Mediterranean plants and trees

The 10 Best Mediterranean Plants for UK Gardens

Old Olive Trees at the Plant Centre

2. Chamaerops Humilis Palms
Also known as the Mediterranean Fan Palm, this is an extremely hardy plant suitable for growing in the UK. These beautiful plants come in a variety of colours, leaf-styles and sizes. Whichever type you choose, these palms are tough, low maintenance and when established can withstand any degree of drought or wind.

Chamaerops Humilis Palm Tree (Mediterranean Fan Palm)

3. Trachycarpus Fortunei Palms
This spectacular palm is commonly referred to as the Chusan Palm or the Chinese Windmill Palm. Architectural plants are dominant in Mediterranean gardens and this palm tree with its remarkable fan-shaped leaves is an ideal choice. Flowering from May to August, this plant is fully hardy and likes a position of sun or partial shade.

Hardy Palms like Trachycarpus Fortunei (Chusan Palm) look spectacular in Mediterranean Gardens

4. Cupressus Sempervirens (Tuscan Cypress) Trees
The cypress tree has become synonymous with images of Italian vineyards in the heart of Tuscany; whilst this magnificent tree is a traditional symbol of the Mediterranean landscape, it actually originates from Persia. This is a deciduous tree that can survive for up to 2,000 years or more.

Italian Tuscan Cypress Trees conjuring up the spirit of the Med. They feature regularly in Mediterranean gardens

Cupressus Sempervirens (Tuscan Cypress) at our Plant Centre

5. Bay Leaf Topiary
Bay Leaf plants are a very attractive shrub that can be easily pruned into topiary shapes. Their dark green leaves are very fragrant, perfect for infusing your garden with an aromatic scent. Since Bay is a very slow grower, it’s ideal for container growing. At Paramount Plants we pride ourselves on our impressive range of sculpted plants; you can take a look at our full topiary collection here.

6. Trachelospernum Jasminoides (Evergreen Jasmine)
This stunning evergreen climber is the variety of Jasmine flowers that are used in perfume manufacture. Frequently found growing wild in the glorious South of France countryside, this impressive foliage will fill your garden with the heady scent of the continent and take you right back to your last holiday.

7. Agapanthus Africanus
Bold and architectural, Agapanthus are striking and they have become very popular in recent years. They also make fantastic specimen plants for pots and are surprisingly low maintenance.

Agapanthus Africanus, striking to look at, yet easy to maintain

8. Pine Nut (Stone Pine) Trees
This tall spreading coniferous tree has needle-like, soft leaves and produces brown cones which contain edible and delicious Pine Nuts. You can even combine the nuts from the lovely Pine Nut Tree (Pinus Pinea) with some tasty olives grown from your very own Olive Tree in a salad – you’ll feel as though you’re eating out in Spain or Italy!

9. Ligustrum (Italian Privet) Trees
Another fantastic example of topiary, the Ligustrum Lollipop is a very popular choice for adding architectural finesse to any garden particularly for a contemporary look. Small white daisy sized flowers appear in the Summer months. Despite their fancy appearance, topiary plants are easy to maintain and only require a trim a couple of times per year.

10. Butia Capitata Palm Trees
The Butia Capitata is one of the most popular palms in the world because of its graceful appearance, cold hardiness and bright yellow fruit – that can even be made into a delicious jelly! These palms are excellent in pots and well-draining soil. On hot days the silver blue colour is a beautiful site and cheers up any patio or roof terrace reminding us of Mediterranean holidays.

Mediterranean style gardens can work very well in our UK Climate

For further Mediterranean garden inspiration read The Beautiful Italian Lakes with Stunning Botanical Gardens.

Buy your Mediterranean style plants online now! Hardy palm trees, Olive Trees and lots more on the Paramount Plants website. We deliver throughout the UK and Ireland.

If you have any tips or recommendations to pass on to your fellow gardeners’ we would love to hear from you, please leave us a comment in the comment section below.

Garden in Devon – By choosing the right hardy exotic plants, you can easily create a Mediterranean style garden in the UK

Index of Gardening in Spain

Gardening Spain Index of Gardening in Spain from top Horticulturist Marc Vijverberg resident here in Spain, Gardening Spain for you.

How To Grow Sweet Potatoes. No Dig Gardens Gardening Spain Companion Planting
Potatoes in Pots on the Balcony or in your Spanish Garden Strawberries in Spain Make your own Rain Water Barrels for Irrigation in Spain

Cooking holidays in Spain, for all food lovers

Do you love Spanish cuisine so much that you want to learn how to cook it? Then, there is no better way to learn than to go on a cooking holiday here in Spain. Select the destination of your choice and let some of the best Spanish chefs out there introduce you to creating some of the most delicious Spanish dishes. Reserve yourself a spot on one of our many cooking vacations in Spain and become the culinary master you know you can be!


Foilage Plants in Spanish Gardens

Foliage plants Let us have a look at some foliage plants for all year colour suitable for your garden in Spain.

Cannas in Spain

Cannas look fantastic in masses and also grow well in pots. A large flower pot full of cannas really brightens up a sunny patio or porch PLUS so easy to grow.

Tulips in Spain

Although tulips are associated with Holland, they originate from southern Europe to central Asia. After being described in a letter by the Dutch ambassador in Turkey in the 16th century, who was also a great floral enthusiast, tulips were brought to Europe.

Grow the juiciest melons ever and enjoy sweet, flavourful watermelons, muskmelons, and honeydew this summer!

There are few things better on a hot summer day than sitting down to juicy, home-grown melons.

The beautiful, flowering Jacaranda trees
Spanish Trees

The blue jacaranda tree is one of the most popular trees that people love to grow because the delicate fern-like leaves and the purple flowers make them look like trees straight out of a fairytale.

Echinacea in your Spanish Garden

Echinacea has been used as a healing herb for many centuries. It was the main medicinal herb used by Native Americans for more purposes than any other plant. The major use of echinacea nowadays is to treat colds and flu.

Easy Growing Bell Peppers in Spain

Bell peppers or sweet pepper is a cultivar group of the species Capsicum annuum (chili pepper).

The Ginkgo Tree Spanish Trees Gardening

Ginkgo biloba tree is another plant that is well known by its botanic name because of the modern day “smart pill” (said to improve concentration and short and long term memory) made of the Ginkgo leaves.

Firespike Odontonema strictum

Firespike, Odontonema strictum, is also known as Cardinal Guard or Scarlet Flame.

This native of Mexico and Central America likes to show off its strikingly beautiful crimson flowers and lush, shiny foliage and is very easy to grow.

Figs in a Spanish Garden Gardening Spain Trees.
Fruit Trees in Spain.

Two crops of figs are potentially produced each year. The first, called the breba crop, develops in the spring on last year’s growth. In contrast, the main fig crop develops on the new growth and ripens in the late summer or fall.

Tropical water Lilies

Water lilies are beautiful and with a pond, a large pot and a little bit of care, they can bring some real glamour to any tropical garden.

Garlic growing in Spain

Garlic, of course, best known as a cooking ingredient used for its wonderful taste. It would actually be better to say “tastes” plural since it can take on a completely different taste depending on how it is cooked – everything from a subtle sweet flavor to a strong almost overpowering one.

Toad Lillies Tricytrtis Gardening Spain

Toad lilies also make great cut flowers so you can have orchid like flowers in floral arrangements which lends a bit of the exotic to your other more ordinary cut flowers.

Acidanthera is a summer flower so fragrant, exotic-looking and lovely that it defies logic.

No rare pearl of great price, this summer bloomer is affordable, readily available and practically idiot-proof to grow.

Easy Growing Pineapples in Spain

How to grow your own pineapples Pineapples can be grown very easily from the top of a pineapple that have been bought and eaten All varieties can be propagated in the same way.

Keep honey bees from disappearing – create a bee-friendly garden using plants bees love.

Keep honey bees from disappearing – create a bee-friendly garden using plants they love, we should make sure we plant bee-friendly gardens.

Solarize your soil.

Soil solarization One of the best nonchemical ways to get rid of weeds, and some diseases and pests, is to solarize your soil.

Rose Puning in Spain

Rose Pruning Winter time is the correct time to prune those roses in your garden.

African Violets Gardening Spain.

African violets are one of the easiest indoor plants to grow once you are aware of a couple of their very simple requirements.

Pruning Apple Trees In Spain
Gardening Spain.Fruit Trees in Spain

Apple trees are great because they are so versatile. They offer several varieties, shapes and sizes allowing us to use them in just about any garden situation, even if we only have a small patio area.

Lilly of The Valley Gardening Spain.

Lily-of-the-Valley Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis) is a popular garden plant, grown for its scented flowers.

