Every now and then, we all decide that it’s time to spruce up our gardens. Maybe you’re bored of how it’s organised, or you’re finding the colours on display are getting stale. Alternatively, you may have recently purchased a new house and are looking to make it your own. One way to do this is to convert your existing garden into a Mediterranean garden.
A Mediterranean garden is defined by its warm, vivid colours and overall rustic feeling. At the core of their designs is always a stylish, welcoming set of outdoor furniture for groups to sit on and relax together. Underfoot, the ground is covered in paving stones connected together in intricate patterns. And while you’re sat down, you can appreciate the exotic and alluring flowers that populate the garden, like the brugmansia.
This article covers the many facets of what you can do with a Mediterranean garden, and whether it’s right for you.
- Creating a social space outdoors
- Mediterranean plants
- Water features, wooden structures and vertical gardens
Creating a social space outdoors
This style of garden is rooted in Mediterranean culture, which is why it focuses on creating dynamic social space outdoors. It is a traditional Mediterranean custom to gather around with friends and family, either in the mornings or later afternoon, and relax together.
Unlike more traditional British garden designs, such as in-ground gardens, Mediterranean gardens are almost 50% “hard landscaping”. This means that only half of a Mediterranean garden is centred on bright, colourful flowers. The other half is about paving and tiling.
As such, creating a warm and inviting social space becomes about just that – creating it. A big part of Mediterranean culture is about melding the beauty of the natural world with a lovingly crafted space of your own.
You’ll notice that a lot of these types of gardens don’t have much in the way of a lawn. That’s because most Mediterranean gardens use large portions of their grass to lay intricate patterns of paving tiles. While you can save money by purchasing more traditional, grid-like patterns of tiles, it’s not as authentic.
The most typical colours of paving tiles you’ll see are reds and pinks. That said, you can accent these colours through the use of stylised pots and mosaics.
Pots and mosaics
Classic Mediterranean gardens are filled with pots of all kinds. For the most authentic looking space, you can buy terracotta pots for their earthy, natural quality. Alternatively, plastic brown pots are just as effective, and much cheaper. These are especially useful for covering any gaps in your garden’s design. If you have any rougher areas of grass or bits of paving that were laid poorly, adding an assortment of pots is an ideal solution to remedy this.
On top of that, you can add mosaics to your garden to really finish off the aesthetic. You can install patterns filled with blues and greens to offset the warmth of the paving. Or, to create a more unified look, double down on the colour temperatures. Mosaics of yellow, orange, pink and brown are great when paired with terracotta pots and paving in rich, warm colours.
Having an outdoor seating arrangement is a staple of Mediterranean culture. This comes from their centuries old traditions surrounding community and relaxation. Sitting outside with your family, sharing food and enjoying the sun is what you want out of your Mediterranean style garden.
Another strength of this type of garden is that it’s also great for hosting large social gatherings. By getting creative with where you place the furniture, you can even direct where people convene. Set up a table and four seats at one end, close to the kitchen. At the other, perhaps near a bold display of plants, put down another small table with no chairs. This means that those who want a more casual setting can sit down, travelling a shorter distance to the kitchen for food or drinks. Those that prefer a more intense or lively conversation, however, can stand around the other table.
Mediterranean gardens are also ideal for hosting a particular kind of social gathering – BBQs.
In the UK, we have fewer opportunities to bust out the charcoal and grill. This means that, when the weather is right, we have to make the most of it, and Mediterranean gardens are perfect for it.
Making the most of the space
Outside of generic tables, chairs and potentially a BBQ however, the question remains: what kind of furniture is best? Firstly, you need to figure out what size your garden is and therefore what type of furniture it can support.
Smaller Mediterranean style gardens can emulate their namesakes through a minimal but characterful set-up. Specifically, a couple of chairs and a bistro table should be enough to evoke that classic forever-noon atmosphere.
That said, larger gardens give you more options. Benches, reclining chairs and more are more and more appropriate the larger your space is. Additionally, the more square footage you have, the more clusters of furniture you’ll need. This is because you will likely have more guests to entertain that will need seats. But also, the bigger the garden is the more empty it will look with only one set of furniture.
Second, you need to consider the style of furniture you want. The choice is ultimately yours; however, there are really two commonly chosen options. These are wood and aluminium. Wooden tables and chairs help create a rustic feeling, good for matching with terracotta pots. Wood tabletops can also be carved with a variety of patterns, painted and varnished for an excellent appearance and durability.
