On my last day in İzmir I got incredibly lucky when I was invited to visit the Giraud family in Bornova. Because of their surname I did not immediately realise how particularly lucky this was until after I’d stepped through the gate and found myself in an absolutely splendid garden that put me immediately in mind of landscaped gardens in Britain, in particular of Osterley Park, a National Trust property where I often went for walks as a child.
For this was the garden laid out by Edward Whittall, the most nature-loving member of a wealthy British trading family originally from Liverpool that had made their home in Bornova. So nature-loving was Edward Whittall, indeed, that he even had a plant named after him, the fritillaria whittallii. A great flower lover herself, Gertrude spent many happy hours in this garden with Edward when she wandered over from the Büyük Evi (the Big House) where she was staying with others of the family.
The Büyük Evi is now the Rectorate of Ege University and not open to the public although they can visit the 50.Yıl Köşkü, a smaller house in the grounds that now houses an art gallery. Being shown round the Giraud House, though, was especially wonderful because in one room I came upon a scene straight out of Gertrude’s diaries in which she records a family dining table surrounded by family portraits including those of Charlton Whittall, son of the first of the family to settle in Smyrna, and his wife Magdaleine. Upstairs a photograph showed Edward himself, white-haired and benevolent-looking as befits a nature lover.
Of course the garden has changed over the course of the last century in particular with the addition of a couple of new lily ponds. Other parts, however, such as the circle of cypress trees surrounding an arbour draped with wisteria are probably much as they were in his day. Ditto the terrifyingly large stone well, more like one of the oubliettes of medieval horror stories than a simple source of drinking water. In any case, after finding out that the Hotel de la Ville had been burnt out in the fire of 1922 and that the Van Lenneps’ farm near Bulgurca had almost certainly vanished beneath a reservoir, it was a thrill to be able to walk at last in a house and garden that had definitely been visited by Gertrude.