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Mediterranean Gardens

MEDITERRANEAN GARDENS

Mediterranean gardens are all the rage and it is a trend that is likely to grow in popularity as we seek to capture the summery, hedonistic atmosphere of Spain, Italy, southern France or Greece in our backyards.

For many of us, the Mediterranean lifestyle has a “laid back” image, which is an irresistible antidote to the hectic pace of modern life. For others, the Mediterranean style is an appealing design trend, characterised by bright colours and contrasting earthy hues. And for the many Australians who have migrated here from Southern Europe, a Mediterranean-style garden is a link with their former home.

Whatever the reason, Mediterranean gardens are ideal for many parts of Australia. The typical Mediterranean climate has wet spring and autumn and dry summers and winters– similar to the climate in many of our population centres – so the style of gardening and plants are well suited to the conditions. And providing you work to a good design, this type of garden can be relatively low maintenance.

WHAT IS A MEDITERRANEAN GARDEN?

Think of Mediterranean gardens, and your mind probably conjures images of blue skies, sunbaked courtyards, and long, lazy lunches under vine-covered pergolas. In every good Mediterranean garden design the key ingredients are light, warmth, simplicity and relaxation.

The features of a Mediterranean garden can be diverse, but the one thing they don’t include is modern components (such as modern sculpture/furniture).

The features

· The main hard landscape materials are stone, concrete and ceramics – these durable, earthy materials are used in abundance. Timber is also occasionally used (usually for constructing pergolas and sturdy outdoor tables and benches). Metal is rarely used – generally restricted to decorative cast iron lacework. The only use of plastics is likely to be lightweight pots in ceramic colours.

· The predominant colours have a sun bleached look – white, or earthy shades such as terracotta and sandstone are popular. Splashes of bright colours such as brilliant blues are used for contrast. This also reminds the viewer of the brilliant blue of the Mediterranean Sea.

· Typically these gardens don’t have lawns or only small patches of lawn. Lawns need lots of water in summer, which is the driest time of year in most Mediterranean climates. Instead ground surfaces are paved or covered with gravel.

· Walled gardens and courtyards are popular. They create warm, sheltered and intimate spaces for relaxing and entertaining.

· Overhead shade is a necessity – usually provided by pergolas and verandahs.

· Outdoor furniture is essential for relaxing – for a rustic look use long timber tables and benches; in more formal settings, metal furniture may be preferred.

· Water features are usually simple, often used for their cooling effect ­­– swimming pools, fountains or ponds rather than watercourses or cascades.

· Terracing is used on larger, sloping blocks.

· Garden ornaments are either traditional and/or rustic. Examples include olive jars and traditional statues

· Plants tend to be secondary to the hard landscaping. They are hardy and drought tolerant, often with silver-grey foliage typical of drier climates. Many occur naturally in the Mediterranean, or have been grown in the area for thousands of years, eg. Lavender, Olive, Roses, Rosemary, Pencil Pines.

· Container plants are popular, including window boxes with geraniums and large tubs or barrels planted with citrus or olives.

· Topiary and other pruning techniques can add to the formal elements of a Mediterranean garden.

· Splashes of bold colour are sometimes used – but not always. The preferred uses of bold colour are colourful tiles or bright painted walls, mosaics and tromp l’oeil – these should not be excessive.

Plants for Mediterranean gardens

Typical plants used in the Mediterranean for courtyards and patios have to be resistant to dry and hot conditions. In some areas, they may have to be a little frost resistant too, as in winter there may be some very chilly mornings where frost can settle in lowlands and northerly (in the North hemisphere) facing slopes.

Plants are used for colour as well as scent. Gardens are enjoyed in afternoons and evenings where jasmine, orange trees and aromatic herbs such as lavender and rosemary release their sweet scents.

Plant

Foliage features

Flower Features

Jasmine

Three lobed small bright green leaves

Heavenly scented starry white flowers

Lavender

Silvery green & scented narrow leaves

Scented blue spikes

Rosemary

Deep green bluish dense scented and needle-like foliage

Small bluish flowers

Geraniums and Pelargoniums

Rounded or lobed smooth or furry leaves

Blooms borne above the plant in various colours

Gazanias

Low growing lobed green leaves

Starry bright orange and yellow flowers

Roses

Divided glossy green leaves

Variable coloured blooms in clusters or singular

Cistus

Silvery green leaves

Bright single rose-like flowers in various colours

Pomegranates

Small green glossy leaves

Beautiful red flowers followed by red/orange rounded fruit

Grapes

Climber with large lobed deciduous leaves

Insignificant flowers followed by edible berries either black or green

Bay tree

Firm green leaves on erect bush

Insignificant flowers

Lilac

Large lobed deciduous leaves

Mauve, lilac or white upright clusters

Cypress

Small dense blue-grey to green needles

Insignificant flowers followed by cones

Olives

Deep green and silvery beneath

Insignificant but followed with olive berries

Oleanders

Dull green elongated leaves with white sap

Flowers borne over many months in warmer districts in various colours.

Citrus

Lush glossy leaves

Small scented white blossoms

Article by John Mason and ACS Distance Education

www.acs.edu.au

www.acsedu.co.uk

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