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The truly intoxicating rhododendrons of northeast Turkey. By Andrew Byfield
The clouds lifted to reveal the basalt-black peaks of Şavval Tepe rising from a drape of lush green vegetation, crossed here and there by lingering slashes of snow in cool, vertical gullies.
Şavval Tepe, rising to 3377 metres close to Artvin, in furthest northeast Anatolia, is a botanist’s paradise, its slopes covered with a patchwork of forest and brush, grassland and rock, that provide a home to forty-six rare plant species. Şavval Tepe and its sister peak, Tiryal Dağı, are normally drenched in dense grey mist – these are among the wettest mountains in Turkey, with more than two metres of rain a year. Clamber up through open sycamore forest, dripping meadows of cranesbill and tangled thickets of rhododendron – this could easily be a hidden valley or secret moorland in the Himalayas. Turkey has five species of rhododendron and they all luxuriate in a water-saturated atmosphere.
In Mürefte on the Sea of Marmara, village women still take to the fields each summer to collect just seven different herbs, with which they produce a ritual dish. If they eat it before the first thunderstorms, they believe, they will have immunity from illness for a whole year.
More cookery features
Martyn Rix introduces a special issue devoted to Turkey’s horticultural heritage, from the splash of the urban window box to the splendour of a mountain hillside. Martyn Rix is the editor of Curtis’s Botanical Journal. His articles in Cornucopia Issues 29 and 31 explore the flora of the Taurus Mountains
SPECIAL OFFER: order three beautiful garden-themed issues, including this one, for only £60. List price £102
In its heyday the Istanbul tulip was the most fashionable of flowers. Turhan Baytop turns the pages of a priceless 1725 tulip album
The Seljuk sultans who fell in love with Alanya and tamed its wild hillsides in the thirteenth century left a legacy of walled gardens and verdant terraces that is only now being rediscovered. By Scott Redford with photographs by Sigurd Kranendonk and Astrid von Schell.
Festooned with flowers, the brilliantly painted tiles of Rustem Pasha Mosque form a glazed garden of infinite variety. John Carswell discovers in them the hand of genius that gave birth to classical Iznik design. Photographs by Simon Upton
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