There is an area just behind our house that once was a source of pocket money for a less than creditable muhtar. He would oversee the removal of trailer-loads of rock that was ideal as a base material for tracks and small construction jobs. Over time the removal created a mini ‘Red Cliffs of Dover’ with the wall to the village graveyard perched on top. When he started to dig out behind my garage/workshop I threatened him with a complaint and put a stop to his activities in this area at least.
We knew from experience and plain, common sense that the ‘cliff’ was unstable and told him so – ‘Problem yök, (no problem) profesyonal, profesyonal!’ (professional) pointing at the digger driver. Two days after we got rid of him and his bloody digger the first collapse occurred, not too serious, but an indicator of what could follow. That was when J and I began a programme of planting young trees and collecting seeds from trees all over Turkey.
seedling of Acer cappadocicum ssp divergens (seeds from L. Van)
Common sense and a man from the Forestry Authority told us that most of the seedlings that ‘hatched’ wouldn’t make it but we nurtured them anyway. Our idea was to try and stabilise the ground and discourage anyone else from digging stuff out.
A few years later a second small collapse left parts of the wall undercut and we thought that the big one couldn’t be far away. More years passed by, we continued planting and nurturing and the trees continued to grow. The ugly red cliff was almost forgotten as the trees screened it away from view. In the rainless summer months I would drag out the hose and keep the young trees alive. Gradually a mini climate developed and other species settled in and made themselves at home. The dozens of Red Pine seedlings that we planted began to seed and produce young. The Toros Cedar thrived despite being a couple thousand metres too near sea level. The Eucalyptus must be fifty feet high now and the Carobs are doing great. Of the seeds of the Cappadocian Acer from Lake Van that we planted, two survived to be potted on and eventually set in place. They are slender and fragile but one day they will grow into beautiful, graceful adulthood. Here are some photos of adult trees of species we have planted near the house wherever there was space. We even have an English Horse Chestnut that we grew from a conker!
adult Acer cappadocicus ssp divergens
I should say ‘were’ for some of these because a few days back the inevitable happened after some heavy rain and a biggish section of the cliff has come down bringing the cemetery wall with it. Our mini Special Forest has taken a real knock. We have lost at least half of our beautiful trees and shrubs, buried under a small landslide that feels bigger than it really is. The Toros Cedar has survived – part buried and so a few feet ‘shorter’ than it was. The Acers have survived, one unscathed and the other was dug out from under and set upright. Only two of the carobs and two of the pomegranates made it and a lot of Red Pine, wild avocado and Maltese Plum, et al have gone together with a lot of shrubs like Cistus.
a young one we dug out from under and propped up
Toros Cedar – one day ours will look like this
most of the fallen blocks cleared
but so much is buried and lost
really old Eucalyptus – one day!
Indian Bead Tree – Melia azederach
and its flowers
There is no point in being too despondent, we’ll carry on planting and try and stabilise things again – who knows, with a bit of luck, the next landslide will be someone else’s mess! For anyone interested there is a comprehensive list of ‘our’ trees and shrubs below. Some in the garden, many, in fact most, outside – a lot of them collected as seedlings or grown from seeds.
Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü
Yucca flamentosa; Pinus brutia; Vitis sylvestris; Aesculus hippocastranum; Acacia retinoides; Acacia cyanphylla; Cercis siliquastrum; Albizia julibrissim; Ceratonia siliqua; Paliurus spina-christii; Planus orientalis; Persea americana; Rosa canina; Eriobotrya japonica; Liquidamber orientalis; Capparis spinosa; Cistus salvifolius; Eucalyptus camaldulensis; Punica granatum; Clematis sp; Schiaus molle; Pistacia lentiscus; Melia azederach; Lanicera caprifolium; Catalpa bignonioides; Jacaranda mimosifolia; Plumbago aumiculata; Olea europaea; Morus alba; Morus nigra; Acer cappadocicum ssp divergens.