Lady Bird Johnson, wife of President Lyndon B Johnson, together with Helen Hayes founded what became the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center which is both stunningly beautiful and a significant educational resource.
Mrs Johnson, Texas-born like her husband, devoted considerable time, energy and enthusiasm to promoting knowledge and appreciation of the vast number of native Texan plants, encouraging the planting of indigenous species and in so doing gave the state of Texas an immeasurable gift.
Texas fields and highways are awash with color each spring as the flowers bloom, as is many a private garden whose owner appreciates the beauty of the flowers and the ecological advantages of planting them.
This year the blooms have been breathtaking in their color and abundance, thanks to some well-timed early spring rains, even though Texas still suffers from a severe drought. Bluebonnets are amongst the first to appear; so intense is their hue that the fields seem blanketed in a dense blue velvet. They are followed by Indian Paintbrush, Winecap, Primrose, Mexican Hat, and daisies to name just some of the wildflowers which call Texas home.
Such beauty! To mark their appearance Jason got a new hat from some bits of yarn in my stash, and even though he’s missed most of the wildflowers of the Pelion this year, he didn’t complain.
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Tagged Helen Hayes, Indian Paintbrush, Jason, Lady Bird Johnson, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Lyndon B Johnson, Mexican Hat, Pelion, Primrose, Texas, Winecap
Whichever way you spell it, the kilims shown in the last entry radiate with colour. I was almost overwhelmed when I entered the dazzling display area on a rather grey wintry evening. Colour leapt out at me. Colour embraced me. Colour cheered and colour warmed me.
This impressive exhibit was expertly curated by Magda Karastathis on behalf of the Lafkos Community Association. Magda studied at the prestigious Athens School of Fine Arts and taught at schools in Patras, Athens and Volos before her recent retirement. Her family is from the Lafkos/Milina area: Lafkos, the ancient fortified village on the hilltop, which afforded more protection from invaders and pirates; Milina, now a beautiful village on the Pagasitic Gulf, but only a fishing spot in those very early days.
Summer visitors to the Pelion Peninsula are often surprised to hear that we have a distinct winter season. They’re even more stunned to learn that snow’s not uncommon, and that Mt Pelion has a ski resort. Winters are not usually severe, but there are many dreary days for we have the typical winter rainfall of the Mediterranean climate. If grey’s your colour, take your pick of shades, but it’s not mine and so, still steeped in the saturated colours of the exhibited kilims, I dived into my yarn stash the next day.
The bobbles and tassels had really caught my imagination!
This striking plant, called hen-and-chickens in South Africa where it is indigenous, has long been known to the native populations, some of which still use it in various forms of herbal medicine. It was first identified in 1794, and given the name Chlorophytum Comosum.
Since then it has been cultivated into many varieties all over the world, gaining itself common names such as spider plant, airplane plant; the botanical name of this particular one is vittatum. You can tell that it’s a very obliging plant, easy to grow, by the fact that it thrives in my garden even though I’m not possessed of green fingers. It’s certainly what you might call an enthusiastic plant, throwing its offspring out into the world to seek their fortune, rather like the mythical Jason did.
Now that you’ve had a botany lesson, let me tell you how Jason’s latest hat came about.
The chickens/spiders/airplanes that this plant has produced continuously since summer have been catching my eye daily. I needed to do something with yarn! Mythos Minor was particularly enthusiastic as he’s under the impression that the wild antics of knitting yarn and fingers are solely for his amusement, but Jason maintained his thoughtful composure.
Are we ready to continue?
Which colour are we playing with first?
This inaction is getting seriously boring – are you going to knit or what?
Who’s that coming in the cat door?
Mythos Major offers to help
Plantlets for Africa
How and when did these sturdy plants come to the Pelion Peninsula? Greece has been a seafaring nation since antiquity which makes me wonder if some plant-loving adventurer collected the first specimens in the forests of unknown Africa?
What’s going on?
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Tagged camouflaged, cat door, cats, Chlorophytum comosum, forests, hat, herbal, indigenous, Jason, knitting, medicine, minor, Mythos Major, Pelion, plantlets, plants, Southern Africa, vittatum, yarn
The Death’s-Head Hawkmoth is very large with markings resembling a skull, hence the name, and has long been associated throughout Europe with all manner of superstitions. It squeaks, which I find fascinating, but this unique ability has doubtless contributed to its ill-deserved reputation as an announcer of death, predicting everything from plague to war.
