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Garden Style: How to Create a Mediterranean Garden

Chelsea Show Garden Mediterranean

With the return of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show this week you’re probably tempted to make some changes in your own garden, or even go for an entire redesign worthy of a best in show.

It can be a little daunting making a start, especially if your garden has become a little overgrown and wild in the winter! There’s also plenty of decisions to make; what’s the best layout? Which garden features will work best? What type of paving will compliment your scheme? And then there’s the planting!

We’re continuing our Garden Guide series to help you achieve your ideal garden style. With warm weather approaching, we’re focusing on Mediterranean gardens, perfect for those summer BBQ’s…

The Mediterranean Garden

One of the most beautiful aspects of a Mediterranean garden isn’t actually any of the features, but more the sentimental value! Afterall, who doesn’t want to feel like they’re on holiday every time they relax in the garden? However, with that said, there are certain features & colours that we need to include in order to create that kind of atmosphere here in Britain.

Mediterranean gardens are generally designed with three main features in mind; these include a shaded seating area, movement (such as a water feature) and potted plants. Following this general design concept will help you to make any garden seem like an endless holiday abroad. There are other features that will create this concept but we’ll cover those later…

Remember, nothing is restrictive, and depending on your garden layout, some features will look better than others. It’s certainly worth some planning before you get started.

Mediterranean gardens are great for introducing new species of wildlife. Thanks to the mix of bright coloured flowers & flowing water you can expect a number of birds, frogs & flying insects such as butterflies & bees. Since World Bee Day recently passed, I think we all know just how important this is.

The beauty of Mediterranean gardens is that you can decide how much maintenance will be required. If you’re a garden lover then feel free to opt for plenty of shrubs, flowers & movement. However, if constant maintenance isn’t your thing and you’d rather have something that’s easy to keep on top of then choosing a larger patio area with extra shade is a great way to get past this. With mosaic tiles & paved flooring such as Crazy Paving or Riven Paving you won’t have to think about mowing the lawn ever again.

This moves us on to our next point, start with the landscaping. We always recommend starting with the landscaping, whether that’s a seating area, patio, porch or even your walling. Deciding on your layout first will make it much easier for you to decide on other aspects later because it enables you to know how much space you have, and in what layout. You can then know how much green area you have left to trial different plants & layouts. Remember to consider which way you receive the sun before deciding on your landscaping because this helps you know where to place your shaded areas and which plants should go where.

The M&G Garden designed by Sarah Price: (Source: RHS)

The Design

Mediterranean gardens are entirely based around the traditions of the Mediterranean where most families will spend their evenings together, therefore, shelter from the sun is a must. It’s not uncommon for food to be eaten outdoors either, which is why most Mediterranean gardens will include an outdoor dining area.

Shaded Seating Area

A shaded seating area is vital for gardens in the Mediterranean because they provide an area to relax and unwind, without the excessive heat from the sun. Pergolas & canopies are a perfect way to create that same effect in your own garden. Although these structures are a necessity in the Mediterranean they’re also perfect for British gardens because our houses are often closer to one another they create a lovely private area of the garden without looking too closed off. Another benefit to these structures is that they provide some form of protection from windy weather.

In order to create a beautiful feature you should add some plants that will not only help make the appearance much nicer but they will also provide extra shade & invite more wildlife to your garden. Keep reading to see our most suggested plants for pergolas in Mediterranean gardens.

Water Feature

It goes without saying that most Mediterranean gardens need a water feature of some kind. This helps to keep the air a little cooler and it also adds some movement & depth to the garden, which is essential when you’re spending a lot of time there. Ornamental ponds & fountains are both common features. Pools are also a great addition if you have enough space in your garden, for the Mediterranean’s this provides somewhere to cool down but for us here in Britain, it provides an amazing feature which can be enjoyed by all at family BBQ’s.

