Tag Archives: cyclamen

WELCOME BACK, PERSEPHONE!

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We were still in Austin when Persephone began her journey back from Hades to return to her grieving mother, so we missed the earliest signs celebrating the end of winter on the Pelion.

Winters here are typically mild with very occasional snowfall and rarely any frost, but the rainfall can be heavy and this past winter it certainly was. No complaints at all as we really needed it; many springs had dried up during the previous summer, causing considerable difficulty for those who depend upon them for their water supply.

The ancients would have attributed this generous rainfall to Zeus, god of rain, who reigned supreme on Mt Olympus. Good of him to spare the time from his lusty pursuit of young maidens! His daughter, Persephone, surely appreciated it for the wildflowers have done her proud, happy as we all are to welcome her back.

Greece is renowned for her wildflowers, and deservedly so for they are spectacular, not only in their beauty but also in their variety.
Habitats are many and diverse: sandy coastlines, pastureland and scrub, rocky ravines, wooded highlands and craggy mountains, saltwater, freshwater, well-watered lands and dry, wind-lashed and tightly sheltered, all with their particular plants adapted through the aeons to their conditions.

Man’s influence has inevitably been enormous. The maquis, which might at first glance seem untouched by man’s activities, will almost without exception have been affected in some way by previous populations and their lifestyles, stretching back into antiquity. The mountains of the Pelion region were once dense with native hardwoods; today only comparatively minute forested areas remain. Man is an innovative creature and where there is something – whatever it may be – to his advantage, he will make use of it.

Greece is a paradise for botanists professional and amateur alike, who may be seen, notebook in hand, hiking enthusiastically about as they spot and document plants. Several species are unique, found only in one particular location, such as an island. Many plants are rare, threatened, on the verge of extinction, others have already vanished, identified only in old engravings and drawings, the regrettable result of man’s impact on the environment.

Wildflowers of varying types appear throughout the year; some are tiny, almost invisible, others stand tall. Colour! Colour! Colour! The bees are frantically busy, knowing that warm days will inevitably end, while the beekeepers carefully tend their hives, moving them about to take advantage of the best nectar. Pelion honey, infused with flavour fit for the gods, is much sought after.

Spring and summer flowers retire, their seeds and bulbs lying peacefully dormant until Persephone calls to them again. Autumn arrives, throwing down dense carpets of cyclamen, welcoming the approach of winter, much as local residents roll out their rugs and kilims in preparation for the cool damp days ahead when more time must be spent indoors.

Look closely, remembering that the photos will enlarge when you click on them, and in some of the photos you’ll spot bugs, bees, butterflies  buzzing busily in the abundance! The cycle continues as birds and other wildlife feed, thus ensuring seed dispersal, and preparing the way for Persephone to return in all her ageless beauty.

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IN THE PINK

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Jason

Cyclamen Graecum – Greek cyclamen – is native to the eastern Mediterranean, lying low during the hot, dry summers, to awaken slowly into full bloom as the autumn rains make their entrance. Where there is shade and a little moisture, a few eager blooms begin to appear in late summer, a gentle reminder to make the most of summer’s remaining days. The flowers seem delicate, but these plants are hardy and thrive in poor soil, peeping up among the rocks, and even quite literally out of a rock if there’s a bit of soil caught in a hollow.

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Anywhere it Can

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Hanging On

Here on the Pelion where there are large areas of open ground on the hillsides and among the olive groves, the cyclamen are quite a sight scattered about among the rocks and stones. Other wild flowers are preparing for their spring debut, and their leaves are pushing up wherever they too can find a space. Wild oregano and fennel waft their scent through the air, adding to the pleasure of those who take the time to walk through the fields to wonder at the cyclamen.

Seeing such beauty every day is inspirational, so I dived deep into my stash to capture something of it, with the result that Jason has another hat. He made no sound as I hauled him through the fields of pink, seeming content to fix his glassy eyes upon the lovely upswept petals in their shades of pink, arising from heart-shaped dark green leaves.

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Will an olive fall on my head?

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Gazing in Wonder

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Maybe a Centaur Will Appear

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Are there spiders in there?

Cyclamen, derived from the ancient Greek word, kyklaminos, meaning shaped like a circle, which probably refers to the round tuber, are very popular in gardens and as pot plants. There are many cultivated varieties in every possible shade of pink, ranging through to stunning crimsons, and what a vibrant display they make.

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Cultivated Cyclamen

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In the Market


And so many colours!

But there’s something about field after field of these little flowers whose history traces deep back into antiquity that can’t be captured in a pot.

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What IS this??

‘BYE ‘BYE BIRDIES

 

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Summer is reluctantly drawing to its end here; there are all sorts of little reminders that winter is sneaking up on us.  The cyclamen has begun to appear. Tiny clusters at the moment, but in a few weeks there’ll be large areas of these delicate pink plants with their distinctive flowers and leaves.

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Most of the swallows have already left, but one particular swallow clan and their offspring remain. These have returned to their large communal nest on a balcony for the third year now. At least I think it’s the same extended family. Apparently swallows mate for life, and this group has certainly done its bit for the swallow population with three sets of hatchlings this season. This is probably why their flight has been delayed as the last of the baby swallows have only just left the nest. I suspect ma and pa are quite anxious for the youngsters to build up their strength so that they too can journey along the ancient and perilous migration paths.

Busy, busy these parents have been for months, zapping past my window from the first glimmers of dawn until they’re mingling with the emerging bats at end of day. I’m delighted that their mud home has remained unoccupied so far during the long winters, for I’ve noticed that these sturdy dwellings are often taken over by winter squatters, and once that happens, the swallows shun the nest.

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I haven’t yet been able to identify the housebreakers which are small and somewhat sparrow-like, but they certainly do disrupt the swallow housing developments, and make an enormous mess of droppings from the high-rise apartments they have commandeered under the eaves.

 

Swallows feed on the wing, catching insects in mid-flight, but they flash by so quickly I’ve never yet been able to capture a decent photograph. Instead, here are pictures of a spotted flycatcher returning to her colourful home in the roof with an unfortunate grasshopper – dinner for the three raucous fledgings she was nurturing in June – and dessert of some sort of grub.

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She spent the whole summer only a couple of feet from my study window, so I was able to watch her preparing the nest with cheerful snippets I’d made available. When I sew, I try to trim seams outside in the garden, while small pieces of yarn from knitting projects get tossed out the windows. These bits blow around and are quite often picked up by birds to weave into their nests.

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Mama flycatcher was quite selective in what she chose to use, with a strong preference for red.

As for Raki, he was enthralled by the spectacle, and spent long periods chittering indignantly at the comings and goings, and although the nest is now empty he still stares hopefully up at it. But soon our feathered winter vistors will arrive and we all look forward to their antics.

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