Cyprus Flowers: Glorious Sight During Spring
If not because of the Cyprus flowers, visitors to our lovely island in the summer could be forgiven for thinking that the landscape is barren and unproductive scrub land dotted with prickly gorse bushes stretches to the horizon, tenacious olive and carob trees cling to the rocky soil and the only green tends to be in small, well-irrigated fields which are lovingly cared for by the local farmers.
The earth seems hostile, which is hardly surprising when you think that it doesn’t rain in Cyprus between June and October – sometimes even longer.
But when the rains do come, the ground is transformed as if by magic and Cyprus in the springtime is a glorious sight with Cyprus flowers everywhere. Wild cyclamen peep their pink heads out from underneath rocks and stones; the delicate pastel hues of the anemone can be spotted on the rugged hillsides though you have to look carefully because the pinks, blues and mauve are so pale they blend into the surrounding countryside.Vast fields of bright yellow daisies stretch as far as the eye can see, interspersed here and there with a clump of blood red poppies. In fact, the list of Cyprus flowers is almost endless – there are literally hundreds of varieties of wild flowers, which burst into life in the spring and add their own scent or colour to the brief but glorious show.
All too soon, however, the days get hotter and the rain stops. The wild flowers and plants shrivel in the heat and the land resumes its customary barren appearance. It seems likely that this abundance of natural beauty on the island accounts, to a great extend, for the Cypriot’s love of flowers – look at almost any row of shops in any town and there is probably a flower shop among them. Gifts of plants or flowers are traditional on birthdays and name-days and an increasing number of market gardeners and nurseries cater to the trade.
The inhabitants of Limassol take a great deal of care over their gardens, and as they are lucky enough to have the best growing conditions in Cyprus , the results are often spectacular. It is fitting, therefore, that Limassol should be the host at the annual Cyprus flowers festival, a celebration which actually goes back to the times of myths and legend and which has relatively recently been revived.
In ancient times, the festival incorporated feasting and games and was held to mark the opening and tasting of new wines in honour of Dionysus, the God of wine. These days it is very much more homage to spring, with the main feature being the parade of the flowers. The locals in Limassol spend long days and nights working to decorate the floats with flowers and decorate the floats with flowers and pride of place is always given to the purple ‘statice’.
The statice grows abundantly in the hills around Limassol and is thought of by the villagers as immortal. Its Greek name, athanatos, means undying, and is easy to see why it got its name. The flower itself is small and grows in clusters but its distinguishing feature is that it has the appearance and feel of a dried flower, hence its supposed immortality: the locals say it never dies because it never really lives.
School children from all over the Lemesos district congregate in the town at the end of April or the first days of May, most of them dressed in ancient Greek costumes and carrying bunches of flowers.
They accompany the floats often singing and dancing as they go, no doubt a good way getting in a little practice for the talent competitions which are held after the parade. When the judging is over and the excitement has died down, the children return to their villages. Many of the spectators make their way home discussing the merits of the various floats and a large number of them start planning what they should plant in autumn because there’s always next year’s festival to think about.