I’ve not managed to leave Istanbul yet, still really enjoying the city and the seemingly never-ending spectacles there are to discover here. Although with temperatures creeping up to mid 30’s Celsius, a wild beach or mountain forest is seeming more and more appealing.
During this post, I’ll share some plant observations from around Sultanahmet and Topkapi Palace Museum introduce a demonstration farm/garden I discovered was growing on a shopping mall opposite where I’m staying, and take a look at some other plants from around the city.
Street Planting in Sultanahmet and Topkapi
Some of the best street plantings I’ve seen are in the Sultanahmet area. This part of Istanbul was first settled by Greek colonists in 667 BC (referred to then as Byzantium) and has been inhabited by humans for at least 2688 years. The humans have had plenty of practice to get their planting just right :)
Where space is limited these Yew trees Taxus baccata ‘Fastigiata’ are a perfect fit. Another extremely popular plant all around the city is Loquat – Eriobotrya japonica (right), a native to China, the plant is prized for its sweet, citrus-like fruit that grows in clusters. The fruit, seeds, and leaves have been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years.
Platanus orientalis- Oriental planes are some of the world’s most pollution tolerant plants so it’s no wonder you find them in cities with temperate and Mediterranean climates all around the world. In the narrow ancient streets of the Sultanahmet, the trees are often planted very close with the lower limbs lifted above the rooftops, the effect being a comfortable shade to walk in and amazing light filtering through the canopies.
The Topkapı Palace/Topkapı Sarayı is now a large museum in the east of the Fatih district of Istanbul but originally served as the main residence and administrative headquarters of the Ottoman sultans during the 15th and 16th centuries. The whole place is really impressive including the landscaped gardens.
The palace grounds have a number of buildings that each had some specific function during the days of the Ottoman Empire. Many of the buildings have extended intricately decorated eaves that contrast beautifully with the tree canopies around them I thought
Star Jasmine – Trachelospermum jasminoides, seen here climbing the walls, is super popular around the city and often used to cover metal fencing and brick walls in new developments as well as historical sites. On the right a magnificent specimen of Magnolia grandiflora another plant that is common around the city.
Other Street Plants
It’s always a pleasure to find volunteer plants in urban areas and this Medicago sativa – Alfalfa plants growing on the roadside below the high rise towers were looking very comfortable.
I was not aware of how well Punica granatum – Pomegranate (left) responds to trimming, making them a great option for hedging. Another plant that responds well to trimming and planted all over Istanbul as specimen trees, hedging, and shrubs is Laurus nobilis – Bay Laurel. Generally speaking, the dense growth that forms from repetitive trimming of any plant provides excellent habitat, within the growth for nesting birds, spiders, and range of other invertebrates.
I’m not sure what the species on the left is, nor the cultivar that gives the tree the unique contorted and partially pendula frame but I really like it, especially so contrasted against the grey skies and stark stones walls of Topkapi Palace. On the right, a magnificent example of an elderly Robinia pseudoacacia – Black Locust in Abbasagga Park in Besiktas. These plants age so well
Rooftop Farm – Levent
Unbeknown when I booked my Airbnb I later found out that the buildings I can see from my window have a rooftop farm growing on them. I set out to explore the farm the next day.
It’s great to see these gardens in the cities and I’ve visited a number of these rooftop/urban farms/community gardens in various cities. It seems to me they are always relatively small, the access is always very tight, with tight angles making it difficult to flow around and difficult to maintain. I’ve yet to experience a strong emotional response in one of these “urban ecological projects”, a strong emotional response like you will often be struck with when you stumble upon a particular wild patch of plants or wandering around a well-designed domestic garden or park. I should add that my sample size is small based on 5 gardens mainly in and around London, this one in Istanbul and a community garden in Sofia so perhaps there are better examples. If you know of some please let me know.
I don’t see any good reasons why beautiful, biodiversity enhancing, productive gardens, that people will marvel at, cannot be created. This is something we intend to dedicate more resources and time to in our gardens in Shipka moving forward as we are looking to amalgamate a 3ha plot to start work on in the near future. Part of the work I’m doing during my travels is designing this garden. The garden’s working name is Stoa. Named after a great hall in Athens in which the ancient Greek philosopher Zeno gave the founding lectures of the Stoic school of philosophy. Pretentious? mihi?
|Stoa – The proposed site of our new Regenerative Landscape Design Project in Shipka|