The Mediterranean gardens typical for the countryside of France, Italy and Greece have been a source of inspiration for many gardeners. Their pragmatic beauty, low-maintenance and clever combination of history, culture and vision makes them a wonderful place to relax and enjoy nature.
Since they are developed to match the climate of the Mediterranean basin, these gardens are easier replicated in areas with similar weather conditions – winter rains and long, dry summers. While, the UK does not exactly match this definition, it is not impossible to evoke this atmosphere at home with smart planning and proper choice of garden plants and elements. Proof of that is the picture below depicting St Michael Coast in Cornwall.
Here is a quick guide presenting you with the main elements that you need to include in order to enjoy the Mediterranean garden style in your yard.
Form and natural landscape
The design of the Mediterranean garden includes several distinctive features, such as:
- Enclosures. The enclosed garden originates from Persia but nowadays this type of construction is popular in Spain, Greece and Italy and has been brought to the USA and UK as well. The high walls protect the garden from adverse weather conditions, such as winds but also provide privacy to their owners.
- Shade offering constructions. As the Mediterranean sun is quite strong, people look for comfortable places offering shade in the garden. This can be achieved by pergolas, gazebos, etc. or by installing special constructions and using climbing plants to form a natural arch.
- Seating areas. In order to enjoy the good weather and admire your garden, you need a comfortable place to sit and relax. To match the Mediterranean style the area should be rather informal – a wooden bench or even rocks and boulders will do the trick. Metal is avoided in the area since it gets too hot but as the climate in the UK is milder you can also include some pieces of furniture from wrought iron, which is distinctive of the Mediterranean décor.
The landscape of the gardens in the Mediterranean basin is dominated by natural rocks and stones that are in perfect combination with the vegetation. There is no need to import them. Use local materials. There are excellent exterior riven slate tiles that you can also use for the paths and alleys.
The vegetation is the other specific part of the Mediterranean garden. So, the question here is which one to choose. There is a variety of plants that you can select from but the most important thing to take into consideration is the weather. Choose such plants that can thrive in the typical UK climate. Here are a few ideas what to look for:
- Climbing plants. We have already mentioned that they are ideal for creating comfortable shade in the garden. Some of the plants to consider are common jasmine (jasminum officinale), climbing roses, golden hop (humulus lupulus "Aurea") and even some sorts of grape.
- Succulents and cacti. These are the type of plants that thrive with little water, under scorching temperatures and not very fertile soil. The good news is that they can also survive colder weather. You can plant agaves, yucca or sempervivum, which is a particularly tough plant.
- Edibles. Mediterranean gardens often combine beauty with functionality. People grow a great variety of fruits and herbs. Lemons, figs and olives are just an example, which however are not suitable for the UK climate. Herbs are different story though, because you can grow them in tops even on your kitchen counter. Basil, thyme or oregano are excellent options. In warmer weather they will add fragrance to the beauty of your garden and will be handy for spicing the next BBQ dinner.
Plant tops and ornaments
Terracotta pots and ornaments are typical representatives of the Mediterranean. You can use them both as a focal point in your garden or for container gardening. The shape and size of the pot depends on your space and preferences. Keep in mind that clay pots will keep the plants cooler because they do not absorb the sun's heat like the plastic ones. You can also decorate your plant tops with hand-made mosaic pieces in the typical vibrant colours of the Mediterranean.
Water elements are part of almost every Mediterranean garden as they can provide relief from the sun and heat. Since water is scarce in the area, though, it is used wisely. Installing a water butt is a wise trick to collect water, for example. As to the aesthetic features of water elements you can opt for fountains, ornamental pools or ponds. You should also know that water will attract birds, bees and butterflies, which is good for the natural development of your garden.
Gravel, pebbles, tiles, mosaics are elements that are an intrinsic part of a Mediterranean garden. It is up to you to decide which one fits better your overall concept.
- Gravel or paving are preferred in the area since they are easy to maintain and do not require watering as opposed to lawns.
- Pebbles and cobbles can be used to create interesting patterns throughout your garden floor
- Natural stone and terracotta or ceramic tiles are quite popular for covering paths or forming separate outdoor areas
- Mosaics can be used as excellent decoration in the garden. They are suitable for walkways, benches, walls and even planters.
A garden on the balcony
Those, whose outdoor area is limited only to a terrace or a balcony, can have a smaller version of a garden that still bears the Mediterranean romance. Plant some herbs, such as basil, thyme and rosemary in terracotta tops and place them on your window frame or in the corners of your terrace. You can enjoy their aroma while sipping coffee and use them to spice your Mediterranean-inspired dishes. It is even possible to grow your own cherry tomatoes on the terrace. You can also use some climbing plants and a decorative structure to form a shady spot.
Don't give up on your idea to welcome the Mediterranean elegance and romantic atmosphere in your home. If the garden is not an option then simply decorate your internal space following these clever ideas.