We all have dreams of Mediterranean retreats and long summer holidays. South African temperatures and weather conditions are very similar to those in the Mediterranean. Why not create a Mediterranean garden so you can enjoy long, sunny days and hot, balmy nights at home.
If you have fast-draining or sandy soil it be in an ideal spot to create your own Mediterranean haven, going with gravel, tiles or paving to make a courtyard-style space rather than focusing on a water-guzzling lawn.
So how can you get that Mediterranean feel?
- Use Terracotta Pots – Think bright pink or red trailing geraniums tumbling over old terracotta or stone pots, or if you’ve limited space, attach some smaller terracotta planters to a north-facing wall and fill them with trailing drought-lovers which won’t need endless watering.
- Consider gravel or cool tiles – Gravel gardens are commonplace in the Mediterranean and in this country the gravel surface acts as a permanent mulch which will help prevent seed seedlings and conserves moisture.
- Incorporate Water – Water creates cool relief in hot countries and can be used not only to provide movement, but also reflective value. Stone fountains are a big feature of many Mediterranean gardens but at home, consider your surroundings. If you have plenty of room, you might go for an ornate tiered structure, providing a cool cascade of water which you can run your hands through. With less space you might go for still water in a terracotta storage jar or a lined stone trough.
- Create Shade – Any Mediterranean garden worth its salt should offer shade during the heat of the day. Consider how you are going to achieve that naturally. Perhaps grow climbers that love heat, such as Grapevine and Bougainvillea, over a pergola with traditional seating underneath.
- Use Drought Tolerant Plants – Great plants which will thrive in long hot summers include lavender, while for architectural value consider Cupressus sempervirens (Pencil Cypress) one of the archetypal Mediterranean trees, which grows to produce a tall slender green pillar of evergreen interest, perfect for that Med look. Pomegranate, Citrus and Olive trees will add to the general look and feel. Most herbs originate from the Mediterranean and will fit in well.
- Don’t Forget Succulents – Cacti and succulents are regular features in the Mediterranean garden, growing out of old stone walls and rockwork. If you have a gravel gap between your house and your paving, a strip of sempervivums or other succulents will soften the line beautifully.
- Use Simple Décor – Once you are surrounded by terracotta and old stone or tile landscaping, you don’t really want contemporary, shiny furniture. Choose simple wooden benches or seats which will weather with age, to fit with the look. Grow herbs such as thyme and oregano near seating areas, which will smell delicious as well as add to the flavour of the food you serve your guests.
All that you need now to complete the picture is to invite over some friends, get a few bottles of wine, some fresh bread and ripe figs and you are set for your Mediterranean holiday at your own home.