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The garden of delights

Over hundreds of years, the Mediterranean garden has bloomed into a pragmatic yet beautiful design that celebrates nature and outdoor living.

The colour of aged terracotta contributes to a classic look.The colour of aged terracotta contributes to a classic look.

A Mediterranean garden is a thing of beauty. But not only – it’s the proverbial marriage between form and function. The form is a combination of stone pathways, terracotta elements, and hardy citrus and olive trees, lavender and rosemary. The function is a pragmatic design that, developed over centuries with the input of various civilisations, allows for a low-maintenance and drought-tolerant garden.

While a Mediterranean garden is democratic in its essence and allows multiple interpretations, there are elements which are considered to be essential.

The primary element is the hardscape. You will not find lawns or thirsty plants in a Mediterranean garden. Rather, the staples are hardy citrus and olive trees, oleander as well as low maintenance succulents. Herbs such as lavender and rosemary are used to accent walkways, create visual barriers and add to the scents of a Mediterranean garden. Apart from being drought-tolerant, such herbs also grow fast, so it will not take you long to cultivate and shape them.

Although a Mediterranean garden can bloom with little water, it still celebrates this element through fountains, water features, ponds and bird pools. These became very popular during the Italian renaissance and provide a relaxing sight and sound element. Although they are usually designed to be focal points, water features are not grandiose affairs – rather, they dribble and trickle, but just enough to provide calming relief from the harsh summer heat.

Although a Mediterranean garden can bloom with little water, it still celebrates this element through fountains, water features, ponds and bird pools

Shaded areas provide further relief. Mediterranean people love outdoor living and dining outside – however, the harsh summer heat can become unbearable. Shaded areas provided by mature trees, pergolas and loggias provide needed shelter while allowing us to enjoy the Mediterranean summer.

Apart from trees, shrubs and herbs, what provides colour in a Mediterranean garden are terracotta elements in the form of pots, urns and statuary. Pottery has been an essential element in Mediterranean gardens for centuries, ever since their origins in ancient Roman households. Apart from pots, urns and statuary, you can also combine Middle Eastern elements – which are especially popular in Spain – such as colourful tiles and mosaics. Bright blues, greens, yellows and reds add a magical element. Another material commonly found in French gardens is bronze, especially in the form of graceful figurines.

Although classical, a Mediterranean garden is typically not formal. This means that you can add some rustic and shabby chic elements such as repurposed birdcages, wine crates and jars – these all add a curious element to a garden. However, these elements usually have an interesting story to tell – take your time collecting them on your travels. That way, when you place them in your garden, you can literally walk down memory lane.

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