Posted 9 November 2015 by Keith Osborne
Warm summers and dry winters are becoming a prevailing trend here in the UK and not surprisingly, this is having an effect on the traditional British garden, which isn't used to long periods of drought followed by a drenching.
So rather than do battle with our changing climate, why not embrace it and use it as an opportunity to try a new form of gardening, using plants that thrive in drier conditions? In other words, why not try creating your own Mediterranean garden?
The great thing about a Mediterranean garden is you don't need a villa in Tuscany to reap the benefits of one. Even the smallest English backyard, as long as it is sheltered and sunny, will do just as well and you can have lots of fun putting a framework in place for the plants you are going to choose.
Structure, as with any garden is key. Grass is out and gravel, paving and terracotta tiling together with clay pots are in. Because Mediterranean gardens are all about outdoor living, it is important to incorporate living areas, both for dining and just relaxing, into your design.
Café-style tables and chairs, rustic benches and rattan loungers should be accompanied by plenty of colourful cushions, tablecloths and lanterns.
Shade is an important feature of the Mediterranean lifestyle. A pergola is an essential purchase as it fulfils a number of tasks, including providing shade, a structure for climbing plants such as a grapevine or colourful flowers such as wisteria, bougainvillea or campsis.
Scent plays a vital role, too. Orange and lemon trees, jasmine, herbs such as rosemary, bay, thyme and lavender all have their own striking and Mediterranean evocative smells, plus are useful culinary ingredients.
Natural materials are key if you are to create the right ambience, because a Mediterranean garden is not a modern setting. Avoid concrete paving slabs and choose sun-kissed terracotta tiles, offset by flat, pebble-style gravel. Natural stone as well as wood in the form of benches and pergolas will all help set the tone. Containers such as terracotta pots in varying sizes, but grouped together, will be another major asset.
Geraniums (or pelargoniums) - look wonderful planted in terracotta pots or window boxes, especially if there are lots of them grouped together.
Olive trees - should be planted in pots, too, so they can be brought indoors for wintering.
Euphorbia - this large evergreen is a sun-loving species with small amber flowers.
Aromatic herbs - rosemary, lavender, sage, thyme and bay are all superb for colour, scent and culinary use.
Santolina - otherwise known as cotton lavender, this plant has silvery grey foliage and contrasting small yellow flowers. It can be cut into round balls or low hedges.
Cypress - the classic tree which epitomises Mediterranean garden style.
1 Gravel and paving are a key feature of Mediterranean style gardens (image courtesy of www.gardenhousedesign.co.uk)
2 Terracotta pots in warm pinky orange colours and assorted colours are ideal for helping create a Mediterranean feel in your garden
3 A pergola is perfect for creating a shady spot - better still, use it to support a grape vine
4 Grow aromatic evergreen herbs, such as rosemary (shown here), lavender and thyme for both colour and culinary use
5 Half-hardy geraniums (pelargoniums) cope well with heat and drought, yet still produce plenty of colourful flowers, and can be grown in pots or window boxes