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Company registered in Scotland SC600385 | Millhouse Farm Cottage, Strathaven Road, Glasgow G75 9DR | flowers@daysofdahlia.com | © Days of Dahlia 2019

Gardens to live by | Elounda Island, Crete

Updated: Jan 13

23 May-16 June 2019

In this journal series we will be sharing our gardenlust* - bringing you highlights of the wonderful gardens that we have visited and been inspired by. Gardens are artworks, shifting with time and season to create images of beauty that are aligned with a natural rhythm and a sensitivity to their surroundings. The beauty of a garden is held in its shape, colour, texture, and layout but also in how it will develop over time, as the light changes from hour to hour, the seasons shift, and eventually over the years and decades, it outlives those who first created it. Throughout May and June, I was lucky enough to spend time in the uniquely beautiful gardens of Elounda Island Villas on the island of Kolokytha on the Spinalonga Peninsula, Crete. Working, making art, arranging flowers, writing, eating breakfast alone and enjoying Greek family dinners with my hosts, each day punctuated by a daily baptismal swim in the cerulean sea. The villa is the only residence on the island in the Mirabello bay opposite the holiday resort of Elounda. The peninsula is connected to the Crete mainland by a very thin strip of land, the small historical isthmus of Poros.

This is a garden full of heat that falls intensely on mature bushes, shrubs, olive trees, flowers, swelling tomatoes, cacti, croaking cicadas, soundless white butterflies, and two resident cats. The whitewashed walls of the villas receive the sun and glare back unblinking, at midday the light is everywhere at once, like being inside a lightbulb. A place of drying forces; heat, wind and salt but in amongst it all a swishing softness of flowers and leaves. An exceptional lushness and an exceptional dryness. The plants form paths that encircle the villa and create apertures through which the azure blue sea can be peeked, always in view.

The carob tree can be met everywhere, a Greek symbol, its leaves glossy, hard and broad. The name carob (ceratonia) means horn in Greek and is taken after the shape of its edible seed pods.

The signature waxy leaves of the Carob Tree

There are many things I love about this garden, it moves and morphs within a framework that someone has taken a long time to plan and build, it has been lovingly cared for by the same people for 30+ years. It rests symbiotic in the landscape at one with its surroundings, it faces the sea and the residue of salt can be seen on the rocks and surface of the leaves. It shelters and takes the brunt of the hot sun and grows ever more fervently and energised because of it. It is a place of quietude for those who choose to come and rest here and busyness for others; the humans, butterflies, ants, and lizards that scurry, amble, dart and fly around it.

My favourite time of day is at the beginning and the end, first thing and last thing, when everything is turning. I liked to walk through the garden in the morning before the ants have surfaced from crevices to create their living lines and relentless hustle, wondering where they are and if they are still and sleeping or just busy elsewhere. In the morning the sun is behind the villas and rises behind the sea making everything look golden. At the end of the day, it sinks behind the mountains behind the sea, being extinguished somewhere out of view.

Rocks rising sculptural from a carpet of dried pine needles and dust