And so to the beginning … where everything always starts.
The first photo above is taken from upstairs looking towards the road and the second photo shows where the pool is now.
We had bought a two storey half finished villa on an island where we had spent just three very lovely holidays. Hardly an in-depth knowledge of the place we had chosen to become our second home. From the gardening point of view, we were pretty ignorant of the region (the Mediterranean), the country (Greece) and the island of Kefalonia.
Whatever it was that drove us on, we had fallen for the views and that expanse of sky and we bought what would become The Walnut Tree. I remember standing on the top of the building on our first (and only viewing I think) and turning right round looking in all directions and saying to Rees, ‘This is it, isn’t it!’
Below is The Walnut Tree in 2006 with the villa finished but the garden yet to do. Sun loungers are placed for serious decision making from the horizontal. A good position!
How the garden began
There were two key moments
Firstly: Spyros Dorizas, our inspired project manager for the building of the villa, suggested bringing in topsoil to spread over the whole of the garden area. The site had been cleared of all ‘stuff’ and debris left after the building work had been completed.
Clearing the land of stones was a priority (advice of Yannis Dorizas, Spyros’s father and our mentor – and such wise words) and so we had raked; and raked some more. Eventually these stones formed the base of many of our paths so nothing was wasted, either our time or those stones. All the while we talked, we disagreed (of course) and then we started to get a plan.
Secondly, we met Stamatis who owned The Garden Centre near Argostoli. Almost immediately we felt he was in tune with what we wanted to do.
However, we did have a job of explaining exactly what we were aiming for. We wanted the creation of ‘rooms’ ( were we ahead of our time?) and productive areas within our acre of land. Our request was for more olives (we already had seven recently planted by the previous owners), more vines (we already had three) and fruit trees. of which there were absolutely none at all. We wanted flowering plants and we wanted (ridiculously) grass.
Stamatis had agreed to visit the villa and come up with a plan. He then invited us to visit him at his Garden Centre to hear what he had come up with.
On a dull October evening, we drove over to Argostoli more or less expecting to hear about a scheme for the garden we could not afford.
However, on the back of an envelope (really), he gave us our garden with plants we largely had not heard and it all but it sounded exactly what we had been hoping for. We could just about afford it. By the time we were half way back over the mountains (yes I think it was raining) from Argostoli to The Walnut Tree, we had telephoned Stamatis to say yes AND, when? Stamatis said: ‘Next week’!
Stamatis’s team arrived early on the Monday morning and the plants kept on coming. There were literally hundreds. The pots were laid out under Stamatis’s eagle eye – one did not argue! We watched! The next day the same and planting began. It was like clockwork. By the weekend, most of the garden was laid out and the plants all had homes. An amazing week with a garden unfolding (if one used one’s inner eye) before one almost like a film.
Stamatis and some of the team starting on the Cupressus hedge on the north side of the garden.
Gus (eldest grandson) then aged about six or seven and keeping tabs on the insect life of which there has always been more than plenty.
Our dual gardening life, with one foot in Devon in the UK and the other in Kefalonia had begun from that moment in earnest and what fun we have had over the years since then.