Eye-catching! The Hawkmoth caterpillar
The genus name is Acherontia, a reference to the river Acheron in the Epirus area of Greece. The Acheron flows from the mountains down into the Ionian Sea, and was prominent in Greek mythology as one of the five rivers of death in the Underworld.
Perhaps Persephone wandered its banks, weeping into the dark waters?
I’ve seen the Hawkmoth caterpillars on the property fairly frequently, feeding their way voraciously along, but have never been able to capture a good picture of the moth. Unless one happens to fly into the light, they’re not easy to spot at night but I’ve heard the strange squeak they make; one can understand why primitive peoples were so preoccupied with them.
No pesticides or poisons of any sort have ever been used on this land so we are fortunate to have quite a variety of insects which creep and crawl, flutter and fly about on their foraging missions, ducking and diving from their natural predators. Yes, of course the garden suffers to some extent, but it’s amazing how the birds by day and the bats by night sort things out somewhat.
I wasn’t ready for this close-up!
The colourful Death’s-Head Hawkmoth caterpillars are so striking that the lowly worms inching and squinching their munching way along seem insignificant by comparison.
Forget the cyclamen flowers, I need the leaves
Whether they creep or crawl, are large or small, worms and caterpillars are highly regarded by birds, so their lives are constantly under threat whatever their colouring.
Knitting needles, a few yards of yarn and a button or two – I give you GoogliBugs.
Watch out for birds!
Quite tasty, no?
Minor’s puzzled…where’d he go?
What is this stuff?
Nice ‘n’ fresh!
Trying to worm your way in?
Lots here to fatten me up!
These leaves aren’t up to much, don’t you think?
The food’s beautifully presented
Pink’s my favourite colour
With a lot of luck, these may become moths and butterflies!
Are we related?
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Tagged bats, birds, Caterpillar, colour, crawling, creeping, Europe, garden, GoogliBug, Greek mythology, Ionian sea, kids, knitting, leaves, moths, Pelion, threat, Underworld, worms
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.
Anywhere it Can
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.
Will an olive fall on my head?
Gazing in Wonder
Maybe a Centaur Will Appear
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.
Are there spiders in there?
And so many colours!
In the Market
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.
What IS this??
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Tagged ancient Greek, antiquity, autumn, Centaurs, circle, crimson, cultivated, cultivated varieties, cyclamen, cyclamen graecum, eastern Mediterranean, Greece, heart-shaped, Jason, leaves, olive groves, patterned, Pelion, pink, pot plants, rocks, soil, spiders, summer, wildflowers
As I have already mentioned, the summer visitors have left the Pelion peninsula, sad to go, I would think. The weather was glorious. The refreshing waters of the Pagasitic gulf welcomed the swimmers and divers, and played gently with the littlies who paddled and splashed away happily. All manner of watercraft made its way up and down the gulf, the traffic increasing quite a bit in August when most Europeans take their vacation. Great fun!
There’s an expression in these parts to the effect that the lights go out on the last day of August, and to an extent it’s true. People seal up their summer homes, closing the shutters firmly, tightening everything up against the winter gales that make ancient olive trees vulnerable to their fury, while Poseidon whips the Pagasitic into a frenzy of white water.
No calendar alerts me to the end of the season. The little motorboats being towed up from the resort at Paou to their winter storage tell me that it’s over, that summer is shutting down. Two by two they go, a boatman in front pulling an unmanned boat behind him.
Then he returns, sometimes alone, and sometimes with another boatman, to fetch more. There’s something so final about it. The empty boats, part of a holiday package deal, passed by last week. It’s easy to imagine they were tired, and indeed they are, for they’ve been taking holidaymakers around since early May. They will be cleaned, repaired, painted and freshened up to make memories for vacationers next year.
All by Myself
The people who work so hard in the tourist industry, invariably cheerful through the long, blistering heat of the summer, are making winter preparations also. Some, but not all of them, will be able to take a well-earned rest.
