If you have a sunny garden with light, sandy soil you have the perfect starting point for a Mediterranean-style garden. Based on the sun-baked gardens of southern France, Italy, Spain and Greece, Mediterranean gardens have a very special atmosphere with gravel and stone, soft, aromatic planting and a shady seating area for enjoying the view.
1. Planning your garden
First, find out about your garden’s basics – light and soil. How do sun and shade travel across the space? What is the texture of your soil – ideally, it should be quite sandy and free-draining. Considering the space as a whole, draw the outline of your garden and indicate areas for the things you need or want. Remember vertical spaces like walls or pergolas for climbing plants and include level changes where raised beds or steps will add more interest.
Traditional Mediterranean gardens were built from local stone with gravel paths, dry stone walls and paved terraces creating that sun-baked atmosphere. To create an authentic look use the same type - or at least colour - of stone throughout your garden, in different forms. Pale colours work particularly well and reflect light and heat back into the garden. The Stylish Stone Cotswold Stone range comes in gravel and stones and you can use it with the Gravel Pave system to keep it in place. Create raised beds or steps from a similar stone. If you have brick walls, disguise them with climbers, or paint. Choose a pale pink colour to fit with the Mediterranean style.
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3. Soil and situation
If you already have a very sunny, south-facing site and a free-draining soil that doesn’t hold water, Mediterranean plants will feel at home. If you have a dense soil that holds water, you’ll have to change the texture with grit and organic material. If your soil is very heavy, try raised beds with bought in free-draining soil. Save the sunniest spots for planting and use the shaded areas for seating and al fresco dining - or another focal point like a water feature, decorative pot or a painted colour block wall, perhaps in a Cuprinol garden shade like barleywood or terracotta.
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Make sure your beds and borders are in the sunniest spots in your garden to suit drought-tolerant, sun-loving Mediterranean plants. If you don’t have naturally well-drained soil, then building raised beds and filling them with new free-draining soil can create the ideal conditions for these plants to thrive. Build them from stone ideally, or a chunky, weathered timber. Make them as big as you can and use gravel to mulch in between for the relaxed Med feel. The gravel mulch will not only look authentic, it will also help to conserve water, prevent weeds and reflect light and heat back up to the plants.
5. Pots & containers
Pots and containers play a key role in Mediterranean gardens - as focal points or decorative elements. They can be used in a formal style, planted with topiary and placed symmetrically in the garden, or in a more informal style, planted with herbs and aromatic shrubs and placed in groups of odd numbers. Choose pots that are as large as possible to reduce the need for watering and feeding and go for the soft tones of terracotta, stone or clay to get an authentic look. You may also like to try Falmouth Glazed mosaic plant pots. Many Mediterranean garden plants are hardy in the UK climate. However, if you choose tender plants like bougainvillea or citrus, you’ll need to move them indoors for the winter, into a greenhouse, conservatory or sunny porch.
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Mediterranean plants need sun and good drainage. They’re extremely drought tolerant once they’re established but you’ll need to water them regularly for the first few months. Scented plants, particularly herbs, are a must. Lavender and rosemary make lovely soft mounds of foliage, while oregano and marjoram will sprawl through your beds. Use scented climbers - like Jasmine or climbing roses - on walls and pergolas or try growing your own grapes with a vine. Alternatively, go for an olive or fig tree. For the Riviera look, try a Palm like Phoenix canariensis, use perennials like Nepeta and Erysimum to add colour, and grasses work well too - try Festuca Elijah Blue for edging paths and Stipa Ponytails to add texture to plant groups.
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7. Authentic features
Grass lawns don’t often feature in Mediterranean gardens, as they need too much water to thrive. Instead you can grow small succulents or herbs in the cracks and crevices of paving and gravel to help soften edges. Try planting thyme or sempervivum and let them creep naturally. In the sun-baked climate of the Mediterranean, the sight and sound of water is very cooling, so consider including a simple water feature or stone-edged pool in your design. Mosaics often featured in the Moorish gardens of Spain, made from either pebbles or tiles. Why not create your own pebble mosaic picture as a feature within a gravel terrace or use plain pebbles laid into a mortar mix for a textured path? Try River pebbles or Keldale cobbles.
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8. Furniture and decorations
Every Mediterranean garden needs a spot where you can shelter from the midday sun or sit out late into the evening for a relaxed family dinner. Usually this is a traditional-style table and chairs with a plant-covered pergola or arbour providing the shade. A natural material like wood works well for furniture and structures. Although metal furniture wouldn’t be authentic for the Med - as it gets too hot - in this country it can work well. Try a Blue Bistro set for smaller spaces. The other essential is lighting – keep it subtle with simple lanterns or an LED solar light string, then position some decorative clay pots or urns to complete the scene.
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