Flowers of the Western Balkans
Arriving in the Balkans, I was struck by how green everything was. One of the first
things we noticed upon landing in the city of Skopje, capital of Macedonia (pronounced
Skope-yeh), was the heady perfume and abundance of Linden blossoms.
The word ‘Balkan’ is Turkish and means mountain, and the area is dominated by
numerous forested mountains and wildflower meadows. Water resources are abundant
and although the Balkans boast a Mediterranean climate zone, they enjoy a healthy 40
– 60 inches of rain a year.
Culturally rich with a complicated political history, the area is bursting with flora and
fauna. Being so mountainous, stone is everywhere - the buildings, the walls, the roads.
A pretty foil to the myriad of wildflowers forcing their way through every nook and
cranny. Cobbled streets wind up and around ancient stone houses. It feels like walking
100 years back in time to old Europe. In fact, a good many of the place we visited were
designated UNESCO heritage sites.
In spite of the verdant landscape, people take pains to supplement it with ubiquitous
garden pots bursting with flowers in front of every house, restaurant and shop. Grape
vines seem to grace every house and bountiful vegetable gardens are the norm.
Red poppies (Papaver rhoeas) were growing everywhere – popping out of walls, filling
fields. It was thrilling to see many of my stalwart Mediterranean plant choices
naturalized in the wild. Caribbean Copper Plant (Cotinus coggygria), Jerusalem Sage
(Phlomis fruticose), Euphorbia varieties, Rushes (), Chamomile, Hibiscus and some I
didn’t know. The landscape is so lush with fields of delicate wildflowers blooming all
along the way. Entire mountainsides are planted with terraces of Olive trees and the
olive oil they produce is fresh and flavorsome. It’s a region of exceptional natural