Visitors of Mediterranean climates may wonder what it’s like to grow a garden there, under skies that always seem sunny and in temperatures that never require more than a light jacket. A Mediterranean climate is defined by:
- Mild winters, punctuated by an occasional frost
- Hot, dry summers with low humidity
- Irregular rainfall, usually from autumn to spring
Gardeners who live in coastal California, central Chile, southern Australia, parts of North Africa (Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia), and Southwest Europe (Italy, Greece, Portugal, Spain) are some of the people faced with the challenge of growing flowers in regions that are beautiful yet harsh. Rocky soil, windswept cliffs, and drought are a few of the conditions these 10 rugged flowers will shrug off in your Mediterranean gardens.
Photo © Tony Hall
Hardy to zone 7, the Lily of the Nile adds height and strong textural interest to the landscape in shades of blue and white. The plants adapt well to container culture, and multiply freely so you can take divisions for friends or other parts of the garden.
Photo © Jason Hollinger
How can a bloom with such ethereal beauty be so tough? This welcome harbinger of spring adds its vivid orange hue to any garden with ample sunshine and light soil. Although the plant is an annual, it will self-seed every year, and the bluish-green foliage makes newly emerging seedlings easy to recognize.
Photo © Leonora Enking
Also known as the California lilac, the ceanothus is the xeriscape’s answer to the hydrangea. This member of the buckthorn family ranges from five to 20 feet in height in shrub or small tree form, and is smothered in blue blossom clusters in early spring.
Photo © flickr user Ian Sane
If your Mediterranean garden receives shade from olive or cypress trees, consider planting a daphne shrub as a flowering companion. The highly fragrant shrubs demand perfect drainage, but like a bit of protection from the all day glare of the sun. Choose a variety with variegated leaves, like ‘Maejima,’ and you’ll have a beautiful specimen plant in or out of bloom.
Photo © flickr user kiwinz
Is it odd for a flower lover to be so partial to green blooms? Not when it’s an electric shade of green that provides an excellent foil to every other blossom color. Commonly known as spurge, the many varieties of euphorbia feature colorful bracts, rather than true flower petals. Try ‘Blackbird,’ which features yellowish-green bracts and burgundy foliage.
Photo © Tatiana Gerus
As a native of Australia, you know that grevillea plants can thrive in hot, dry conditions. These members of the protea family have showy, spidery blooms that attract nectar-eating birds.
Photo © flickr user jeannette248
There may be a few people who don’t like the scent of lavender; probably the same people who prefer rice cakes to potato chips. How glorious to find a garden plant whose crushed leaves smell just as wonderful as the blossoms. If your garden is overwhelmed with blue and purple shades, try one of the white blooming lavenders, like ‘Edelweiss,’ or the yellow ‘Chiffon.’
Photo © Evan P. Cordes
From the strange, claw-like tubers of the ranunculus, emerge some of the most densely ruffled blooms you will ever see in a Mediterranean garden. Buy tubers at least seven centimeters in circumference for a spectacular March flower show.
9. Sea Lavender
Photo © flickr user tehhen
As the name implies, sea lavender, or beach heliotrope grows just fine in a coastal garden beset by salt spray. The evergreen plants provide excellent erosion control, bearing bright purple flowers all summer.
10. Wax Flower
Photo © Lakshimi Sawritri
The wax flower is popular in the trade for its long lasting blooms, and the flowers will bloom for several weeks in the spring garden. Cut a few for the vase, and you’ll notice the pleasing scent of the foliage common to members of the myrtle family. Not much bothers this evergreen shrub, but heavy soils and overirrigation will kill it.