discreet, it has to be admitted, but inadequate for the food cartons and other detritus of picnic food. In fact, I never even noticed them until after several visits to that area.

    I would suggest two large containers either side of the entrance gate suitably enclosed with a lattice-work covering.

    Well-dressed Greek Gentleman: The last time I was in the gardens, standing near the entrance gates, a well-dressed Greek gentleman nearby commented on how beautiful the planting round the fountain was.

    I said I had reservations about that because the stocks and marigolds were short lived and for many months of the year there was nothing in flower.

    Cineraria ~ No matter, he assured me, as soon as these were over, he was putting in cineraria which he loved ~ so bright and pretty ...

    Of course he knew they were short lived but they would be flowering at Easter and after that he would put something else in.

    A Man who can choose ~ Who is this character who can choose what he personally wants and is assured that they will be looked after?

    Plants for window sills ~ Cineraria are greenhouse potted plants usually bought by people with no gardens for their winter window sills. They will of course survive out of doors in this mild climate but are definitely not summer plants.

    No Budget: Does he or the Municipality have their own nurseries and greenhouses where such exotics can be raised?

    At the very start, when I met Mr Kuluris at my house and he outlined the Bosketto project for which they wanted my advice, he made it clear there was no budget to spare.

    No Money ~ When I first visited the gardens in the company of senior officials, and made a few modest suggestions about suitable plants, Frederiki explained that they had no money to spend on plants.

    If they are so hard up, how can this man grandly suggest making new plantings every 6 weeks or so of greenhouse-type plants which will be discarded once flowering is over?

    If they want colour, what is wrong with geraniums - both upright and hanging/pendant - perfectly hardy here, especially in the sheltered seaside position of the Bosketto. They are in flower for at least 6 months of the year if regularly dead-headed, or is that too much to expect?

    The Practical Periwinkle ~ Otherwise, my original suggestion of periwinkle is both practical and time saving: It is evergreen, spreading, rooting as it goes along but easily controlled and covered with pretty blue flowers from March to June.

    The variegated cream and green-leaved variety is particularly attractive even out of flower.

    Irises have started flowering (mid-March) and are endemic to Greece. A stately pure white as well as a beautiful mauve and purple flowered variety has just appeared in my garden, both collected from the roadsides and uncultivated hills back in my early days of gardening here.

    bare bedsThe Bosketto is filled with empty beds, the soil so poor that most of them are devoid even of weeds.

    empty beds It is now mid March when even the roadsides are burgeoning with wild flowers.

    Much-visited, nothing to show: Here is this much-visited public garden with nothing to show except for some stunted rows of unsuitable greenhouse plants or ugly marigolds - and even these are not yet in flower.

    There are empty beds in mostly very shady positions - surely it is better to fill them with some sort of evergreen - even ivy - than to leave them neglected and bare?

    gatesRenewing the grass ~ At my first visit to the gardens, I suggested renewing the non-existent grass on the left-hand side of the gate to match the luxuriant sward on the opposite. Seed could have been sown at the time and would be in good growth by now. Of course nothing has been done and if grass is still planned, expensive turves will have to be laid and regularly watered.

    On one hand, Municipal staff say they have no money to spend, on the other there is the obvious extravagance of putting in unsuitable time-consuming plants.

    dirty fountainWhen I was first approached to help on this project, I was assured of any necessary help when needed.

    MH and FrederikiThe reality has been that the only times I have even seen anybody has been 16 and 17 February when Frederiki and George were in the Garden [see photo], and March 12 when a truck-load of workmen were clearing away the tree prunings.

    I asked one of them to assist in some simple brief task, only to be snapped at,

    "Can't you see we are working?"
    It was soon after this that it was pointed out to me - one month after I had first met Mr Kuluris - that no work of any kind was undertaken by garden personnel without prior clearance from his office.

    It seemed that all my visits, my suggestions, all my questions and advice to the working staff I met at the Bosketto - it had all been a waste of time.

    Right from the start, no one had had permission to assist or work with me.

