Aubrieta on Profitis Ilias in the Taygetos mountains, Peloponnese, Greece, in April. This picture should be big! See if you can make it look bigger on your screen…. But maybe its picture postcard size is appropriate, it fits that lockdown distance.
For the intermission I decided to put up some photos of plants in their natural state which are also found in our gardens and I nearly forgot about the aubrieta, and then when I remembered it I became nostalgically enthusiastic, and thought it could fill this short piece by itself, although you might not agree.
Full of itself, bouncing all over artful drystone walls in the front gardens of elegant limestone houses in the Cotswolds, I’d never paid it much attention. And the way it was always teamed with a yellow alyssum and white iberis, such a cliche. (On this site there’s no way an ignorant snob can add an accent to the ‘e’ of cliche.) Of course it normally grows happily for anybody, rich or poor, as long as they have some limestone. But although I try to please it, it won’t grow for me, not here at home anyway, but it does ok at St John’s.
Incidentally I’ve no idea why the botanical name is aubrieta but we say aubretia (i.e. ‘sha’ instead of ‘ta’.) Sometimes there’s nothing in a name.
The books and websites don’t celebrate it, too many more unusual things to be excited about, but it’s one of the most beautiful plants of the Greek mountains. Am I just imagining that its colours – there are several species and sub-species which are hared to tell apart – varying from violet to almost-purple, are more intense there than they are in Britain? Here it is on another mountain, Parnassos:
Here the evening sun turns violet to pink:
A lovely path from the top of the village/town of Delphi leads up into the foothills of the mountain. Delphi is just big enough to have a beaten track which you can get off, and avoid the crowds. On this path I walked all day without seeing a soul.
And now on Olympus, (well, the back of Olympus, the way not usually taken, where I struggled through prickly layers of juniper to try to get round an army post, not realising that I could just have walked straight through, and that’s another story):
Aubrieta grows between about 700 metres and 1500 and flowers from April to June, dependent on altitude. It can look very scruffy – three quarters dead in fact – in the summer months, which isn’t a problem in the Balkan mountains but can be in the intimacy of your front garden.
It doesn’t just grow in the open mountains. Here it is in the village of Anavriti (see Anavriti (in the Peloponnese again) ) in the Peloponnese, in a mossy wall. Does the shade make it paler?
While we’re in Anavriti:
You might think by the colour that a mass of aubrieta is growing in the wall, but actually it’s….
…. honesty. (see Garden notes number eight, honesty, and an introduction to self-seeding biennials and annuals )
The seed pods are oval, which suggests that this is perennial honesty, rather than our much more common biennial.