How to Build a Rockery Spanish Gardening

Building a rockery is not difficult and they are great features for the garden, with a huge choice of rock types and sizes.

The plants that are normally planted – and grow well – in rockeries, are those which are happy in dry areas; Succulents, cacti, grasses, bulbs, ground covers,flowering plants, etc.

Small or Large Spanish Ponds
Gardening Spain.

Spanish ponds Water gardens or garden ponds are a decorative and entertaining addition to your garden.

Garden Lighting in Spain Spanish Gardening

Night lighting may come from fire (eg. a BBQ,bonfire or lamp), moonlight, solar or electric lights. Often it comes from a combination of sources. Garden Lighting Gardening in Spain.

Bulb Maintenance Gardening Spain

Most bulbs do not require much maintenance, but it is important to do the little things that help the bulb return year after year.

Collecting and Storing Seeds
Spanish Gardening

Spanish seed collecting Saving flower seeds is a lot of fun and it is easy to do, because most flower seeds store well until the following spring and summer, when you can sow them.

Bush Beans
Spanish Gardening

Bush Beans There are many varieties of bush beans to choose from. They can be green, yellow, or purple and come in all kinds of shapes and sizes so you can add a variety of textures and colour to your dinner plate.

Spanish Gardening

Mealy bugs Their populations can creep up on you and be difficult to control. This is why it is important to treat plants once you find this pest.

Almond Trees
Spanish Trees Gardening

The almond trees (Prunus dulcis) is a small to medium sized deciduous fruit tree It is one of the first trees to flower at the close of winter and in February over large parts of Spain.

Spanish Green Lawn Gardening
You CAN grow a real green grass lawn in Spain if you choose the right type of grass!! Spanish Green Lawns. Spanish Gardening.

Poinsettias or Christmas stars (Euphorbia pulcherrima) Poinsettias Poinsettias are native to Mexico and Central America and can be kept indoors as house plants or, in our mild climate, be utilized as colourful landscape shrubs, easily reaching 2-4m.

Spanish Gardening

Aloe Vera

Aloe is a succulent (Liliaciae Sub species aloinae), a member of the lily and onion family, also related to garlic and asparagus, of which there are more than three hundred varieties but of which only a few had medicinal properties. It is generally accepted that the most potent is Aloe Vera Barbadensis Miller. Spanish Gardening.

Water Lillies

Water lilies are beautiful and with a pond, a large pot and a little bit of care, they can bring some real glamour to any tropical garden.


Potatoe (Solanum tuberosum), also known as Irish potatoes, are a staple food for many people and the most commonly grown tuber crop.

Unknown to most, the potatoe originated in Peru or Bolivia, were brought to Spain by the early explorers and spread rapidly throughout Europe.

Pistachio Nut Trees Spanish Trees

Pistachios are one of the oldest flowering nut trees. Flourishing in hot climates, pistachios spread from the Middle East to the Spanish Mediterranean.

Persimon Fruit Trees

The Persimon has a gorgeous yellowy orange coloured skin that is easily peeled away to reveal the sweet orange flesh.

Spanish Trees Fruit Trees in Spain.

Sea Thrift

Armeria maritima, better known as Sea Thrift or Sea Pink.

Spanish Wild Flowers

There is an abundance of colourful wild flowers everywhere here in Spain along the roads in the campo and of course in the woods.

Ground Cover

Ground covers are usually creeping, sprawling or clumping plants, but can also include low growing shrubs and perennials, if they spread to cover the area.

Kiwi Fruit Trees
Spanish Trees Fruit Trees in Spain.

kiwi fruit Kiwi tree fruits were introduced to the western world at the beginning of the 20th century.

Spanish Hedges

Hedges are more eco-friendly, providing colour, and habitat for birds and bees.


Most hakeas are small to medium shrubs, but some can reach small tree proportions.

Curry Leaf Tree

The curry leaf tree in Spain, a native of India, is a small, evergreen tree in the citrus family (Rutaceae) with very pungent aromatic leaves. They have a distinct, spicy curry-like flavour and generally go by the name curry leaves.

Fennel The Herb

Fennel Mediterranean Herb Fennel is a gorgeous Mediterranean perennial herb with a delicate aniseed flavour and is often used in Mediterranean dishes.Herbs in Spain


“Camellias are amongst the world’s best flowering plants. They are hardy and disease resistant, most varieties have attractive, glossy green foliage, and they put on their fabulous flower display in the cooler months of the year when the rest of the garden often looks dull and bare”

Persimmon Fruit Trees

“Persimmon” or “KAKI Persimmon” is the flavoursome Spanish variety (and registered trade mark) of the traditional, classic Kaki, or Persimmon (with a double ‘m’)Fruit Trees in Spain.

Vanilla Cultivation

Vanilla is the second most expensive spice in the world, next to saffron, because growing the vanilla seed pods is labour-intensive.

Rose Tree Cuttings.

Rose Tree Cuttings in Spain. There are four different ways of propagating roses- seed-sowing, layering, budding, and taking cuttings (hardwood and softwood).

Avocado Trees

Always plant avocado tree where they will get full sun and in well-drained soil They do not like wet feet so allow the soil to dry a bit in between watering

Fruit Trees in Spain.

Spanish Winter Evergreen Plants.

Spanish Winter Evergreens October and November just before it gets colder here in Spain is time to plan your winter Spanish garden.

Butterfly Gardens

Plant your butterfly garden in a sunny location, but sheltered from the winds. Butterflies use sunlight to regulate their body temperature.

Spanish Gardens

Scented Plumeria Trees

Plumerias spectacular colours, enchanting fragrances, and several hundred different tree varieties all combine to make these stunning plants a real “Tropical Gardener´s” delight.
Trees in Spain


Sage has been valued over the centuries by many cultures and has a long history of medicinal and culinary use, and in modern times as an ornamental garden plant.

Hibiscus Rose of Sharon

Hibiscus is a deciduous, flowering shrub with large showy flowers (in single or double flowering form, with solid colours or bicolours) that blooms all summer long.Trees in Spain.

The Dance Plant.

Dance Plant Have you ever watched a plant move all by itself? The unusual Desmodium gyrans, also known as the ‘Dance plant’, is another of the few plants in the world that visibly – and quickly – moves its leaves

Spanish Gardens

Castor Bean Plant

You have probably seen this exotic plant before, it is gorgeous with its large, boldly coloured leaves, but look out – it is the highly toxic Castor bean plant (Ricinus communis).

How to make Wasp and Fly Traps

Wasp Traps How to keep wasps and Fly’s away by making a natural and beautiful fly or wasp catcher with a plastic bottle and fruit juice.
that work.

Sturt’s Desert Rose

Sturts desert rose has also been known as Darling River rose, cotton rosebush and Australian cotton.

Peacock Flower Tree Caesalpinia pulcherrima

Peacock flower tree is very easy to grow in alkaline to acidic, well-drained soils. This is a fast growing plant and moderately tolerant of salty conditions.

The best store to buy Cannabis seeds is at a click away!

Flower Pollen Allergies

Flower Pollen Allergies Gardening in Spain Pollen and mould spores from many plants can trigger asthma attacks, hay-fever and other allergies.

Building a bottle tower for container gardening This is very eco friendly idea and way of gardening. Plus very interesting to watch growing your very fresh Vegetables to eat, or just to grow bright pretty flowers.

Grow your own. Soursop
commonly called “graviola A Natural Cancer Cell Killer?

Graviola Tree Soursop commonly called graviola A Natural Cancer Cell Killer? See the video plus read about it yourself.

Grapes in Spain.

Growing grapes in containers is probably the best way for the amateur gardener and in Spain you will often see grapes growing on patios.

Growing Hydrangeas in Spain

Hydrangea macrophyllas have two distinct forms to their blooms. The one most often encountered in gardens is the mophead or hortensia hydrangea, which has a mass of coloured sterile florets that form a round head.

Olive Oil

A severe shortage of olive oil has some foodies worried.
CREDIT: Mauro Pezzotta / .com

Blueberries in Spain

The blueberry plants are both edible as well as decorative, and are very attractive shrubs.

Orange Trees

How to grow Orange Trees from pips or grafting methods. Just watch the videos.

Tree squirrels are really cute – in fact some of their antics can be downright adorable.

How to take Plant cuttings for propagation

Plant cuttings are a piece of a plant that is used in horticulture for propagation. A piece of the stem or root of the source plant is placed in a suitable medium such as moist soil.

Geranium Propergation Info plus videos of how to.

Geranium Propergation Pelargoniums, commonly known as geraniums, are a large, diverse group of mostly evergreen and tender plants used as bedding or houseplants.

Seed Propagation Do It Yourself.

