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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Gliksman

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


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