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For a waterwise landscape, consider Mediterranean garden design

Looking for plants that don't use much water? Those that originated in the Mediterranean region are ideal for a low-water landscape.

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If you live in a cool-summer climate, try these substitutes, which will provide a tall, slender spire in the garden:

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Juniperus scopulorum ‘Skyrocket’
Thuja occidentalis ‘Emerald’
Buxus sempervirens 'Graham Blandy'
Ilex crenata ‘Sky Pencil’
Liriodendron tulipfera 'Fastigiatum'
Podocarpus gracilior

Bold flowers add interest

Strong flower color is another integral part of a Mediterranean garden design. Orange and apricot hues are an excellent foil to the blue-purple flowers of lavender, rosemary, sage, and other Mediterranean herbs.

Sun rose (Helianthemum) is a cheerful low-water ground cover for Mediterranean-type gardens. Even when not in bloom, the foliage -- in gray to green -- looks great with other Tuscan plants. 'Cheviot', 'Henfield Brilliant', and 'Orange Surprise' are all in the right color range and are prolific bloomers in summer.

Spurge (Euphorbia) varieties are another excellent addition to a Mediterranean theme. Because their foliage colors range from blue-green to medium green, and their flowers add dashes of lime green or fiery orange-red, they harmonize beautifully with the cooler tones of so many Mediterranean plants. Try 'Red Wing', 'Fireglow', and the ground cover variety E. cyparissias for bold color and a billowing form.

Wallflower (Erysimum) is a fragrant flowering plant for the Mediterranean garden. While wallflower can be short-lived (lasting around four years in most gardens), they grow quickly to two to three feet around and bloom prolifically even in their first season. Try 'Fire King', 'Orange Bedder', 'Apricot Twist', and 'Poem Mirabelle' for a rich orange addition to the garden.

Native plants can also be a waterwise addition to a Mediterranean garden theme. The key is in selecting natives that are well-adapted to your area and can naturalize easily in your garden. For my area, the cheery orange flowers of California poppy, monkeyflower (Mimulus), and leopard lily (Lilium pardalinum) shine with this garden theme.

You can see how choosing just a few bold colors of plants can help you keep to a Mediterranean theme without feeling constrained to just a few types of plants.

When you refine your color palette to a few shades, you'll be surprised to find how many different types of plants can fit seamlessly into your garden theme. This allows endless room for creativity and making your garden your own.


Genevieve Schmidt is a landscape designer and garden writer in the redwoods of northern California. She shares her professional tips for gardening in the Pacific Northwest at North Coast Gardening and on Twitter. To read more by Genevieve here at Diggin' It, click here.

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