Seed Propagation can be great fun. All you need is a bit of patience and a sunny windowsill to get you started. We bring you info and videos of how and when.

Orchid Growing Tips Orchids like to live in bright shady position in the Villa or Apartment to avoid any damage to them. They are one of the easiest house plants to care for.


Hemp Cannabis growing for your own personal use. Growing Cannabis can be easily grasped by remembering that it is a plant.

Angel’s trumpet Brugmansia

Angel’s trumpet Brugmansia is a heat-loving tropical or subtropical shrub that likes warm (80 -85 degrees F) days and cool nights.

Growing ginger

in containers is fairly easy. The plant will give out a wonderful scent and enhance the area it is growing in. Watch the videos to learn how.

Mint tips on how to grow from cuttings in pots

They are fast-growing, extending their reach along surfaces through a network of runners.

Try a pot on the balcony, there are many varieties all with different flavours that you can try. With our climate they grow well in Spain. hints and interesting videos 2 watch. Marigolds, African Marigolds, Tagetes erecta, the Mexican marigold, also called Aztec marigold, is a species of the genus Tagetes native to Mexico.

Petunias from seed for your garden.

Petunias from seed cultivate them yourself in a warm place such as a sunny windowsill. Enjoy seeing them come to life and germinate. Plant out when ready.

Tamarind Tree is a leguminous tree in the family Fabaceae indigenous to Italy and Spain. The tamarind tree grows easily in Spain and requires little care. The fruiting season is October, November, December. Native to Madagascar
The Fruit is Highly rated for detoxing the system watch the interesting video on the page.

Property Sales Costa Blanca Interesting selection

Summer is here, and all over the globe people are experiencing above average temperatures. Many of us are having well over 30° C days and very warm nights. Because of this, many of our normal colourful summer annuals have faded in their vigor and beauty.

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The good news is that while many plants and flowers seem to be fainting away, there are others that really thrive under these conditions. The tough-as-nails flowering plants in this week´s and next week´s article will provide the colour you want, while tolerating the most intolerable summer heat.
So without further ado, here are some suggestions to replace stressed and faded plant material in your landscape that will also conserve water, while looking like a million dollars in full, hot sun (Or cut out and keep the articles for choosing next year´s summer flowers):

African Daisy (Arctotis)

Ideal for Gardening in Spain

Plants originated in southern Africa. Arctotis species have lobed leaves that are rough, hairy or woolly. Their flower heads usually have a contrasting ring of colour around their central eye. Come in a variety of colours: White, pink, orange, yellow, and red.

Low growing, plant for mass colour, 2 plants can quickly cover an entire planter bed. Beautiful for the border where the flowers are produced in profusion throughout the summer, and excellent for cutting.

Western Bitterweed (Hymenoxys odorata)

Ideal for Gardening in Spain

Golden yellow flowers on stems to 1 feet (30 cm) high. Narrow, grassy, aromatic leaves form small tufts about 8 inches (20 cm) tall and 1 foot (30 cm) wide.

Somewhat similar to thrift (Armeria) in appearance. Flowers have rays with notched edges. Attractive in containers. Plant always flowers even in full 38° C sun; it doesn’t care – it will grow in a crack in the concrete!

Blanket Flower (Gaillardia pulchella)

Ideal for Gardening in Spain

This is an annual gaillardia. It is a low-growing, colourful plant with flowers in warm colours that appears fringed. Stems are single and arise from a taproot. Plant is 1.5 to 2 feet (45 to 60 cm) tall and 1 ft. (30 cm) wide. Flowers come in warm shades of red, yellow, and gold. Easy to grow. Come in single and double flowered varieties.

Butter Daisy (Melampodium paludosum)

Ideal for Gardening in Spain

This annual grows from 8 to 24 inches (20 to 60 cm) tall, with equal spread, and produces abundant, yellow, daisy-like flowers. It does best in full sun and well-drained soil. It excels in the heat and dry conditions of the summer. Very easy to grow.

Cockscomb (Celosia cristata)

Spain info covers local towns with local accommodation. Spain info also covers info local days out in Spain on the Mediterranean. This site also of info has information on gardening in Spain Mediterranean style. Spain info with information on cooking Mediterranean style.
Spain info also covers Bowls Clubs Golf Go Karting fishing Caves and other sports here in the Mediterranean.
The web site Spain info also lists the Local Hot Water Spas many of them dating back to Roman times.

Spain Info,

San Francisco De Asis, Urb Marina, San Fulgencio, 03177, Alicante, Spain.

How to get the Mediterranean look

Made famous in the countrysides of France, Greece, and Italy, Mediterranean gardens have influenced many gardeners, with their soft colors, gravel walks, brightly patterned tiles, clipped hedges, informal and drought-tolerant plantings. And not to mention the delightful scent offered by the amazing number of Mediterranean plants with scented leaves.

Pleasing the eye, low-maintenance and typically water-wise, the Mediterranean garden look can be easily achieved through 9 key elements.

1. Shaded seating areas

The Mediterranean climate is so agreeable that seating areas are essential. They provide a place to unwind on a balmy summer evening or enjoy a coffee with the first rays of sunshine. However, in these sun-baked gardens, shade is vital. Pergolas are decorative structures that are ideal for providing necessary shade. They also make striking features, specifically when attractively covered with perfumed, climbing plants, which scent the evening air when you sit down and relax. Al fresco meals in the garden are a must and pergolas convert seating areas to inviting extensions of the house, adding intimacy and beauty.

Great plants to consider for pergolas:

  • Campsis grandiflora (Chinese Trumpet Vine) with glowing orange or red, trumpet-shaped flowers in summer and fall and oval, toothed leaflets.
  • Humulus lupulus ‘Aurea’ (Golden Hop) with golden leaves and pale green flowers in summer
  • Ipomoea (Morning Glory) with heart-shaped leaves and vibrant blue, purple or red, trumpet-shaped flowers
  • Jasminum officinale (Common Jasmine) with abundant clusters of delightfully scented white flowers
  • Climbing roses such as ‘Albertine’ with strongly fragrant clusters of cup-shaped, double flowers, starting as reddish-salmon buds and opening to large copper-pink blossoms; ‘Paul’s Himalayan Musk’ – a vigorous climber with long and graceful, trailing branches bearing drooping light green leaves and large sprays of small, soft lilac pink, double flowers.
  • Vitis vinifera ‘Brant’ (Grape) a strong growing vine producing sweet, black grapes. Who could resist cutting luscious grapes while sitting outside on a late summer evening?
  • Wisteria beloved for its pendulous clusters of divinely perfumed flowers in spring.

2. Pots and containers

Terra-cotta pots and jars are a famous feature of Mediterranean gardens.

Used as focal points or for container gardening, they come in all possible shapes or sizes, from the simple pot, to the large urn or classical garden vases. Select pots with a wide base to ensure they are not blown over. Favor clay pots that will remain cool by evaporation to plastic posts that will absorb the sun’s heat.

Remember to regularly water your plants. A potted plant has a smaller reserve of water than a plant grown in the ground.

Add a glazed saucer beneath your pot to hold water on which your plant will happily draw.

3. Gravel floor

In Mediterranean gardens, where gardeners have long coped with too little water for their plants and gardens or with drought periods, lawns have been considerable reduced or even totally eliminated and replaced with paving or gravel or a combination of both.

This considerably reduces water usage, but also has the incredible advantage of being low maintenance and making long-lasting, attractive mulches.

4. Water features

Water features are a must in Mediterranean gardens to cool the air in the heat of summer. The gleam of water also adds a delightful dimension to any garden. A trickle of shallow water and a mister on the hottest days are very attractive.

Whether in ornamental ponds, pools or fountains, the sight and sound of water always provides an enjoyable relief from hot, dry summers.

Butterflies, bees and birds enjoy water features too!

5. Pebbles and cobbles

Cobbles and pebbles can be woven into intricate designs, a lovely Mediterranean technique.

These pebble mosaics have a rich history dating back to ancient times. They were used for pavements and were the earliest type of mosaic in all areas of the Eastern Mediterranean. They still can be admired in many Mediterranean towns and villages.

Use stones of various colors and sizes that you may lay flat or on edge and create your own design, just like the Moors in southern Spain!

6. Mediterranean tiles

Reminiscent of the Moorish mosaic, glazed colored tiles are very decorative and may be used to decorate walls or patio floors.

Bursting with color, these create lively mosaics and can be used in a wide range of climates to create dramatic color accents with their rich combinations of pattern and color.

Here they beautifully brighten up the vertical surface of the risers.

