upside down blue borage flowers under olive trees

When I first came to Crete, the seasons surprised me. Rather than being adorned with red, orange, and yellow deciduous trees, fall turned the green of a Pennsylvania spring, and winter filled with more blossoms than a Rocky Mountain summer. Autumn rains revived leaves and grasses, and when skies cleared, the winter sun welcomed ever so many wildflowers.

dozens of purple and pink anemone flowers amongst green grass and weeds leading up to olive trees against a bright blue sky

For sixteen winters now, I have wandered along my neighborhood roads on hills above the sea, then explored the nearby olive groves where the flowers grow. I have learned when and where to find wood sorrel, crocuses, anemones, mandrakes, daisies, orchids, Jerusalem sage, and more species than I can name. I’m not so good at the more practical pastime of identifying and collecting the less showy edible greens that locals gather, boil, and eat with olive oil and lemon juice, but the wildflowers in the olive groves entrance me. The blossoms’ colors, shapes, designs, and patterns attract and distract me, interrupting exercise and delaying work.

a closeup of a purple anemone, viewed from the side, which has not yet opened all the way and hence resembles a tulip; behind it are green weeds

We seem to be in the height of anemone season. This one looks like a tulip, as many do before they are completely open.

a snake’s head or widow iris with white, yellow, and black surrounded by green grass in an olive grove on a cloudy day

This may be a snake’s head or widow iris; I was delighted to discover it in a shady olive grove another February, but I have not (so far) seen any of these this year.

upside down blue borage flowers and green leaves with olive trees behind them

This borage was growing alongside a lovely crop of its species, under some olive trees beside a neighborhood road one March.

unusual ramping fumitory flowers that look like little clusters of brown tipped white spikes amidst green leaves, against a bright blue sky under a young olive tree

This unusual ramping fumitory grows in clusters, in this case around a young olive tree.

a brilliant orange calendula flower viewed from the side against olive trees and blue sky in the background

Bright calendula also likes to cluster under and between olive trees, and next to a dirt road in my area.

a small white daisy with a bright yellow orange center against the green and blue of grass, olive trees, and sky

These small daisies were at their peak earlier, and just a few are now left. The larger crown daisies have begun to bloom, but they are not yet as abundant as they will be.

white and purple crocus leaved romulea flowers growing out of muddy ground, nicely backlit

Probably crocus-leaved romulea, these brilliant little flowers grow close the the ground among rocks and between olive trees.

three pink anemones, one a closed bud, against green grass, with olive trees and cloudy sky in the background

More anemones, including one of my favorite buds. In the middle of February, I have counted more than two dozen wildflower species in bloom in and around my neighborhood (20 minutes from downtown Chania, a 15 to 20 minute walk uphill from the sea) on a given day. Later in the month or in March, I expect to see up to fifty or sixty different species, as I have other years. This is a wonderful winter for wildflowers; plentiful rain has provided ideal conditions for them. We are hoping next year’s olive crop will also benefit from the precipitation.

In the Greek fall, winter, and spring, I feel sorry for the tourists who come to Greece only in summer. They miss the fresh cool temperatures, the olive harvest, the spectacular cloudscapes, the snowy mountains, the wildflowers, and the ethereal olive blossoms—the rich seasonal variations of the Greek countryside. They don’t need to miss all of that; Greece always welcomes visitors.

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An incomplete, introductory sample of noteworthy sites to visit

Summer 2020: If you are planning for this year, please contact the businesses that interest you to check on their current schedule, which may differ from other years. Some are open as usual, while others are offering tastings but not tours, and a few may not be able to welcome visitors.

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