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Tagged boatman, boats, caique, calendar, divers, fury, gales, glorious weather, good waters, gulf, holiday, holidaymakers, Kala Nera, Manolis, memories, motorboats, olive trees, package deal, paddled, Pagasitic, Paou, Pelion, peninsula, Poseidon, season, splashed, summer, summer visitors, swimmers, tourist industry, vacation, vacationers, white water, yacht
The sun has been making a tentative appearance today which is encouraging the Sternbergia buds to put on a growth spurt, so we’ll soon have these cheerful yellow flowers dotted about the Pelion again.
Jason was staring at me in his transparent manner these last few days, so I decided to brighten him up with a new hat. He models it as silently as ever. I think I’ll wear it myself quite a bit in the greyest days of the coming winter when the dazzling gold of the Sternbergia fades into memory.
Van Cat in the Long Grass
Under the Olives
Cozying up to the Cyclamen
Among the Wild Flowers
In the Bushes
Still in the Bushes
Out of the Bushes
Raki, always curious and ever convinced of his helpfulness, batted one of the Sternbergia gauge swatches off the coffee table and really got stuck into his prey.
I have mentioned before that various Greek gods of mythology were said to be responsible for bad weather, and last night they outdid themselves. An almighty storm blew up out of nowhere as we were reading ourselves to sleep. It raced across the Pagasitic from Volos where torrential rain caused such flooding that news reports likened the streets of Volos to the canals of Venice, and had us scrambling out of bed, scattering indignant cats in our wake, as we rushed to secure the shutters. And did it rain! The water slammed against the shutters and the windows and thundered down on the roof, battering the garden as though driven by some fury of envy at the early autumn loveliness. The gods were certainly enraged. All of them were in on the act, but whose tantrum started it? Zeus flung his thunderbolts about in a frenzy, fuming at Aeolus to release the storm winds. Poseidon, not one to be outdone, shot up from the depths to make his menacing entrance. Talk about a tempest!
The rampage was shortlived, no damage, but a quick inspection this morning revealed that the Sternbergia had suffered. The delicate yellow flowers which are such a delight as winter approaches, were no match for the arrogant actors in this latest drama.
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Tagged actors, Aeolus, arrogant, bad weather, canals, cats, flooding, flowers, garden, Greek gods, Hera, mythology, Pagasitic, Pelion, Poseidon, rain, roof, shutters, Sternbergia, storm, torrential rain, Venice, Volos, water, winter, Zeus
The ancient Greeks sought to explain thunderstorms as resulting from the temper tantrums of Zeus who liked to hurl thunderbolts around when enraged. Not known for fidelity to Hera, his wife, the mighty god was rather fond of larking about with nubile nymphs, causing Hera considerable grief. Tempestuous were the rows which resulted. We seldom experience a thunderstorm in Summer, whereas now, as we move ever so slowly into Winter, we have had some spectacular ones, with more expected; maybe Zeus and Hera are regaining their energy in the cooler weather.
Mt Olympus Home of the Twelve Gods
Zeus rumbled and grumbled all night long, stumbling about from North to South, from West to East in an ever-changing pattern. Just as we seemed assured of a heavy downpour, the great mass of cloud shifted its attentions across the Gulf from us and a massive hailstorm destroyed almost all the almond crop in Farsala.
Here on the Peninsula we know better than to trust the weather reports completely, and a common response when one asks about the weather forecast is: “Look out of the window.” The Pelion Peninsula is rugged and rocky. Gorges and gullies abound. Rivers and streams flow from the mountain’s ravines, particularly during the Winter rainy season when many a summer-dry river bed can turn instantly into a raging torrent, bringing floods and landslides in its wake. The area has so many mini weather patterns that it’s probably a meteorologist’s dream, or more likely his/her nightmare but it’s always interesting.
Zeus and Hera have clearly not resolved their differences this morning. Ominous black clouds sulk in the North, and though we can’t see Mt Olympus from here, I imagine the atmosphere’s pretty bad up there.
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Tagged almond crop, ancient Greeks, Farsala, Hera, Mt Olympus, nymphs, Pelion, Pelion Peninsula, thunderbolts, thunderstorms, Twelve Gods, weather forecast, Zeus
The Sea Scouts of Greece camped out for a week here on the Peninsula this summer, pitching tents in neat rows along the shore. Their sailing boats were a cheerful sight on the water, bringing Jason and … Continue reading