Mosaic Tiles

Nothing quite takes you back to your family holidays like mosaic tiles. There’s something about those brightly coloured patterns that makes you reminisce back to care-free moments besides the pool.

Mediterranean Garden Plants

Pots and Containers

When living in a dry and warm atmosphere such as the Mediterranean you have to look for ways to grow plants so that they can be regularly watered and not end up dehydrating in the hot Mediterranean weather. Clay pots can be the perfect solution for many different plants & flowers because they will remain cool by evaporation and they also make a great focal point. Plastic pots are best avoided as they will absorb the suns heat quickly, stealing precious water from your plants.

Container gardening has become more popular in the UK too over the past couple of years, especially for avid gardeners, as it makes it much easier to segregate and tend to a multitude of plants. If you want to go for something more unique and aesthetically pleasing then we suggest opting for a large urn style pot, with plenty of styles & colours to chose from it’s easy for you to put your own trademark in place, separating from the other gardens on your street. Whichever style you decide to go for, we always suggest choosing a pot that has a large base due to the unpredictable weather we have here in the UK, this will stop your plants from toppling over on a windy day.

As for the plants, we suggest choosing brightly coloured flowers for your pots, but it’s important to consider the scents of these as well as the colours if you want to achieve a truly authentic Mediterranean garden. If you’re struggling to decide, you can always choose brightly coloured flowers for your pots then place some herbs around the garden to get the scents you desire.

Inland Homes Garden: Uses pots sparingly but to dramatic affect. (Source: RHS Chelsea)

Clipped Hedges and Topiary

Mediterranean gardens are often free flowing with a multitude of different ornaments, plants & structures that lead you off to different sectors of the garden, however if you want your garden to have some structure to it then hedges and topiary are a great way to do this. Hedges and topiary can also add extra privacy for your garden, particularly for those who don’t have the space for a canopy and don’t want to go to the extent of adding walls or fencing.

Succulents and Drought-Tolerant Plants

There’s a huge range of succulents and drought-tolerant plants for you to chose from, all of which would suit with a Mediterranean styled garden. Some of the most loved and suitable are:

Allium Plant

Santolina:
Evergreen sub-shrub that thrives in hot, sunny, well-drained sites. Useful as a dwarf-hedging substitute.

Santolina:
Evergreen sub-shrub that thrives in hot, sunny, well-drained sites. Useful as a dwarf-hedging substitute.

Santolina:
Evergreen sub-shrub that thrives in hot, sunny, well-drained sites. Useful as a dwarf-hedging substitute.

Agapanthus

Bay Tree:
A great way to add height, obviously not all will grow as large as this one!

Bay Tree:
A great way to add height, obviously not all will grow as large as this one!

Bay Tree:
A great way to add height, obviously not all will grow as large as this one!

Cheese Plant

Rosemary:
Add more interest to your Mediterranean style garden with Rosemary, smells great on the edge of paths too.

Rosemary:
Add more interest to your Mediterranean style garden with Rosemary, smells great on the edge of paths too.

Rosemary:
Add more interest to your Mediterranean style garden with Rosemary, smells great on the edge of paths too.

Oxe Eye Daises

Wormwood:
Adds great ground cover and texture to any Mediterranean garden

Wormwood:
Adds great ground cover and texture to any Mediterranean garden

Wormwood:
Adds great ground cover and texture to any Mediterranean garden

Carex

Carex:
Grasses planted on border edges play an integral role in the modern garden, a backdrop for colour, as well as softening up hard edges.

Carex:
Grasses planted on border edges play an integral role in the modern garden, a backdrop for colour, as well as softening up hard edges.

Carex:
Grasses planted on border edges play an integral role in the modern garden, a backdrop for colour, as well as softening up hard edges.

Buxus

Box and Ball Hedging:
Becoming popular in the last few years, shaped hedges are a mainstay of any modern garden design. Use Buxus in clumps to serve as a backdrop for Allium and Agapanthus.

