Many of us travel from the UK to the Med every year. What is it that we so love about going to the Med for our holidays? Is it the sun, sea, sand, sangria or do other elements of those holiday destinations draw us there?
With climate change and summers getting warmer we may be able to create Mediterranean gardens in the UK. However, the Mediterranean basin is large and varied. Other parts of the world share the same climate as the Mediterranean. The look from one Mediterranean country to the next may vary. For instance, a garden that is based in the South of France will be very different in style to one that is based in Morocco. This depends on the climate, landscape, terrains, mountain ranges, soil conditions, local materials, artisan skills, traditions, history, and where the country is located on the globe. Mediterranean gardens and courtyards can be created in the UK also. It’s in the detail. Make sure you provide plants with lots of drainage. The biggest killer of plants in the UK is no the cold but the wet. Plants do not like their roots sitting in water.
Photo Credit: Paul Debois & Gardeners World Magazine
A garden designed for a client in Kentish Town. The choice of colours on the walls immediately gives it that Moroccan vibe. Multi-stem Cordylines have been planted to look like palms
When I think of Mediterranean gardens, images of blue skies, sun-baked terraces, courtyards, terracotta pots and shady spots created by pergolas covered in scented climbers are conjured up. The Mediterranean lifestyle is slower, simpler and this is also reflected in the gardens.
Mediterranean gardens vary from region to region but one thing that they do have in common is the use of local materials to harness the property into its environment. Modern materials are rarely used if at all.
Photo Credit: Manoj Malde
A garden we are creating in Crete. Gravel is used to create meandering pathways amongst the planting. Local stone is laid as a crazy pave for the hardstanding areas. A timber pergola with Bougainvillea climbing up will eventually cover and create shade. Handmade terracotta pots created by Cretan potters are used around the property. The planting has been kept to a choice of drought tolerant plants.
These tend to be stone, gravel or concrete. Often the stone is locally sourced, so it has an affinity with the environment. These materials tend to be earthy, tough and durable. Other options to be considered are stone or granite setts and even clay pavers work well.
Are built out of timber. However, sun, coastal winds and salt spray dry out timber. It will need maintenance through staining or oiling. I love the pergolas where the posts are the full trunks of old trees that have weathered. Another option is to char the timber. Charring will give the timber a protective finish. These days people are choosing to use either wood look powder-coated aluminium or galvanised metal that is painted or disguised with climbers.
Something that is important to consider in any hot climate. This can be created by installing pergola with a sail, overhead rafters, screens or even a framework on which to train climbers. Verandas as part of the construction of the property can also provide shade underneath whilst creating an amazing roof terrace on top.
Can also be timber but will need upkeep like pergolas. Cast iron, aluminium powder coated and rattan furniture is also available. I love the idea of a single stone slab turned into a table with a drystone wall effect base or a wooden tabletop with a live edge.
A beautiful example of Mediterranean garden where large stone boulders have placed to look very natural with plants naturalising around them. Mature olive trees are perfect for a Mediterranean garden. The steps are created with sleeper risers that act like a retainer for the gravel infill that becomes the tread.
Is rarely used other than cast iron decorative railings, gates or grills. Corten however does work as the rusty metal has an earthy quality that blends well. Corten works for wall cladding, water features, containers and sculpture too.
Credit: Petit Fute
The stunning gardens at Dar Al Hossoun created by Eric Ossart and Arnaud Mauriers. The pool is the water feature within the gardens. The terracotta painted wall draws your attention through the garden. Both the designers have a passion for using local materials and artisan skills. The garden is planted with palms, euphorbias, aloes and a grand selection of cacti and succulents.
Predominantly tends to be earthy, sun-bleached tones of sand, stone, terracotta or otherwise white. However, don’t be scared of using bold colours in Mediterranean gardens. Places like Ibiza, Marbella, Algarve and other locations with similar climates like Miami, Morocco or even Mexico, bolder colours can create the perfect vibe. Think about pink and orange rendered walls. Le Jardin Majorelle in Marrakech is a perfect example where the vivid Majorelle blue has been used with bursts of yellow. Bold coloured walls work best when not used excessively. Use as a feature wall or as a backdrop to a focal point. Other options are coloured mosaic or zellige tiles often seen used in Moorish gardens. can also be used and these days there are some exquisite encaustic
Mediterranean gardens are not about lawns. In that heat imagine the amount of water it is going to take to keep it looking lush. That just seems a waste of natural resources. If you are going to create a lawn think about a drought-tolerant variety (choices are limited). Kikuyu grass is a creeper and it is very tough. Paspalum vaginatum found on salt marshes so good for coastal gardens. Zoysia grass is heat and drought tolerant and will cope with some shade. It has low water requirements and stands up to a lot of foot traffic.