Aluminium furniture sets are, by contrast, more durable and resistant to more extreme weather conditions. They also require less maintenance. There’s no wrong choice here – you just have to decide what best fits the look and feel you’re trying to achieve.
Looking for more generalised tips? Combine the natural charm of a Mediterranean garden with these ideas on how to make the best outdoor social space.
Mediterranean gardens are filled with all kinds of plants which are exciting and unusual compared to the plants you’d find in a typical British garden. They all have bold, saturated colours and sport a diversity of textures that make any garden considerably more visually interesting.
Listed below are ten of the most typical types of Mediterranean plants that you can bring into your garden.
The agave is a large succulent that grows throughout the Mediterranean and also throughout the south of the US. While predominantly green, agaves are known to grow in a variety of colours. They’re most well known for the thick leaves that grow with spikes/thorns along their edges.
Adding an agave or two is an excellent choice if you’re looking for some diversity in the size and texture of your plants. If you’re going to plant a patch, spring and summer are ideal times. Additionally, they don’t require a lot of watering, and can grow in sandy or even acidic soil.
They also attract hummingbirds, as well as other birds, to your garden.
Another succulent with an intricate natural design, their outward fanning leaves are a visual pattern that would compliment any garden. Like the agave, they require low maintenance in terms of physical attention and water. They are also very tolerant to extreme cold, surviving most frosty temperatures.
Also known as the “Golden Marguerite”, the anthemis tinctoria might resemble dandelions but are in fact very different. Blooming most often in the summer, they bring a bold, long-lasting yellow visual to Mediterranean gardens. In addition, they also bring a scent reminiscent of chamomile as well as an ability to grow in most types of soil.
They’re low maintenance, and are likely to attract plenty of butterflies throughout the year. Anthemis tinctoria can also be kept alive for longer through a minimal amount of deadheading.
Another flower with more than one name, the Brugmansia – or “Angel’s Trumpet” – has a distinct overhanging stem and unique petal shape. They can vary in size, but also in colour. Most Brugmansia petals bloom with a vibrant red, but others have been known to be white, peach, orange and more.
While these flowers can add some wonderful visual diversity, be careful if you have any pets or small children. The Brugmansia is highly toxic if ingested, and not just the petals. They’re also fairly high maintenance, requiring constant feeding and rich soil to grow at peak conditions.
Palms and cycads
Palm trees and cycads (pictured above) are one of the few Mediterranean garden staples that can add some harder textures to a flowerbed. Also grown in tropical climates, palms and cycads have thousands of variant species to choose from. Some of the most common cycads include:
- Brahea armata (Mexican Blue Palm)
- Cycas revoluta (Sago Palm)
- Dypsis decaryi (Triangle Palm)
Planting one of these plants can be tricky – transporting it from the pot to the soil can be a delicate process, so take your time. Furthermore, once your palm tree has been in the ground for 2 weeks to a month then add a palm fertiliser. This is important for its long term growth. Do this again after another month and then continually 4 times every year.
The aeonium, like palms and cycads, can also be found in Africa, but looks vastly different. Smaller, smoother and capable of blooming in very distinct colours, the aeonium has over 30 different species that fall under its umbrella.
Aeonium can sprout in one of many colours, with a gradient from its bold outer colour to green stem in the centre present in all versions. However, while they can sprout in most colours, they most typically grow with darker petals.
They can grow in very dry, sandy soils and are resistant to practically all diseases and pests.
Otherwise known as Ithuriel’s Spear, the shape of Triteleia laxa follows that of its namesake. It’s a thin, violet plant with petals that have a narrow bloom. They can grow up to 3ft tall and can do so in most types of soil. Mulch can be added during the winter months to ensure their survival.
The Gaura lindheimeri – also known as Beeblossom – can be found in certain states of America as well as the Mediterranean. It’s a thin plant that flowers with a sparse number of petals, most commonly in white or pink.
The Beeblossom not only looks like a butterfly at distance, but attracts them too. They require a near constant amount of sunlight, but can easily survive in drought ridden soils.
The Mediterranean Sea Holly (as the Eryngium bourgatii is likewise known) has a distinct visual appearance. With green stems and wide, violet petals, it’s hard to miss their almost spider-like shape. While they’re not for everyone, the Eryngium bourgatii is a great addition to any Mediterranean garden that is looking for a low maintenance, long lifespan option.
