Earthy, lush and warmly welcoming, a Mediterranean garden can thrive in any warm-climate landscape with a few adaptations
If you live where summers are dry and hot (or at least warm) and winters are warm and wet, a Mediterranean garden can be great: It's lush, inviting and generally low maintenance, filled with drought-tolerant plants that will thrive in your climate. These gardens invite you to live outdoors year-round.
This style also allows you great flexibility, whether you want the look of a classic Italian villa or a Spanish-inspired courtyard, the vibrant colors found in the homes bordering the Adriatic and Aegean seas, or the more exotic feel of a North African retreat. There's no rule against blending these styles, either, to create something that's entirely your own.
Basics of a Mediterranean Garden
There are certain core characteristics that define Mediterranean style. First, there's an emphasis on hardscape, with patios, courtyards, low walls and overheads defining the space. You won't find vast expanses of green lawn; instead, plantings are more contained, and even the larger areas are more likely to be filled with shrubs, perennials, annuals and ground covers than fescue or bluegrass. Earth tones are the dominant colors on houses and outdoor structures, punctuated by bright accent colors like red and purple. Tile is popular, for both roofs and outdoor "floors," though large pavers, gravel and materials like decomposed granite are often used.
The plant choice is huge. Citrus, olive trees, rosemary and lavender are almost a requirement for a true Mediterranean feel, but branch out with other herbs, grasses and grass like plants, roses, vines and even tropical. Look for foliage that's gray-green or a deep green (rather than emerald), preferably with boldly colored flowers. Though plants that originally hailed from the region are obvious inclusions, don't overlook plants from places with a similar climate, such as Australia. And throw in some edibles; they're a time-honored tradition.
Finishing the Look
The final touches include water features, pots and other accessories. Water features are key, but not the ponds of a natural or traditional landscape. Instead, put in a small courtyard pool or a fountain, either in the center of the space or on the wall. Nothing says Mediterranean like terra-cotta pots, both large and small. Rustic and contemporary furniture styles work well in these spaces, but be sure the pieces are strong enough to hold their own. Add a table and a couple of wineglasses, and you're set.
Finally, a weathered look is key. A true Mediterranean garden is where you live, not just something you view. It should show some wear.