Works well for meandering pathways with planting that softens the edges. Gravel borders also work well as it will help to suppress weeds and reduce water evaporation. Choose gravel that works with the property and the landscape that it is set in. Also, use a size that is comfortable to walk on. I would recommend a maximum of 20mm. Gravel gardens are also low maintenance.
Sheltered areas with traditional stone walls create cosy secluded spaces for relaxing and entertaining.
Often happens to be the swimming pool. Water features in Mediterranean gardens tend to be simple and there to cool the air. It can be a pond, fountain or a bubbling glazed pot. Moorish gardens in Andalucía, Cordoba and Morocco tend to have a circular central water feature with rills extending from it.
It is unusual for a Mediterranean garden to be flat and all at one level. There are often different levels with retaining walls created from stone walls with steps or meandering paths leading from one area to the next.
Where possible us local stone for walls whether they are for courtyards or raised borders. In countries like Morocco take advantage of the local skills where they can create hammered earth walls and open fretwork walls with handmade clay tiles. If using rendered wall do not be too precious about getting the walls smooth. The rough texture adds to the character of the wall.
Credit: Lazy Susan Garden Furniture
This garden was designed by James and Helen Basson. It was the Perfumers Garden sponsored by L’Occitane. The designers had spent some time researching the detail of the region in France from which the garden was inspired from. Four mature olive trees created a canopy for a shaded seating area. Mediterranean gardens are not about formality. Infact they have an edge of wildness and this garden reflects that beauty really well.
In many Mediterranean countries, artisan skills are still kept alive. Potters still turning their wheels and creating stunning pots with details connected to the local area or the country. Terracotta seems to be the material of choice in Italy, Spain and Greece but the finishing details from each country tend to be different. Glazed olive jars and Anduze planters come from Languedoc. Old stone water troughs also work well as planting containers.
The planting scheme will have a lot to do with where the garden is, not just in terms of location and aspect but also the country. Plants need to be drought tolerant. Once their roots are anchored into the ground, plants need to be able to survive for themselves. Mediterranean plants have to survive the summer heat and lack of water. Their make up is to prevent evaporation. Greyish or hairy leaves, small, waxy or tough foliage, succulents with water storing properties, bottle-shaped trunks that store water are all methods of survival for Mediterranean plants.
A Mediterranean garden in the South of France. The pot with the white oleander growing in it is an Anduze planter that is particular to the Languedoc. The design of the hardstanding adds character to the outdoor space with cobbled paths and the triangular sections filled with gravel.
Suggestions of plants for Mediterranean Gardens:-
Olive, Lemon, Orange, Pomegranate, Jacaranda, Eucalyptus, Mimosa, Needle Pine, Pinus pinea, Cycads, Dragon tree, Palms, Holm Oak, Avocado
Lavenders, Rosemary, Lantana, Oleander, Euphorbia, Westringia, Teucrium, Dasylirion, Mexican Salvias, Grevillea, Yucca rostrata, Phlomis, Pittosporum, Myrtle, Helichrysum, Helianthemum, Cistus
Jasmine, Wisteria, Climbing Roses, Evergreen Jasmine, Campsis
Cacti & Succulents
Aeoniums, Agaves, Barrel Cactus, Bulbine, Aloes
Credit: Hotel Weekend
Beautiful fretwork created out of handmade tiles at Hotel Dar Al Hossoun in Taroudant. These can be easily incorporated into a courtyard wall to allow the breeze to travel through.
Pennisteum, Miscanthus, Stipa
Bearded Iris, Salvias, Osteospermum, Agapanthus, Thulbagia, Gaura, Helianthus, Verbena, Mexican Flea Bane, Eryngium, Bearded Iris, Artemisia, Stachys
Tithonia, Californian Poppies, Zinnia, Gazania, Cosmos Sulphureus, Pelargoniums
Alliums, Cyclamen, Specie Tulips, Asphodel
The above are just suggestions only. All of the above plants have different varieties. Please make sure at the suitability of the variety to your particular location.
Photo Credit: Jonathan Buckley. Designer: Manoj Malde
When using colour as a backdrop always consider how the plants in front associate with that colour. Painted walls can also create a lot of drama through the shadows that are caste on them.