Cappadocia is the heart of ancient Anatolia. It is a landscape that is both familiar and fantastical. Bounded by three long extinct volcanoes rising 12,000 feet, it is a mix of high plain and gentle rolling hills. On first glance it is an arid landscape of mesas familiar to travelers through the American west. But it is only dry on this June day. In winter this area is covered in snow, giving it a rich supply of water that supports a world of green. The soil that appears dry and ashen is really volcanic soil textured with humus fertilized with pigeon and bat guano. Imagine the striated mesa tops of Utah surrounded by lush fields of vegetables, wheat and grapes. And while Cappadocia is not the part of Turkey known for its fruit growing, cherry and apricot trees are everywhere -strategically placed in small family fields and yards.
In the US both large scale agriculture and small family gardens are almost always square and rectangular. Here, Turkey’s non-linear aesthetic and a graceful accommodation to the landscape are at play. Those uneven mesa tops don’t come in tidy squares, so the fields follow the land, as do the graceful arcs of the plantings.
As we drive from the airport and our eyes adjust from an urban to rural landscape, the gardeners in our group feast on the display of wildflowers. A few turns down some windy roads and we are in Balsac – a landscape uniquely Cappadocian. This is the home of the fairy chimneys. Formations of yellow-white toufa stone topped with dark volcanic basalt. Wildflowers are growing everywhere in this strange landscape.
After a two days in Cappodocia, we decide that the royal blue stunners we have been seeing are a form of statice, but I need the help of one you gardening guru’s out there to identify this pea-like flower.