Elements of Style: The Classic Mediterranean Garden
A classic Mediterranean style garden is typically low-maintenance, drought tolerant and perfect for a climate dry and hot in Summer and warm and moist in Winter. For those of us living in California, this seems a perfect fit. Traveling throughout the Mediterranean region, focused on the landscape and gardens, reminders of California are constant.
The defining characteristics of the Mediterranean style are:
- Focus on hardscapes, with very little or no lawn
- Citrus, olive trees, rosemary and lavender often planted in terracotta pots
- Fountains and water features are key. Water features became popular in the gardens of the Italian Renaissance. They reflect the garden and provide the relaxing elements of sight and sound. Because of the scarcity of water in the Mediterranean, many water elements offer a relief from the heat.
- Large and small terracotta pots and urns and statuary. Pottery in many forms has been a part of Mediterranean gardens since their origins in ancient Roman households. From intricate bas-relief to simple and plain, they are quintessential for a European garden. Statues, urns and planters provide focal points and because their footprints are small, they are particularly useful in a small garden. The Greeks and Romans filled their pots with flowers to add color to their courtyards and pathways without depleting the water supply, or they used them to grow fruit trees that could be moved about according to the outside temperature. But pots were also used as beautiful objects on their own – a classic oil jar at the end of an allee, a row of terracotta pots topping a balustrade, or an urn crowning a pedestal.
You don’t have to live in Spain, Greece or Italy to reflect the siren call of the Mediterranean classic garden. A few carefully chosen garden elements… an antique Greek pithari, a scattering of large terracotta pots and urns and a simple water feature will create your classic otium. Being water conscious and embracing a rustic, muted look will go a long way toward making your space the place to be.