So you’ve made the decision. You want a little bit of the Mediterranean all for yourself. There may be no sea view, there may be no terracotta tiles adorning your roof – but it doesn’t mean for one moment that when you step outside, surrounded by exotic plants, dusty cobbles, rustic furniture…just for a moment there, you’re taken to another familiar place many miles from home.
So what exactly should you be considering in your new look Mediterranean Garden?
Stones. In abundance! One of the primary features of a traditional Mediterranean garden is it’s widespread use of local stone for gravel paths. In the Mediterranean, this enables large areas to left as low maintenance areas which require little, or no watering, depending on the number of potted plants that have been included. This doesn’t mean it’s time to start ripping up your lawn, but consider larger areas to be laid with the stones. Think dusty, warm coloured tones for your gravelled areas. Cotswold and limestone chippings are ideal for larger areas and DIY retailers such as Wickes’ stock an excellent selection of decorative stones and gravel with home delivery on bulk purchases. For a more focused approach, beach pebbles laid around the base of plant provide unity, further emphasising a warm, coastal environment. I would avoid slate chippings as this will drag you into far eastern territory.
The dry stone walls and paved terraces of Mediterranean homes were generally created using the same stone. So if a wall cannot be created using this material, at least consider painting walls using a similar, pale tone which will help to create that sun-baked atmosphere.
Pots and Urns
The beauty of growing your sun loving plants in terracotta pots is more than just a visual nod to the Mediterranean. Any tender plants can be moved into a protected area during winter, such as a cold frame, greenhouse or even indoors and simply brought back outside when the risk of frost has passed. Terracotta is distinctly Mediterranean. These clay pots allow minerals to leach through their walls which doesn’t harm the plant in anyway and only adds a wonderfully, aged and rustic look to the exterior of the pot – looking more authentic year after year. Smaller pots can be grouped together, whether aligned along the top of wall or even twined together and hanging vertically. A large pot or urn in its own right, even without a plant, can become a striking focal point.
Other pots worthy of consideration are tiled and decorated pots. Glazed tiles add a distinctly Moorish feel to any display. Alternatively, a display of wall mounted urns scores extra bonus points especially if you are fortunate enough to have a white, rendered walls for a more authentic look.
We’ve sourced a great selection of Mediterranean Pots which can be purchased online rather than having to trawl every garden centre within a 10 miles radius and ultimately failing to find that elusive pot you had your heart set on.
There are literally thousands of varieties of plant species that could be considered as native to the Mediterranean, many of which perhaps would not be recognised as such. There’s also just as many that perhaps are not native – and yet instantly conjure thoughts of warmer climbs and perhaps a sun-baked courtyard in Spain, Italy, Greece or the South of France. We’ve compiled a top 10 of Mediterranean plants that not only give instant impact but in most instances with grow successfully in the UK. Not all are native, but they will certainly provide a Mediterranean atmosphere and can be planted in your garden.
If you’re using a number of potted plants in your design, then the world, or should we say The Mediterranean is your Oyster. These can be protected from winter frosts in by bring them indoors, moving to a greenhouse, or even protecting them with an insulating material such as a horticultural fleece.
Appeal to the senses, and introduce scented plants such as Lavender, Rosemary or Jasmine. Climbers such as Wisteria, climbing roses and Grape Vines also look wonderful when mature and can add shade for summer sun when growing over a pergolas. For a speciement plant, go for an olive or fig tree with their silvery, sun baked bark or challenge yourself to care for something a little more tender, such as a Citrus tree or a Bougainvillea with it’s stunning, virbant flowers, so often seen lacing the white washed walls of Mediterranean homes. If those warm evening walks along a promande drenched by the late evening sun are your inspiration, the planting of a Palms such as Trachycarpus Fortunei will almost guarantee success in creating a ‘Riviera’ look or perhaps go for the huge arching fronds of a Phoenix canariensis, just make sure you protect the latter during winter.
These are a great way or creating an environment suitable for planting and provides a traditional focal point if raised using a small dry stone wall with a specimen tree as the centre piece, such as an Olive tree. Alternatively, a bed could be drawn up using the soil to the base of the central plants and mulched heavily with stone chippings. The raised plants benefit from much improved drainage of rain water – which is vital to the long term health of most exotic and tropical plants.
During the Italian Renaissance period, gardens were considered an extension of the home, which is why art in the shape water features and statues became one of the hallmarks of the era. Many modern designs strongly echo their predecessor’s work with symmetrical lines, terraced levels and an overwhelming air of formality. You can add elegance too, by introducing such a focal point. Think on a grand scale…such as an ornate water feature, statue or an unplanted traditional urn.
Alternatively, if your preference is an informal, yet still bold approach, you can’t beat a good pizza oven or a rendered masonry BBQ with chimney – plus it’s a great way to host family and friends on warm summer evenings.
So you’ve created your Mediterranean garden. However, it would be a great shame if you were just going to marvel at it from indoors. To fully appreciate your design you need to immerse yourself in it. Spend time in it. Enjoy it. Therefore buying the correct furniture for a Mediterranean garden is a crucial consideration. You want to further enhance the good work already done in achieving that authentic look, not destroy it by a careless, lazy purchase.
For smaller sets, such as a bistro set, think tiled table tops and simple, iron chairs. For relaxing outdoors and dining, Rattan in particular is a great choice for its combination of both comfort and style. Read our blog which reveals some great looking pieces, suitably styled for use as Mediterranean garden furniture.
When should I start creating my Mediterranean garden?
Late summer and autumn is a great time to get planning the design for your Mediterranean garden. Any planting of larger specimen plants is best done in late winter, so getting at least a plan in place, if not the hard landscaping itself will mean by next summer, your plants will already looking great and at home.
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