7. Succulents and drought-tolerant plants

While there are different styles of gardens across the Mediterranean region and thousands of plants to be used, those immediately coming to mind belong to the tranquil color palette of grays, purples and blue-greens. Here is the list of heat-loving and drought-tolerant plants, favored by gardeners and admired by onlookers. It includes a variety of fragrant herbs as scent is important in a Mediterranean garden:

  • Agaves – with their huge rosettes of spiky, fleshy leaves.
  • Artemisia (Wormwood) – masses of aromatic, finely cut, silvery foliage
  • Cistus (Rock Rose) – excellent evergreen, fully drought tolerant, with aromatic silver green leaves and large, rose like flowers.
  • Cupressus sempervirens (Italian Cypress) – adds height and drama to the garden.
  • Euphorbia characias (Mediterranean Spurge) – statuesque, evergreen perennial which enjoys months of chartreuse flowers
  • Festuca glauca (Blue fescue) – wonderful dwarf ornamental grass, mostly grown for its finely-textured blue green foliage
  • Genista hispanica (Spanish Broom) – spiny, gorse-like shrub with abundant clusters of bright yellow, pea-like flowers in late spring and early summer
  • Laurus nobilis (Bay Tree) – lovely glossy green leaves great for use in the kitchen. Versatile plant that needs no watering in summer and is highly resistant to shade and salt spray.
  • Lavandula (Lavender) – queen of the Mediterranean garden with its silver foliage and delightfully scented flowers
  • Rosmarinus officinalis (Rosemary) – quick growing evergreen, aromatic and pretty in bloom.
  • Salvia leucantha (Mexican Bush Sage) – prized for its ornamental and showy purplish and white flower spikes
  • Santolina (Cotton Lavender) – with fine-textured foliage and yellow, button-like flowers.
  • Stachys byzantina (Lamb’s Ears) – grown for its rich rosettes of showy, velvety, silvery tongue-shaped leaves, resembling lamb’s ears and bringing interest to the border
  • Yucca – evergreen plant with sword leaves and beautiful, large, creamy-white bell flowers​

Orange and lemon trees also add a Mediterranean touch. However, they will need to be planted in pots and sheltered overwinter unless you live in a Mediterranean climate.

8. Clipped hedges and topiary

They contribute to the garden’s architectural framework and make an excellent foil. Omnipresent of Mediterranean gardens is the Italian cypress (Cupressus Sempervirens), a very versatile, evergreen tree that adds height and drama, provides an attractive green backdrop all year round and is also ideal for privacy.

Clipped box is also currently used for low-growing hedges, providing both structure and basic ornament in all seasons.

9. Raised beds

Not only attractive, raised beds are all a fabulous opportunity for creating well-drained sites, an environment Mediterranean plants love.

They are also great at breaking the monotony, show plants off to their advantage and make gardening easier (no need to stoop!).

These raised beds can be formal or informal, dressed with gravel or mulch and even include larger boulders.

A contemporary interpretation of a Mediterranean courtyard garden, enclosed with walls, paved to save water, furnished for livability, and planted to provide color without excessive water. (Nancy Goslee Power garden, Santa Barbara). Author’s photographs

Mediterranean1.The word conjures a variety of pleasurable images. Balmy, sunlit shores lining an azure blue sea; bowers of exotic flowers, their fragrance wafting on soft, warm breezes; whitewashed, thick-walled buildings with scarlet bougainvillea spilling out of secret courtyards; yellow ochre, red-tiled villages pierced by black green shafts of cypresses; palm-graced cities and villas luxuriating in lush verdure; intimate Andalusian courtyards cooled by the tinkle of water; or rich, flavorful food washed down with cool wine beneath the dappled shade of an ancient olive tree….These are images of a paradise that humans have been creating or seeking since the beginning of time. Mediterranean. Paradise. Eden!

The Mediterranean Region, surrounding the sea by the same name, has been sought after and fought over as long as history has been recorded. No other region of the world, except perhaps Hawaii or Fiji, evokes such powerful, seductive images of paradise. And of the four other regions of the world with mediterranean-type climates, only California approaches this same vision of paradise.

Recent interest in mediterranean gardens on the West coast has been spawned, in part, by the continuing need for water-conserving landscapes, and by a plethora of seductive books on the Mediterranean. Two conferences sponsored by Pacific Horticulture, Gardening Under Mediterranean Skies I & II, have raised the question, what is a mediterranean garden? Participants seeking answers invariably conjure up myriad images, influenced by examples from Spain, Italy, and Greece. The emphasis tends to be on plants, especially among gardeners and horticulturists—with lavender, rockrose, oleander, olive, roses, thyme, pomegranate, and rosemary as a basic palette, all well-suited to the limitations imposed by a summer-dry climate.

Surely there is more to a mediterranean garden. Such a narrowly horticultural view traps us in the belief that style and fashion in gardens is achieved merely by the selection of the right plants, whether mediterranean, English, or Japanese. What then is the context for a mediterranean garden?

A contemporary interpretation of a Mediterranean courtyard garden, enclosed with walls, paved to save water, furnished for livability, and planted to provide color without excessive water. (Nancy Goslee Power garden, Santa Barbara)

I believe gardens evolve from a confluence of culture and climate. While the common denominator is climate, the gardens of Spain differ from those of Italy or Greece. The adaptation to the region’s climate comes from a cultural interpretation incorporating intellectual and spiritual thought and values. The similarities appear in outdoor spaces that provide for basic human needs: shade and cooling in summer, warmth in winter, aural and visual delights to contrast with the arid landscape beyond, and food prepared from a rich palette of edible plants native or adapted to the climate. The Italian hillside terrace garden mimics the Spanish carmen garden, just as the Spanish courtyard resembles the Greek peristyle court; all reflect cultural adaptations to climate, with variations in the detail and embellishment.

But what about California with its great cultural diversity, its wealth, and its heavy dependence on technology? Does a garden of California native plants qualify as a mediterranean garden despite the absence of olive, rosemary, and lavender? Is our addiction to a greensward bordered by mediterranean plants a valid model? What are the primary forces that might serve as the foundation for the design of a mediterranean garden in any mediterranean

The mediterranean garden is about relationships—between humans and the unique characteristics of the mediterranean environment, between our modern culture and historic traditions, between ourselves and the garden as an expression of our lifestyles and the fulfillment of the functional and design possibilities of the garden. The following summary—covering five primary considerations—can help guide the design of a mediterranean garden. Each will be expanded upon later, with specific reference to the California garden.

Personal and Cultural — A garden is a personal expression of the gardener or designer—a physical response to the need for space, privacy, retreat, and recreation, and to individual preferences for sensual qualities. This might include inspiration from historic precedents in the Mediterranean that adapt to our needs without being merely eclectic.

Climatic and Geographic — A garden is both a response to, and a reflection of, the larger landscape—its climate and microclimate, its topography, and its soils. In a mediterranean climate, this means that the design of a garden acknowledges the summer heat and aridity, limited rainfall, prevailing wind, generally alkaline soil and other characteristics, in order to provide for human comfort and enjoyment and for sustainability with limited resources.

Functional Design — A garden is designed as one or a series of outdoor rooms for a variety of year-round human activities (including gardening) that are permitted, even encouraged, by a mediterranean climate. That requires walls and edges, paving, shelter from sun and wind, vistas to the larger landscape, and provision of edible benefits for both humans and wildlife.

Sensual Qualities — A garden is a form of art, expressing the evocative qualities afforded by a mediterranean climate—light, smell, color, sound, feel, and spiritual refuge.

Regional Expression —A garden reflects characteristics of the regional variations within the mediterranean landscape, thus achieving a unique sense of place.

Simple pattern of timber steps, decomposed granite paving, and rammed earth walls—all local materials—connect house and garden to the region. (Author’s garden, Martinez)

Personal and Cultural Influences

Of the five mediterranean regions, the Mediterranean Basin is unique in representing a collage of cultures. Fifteen countries on three continents (Europe, Africa, and Asia) embody distinct, yet interlocking, histories, religions, and beliefs. Thus, the cultural history of the Mediterranean runs deeply, intertwining spiritual beliefs with personal expression adapted to the climate. The other four mediterranean regions (South Africa, Chile, South and Western Australia, and California) all lie within a single country on a single continent; all are places in which aboriginal cultures have been dominated by immigrant explorers and exploiters, primarily from northern European cultures.

By stripping away our blind dependence on technology and seemingly unlimited resources, we can extract concepts from these gardens that may help us develop a more intimate understanding of how we and our gardens can adapt to the mediterranean climate.