  • Comments:

    I read all the above with great interest.

    I think I was the first to suggest to the Mayor and to Ms. Frederiki Brigioti (in charge of Corfu Parks and Gardens) that the participation of the International Garden Group of Corfu, under the auspices of Lady Holmes, would be of great benefit to the Boschetto (Bosketto).

    This was in the year 2005. I still have the correspondence with the Mayor.

    A small group of us had approached Mr. Sotirios Micallef (then newly- elected Mayor of Corfu Town)) and had suggested to him the creation of a voluntary group, the purpose of which would be to improve the visual appearance of the Municipality for the benefit of its inhabitants and visitors alike.

    The Mayor welcomed the idea and promised that he would put the idea to the Council. He told us that in the meantime he had appointed two Council members to help us in our group. They were Mr. Koulouris and Mr. Zoumboulides. We thanked him.

    Since then we have heard nothing from the Mayor’s Office. I have never seen either Mr. Koulouris or Mr. Zoumboulides. They never contacted me. The idea obviously never went through the Council. The Boschetto was not the only initiative we had proposed.
    The entire voluntary concept collapsed. The Municipality seems to have a different agenda and priorities from those of us who really love the place.

    My despair about the island and these fruitless efforts made me write “To Poulima tis Panoreas” (“The Pimping of Panorea”). If Panorea is not understood as the allegorical personification of Corfu, people must be wearing blinkers. To some it may seem like a rap-like manifesto or urgent call to action (K. Kardamis). According to D. Konidaris, it “should be read by political candidates, and by all those who work in institutions and who hold any kind of power, or who hold the fate of the island in their hands”.

    In the end, it seemed that the only tool I had to help Panorea/Corfu a little was my pen.

    Did the Mayor put the offer of Lady Holmes’ advice and input to the Municipal Council? Was it approved by the Council? Were instructions subsequently given to the relevant department to help Lady Holmes?

    I sometimes wonder how the renaming of Boschetto has benefited the long -suffering garden.

    Boschetto is part of every Corfiot’s soul and an integral part of our cultural heritage.

    If admirers of the Durrells want to contribute something to Corfu they could provide a fund and expertise to help this precious garden of our dreams (not just with statues). They could have done for Corfu (in practical terms) what Gerald Durrell and his colleagues did for Jersey and Lawrence and his admirers did for Sommieres (France) and other parts of the world. They could have helped (and could still help) in real terms to make Boschetto become a true garden of peace and reflection.

    I am deeply sorry about the situation that has arisen following Lady Holmes’ generous offer to advise and help.

    The Corfiots have no idea how lucky they are to have a lady like her living permanently in Corfu. She is a true artist and a fantastic gardener and her help, wisdom, taste and expertise would have been invaluable. If anything, Boschetto should have been named after her; a woman who decided to spend- not only most of her life in Corfu- but also studied our plants and created a beautiful garden with Mediterranean plants on her land which is open for people to see and admire.

    Lady Homes truly loves Corfu. She is a treasure from whom we could learn so much.

    I am deeply disappointed by our authorities and their lack of professionalism. When is this shambles going to stop?

    Many of our non-Greek residents have great expertise and brains that could contribute a lot to this island.

    If asked properly and if we involved them in the correct way they could do wonders for this island.

    So I return to my poor Panorea and my lament. The island will drown one day, metaphorically and in reality. The Durrells would be turning in their graves. Sometimes I am ashamed to be a Corfiot.

    I would just like to remind you all that I do love Corfu (and Boschetto) more than anybody can imagine: I was born here, lived here and although for long periods I had to travel overseas, my mind never left the place of my birth. Thank you.

    Maria Strani-Potts
    oh boy oh boy - i hadnt read these robust supportive comments. by the periwinkles of pericles! i wish id shown this to maman. talk about sticking it to the man.

    just perhaps, the BIMA article and their dig at the bosketto debacle, and my blog may waken some consciences.

    maria, send me the link to your panorea blast on maman's behalf and i will incorporate into the body of the main blog or even the photo album

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