Just as I enjoyed finding and taking pictures of Kosovo gardens, I also had a lot of fun walking the streets of the Greek neighborhood where we stayed and finding great gardening ideas to share with you all. Of course I didn't have to walk far, because all of the photos you see above were from the courtyard of the four-apartment building where our friends live. Their landlady's family built the apartments years ago and takes care of the courtyard plantings.
There is a large marble tile patio and the freesias in the bottom photos are in a marble planter. And that's the first thing I noticed about all of Greece, actually:
There is marble everywhere!
Patios, apartment floors, balconies, fountains, planters, benches - even the streets and curbs (!) - are made out of marble. And guess what? They all want wood floors in their houses instead of marble! It's all a matter of what is plentiful, I guess.
In this courtyard, I love the way the owners made the driveway disappear by enclosing it in triple arches made of iron from the patio side and then created an arched pergola over the drive (attaching to the arches on that side and a fence on the other). Since it wasn't blooming, I'm not sure of the flowering vine that covers it - but look how sweet it makes a utilitarian metal garage door and driveway?
Oh, and those freesia smelled heavenly! Between those and the blooming orange trees, there was always something lovely in the air.
Many driveways were covered in some sort of metal pergola - this one is white and covered in grape vines. This was one of my favorite houses on the walk - the combination of stone facade, arched window with small panes, roses and grape covered arbor was simply lovely.
Almost all of the houses and apartments in Athens only had yards the depth of a car - enough for a driveway on one end and a little square of front yard (always enclosed by some type of fence). As you can see, many people make the most of it. I couldn't believe how big this wisteria was - look at how it is being trained along the third level balcony! I would estimate it to be 50 feet long or more.
Think of that the next time you see wisteria planted on every column of a porch, as I once saw in Portland - for about 4 years I would drive by and watch the plants slowly engulf the roof and upstairs...until they finally chopped them down!
Some of the places I loved were pretty low-maintenance, like this house with permanent plantings of only some grass, roses, and a couple large bushes out front. The color comes from the pots lining the rail and at the foot of the stairs. Simple and sweet. Of course all those cute shutters add to the whole look, too, don't they?
Now this yard stopped me in my tracks - mainly because it was out of the norm for the houses in this area to be so trimmed and higher maintenance. But it is lovely - and you see they add color with some pots by the door, too.
As I walked along the sidewalks, I always had to dodge these orange trees that were planted in the middle of the sidewalks (not in planting strips like we're used to - smack dab in the middle of the walk). Yep, the sidewalks in Greece are for trees and not people, apparently. And while they look lovely along the streets, they make it difficult to walk and the fruit is only decorative - can you believe it? Our friends told us that the fruits are bitter and full of seeds.
One day when Brian and I were walking together, we found this incredible blooming tree leaning over the fence of one of the yards. Have you ever seen anything like this? The leaves are mottled and the flowers are light orange with yellow highlights. I have no idea what it was, but even Brian was amazed at the beauty of this flowering tree.
In Thessaloniki we spent most of our time in the heart of the city where balconies and container plantings ruled. On a climb to a fortress above the city, I had Brian take a picture of this roof top garden - it looked like an oasis in the middle of the city. And it was only a simple iron-pipe trellis covered in grape vines and a few planters with evergreens.
My biggest take-away overall? Like Kosovo families, the Greeks seem to use what they have to make even the smallest postage-stamp sized space lovely and usable. Metal rods, iron fences, plentiful marble, and simple plants go a long way to making a liveable garden. I also liked their use of pots, pergolas and arbors to provide color and a framework for plants.
What garden idea could you see yourself incorporating from one of these Greek gardens?