It has been a long held ambition to visit the Greek island of Corfu in springtime. The wildflowers and lush greenness of the island have captivated so many and the early months, before the crowds arrive are a great time to explore the island.
Corfu is the northern-most of the Ionian Islands with the north of the island almost touching Albania. Arriving in Corfu after the longest of English winters is pure balm, the welcoming sunshine a much needed tonic. Corfu is the greenest of the Greek Islands and the hillsides are covered in olive groves and punctuated by the soaring rockets of pencil cypress (Cupressus sempervirens ‘Green Pencil’).
Driving north, the coast road climbs higher, around hair-pin bends, each corner revealing yet another breathtaking view across the bay back towards Corfu Town and then swooping down to coast level again to give tantalising glimpses of curving sand with terracotta coloured roofs adorned with Wisteria garlands.
Everywhere, the verdant green is punctuated with the froth of white cherry blossom and the startling purple/pink of the Judas tree (Cercus siliquastrum). At the roadside, wildflowers pass by; the blurry fuzz of purple Honesty (Lunaria annua) and wild sweet peas, great dollops of wild Phlomis, their sage-coloured leaves punctuated with egg-yolk yellow flowers, pure white irises and creamy pink spires of Asphodelus aestivus.
We drove up the winding hill towards the abandoned village of Old Perithia, passing a collection of brightly painted beehives and then a herd of goats, their bells ringing. Suddenly time had stood still and we were transported back to simpler times with the only sound being the swallows chattering high above in the bluest sky whilst the bees went about their business and the goats meandered over the rocks.
Most of the houses in Old Perithia stand empty, their floors fallen in, doors and windows gaping emptily. Nature has taken over with greenery pushing up through the floor and tree branches invading the windows. Pretty wild daisies (Erigeron karvinskianus) have self-seeded everywhere and wild pink campion carpet the olive groves on the higher hillsides.
The Corfu visit was not just about finding the wilder side of the Island. A few gardens were visited where Rosa Banksiae ‘Lutea’ scrambles everywhere, lemons hang heavily from branches and golden plumes of mimosa (Acacia baileyana) scent the air. Other plants lie in wait for summer; agapanthus, lavender and oleander will bring bolder splashes of colour as the island heats up but for now, it’s all about the delicate beauty of spring.