We have much to learn from the earliest gardens of the eastern Mediterranean, even though they originated in a desert. These gardens were a refuge from the harsh, arid landscape and were expressions of a culture based on spiritual beliefs (Islam) or derived simply from patterns of irrigation, as in Egypt. To fully understand the meaning of the Islamic concept of paradise, one must try to appreciate the context: the landscape of barren plains, hostile mountains, heat, and glare from the merciless sun. In such a setting, cooling shade from a few plane trees and the sound of a babbling brook create a sanctuary for both body and spirit.

The basic elements underlying the Islamic garden include: relief from the desert wilderness; cooling shade from the sun; refreshment in the sight, sound, taste, and feel of water; greenness cooling to the eye; respite for the tired body; and refuge for the spirit, with the promise that the hereafter will be even more refreshing and comforting. The Koran emphasizes the garden as a symbol of paradise, with water, shade, and fruitfulness as it’s ideal components. The four rivers of paradise—pure water, milk, wine, and honey—form the basis of the quartered garden so characteristic of the Islamic garden.

Thus, form is given to the earthly paradise—the garden that followed the advance of Islam throughout the world. It is no small coincidence that people of that culture (and its offshoots) settled in either desert or semi-arid mediterranean climate regions along the shores of North Africa and Spain, in Mexico, and, finally, in California.

In our urban gardens we also have much to learn from early Greeks. Though not known for their horticultural expertise, they gave us a model that the Romans and Moors refined, that of the peristyle courtyard garden. Located at the rear of dwellings in dense city neighborhoods, this garden afforded privacy and refuge from the city as well as relief from summer heat. The Spanish courtyard and its contemporary forms can still serve these personal needs in urban California.

California’s cultural heritage is complex. Aside from the early Spanish missionaries and the recent influx from Asia and Latin America, immigrants have come mostly from temperate climates in northern latitudes. Early Anglo settlers rejected the architecture and gardens of their Hispanic predecessors. Garden and landscape ideals that they brought with them were forged in a moist, temperate climate. Supported here by artesian wells, their gardens celebrated a new-found paradise of tropical or subtropical flavor. The brown California landscape was denied as these gardens turned inward, typically ignoring views out toward mountains or sea.

This significant cultural statement is as nearly true today as a century ago. Coming west, Easterners encountered a landscape totally unlike their own—one whose scale was overwhelming, whose colors were unfamiliar, and whose arid climate was totally foreign. As Wallace Stegner observed: “Easterners are constantly being surprised and somehow offended that California’s summer hills are gold, not green. We are creatures shaped by our experiences; we like what we know, more often than we know what we like. To eyes trained on universal chlorophyll, gold or brown hills may look repulsive.”

Thus, our gardens and landscapes in mediterranean California tend to reflect landscape preferences imported from temperate zones. Gardens are considered in various ways: as settings for the house, to establish status and respectability; as “landscaped” yards; as plant collections; or as creative designs, often lacking spiritual or deep-seated traditions, or ignoring the determinants of the climate. Gardens often reflect the passion of people for plants, resulting in diverse and personal expressions with little recognition of climatic constraints. Californians have freely used money and resources to overcome the limitations of the mediterranean climate in achieving landscapes and gardens of a naturally wet climate.

The “drought years” of the late twentieth century focused attention on changing the way we design gardens and landscapes, but the effects have yet to become deeply ingrained in our culture. In an age of unprecedented wealth and consumption, we have yet to come to grips with living in—and adapting to—this mediterranean climate.

Climatic and Geographic Influences

The world’s mediterranean climatic regions are bonded by the following characteristics, which combine to distinguish them from among the world’s landscapes:


  • regions are between 32° and 41° north and south of the equator


  • relatively low rainfall with the bulk (more than 65%) falling in the winter half of the year (California is actually “more” mediterranean than the Mediterranean Basin, with about 80% of rain falling in winter)


  • precipitation is primarily in the form of rainfall, varying from 10.8 inches (.275 meters) to 35.4 inches (.9 meters) yearly
  • coastal fog and rare light snowfalls contribute to the precipitation in some areas


  • low summer humidity, especially in inland areas, creates high sun intensity due to clear, cloudless skies and the low moisture content of the air
  • high evapotranspiration rates in inland areas, roughly twice as high as on the coast

Mild temperatures

  • warm to hot summers and cool but mild winters, with only one month averaging below 59° F (15° C)
  • sub-freezing temperatures do not exceed 3% of the total time

Coastal location & maritime influence

  • all regions situated along the coast of oceans or the Mediterranean Sea
  • all, except large portions of the Mediterranean Basin, are on west coasts
  • strong, cold up-welling currents bathe coastal regions in cool marine air and moderate the winter temperatures, except for the Mediterranean Basin and South and Western Australia


  • rugged mountains, frequently parallel to the coastline (except in Australia), influence and modify climatic patterns forming distinct rain shadows and microclimates


  • a woody flora dominated by arboreal and compact, shrubby, evergreen, schlerophyllous plants adapted to climatic stresses of heat and aridity
  • a well-developed annual and herbaceous (often bulbous) flora

Summer dormant vegetation

  • a summer dormancy is induced by heat and lack of soil moisture, except in cool, foggy, coastal zones


  • summer and autumn fires occur frequently as a means of renewing vegetative growth

These characteristics of our climate are unique and contrast with the temperate climate of the eastern US and northern Europe. However, our technical achievements and benevolent resources of water and power have given us the ability to overcome—even ignore—these climatic constraints. But with global warming and increasingly abnormal weather, the likelihood of an even drier mediterranean climate, coupled with undependable water resources and increasing energy costs, we must pay attention to these climatic imperatives in the design of our gardens and landscapes.

Functional Design for a Mediterranean Garden

As English landscape architect, Silvia Crowe, wisely observed, a collection of choice plants is no more a garden than a selection of choice words, a poem. In a mediterranean climate, the design of a garden begins by responding to the climate and the spatial needs of the garden users. Plants are selected to help fulfill functional requirements and to establish landscape character, among other things.


The design of any garden begins with defining spaces for outdoor uses and functional needs, using a combination of structures and plants in the creation of “garden rooms” that take maximum advantage of the benign climate. Here, smaller may often be better; maximum comfort may be achieved by a garden that is compact–deftly designed to address the needs of the residents while minimizing maintenance and the consumption of water .

The design of interior spaces surrounded by buildings, or of courtyards defined by walls or fences—adaptations of the Greek peristyle or Andalusian courtyard—provide privacy, intimacy, and control of the microclimate. Such spaces are as relevant today as in old Mediterranean gardens. Though our houses are typically monolithic in form and surrounded by lawn, we can still create intimate walled courtyards eminently suited to our climate.

A bosque of trees shades a terrace in summer; its southern orientation collects the warmth of the winter sun, making it usable year-round. (Villa le Balze, Italy)

Microclimate Modification

The modification of microclimate through garden design can not only create comfortable outdoor spaces but also help conserve energy for houses, primarily in summer but in the colder months as well. Terraced gardens in Italy and Spain were oriented to capture sunlight in winter, storing heat in the walls and pavement for evening warmth. Welcome summer shade is achieved by the addition of vine-covered arbors, bosques of trees, and arcaded walls. Dense plantings can also mitigate cold coastal winds.

A simple, sculptural stone basin provides water for cooling the atmosphere and draws the local wildlife for drink and for bathing. (The Arboretum of Los Angeles County)


Essential both for irrigation and its refreshing sound, water can be efficiently and effectively used in our semi-arid climate. Efficiency is achieved through the maximum use of pavements (including both hard and soft materials), the selection of water efficient plants, low volume irrigation systems, and subtle water features. In Spain’s Moorish gardens, the simplest water basin symbolizes a bubbling spring; its calm surface reflects the stars, joining the heavens with earthly paradise.

Except in drought years, we have taken for granted an unlimited water supply, supporting our propensity for lavish displays, whether in water features or floral extravagance. We need to develop a deeper appreciation for water, both as a source of refreshment and enjoyment, and as the live-giving basis for our garden plants.


Though we are tempted to begin a garden by planting favorite plants, the greatest long term satisfaction and benefit is achieved when plants are first selected and arranged to define spaces, modify microclimate, provide screening, and satisfy other design functions to give the garden its structure and form.

Selecting and placing plants in the right conditions of exposure and soil contributes to long-term success. Selecting plants that are well adapted to semi-arid conditions helps achieve a harmony in landscape character. Grouping plants with similar water requirements ensures compatibility and water efficiency.

Planting for diversity results in year-round interest in foliage, form, and color. Selecting plants that attract desirable wildlife (birds, butterflies, bees, and small animals) enlivens the garden to its full dimension and contributes to its ecological value within the surrounding community.

A straw bale wall provides spatial definition, a handsome backdrop for plants and creativity in the application of simulated petroglyphs on its finished surface. (The Arboretum of Los Angeles County)

Structural Materials

Where possible and available, the use of natural materials of local origin—stone, gravel, decomposed granite, wood—reinforces the garden’s regional relationship and sense of place. A simple combination of a few compatible materials enhances plantings and connects our gardens to the regional context.

