Monday, September 7, 2020

Olympus #1 the foothills

I'm breaking the rules of proper expository prose, and starting with the climax (for me) of our first day on Mt. Olympus. Another retrospective blog--although I have included a few pictures of plants high on the mountain elsewhere, I've really not done justice to Greece's highest mountain, which we spent several resplendent days climbing and photographing. The highlight of that first day was undoubtedly finding Lilium chalcedonicum--the stunning red lily of the Balkans, again and again--here being photographed by Eric Hsu of Chanticleer and our Cicerone, Lefteri Dariotis (better known on social media as "Liberto Dario").  Lefteri not only made arrangements for stay at the Refuge, but drove and made copious lists of plant we saw, from which I base many named below: any mistakes are mine, I hasten to add!

Lilium chalcedonicum

Lilium chalcedonicum

Lilium chalcedonicum

Lilium chalcedonicum

Lilium chalcedonicum

 Here you can see how abundant they were! Now if I can only replicate this in my garden...


A crusader's castle near Olympus built after the tragic fourth Crusade when the Christian Franks decided Constantinople would be a richer target than the intended Jerusalem. We're still paying the consequences for this in so many ways.

Cotinus coggygria

One of the great pleasures of my travels has been to find so many of the plants I know from gardens in their wild homes: this was the first time I found wild Smoke Tree--a mini celebration always follows!

Alas, Lefteri didn't include this on our species list for the day (he may not have noticed it?)...I'm guessing it's a Digitalis in the lanata group...I have a hunch he'll weigh in, so check back!

One doesn't associate Greece with Heather, but Erica arborea grows many places in Greece where granite or other low pH rock underlies the soil.

Asplenium adiantum-nigrum

I have admired this across much of Eurasia--especially in 2018 in the Caucasus where it was abundant, but also in Central Asia. It strikes a chord in me because it is extremely rare in North America, but grew abundantly on the White Rocks in Boulder--a spectacular property that is now Nature Conservancy but I knew and visited when it was owned by Ricky Weiser, and extraordinary woman I knew and befriended in my youth, and kept up with over the decades.

                                                                           Sedum cepaea

An annual, or biennial sedum: not terribly impressive in the picture, but it has persisted and delighted me in my gardens for decades. Rock gardeners are pleased by little things!

                                                                          Sedum cepaea


The region around Olympus is blissfully not overdeveloped yet, but there are a few villages with great scenic charm that do cater to visitors...a tad.

But they retain their rustic charm...

Eric Hsu was my companion with Lefteri on this trip: he's record's keeper at Pennsylvania's nearly mythical Chanticleer gardens: In addition to being an intellectual whiz with a tremendous command of Flora, Eric has an extraordinarily artistic eye: do check up the blog he co-edits: It's invariably cogent, relevant and exquisitely beautiful: he was a delightful traveling companion.

Greeks are plant obsessed! Here was a poster with useful wildflowers on the wall next to an Herbal shop.

There is something charming about mountains villages the world around. Flowers certainly factor in.

We didn't see much evidence of logging--but it must be taking place....I was constantly struck at how pristine and gorgeous Nature was throughout Greece. It felt positively Arcadian--and we weren't even in the Peloponese!

Despite it's being July, there were lush meadows full of flowers.

And of course, every mountain we were to visit over the next week throughout northern Greece had some distinctive Mulleins...I shall have to see which one Lefteri has for this leg of the trip: check back.

And a lush growth of vines on the ancient conifers--I believe this is "English" ivy...

Rosettes of mulleins intrigued me: I can never grow enough species of these!

Another classic garden perennial found in the wild, in this case Campanula lactiflora,

Dactylorhiza saccifera

And I never tire of the widespread and abundant meadow orchids of Europe, represented here by a distinctive species.


While Lefteri was busy photographing flowers, a skipper was checking HIM out...

Intrigued by the sign: Ελευθερία translates as "Freedom" in English

                                                                Marrubium thessalum

I have a long term fascination with horehounds. This is one I'd like to add to my repertoire!

                                                                        Phlomis samia

Likewise phlomis--this one of the strangest of the lot. I grew it for a while, and seeing it in the wild stokes my desire to grow it again!

Phlomis samia

Galium lucidum

We saw bedstraw again and again on this trip: It is abundant in various species across all Eurasia and in Western America too, come to think of it. There have to be some useful ornamentals in the genus aside from odoratum.

A tiny, spiny broom that reminds me of Genista sylvestris ssp. dalmatica

Dorycnium sp.

Teucrium sp.

Lychnis coronaria

 Abies borisii-regis

We were thrilled to find one of the rarest first, with a very restricted range in the Balkans, which includes Mt. Olympus in its highly restricted range--see below.

Range of Abies borisii-regis

And yet another unknown mullein...

All manner of perennials were lurking in the tall lush meadows.

WE were struck by this graceful large willow along the road and bridge

And more along the stream below the bridge. Where is Michael Dodge (the "Willow man" when you need him!

A thistle resermblng a few weedy (but pretty) ones I grow...

Cytisus cf. austriacus

I've grown this for decades--fun to see this leafy broom in the wild!

Campanula ligulata is also one I've grown before...

Salvia sclarea

And of course Clary Sage, another old friend.

Asphodeline liburnnica \

It was beginning to feel like "old friends day"--this beautiful cousin to Asphodel has grown in the Rock Alpine Garden for decades!


Greece has Anthemis and Tanacteums galore: not sure if Lefteri spotted this one...

Euphorbia myrsinites

It's been declared a weed in Colorado--but I still love it.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Euphorbia myrsinites

We saw several beautiful sedums: I believe this is S. sexangulare...

Hieracium cf. villosum

Not positive about the name, but this seems identical to a composit with that name ramping all over my home garden.

Trachelium (Campanula) rumelianum

  We only found a few plants of this Balkan endemic which has proved a fantastic garden plant for rock gardens in Denver.

Acer monspessulanum

One of the few maples that's proved to be quite xeric, it was a treat to come upon this Montpelier maple loaded with sarmaras...

Acer monspessulanum

As they say, here today, gone Sarmara!

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