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How to design a Mediterranean garden: easy design ideas

Mediterranean gardens are the true sun worshippers of the garden design styles. Using plants that love full sun and earthy tones these spaces can become an oasis of calm in your back garden. Even if you aren’t blessed with the south-facing garden you can still steal some of the principles of the hot Mediterranean garden styles and apply them to any garden!

I’m going to share my top garden design tips for creating a Mediterranean garden space that you can leave your everyday worries behind in!

What is a Mediterranean garden?

A Mediterranean garden takes its inspiration and theme from those warmer European geographies around France, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece. These countries have a climate of hot dry summers and cool humid winters. They are also characterised by a hilly and sometimes arid landscape.

An easy way to think of this it to consider the summer holiday destination in Europe from UK sunseekers. Hot climates, dry breezes and plenty of scented, aromatic and foliage rich plants!


Features of a Mediterranean garden

Mediterranean gardens are one of the garden styles that fit perfectly into either a formal or informal garden design style. Meaning that these gardens can either fit into a very symmetrical formal design style or a more relaxed laid back approach. They are one of the few design styles to work brilliantly in either formal or informal layouts.

These gardens may invoke the warm earthy tones of the Med with terracotta and gravels amidst silvery-green foliage of drought-tolerant plants. You’re wanting to replicate that warm relaxed atmosphere often found on the Med where things happen when they happen. An emphasis on community, family, relaxing and socializing are key to these successful gardens.

Formal Meditteranean gardens may feature ceramics, sculpture, topiary, or even Moorish symmetrical designs. They are really versatile, providing you get enough sun and have free-draining soil. However, with careful plant selection, even a garden that features some shade can be designed to replicate the feelings and structure of a Mediterranean hot garden!

  • Warm earthy tones and materials
  • Either formal or informal layouts
  • Trees used for shade
  • Aromatic herbs
  • Sculpture, urns, ceramics, tiles and specimen trees may feature
  • Water features to bring a sense of calm
  • Plants that are hardy drought tolerant and low growing

Mediterranean gardens will feature shaded areas for seating; away from the midday sun. They may also use a variety of heights in their designs whether that’s from established trees, large terracotta pots, arbors, or fountains.

Water is usually a key component to help heighten the smells of the aromatic plants and to bring a sense of cool to the garden. Muted pastel colours may be used to give the illusion of sun-bleached window frames or paintings. These gardens look like they have been there for years and give a sense of effortless relaxation. Though in reality, they do require some careful planning and garden design to get right.


Sometimes though rules are broken in these Mediterranean gardens, I visited Vittoriale degli italiani when I traveled to Lake Garda in Italy. The Vittoriale degli italiani is a bizare estate. It is where the Italian writer Gabriele d’Annunzio lived after his defenestration in 1922 until his death in 1938. Controversial for many reasons in part due to the political funding its creator was given to keep him away from fascist political critique he held, it features a number of what can only be described as bonkers garden installations. One of which features a cruiser boat jutting out from the mountain. However, the plant choices are still based on those of traditional Mediterranean gardens even if used in a somewhat one-of-a-kind fashion!

Just your average full size boat sticking out of a Mediterranean garden!

Mediterranean Plants Suitable for the UK

Whilst there are many lists of true Meditteranean plants online, a number of them are only suitable for very warm climates. Often our cold wet winters will finish them off unless they are overwintered in a greenhouse or conservatory. However, there are a number of Mediterranean plants that can manage in our milder climates. Artemisia is a great tough example of a gorgeous deciduous shrub that gives that silvery-green look so well known in hot gardens of the med!

Artemisia is a tough Mediterranean shrub suitable for all sunny gardens in the UK

Below is a list of hardy Mediterranean-style plants to help bring the illusion of the warmer European climates to your back garden here in Britain.

  • Olive Trees
  • Chamaerops Humilis Palms
  • Trachycarpus Fortunei Palms
  • Cupressus Sempervirens (Tuscan Cypress) Trees
  • Bay Leaf Topiary
  • Trachelospernum Jasminoides (Evergreen Jasmine)
  • Agapanthus Africanus
  • Pine Nut (Stone Pine) trees
  • Santolina
  • Artemisia abrotanum (Southernwood)
  • Lavandula (Lavender)
  • helianthemum nummularium (Rockrose)
  • Cistus
  • Euphorbia characias (Mediterranean spurge)
Lavender is most commonly associated with Mediterranean gardens but there’s so many more options!
Olive Trees are synonymous with Mediterranean garden. They also work well in containers here in the Uk to protect them from frost.


Whether you’re a fan of formal or informal gardens the mediterranean garden design style could be the one for you. As long as you have enough sunlight to bring that warmth to the design then there are plenty of UK hardy plants to bring your dreams of the Med to life.


If however, you’re dealing with a colder, shaded north facing garden then maybe a more naturalistics or foliage based garden is best for you. Remembering to always work with what you have rather than try and work against mother nature!


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