The rediscovery of the materials and techniques of rammed earth walls and soil cement paving links us with the history and evolution of Mediterranean gardens. Similarly, straw bale walls emulate the thick mud walls found in the Mediterranean while employing a recycled, renewable material.

Sensual and Ephemeral Qualities

Design that satisfies functional needs gives a mediterranean garden form and structure in response to climate, site conditions, and human activities. The sensual qualities give it spirit. That spirit combines the owners’ preferences—the enjoyment of certain plants, ephemeral effects, and daily and seasonal delights—with the landscape opportunities unique to the qualities of the mediterranean climate—light, fragrance, sound, and color. How contemporary “landscaping” cheats us of these delights!

Though the character of gardens will vary due to the subjectivity and personal nature of design, mediterranean gardens tend to be unpretentious, understated, and sometimes a bit rustic—not slick or stiffly formal. Consistent with the atmosphere of the climate, there is a calmness and softness created by natural materials and such plants as lavender, rosemary, and many California natives.

Such gardens need not be chaotic. Order and harmony can be achieved through informality or with simple geometry. A degree of formality played off informality heightens the effect of each, as in a pattern planting of lavender edged by a harmonious, but irregular composition of California natives or other mediterranean plants.

The warmth of the rock steps draws out the foliar aroma of rock rose (Cistus sp.). The white flowers reflect the moonlight and light the way. (Jean Mus garden, Provence)


The quality of light in a mediterranean climate offers distinct opportunities for garden design. The immutable, hard clarity of the summer sun (in smog-free areas) washes out yellow-green foliage and weak pastels. Intense primary hues and dark green foliage can stand up to such strong light. Deep, dark green, and blue-green foliage on the edge of the garden provides a backdrop against which brilliant reds, oranges, yellows, and silvery grays can be illuminated.

Silver to gray green foliage is common in the mediterranean plant palette and brightens the edge of paths and steps, even under moonlight. The light gray trunks of live oaks and cork oaks are magically illuminated in the low light of late afternoon. The golden light of evening and autumn afternoons transforms the trunks of madrone and manzanita into copper sculptures.

The morning light of coastal zones lends a muted softness to gardens. Fog creates soft-focus silhouettes of plants and sculpture—fleeting but memorable images enhanced by the brisk, salt-laden air and the pound of ocean waves.


A feature of the mediterranean plant palette is the prevalence of foliage high in volatile oils and aromas. Cooked in the heat of the summer sun, these fragrances offer additional ephemeral qualities: the sweet, pitchy smell of conifers; the pungent odor of sage, rosemary, rock rose, and bay; and the soft fragrance of lavender. the fresh smell of dry oak leaves in fall and the delicate aroma of new spring growth add to the array of fragrances. We are a visual culture, other senses dulled by our dependence on sight. In the mediterranean garden we can reawaken these senses by placing aromatic plants along a path or steps where foliage will be brushed. Or by placing sage, rock rose, and similar aromatic plants against hot, south-facing walls to heighten the release of their pungency.


We are inundated with the cacophony of urban life, from the noise of traffic to the blare of radios and television. The subtle sounds of a garden are often lost. As with fragrance, we can re-tune our ears to shut out the noise and listen to the ephemeral delights of a garden—the restrained bubbling of a simple fountain or small stream; the sound of birds and squirrels feeding; the
hum of bees on lavender; and the whir of
hummingbirds and dragonflies flitting about.

Even plants can be heard: acorns thumping on a roof, madrone bark crackling as it curls in the heat of late summer, and the crunch of dry leaves under foot. Similarly, gravel or decomposed granite paths and paving contributes a distinctive garden sound under foot. The sounds are there if we plan for them and take time to listen.

Late spring flowering of California natives against the already golden hillsides of summer. (Grier garden, Lafayette)


Concepts of color in the mediterranean garden are linked to the seasons, the palette of plants, the light, and natural materials (stone, gravel, etc.). As with sound, color images (visual noise) inundate us daily. Thus, restraint and subtlety become virtues in the mediterranean garden.

Taking a cue from the natural landscape, spring is the time of flowering and growth. Summer heat and aridity plunges many plants into dormancy—a reversal of seasons compared with temperate zones. Awakened by winter rains, dormant bulbs, annuals, perennials, and shrubs burst into bloom—redbud, narcissus, grape hyacinth, rock rose, manzanita, ceanothus, buckeye, poppies, iris, and many other mediterranean species. In tune with the seasons, the mediterranean garden can celebrate spring and early summer with displays of floral color, rather than attempting to provide color all year long. With summer and dormancy, flowering becomes more subtle and muted—lavenders, California fuchsia, sage, and the rich hues of summer vegetables like tomatoes, squash, and peppers. Planting in containers can extend the flowering season with limited displays in featured spots throughout the garden. As summer wanes, the softer grays and browns signal the arrival of autumn. With little fall color, we cannot compete with eastern forests, except for big-leaf maple (Acer macrophyllum), black oak (Quercus kelloggii), and such compatible trees as Chinese pistache (Pistacia chinensis), persimmon (Diosporum kaki), or Washington thorn (Crataegus phaenopyrum). Fall and winter bring out the reds and greens—colorful berries of toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia), cotoneaster, madrone (Arbutus menziesii and A. unedo), and others against the rich green of live oaks, conifers, ceanothus, and viburnum.

Containers of colorful geraniums (Pelargonium peltatum) provide color through the heat of summer while most mediterranean plants are resting. (Rancho Los Alamitos, Long Beach)

Garden as Refuge

Since ancient Greece, the garden has served as retreat and refuge from the stress, noise, and confusion of daily life. From the Greek city garden at the rear of the house to the giardino segreto of the Italian Renaissance garden, the seclusion, quiet, and comfort of mediterranean gardens have lifted the spirit and refreshed the soul of men and women. Courtyards and enclosed patios oriented inward afford refuge from the outside world. Such gardens offer the benefit of an intimate relationship with the garden, its plants, special effects of light, color, and texture, and wildlife. In comparison, traditional expansive gardens that surround most houses are designed more for show or to establish status, than as a personal refuge. In the intimate retreat, the sensual qualities are magnified—the smells, sounds, contact with birds, insects and small animals, and the change of light and seasons.

Regional Expression

Finally, the concept of the mediterranean garden in California can be summarized as an expression of the qualities of the regional landscape. Beyond the similarities of landscape and climate, variations exist: cooler, wetter, and greener in the northern reaches; the cool, maritime coast; hot-summer interior valleys; and drier, near-desert, southern areas. By adapting the design of the mediterranean garden to reflect and express the colors, forms, and textures found in the region’s plants and landforms, among other visual qualities such as light and atmosphere, we can reinforce our sense of place; we surrender to the realities and uniqueness of the mediterranean climate and become rooted in it. Our gardens develop a sense of belonging, both visually and ecologically. Horticulturally, they fit the region and thus are easier to maintain and sustain.

And so, the mediterranean garden becomes a personal expression and interpretation of the special qualities and characteristics of the mediterranean climate and landscape. As participants in its design, its making and care, and its enjoyment, we become transformed and find ourselves adapting to the landscape, in harmony with our place in the world.

Mediterranean Plants for Your Garden

12 sun-loving, easy-care landscaping plants from around the world By Ruth Chivers; Photography by Rob Cardillo


These plants offer the typical easy-care quality of most Mediterranean-climate plants but they also spring some surprises in flower color and form, foliage texture and growth habit. Remember that “Mediterranean climate” isn’t limited to Europe. It usually refers to areas with mild, wet winters and warm or hot summers during which little or no rain falls: this includes parts of north Africa, western South Africa, California, central Chile, and parts of western and southern Australia.

Mediterranean plants from around the world meet in the garden of Western Hills. Spiky orange flowers are Watsonia pillansii hybrids, from South Africa. Spiky tree is Cordyline australis ‘Albertii’, from New Zealand. Photo by: Rob Cardillo.

Appeal: Mediterranean plants add texture, color, an informal look—and a spirit of sunny lands—to almost any garden. Their ability to withstand dry conditions for long periods is a real plus in all climates.

Zones: Best zones for all-year growing are 8 to 11. In colder climates, overwinter plants in a greenhouse, treat as summer annuals, or choose only frost-hardy species.

Exposure: Many are sun lovers, and are well adapted to surviving a summer drought. But plenty will also thrive in semishade. Try woodland natives in shadier gardens.