Hardy perennial salvias and salvia guaranitica
Normally referred to as Sage, the salvia is a low cost but visually impressive option when planted in abundance. You can obtain their bold purple effects for most of the year by watering at a reasonable consistency and planting in dry to medium soil.
Sage is also resistant to deer but attracts birds and insects in droves.
Water features, wooden structures and vertical gardens
Once you’ve organised the furniture and cultivated a stunning garden, it’s time to consider adding the final touches. We’ve broken these down into three key areas that most Mediterranean gardens branch out into.
Not every Mediterranean garden comes with a water feature, but many do. Their warm palettes naturally lend themselves to look quite dry, especially if you lay a lot of paving and gravel. Installing a single, water-based focal point is a brilliant way of adding variety to this.
As for which kind of water feature, there are many to choose from. You can add small birds baths or understated pools for a subtle way of widening the visual diversity of your garden. Doing this is also a clever way of encourage wildlife to visit your home in an endearing yet measured way. On the other hand, you can buy a fountain instead.
Larger features like this draw attention to themselves as opposed to helping build upon an existing atmosphere. In this case, you can add to your garden with the trickling sounds of water and a stunning decorative piece. Just be careful it doesn’t overpower the rest of your garden’s visual appeal.
Despite the fact that it’s not the most common feature of a Mediterranean garden, you shouldn’t feel constrained by tradition.
We’ve listed the typical focal points of these garden types to inspire you. You should look at these features like guidelines, where you pick and choose whichever features are most appropriate for your garden.
This is another addition that depends on size. Many Mediterranean gardens erect wooden structures called pergolas. Below you’ll find answers to three key questions that you likely have about pergolas.
1. What is a pergola?
A pergola is comprised of four wooden pillars, on top of which sits a slatted roof. Underneath the roof, homeowners often put another set of furniture that is given shade from the sun.
In most cases pergola roofs are flat, however, certain makes are built to slant upwards to a point. Like regular roofs, these have better water runoff qualities, deal with snow better and provide more head height.
2. Why is it used in the Mediterranean?
Most, if not all, of the countries in the Mediterranean are extremely hot. The days are long, are often extremely sunny. This results in incredibly hot temperatures that lead to the threat of sunburn, dehydration and overheating.
Pergolas exist to combat these issues. Their slatted roofs provide a respite from the beating rays of the sun, as well as creating cooler areas. Importantly though, given their slatted nature, they still let some sun in – this is deliberate. This moderated sunlight is healthy without completely darkening a whole section of your garden.
A solid roof might cool the space underneath, but if there are any plants in the pergola then they would be starved of sunlight.
Additionally, this can help improve water run off and prevent damage from extreme weather. In the case of flat roofs, if they didn’t have gaps between the slats of wood, then water and snow could build up over time. This could lead to rot, bowing or even physical breakage under extreme circumstances.
While these circumstances are highly unlikely, they are worth considering if you plan on building a pergola in the UK. Our weather is notably less dominated by constant sunshine, so these concerns are more relevant.
3. What wooden structures can I get in the UK that are similar to it?
If you’re thinking about adding a similar wooden structure, but aren’t sold on the pergola, there are other options. More common to the UK are pagodas and arbours.
A pagoda is more suited to larger gardens, and is less in keeping with the Mediterranean aesthetic. They’re tall wooden structures that can accommodate more people than a pergola, but are much more expensive.
Pagodas are often found with either heavy British or Japanese influence. As such, they might stick out in an otherwise Mediterranean garden. On the other hand, you might decide that a pagoda is a great way of naturalising the Mediterranean design with its British surroundings.
An arbour, by comparison, is much smaller. They could more accurately be described as something closer to a bench enclosed with back and side walls and roof. Designed as a romantic little hideaway from the rest of the garden, an arbour is great for couples and small families. Larger arbours can be extended to include a table and two small benches for small parties.
Don’t forget about utilise your vertical space, as well as your ground level space. Mediterranean gardens are known for making the most of every vertical surface, including walls, fences and trellises.
Get a quote
With all this in mind, you should know everything you could want to about Mediterranean gardens. If you decide you’d like help re-organising and cultivating your garden to have any of the features listed here, fill out the form below. Quotatis will put you in touch with a selection of tradespeople who can give you a quote and help you realise your landscaping vision.
Additionally, if you want an idea of how much landscaping will cost, check out our garden landscaping cost guide. It’s updated for 2020 and covers everything you could need.
That said, you may not be convinced by Mediterranean style gardens. If so, Quotatis also has a list where you can pick another garden landscaping design to make your own.