Somewhere I read that the Mediterranean garden is an alliance between man and earth: man cultivates it respecting the natural environment and the garden meets its needs with vitality and warmth. A statement with which I could not agree more.
The Mediterranean garden
Growing a garden on the Mediterranean coast can be challenging for the beginning gardener. In my case it was. When we plan our first garden we have a tendency to imagine it as a green and humid oasis, full of all the plants we like and even a green meadow of grass to lie in the sun or play with the children. It seems that the English garden is the idea that prevails in our heads, but it is an impossible model when the climate is totally different. In the Mediterranean region water is scarce, summer temperatures are high and the wind can dry a pot in a few minutes. Drought, sun, and wind are restrictions, but there are no limitations that cannot be overcome to achieve the beautiful garden of our dreams.
For me, there are seven points that are key in a Mediterranean garden. They are typical of the style and necessary if you are in this climatic zone, but they can also be used anywhere with different weather if you want to recreate a garden with a Mediterranean aesthetic.
Considering the scarcity of a resource as essential as water, one of the first things to avoid in a Mediterranean garden is plants that need a lot of humidity. To begin with, the effort to maintain a large green meadow is the least convenient. I admit that I was also attracted to the idea of having as much grass as possible. But after a few years of trying, I came to the conclusion that it was a fight against nature and decided to reduce it to the minimum.
There is no need to give up on green-covered soils, there are alternatives to traditional grass much more appropriate for the Mediterranean climate. Rustic cover plants can be used to cover the ground, such as thyme or yarrow, which in summer will resist without yellowing the heat. There are also groundcover plants among the succulents, such as lamprantus or sedum, which can replace thirsty lawns.
And there is the option that saves more water, which is the use of aggregates. Perhaps the gravel does not look as nice as the lawn but creates a really nice cover on the ground. It is very typical of Provençal gardens in the south of France, where it is used as mulching around plants to prevent water evaporation and prevent the growth of weeds. It seemed to us a very appropriate alternative and except for a small grassy area next to the terrace, the rest of the garden was covered with pink gravel.
The Mediterranean climate is pleasant for much of the year and the garden is an extension of the house that can be used very often, even on sunny winter days. Resting in the garden on summer nights or having breakfast in the first rays of the sun is a very pleasant experience, but it is necessary to create shaded seating areas. When the sun is high, the shadow becomes vital.
Porches or pergolas with climbing plants are usually the most typical structures to protect themselves from the sun. They provide the necessary shade and can be covered with fragrant climbing plants to increase well-being. We planted wisteria and jasmine by the porch. The wisteria has a fabulous bloom, but it is somewhat short due to the excessive heat it makes in our region. Jasmine, however, does not stop blooming throughout the summer. Its flowers are not as striking as wisteria. But the aroma that floats in the air during summer nights is a real gift.
Another typically Mediterranean climber is bougainvillea, a majestic plant that in summer is filled with clusters of fragrant flowers. The honeysuckle and passiflora are other alternatives that live very well in our hot climate. It all depends on the taste of each one. But I would recommend them this way and in this order: jasmine, bougainvillea, honeysuckle, and passiflora.
In the Mediterranean region, there are thousands of varieties of plants to use in the garden. They are plants that live well under the usually hot and dry conditions of this climate and provide a wide range of delicious colors, textures, and aromas. Insisting on introducing plants with a continental or tropical climate is a mistake that I myself have made on occasion and that only involves more effort to maintain and treat diseases. To enjoy the garden it is best to ally with Nature and learn to work with it.
In the Mediterranean garden, we will find plants with all the imaginable color palettes, from deep green foliage to leaves in gray and blue-green tones with which to form beautiful combinations. But there are also plenty of flowering plants to encourage that burst of spring color. The scent is important in the Mediterranean garden, and the list of heat-loving and drought-tolerant plants includes many aromatic herbs.
The list of plants that can be introduced in a Mediterranean garden is huge. But I will tell you some of the ones that I have in the garden. Many of them are already long-lived, do not cause problems, and give much satisfaction with their beautiful flowers:
4. Use pots
As in any other type of garden, in the Mediterranean, it is mainly planted in the ground. But the pots are a very typical element of the style. The ceramic pots are attractive, they serve to break the monotony and create points of attention in the garden. They also facilitate gardening when there is not much soil to plant. Or to grow plants with special needs (such as acidophilic plants ). I love hydrangeas, but since the soil in my garden is very alkaline. The only way to have a hydrangea is in a pot with acid soil and in a shady corner.
5. Trimmed hedges and topiary
The hedge is the architectural framework par excellence of the Mediterranean garden. The cypress is characteristic of this style, its perennial foliage provides privacy and an attractive green background throughout the year. The typical Mediterranean cypress is the species “ Cupressus sempervirens”, a very long-lasting conifer that supports arid and compact soils. It has a rapid growth during its first years of life and tolerates frequent pruning very well. Making it the ideal candidate for formal hedges.
Low hedges are also used to delimit flower beds and some bushes are trimmed with geometric shapes. In my little garden there are no flower beds, but some trimmed bushes with rounded shapes. Topiary may seem complicated at first, but with practice, you learn to do it well. At least with bushes that are not too big.
6. Plant a garden
The orchard is very common in our gardens, the mild climate allows growing vegetables. And culinary herbs for much of the year. The orchard provides home-grown supplies for the kitchen and also contributes to the aesthetics of the garden with edible vegetable lineups and flower and fruit colors. Tomatoes and zucchini are very decorative plants in summer, beans flourish in winter. And the fruits of the orange tree are gathered. What you should keep in mind is that the garden must receive many hours of sunshine per day. Reserve for him the place most exposed to the sun.
7. Install the appropriate automatic irrigation, this way you will fight the drought
A Mediterranean garden requires little maintenance if plants are chosen well since species adapted to the climate have little need for water and fertilization. But from time to time it is necessary to water, especially when summer arrives and the plants have to withstand intense heat in full sun. Irrigation management is an important task since an excess of water can harm the development of the plants as well as the lack of the precious liquid.
The best solution is to install automatic drip irrigation that runs throughout the planting area. This system allows you to adjust the amount of water that plants need and is responsible for watering whenever necessary, even if you are away from home.
I hope these ideas are helpful to you in maintaining your own garden. If you like Mediterranean gardens, but live in another region, you can also get a garden of this style. You should only consider using plants that adapt to the climate where your garden is.
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