Soil: Generally, Mediterranean plants prefer good drainage. In winter it tends to be wet, waterlogged soil, not simply cold weather, that often leads to their downfall. Most Mediterranean plants have adapted to drought conditions, but some do appreciate moisture-retentive soil in summer.

Apricot and bronze lilylike flowers of Alstroemeria ligtu hybrids wiggle through Western Australian grass tree (Xanthorrhoea preisii, a.k.a. “bad hair day on legs”). Photo by: Rob Cardillo.

Selecting & Growing Mediterranean Plants:

  • Go for plants that add form and texture to your planting—don’t be seduced by flower color and size. That’s an ideal, of course!
  • Never buy a plant you can’t provide a good home for—match your choice to the conditions in the spot you have to offer.
  • Mulch drought-tolerant plants with gravel—they invariably prefer poor soils, and stones set them off more aptly than bark. Mulching around plants also saves you weeding.
  • Be prepared to experiment—many plants can surprise you with their toughness.
  • Don’t be afraid to move plants around if they don’t thrive where you first plant them.
  • Look and learn from your plants—gardening is a lifelong process.

Plant List for a Mediterranean Garden:

Photo by: Rob Cardillo.

1. ROCK PURSLANE (Calandrinia spectabilis)

The magenta flowers of Calandrinia spectabilis are 2 inches across and bloom in summer. This 2-foot-tall, frost-tender perennial needs full sun. It looks great in a container.

Photo by: Rob Cardillo.

2. YANAGI ICHIGO (Debregeasia edulis)

Little orange inedible fruit decorates the stems and branches. Notice the distinctive ridges on the leaves. This shrub makes a good background or hedge.

Photo by: Rob Cardillo.

3. CHINESE DREGEA (Dregea sinensis ‘Variegata’)

A twining climber with deliciously fragrant flowers. Grow in well-drained soil in sun or partial shade. Young shoots should be tied to supports until they begin to twine.

Photo by: Rob Cardillo.

4. SMOKETREE (Cotinus coggygria ‘Golden Spirit’)

A golden-leaved form of smoke bush or tree, it turns on the color fireworks in autumn with brilliant orange-red-purple foliage. Hardy to Zone 4 or 5.

Photo by: Rob Cardillo.

5. CANARY ISLAND FOXGLOVE (Isoplexis canariensis)

This foxglove relative has beautiful tubular, bright orange-yellow, brownish orange, or yellow-brown flowers.

Photo by: Rob Cardillo.

6. ANCHOR PLANT (Colletia paradoxa)

Not every gardener’s cup of tea, but some are intrigued by its odd, ancient good looks and drop-dead prickles.

Photo by: Rob Cardillo.

7. VIPER’S BUGLOSS (Echium vulgare)

Called viper’s bugloss, this bushy, bristly upright biennial has narrow, hairy, almost linear leaves. In early summer it produces short, dense spikes of bell-shaped flowers, purple in bud, violet blue when open.

Photo by: Rob Cardillo.

8. BUGLE LILY (Watsonia pillansii)

Bright orange to orange-red tubular flowers, summer to autumn. A slender clump-forming perennial, it looks very much like a larger crocosmia.

Photo by: Rob Cardillo.

9. POUCH FLOWER (Calceolaria tomentosa)

Golden flowers have collagen-enhanced pouty appeal. It’s called the pouch or slipper flower and grows 3 feet tall. Wych says this plant, despite its delicate looks, has lived through snow and can become rampant—for large gardens only.

Photo by: Rob Cardillo.

10. KANGAROO APPLE (Solanum laciniatum)

Called kangaroo apple, this vigorous, upright evergreen shrub has purple-tinged shoots, attractive deeply cut foliage, blue flowers in summer and fall, then orange fruit. Best in a wild garden.

Photo by: Rob Cardillo.

11. LIZARD PLANT (Tetrastigma voinierianum)

The lizard plant or chestnut vine is grown mostly for its lustrous, dark green foliage with brownish yellow hair beneath. This climber is a sprinter of a grower—if knocked back by winter cold, it will still grow 20 feet in a season.

Photo by: Rob Cardillo.

12. CUNCO ROJO (Colletia ulicina)

This is a real Dr. Seuss shrub—huge, weird looking, covered in red flowers. How well it grows in this area remains to be seen.

Thanks to Maggie Wych, former owner of Western Hills Nursery (where these photos were taken) for her insights.
This article was adapted from its original format for use on the web.

Watch this short video to see more Mediterranean landscaping plants.

Plants for a Modern Garden
A Mediterranean Garden in Berkeley

Mediterranean Plants

SERIES 16 | Episode 40

When people ask what plants to grow in their garden that are stylish, waterwise and easy to grow, it’s easy to suggest Mediterranean plants. They’re hardy, drought-tolerant, there’s a wide range of foliage and forms – and they look great. Use them individually or in combinations in any garden.

When talking about Mediterranean gardening it’s not just about using plants from the area near the Mediterranean Sea. It also means plants that come from places with climates similar to ours. Places that have long, hot, dry summers and short, cool, wet winters. These include western China, the dry rain shadowed areas of the Himalayan foothills, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Chile and Peru, South Africa, and of course California. What most people don’t realise is that Mediterranean plants have adapted to estivate, or sleep without losing their leaves, in summer, as opposed to winter, which is what cool climate plants do. They come into new growth in autumn, are in full leaf, full growth, full flower and setting seed in winter and spring, and so they really do behave totally differently to plants that come from cooler climates. This is what makes them so hardy and drought tolerant.

Having to choose just a few favourites is quite challenging, but these rank highly and work particularly well in Adelaide’s Mediterranean climate. Euphorbias, also known as spurges, include about 2,000 varieties and species. Euphorbia wolfenii is a favourite and produces a stunning display from now until late winter and early spring. It has interesting grey blue foliage and large bright lime green flower heads. Euphorbias are really tough. This one grows in full sun or semi shade, and will cope with root competition from large trees.

Artemisia or wormwood, is a fantastic plant in a Mediterranean garden. They are drought-tolerant, and were once planted in chook sheds because they deterred tics from the chooks and that stopped them getting worms. But in a garden there are many dwarf forms that make fantastic accent plants. ‘Powis Castle’ has lovely, lacy fine silver foliage and looks fantastic as a single specimen, border or hedge. It naturally grows to about a metre if you don’t prune it and it loves full sun.

Lavatera maritima, or tree mallow, is another good choice. It’s capable of reaching 2 metres in one to two years. It has an exquisite flower – it’s soft lavender pink with a darker cerise pink centre and it’s almost hibiscus like. A very simple form, but very elegant. Lavatera maritima loves full sun, but will also take coastal conditions, as its name suggests, and it’s a great plant for a hot, harsh spot.

A hardy, old fashioned plant Arctotis, or Veldt Daisy is a South African ground cover. The old fashioned form used to spread and be quite invasive. However recent breeding has introduced some wonderful compact varieties that only reach about a metre across. They’re not invasive, are just as tough and hardy and produce flowers from April until the end of November. Look out for one called ‘Silverdust Glow’. It has bright orange flowers, and many buds, which indicates it will flower for months.

The Buddleja, or butterfly bush, is another amazing plant that flowers in winter spring and provides a valuable source of nectar for honey eating birds. It’s called Buddleja salviifolia because of its wonderful sage like foliage, and is also known as the South African sagewood. The most overwhelming feature of the plant is its intoxicating sweet honey like perfume. It’s a tall shrub, and needs a good hard haircut every couple of years, so it doesn’t get leggy. But it’s very tough, drought tolerant and ideal in a Mediterranean garden.

Whether you’re a contemporary gardener who wants to make a statement, or someone who just wants to save water, there is a Mediterranean plant for sun or shade, ground cover or shrub, and gorgeous silver foliage that really makes a garden sparkle.

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Mediterranean gardening and garden design is ideal for gardens anywhere in the world which have a Mediterranean style climate of hot, dry summers and fairly frost-free winters. However with careful selection of plants or careful attention to drainage it is possible to have a Mediterranean garden almost anywhere.

The Mediterranean garden evokes the Mediterranean lifestyle and this means lots of outdoor living. It is important therefore to incorporate places for eating and sitting outside. Vine covered pergolas with garden furniture or benches in shady spots preferably with a few cushions to throw on top to add colour and make seating areas more attractive. Think about planting some scented plants in this area to add to the pleasure of outdoor living.

Creating a Mediterranean Garden

This is not a modern style and so for hard landscaping it is important to use wood, stone and terracotta with perhaps the use of ceramic tiles to add colour and maybe a moorish influence.

Soft furnishings such as cushions on benches, tablecloths on tables when laid for eating and even curtains hanging from pergolas add to the effect.