Box and Ball Hedging:
Becoming popular in the last few years, shaped hedges are a mainstay of any modern garden design. Use Buxus in clumps to serve as a backdrop for Allium and Agapanthus.

Box and Ball Hedging:
Becoming popular in the last few years, shaped hedges are a mainstay of any modern garden design. Use Buxus in clumps to serve as a backdrop for Allium and Agapanthus.

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Plants Suitable for Pergolas

Campsis is a very exotic-looking climber plant with brightly coloured flowers that fade from orange to yellow. Described by the RHS as an ‘easy’ plant to grow this is a perfect option for beginners. These plants usually flower from late summer to autumn in the UK.

The Humulus Lupulus (also known as Golden Hop) is perfect for growing over or around arches to create a shaded area. This plant grows best in full sunlight making it suitable if you have a South-facing garden and want to create a cooler area for sitting or eating under. Flowering can be expected from July to August.

The Ipomoea Purpurea (commonly referred to as morning glory) is another beautifully bright climber plant. This climber plant grows distinctive ‘heart-shaped’ flowers from Summer into early Autumn. However, as pretty as this is it may not be a suitable plant choice for young families as the seeds can be extremely toxic.

If you’re looking for something more practical than pretty, the Vitis ‘Brant’ is the ideal plant for your pergolas. Not only does this plant have some amazing leaves and decorative vines but it will also grow some delicious grapes (if you’re lucky).

More information on Pergola plants can be found on The Royal Horticultural Society.

Mediterranean Garden Landscaping

Paving

For gardeners living in the Mediterranean it’ been a long-hard struggle to grow grass due to the climate. With little water and long drought-periods many have given up on having a grass garden and have opted for more paving instead. This avoids a battle with nature and has the advantage of a low-maintenance garden. Not only is this easier for individuals, but also saves a lot of water. How do you get the same affect in the UK? Which paving do you choose? Well, there are a couple of options available, but we’re going to cover the main two.

Crazy Paving

Crazy Paving is ideal for those wanting to achieve a relaxed Mediterranean style garden with no particular structure to it. Thanks to the unique pattern of jaggered lines it gives the appearance of the cracked paving you would see on holiday. Over time the stone becomes weathered making it more attractive as time goes on. If you’d prefer not to wait you can opt to purchase reclaimed crazy paving which will already have that worn appearance.

C Norman Crazy Paving 1

Crazy Paving adds interest to any garden and acts as a great backdrop for

Riven Paving

Riven Paving is another great option for creating a Mediterranean garden; thanks to its natural appearance the Riven Paving can suit a multitude of garden styles, particularly Mediterranean ones. This style of stone has a mixture of self-riven, natural and pure riven faces, meaning you can chose how weathered you want your finished design to look. If you’re trying to stay authentic to the Mediterranean design we suggest choosing a style that has more rose brown, peach and terracotta tones, rather than cooler tones.

Raised beds

Raised beds are always a brilliant go-to for adding depth to your garden, something every garden needs a little bit of. When trying to get the Mediterranean style we suggest adding a circular bed rather than a square or rectangle; this will help re-create the free-flowing appearance that these gardens usually have. Raised beds can be used to create a focal point for the garden or can be added as additional features, depending on the style and the size of your bed as well as the plants you choose to add. It may be worthwhile putting some serious thought in to your plant placement first though because raised beds are perfect for plants that need to be well-drained thanks to the soil environment. Most Mediterranean plants love this kind of environment, but some might need it more than others.

Outdoor Furniture

Mediterranean gardens are usually decorated with rustic furniture to suit the relaxed and slightly weathered garden design. They’re strong traditions of outdoor living means that there’s almost always an outdoor eating area therefore a classic aluminium dining set is perfect. Thankfully, these are usually weather resistant making them ideal for the British climate as well as the Mediterranean. Small bistro sets can also make a great alternative for smaller gardens.

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