With the weather still so chilly outside, it’s the perfect time to spend a cosy afternoon designing your dream garden.
Perhaps you’ve noticed recently that your garden is looking a little lacklustre and needs a refresh. Or maybe you’ve just moved into a place where the garden needs a total overhaul? Whatever the case, getting a few ideas together now means you can get to work on the design elements before spring begins. Then you can have your new garden looking fabulous by the time the weather picks up again.
Mediterranean gardens are a classic mix of rustic furniture and fragrant, colourful planting, working surprisingly well in our British climate.
Generally relaxed and informal, they are loved for their familiar, weathered look that inspires nostalgic memories of family holidays.
They have an emphasis on outdoor living, especially entertaining friends and family in relaxed seating areas, as many Mediterranean families traditionally do.
Creating a Mediterranean garden in your space is a fantastic way to ensure you spend more time relaxing in your garden this summer, and less time working – as their relaxed style needs little maintenance and emulates the Mediterranean way of life.
If you’ve been thinking about transforming your garden in this style, here are a few ideas to get you started. I’ve outlined the key elements of Mediterranean garden design, and the ways you can implement them into your own garden.
Perfecting your plants
Firstly, a great place to start with any garden design is with your plant choices.
Think colourful flowers in terracotta pots and exuberant climbers tumbling over walls. A Mediterranean garden will always smell as good as it looks. So, pick plants for fragrance as well as colour. Olive trees are a classic nod to the theme, and they work well in any size or shape of garden, either as a focal point, or nestled in the corner in a large container.
They probably won’t bear fruit in this country, (although there is a chance they may) but their silvery green leaves are emphatic of warmer climes. Choose a sunny, sheltered spot for your Olea Europaea.
Other plants that are often spotted in a classic Mediterranean garden are:
- Herbs: Particularly lavender and rosemary, herbs are great for bringing warming scents as well as structure. Plant rampantly along a path for a fragrant and inviting walkway.
- Palm trees: Nothing is more symbolic of the continental coastline than a palm tree. They need shelter from exposed conditions, and some may need protection when temperatures drop below -5 degrees Celsius. Try the Trachycarpus Fortunei.
- Red Hot Poker: These are a striking and unique addition to your garden and somehow just the look of them seems to make the garden feel warmer.
- Rock Rose: A sun-loving evergreen shrub that will look fabulous at the front of your borders, with colourful flowers tumbling out through spring and summer.
- Bougainvillea: The frilly pink flowers of the bougainvillea instantly transport you to the Riviera. Grow it in containers and move under glass for the winter.
- Geraniums: Perfect for pots and window boxes. They will bring lots of lovely colour to your silver green and terracotta backdrop
Don’t forget that many Mediterranean plants are drought tolerant and will need well-drained soil that isn’t too heavy. If you have clay soil, you can improve it by digging in plenty of organic matter as well as some horticultural grit for drainage. Always make sure your pots have holes in the bottom to allow water to drain away easily.
Pergolas and water features
Function is important in a Mediterranean garden, and protection from the elements in the form of shade and cooling water is a must.
On the Mediterranean coastline, they need shelter from the hot sun, so shade is often an integral part of the garden. That’s why you’ll see lots of pergolas and canopies there.
In this country, pergolas do a great job at sheltering us from prevailing winds. As well, they offer a little privacy if you are overlooked.
If you have the space, a pergola draped in colourful climbing plants such as jasmine or Ipomoea is a must. For a smaller garden you may want to think about incorporating a smaller archway, or even just some higher fencing to elude to the look.
A Mediterranean garden grows upwards just as much as it grows outwards. So, don’t leave any trellis, wall or fence bare. Climbers and luxuriously draping tree canopies will add height and an exceptional impact.
Whilst water features are not an essential part of the Mediterranean garden, they are a lovely additional touch. They also do a good job of breaking up the dry landscape.
A small rustic basin fountain mounted against a wall will bring a satisfying bubbling sound. Meanwhile, a small ornamental pool will add a drop of shimmer to your otherwise weathered scene.
If you don’t want to include a water feature, use bright vibrant blues in your colour scheme to offset the warm terracotta tones instead. You could even think about staining your pergola in Mediterranean blue and white too.
Paving and mosaics
Hard landscaping is an integral part of the Mediterranean garden, broken up by splashes of vibrant colour.
Many of these style gardens forgo lawns in favour of gravel and paving stones. This makes them a great option for smaller spaces, or those who don’t want the hassle of lawn maintenance.
Chose warm coloured paving stones in pink and red hues, or gravel and natural stone styles.
Without a lawn you may feel like there is a lot of vacant space. Therefore you could split the garden into sections using pathways lined with plants and herbs.
Soften the edges of any paved areas by planting ground cover plants around the edges and allow them to spill over slightly onto the stones or gravel.
Don’t forget that a Mediterranean garden is always crammed full of pots. Plug any gaps on your patio areas with an assortment of colourful containers and large terracotta pots.
Mosaics are a beautiful extra touch and could be scattered in amongst your other paving stones or used on the vertical part of steps.
You can even buy feature mosaic elements like tiles, bird baths and water fountains. These will make a stunning centrepieces to your Mediterranean garden.
Relaxed outdoor dining
The final touch to your Mediterranean haven will be the perfect place to sit and enjoy it.
It’s considered sacrilege to not have an outdoor dining area in the Mediterranean.
It’s at the heart of their long-standing traditions for sharing food with large families, and relaxing outdoors with friends.
Whilst we might not have quite as many sunshine days here in the UK, we still treasure those summer BBQs and entertaining in the garden.
Your dining set should be quite a classic style and cast aluminium sets are great as they are weather resistant and can be left out over winter.
If you don’t have the room for a large table and chairs, then a little bistro set with a coffee table and two chairs will look just as lovely.
If you have a bigger space, then make sure there aren’t any sections of your garden that can’t be enjoyed from the comfort of a bench or chair. Mediterranean gardens often have several types of seating dotted around and along pathways.
Finally, if you really want that extra ‘wow’ factor for your Mediterranean garden, you could even add some outdoor cooking facilities such as a pizza oven or outdoor kitchen. This are becoming increasingly popular in the UK, and you’ll be the envy of all your friends and neighbours when BBQ season kicks off.
David Domoney is a Chartered Horticulturalist, Broadcaster, and Author. David has worked with a number of the UK’s leading garden retailers as a plant buyer and strategic consultant. With more than 30 years experience, in horticulture, David is as passionate about plants now as he was when he bought his first plant at a village fete.
David, I love the pergola concept. I have grapes growing up mine and it is always exciting when they start to produce and the grapes are “dripping” through the slats. Thanks for the inspiration, especially with the pix! ~Willow
Brilliant ideas…Love them..Thx
The garden decoration ideas are very interesting, the garden space is beautiful with flowers, ornamental plants, a relaxing place or cozy parties.
I feel you guys are very proud of them.
Thank you for sharing that.
This is a new project for me and my first attempt at the mediterranean style. I had already decided barbecue area with trellis and climbers and the terracotta. It was the little touches I was unsure about. Great advise and tips. Now I can get to work. .