Shade is very important. Pergolas can be elaborate bought structures or can simply be rough wooden structures. Vines, ornamental vines, roses and wisteria are common choices for plants to climb over the pergola to provide shade.

Garden ornaments will tend to be in terracotta – large terracotta pots and jars are ideal. These often need to be protected over winter.

Clipped topiary is common in Mediterranean gardens, box, santolina, rosemary and bay are all ideal plants for topiary.

Garden plants for a Mediterranean Garden

Lavender – this has got to be an essential plant for a Mediterranean garden. For its silver leaves, its scented flowers and the fact that you can keep it cut back into tight round balls possibly interspersed with santolinas cut back in the same fashion.

Santolina – small grey leaves, small yellow flowers. The plant can be cut back into round balls or low hedges.

Rosemary – deep green foliage with characteristic smell. Suitable for small topiaries. Very useful herb in Mediterranean cookery.

Bay tree – lovely glossy green leaves great for use in cooking. Versatile plant for topiaries.

Italian cypress – these trees are a must to give height and drama to a Mediterranean garden.

Geraniums – especially worth having lots in terracotta pots.

Olive trees are perfect but will need overwintering in a sheltered area or protecting with fleece.

Cistus – with its silver green leaves, wild-rose like flowers and drought tolerance these are perfect.

Scent is vital. Orange and lemon trees and Jasmine are perfect for these gardens but will need to be planted in pots and sheltered overwinter unless you live in a Mediterranean climate. Roses and other scented flowers can also be used.

If you do not live in a Mediterranean type climate many of these plants will survive so long as you plant them in well-drained soil or plant them in a raised bed with lots of drainage added.

Climbing plants such as bougainvillea, campsis and wisteria are also common in Mediterranean style gardens.

Examples of Mediterranean Gardens

The Gardens of the Villa Ephrussi – many different styles of garden are offered here including a Provencal garden. The gardens of Marqueyssac put a modern twist on Mediterranean gardening.

Domaine du Rayol – has plants which originate from Mediterranean climates throughout the world.

La Louve uses clipped box and thin cyprus trees to wonderful affect.

Mediterranean Garden Plants

A plant list inspired by the Mediterranean

Mediterranean gardens feature plants full of texture and color. In order to achieve the Mediterranean look select plants with blue/green foliage and purple or yellow blooms. It is also important to include plants with strong structure that will help define the garden. Evergreen trees and hedges are popular for this purpose.

More plant suggestions:

Thyme, santolina, bougainvillea, star jasmine, lamb’s ear, juniper, citrus trees, grape vines, sage, pomegranate, aloe.

  • Pro Tip:

    Limit your color use and think more about the texture of the plants.
    —Ive Haugeland, Shades of Green Landscape Architecture in Sausalito, CA

Desired plant characteristics for a Mediterranean garden:

  • Drought tolerant
  • Cold hardy
  • Tough and independent
  • In a Mediterranean-type climate, water is a luxury. The designer should always consider how efficiently such a precious resource is utilized. A plant palate that is in tune with the environment’s limitations helps to minimize water and maintenance needs.
    —Amelia Lima, Amelia B. Lima & Associates in San Diego, CA

Mediterranean Plants for Landscaping—Watch how this property was landscaped with Mediterranean plants such as lavender, santolina and lambs’ ear.

Learn more about Mediterranean Landscaping.

Creating A Mediterranean Style Garden

Typically, when one thinks of an exotic garden, jungles come to mind with flowering vines, bamboos, palms, and other large-leaved plants. But did you know that many arid plants can be just as exotic, such as aroids, succulents, and cacti? These and many other exotic, colorful plants thrive in hot climates, perfect for an exotic Mediterranean style garden.

Tips for Creating a Mediterranean Garden

Mosaic tiles are commonly used in Mediterranean gardens and are seen decorating walls, tables and pots, regardless of size. Substitutes for mosaic tiles can come from broken dishes or stained glass. Simply use mosaic adhesive and sanded grout found in craft and tile stores. Instruction manuals will provide an array of design ideas as well. Alternatively, seashells can be implemented.

If space permits, add a small table and chair or two to create your very own sanctuary, away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. For further ambiance, as well as privacy, grow climbing crops (grapevine) or fragrant flowering vines (honeysuckle) on rustic-looking vertical supports, such as a trellis or an arbor. This will allow you to make the most of your available space, even in the smallest area.

Even if your space is limited, you can still easily create a Mediterranean garden with the use of unglazed terra cotta pots. From doorsteps to patios and rooftops galore, the use of pots can provide the opportunity to include many types of plants. In a Mediterranean garden, you’ll find warm, dry air filled with many fragrant delights, like lavender.

Numerous heat-loving and drought-tolerant plants can be found here, as well as large architectural plantings, such as palms, bay topiary, and tree ferns. Pots of bamboo make excellent additions to the Mediterranean garden too. Fill in gaps with grasses and a mix of exotic flowers and fruits, such as lemon.

Create a Mediterranean garden wherever you live with bright colors and hot hues from flowers like:

  • Coreopsis
  • Blanket flower
  • Sedum
  • Sunflower

Set these off with contrasting plants in shades of blue along with silvery-gray foliage plants. Good choices are:

  • Artemisia
  • Catmint
  • Blue fescue
  • Mexican-bush sage
  • Lamb’s ear

Include a variety of fragrant herbs like lavender, rosemary, and thyme. Olive and citrus trees also provide a Mediterranean touch.

Lightly colored boulders placed within the garden will also help mimic the Mediterranean landscape. If your home’s architectural style doesn’t quite fit in with a Mediterranean style garden, you can try painting the garden walls a soft pinkish-beige or terra cotta. Finish off your Mediterranean garden with a layer of gravel mulch.

These look good growing together, they all enjoy the same conditions and they are almost entirely maintenance-free. If you fancy something a bit unusual that’s bang on target, try Euryops pectinatus, a shrubby plant with yellow flowers all summer and comb-shaped foliage.

It’s not always 100 per cent hardy, but it roots easily from cuttings. Keep a few on the windowsill over winter as insurance.

If you want one or two striking architectural specimens to give height to a border, hardy palms and yuccas look the part. Tamarisk is very Med, too, with tough, feathery foliage and a froth of pink flowers in summer.

You’ll need a climber for growing over the pergola – a grapevine makes the ideal scene setter or in a really hot, sunny spot south of Watford, try campsis, the exotic trumpet vine, which has huge, flame-coloured flowers in late summer. If you fancy scent, go with Trachelospermum asiaticum.

The flowers are white and propeller shaped, produced right through the summer with a hefty jasmine scent. But if you plump for flowering climbers on your pergola, remember that the flowers only appear on the outside of the structure – which is why grapes are usually favoured since the fruit hangs down the inside and looks far more decorative when you’re underneath.

For growing in containers, you’ll want plants that put up with heat and drought yet still produce plenty of colourful flowers, and keep going all summer. A tall order? Not really. There are several half-hardy perennials such as pelargoniums and lantana that fit the bill. Sun-loving daisies such as osteospermum, gazania and lampranthus also look very authentic.

They’ll all overwinter in a frost-free conservatory, they root easily from cuttings and they aren’t expensive to replace if things don’t go quite according to plan.

The big advantage of containers is that, being portable, you can rearrange them if you need to make extra room for visitors.

After all, Mediterranean gardens are designed to be sociable.

Your essential Mediterranean garden shopping list

Geraniums – or pelargoniums as we should properly call them – for pots, tubs and window boxes.

Olive trees, citruses, oleander or bougainvillea in pots so you can take them into the conservatory in winter.

Evergreen aromatic herbs: rosemary, lavender, ornamental sage, thyme and bay.

Palms: windmill palm (Trachycarpus fortunei) and European fan palm (Chamaerops humilis).

Spanish reed (Arundo donax) – it’s not 100 per cent hardy, but great for tubs.

Grapevine “Leon Millot” is just about the best outdoor variety I’ve found for dessert grapes or go for Vitis vinifera “Purpurea”, which has bunches of small, edible, purple grapes.

Campsis x tagliabuana “Madame Galen” (trumpet vine) is a spectacular flowering climber. It’s also hardy and the most reliable campsis for this country.

Warmth-loving climbing roses: “Mermaid” (big single yellow summer flowers) or Rosa banksiae “Lutea” (flowering six weeks earlier with clusters of smallish, frilly, double, pale-yellow flowers) are ideal, but both might be just on the big side for most gardens today.

Euphorbia: this ideal sun-loving species includes Euphorbia mellifera (honey spurge), a large evergreen with clusters of small, rusty-amber flowers in early summer), E wulfenii with large, lime-green heads of flower in early summer, and E cyparissias, a low-spreading species with ferny foliage and heads of yellow flowers all through the summer.

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