The Mediterranean climate is a dry summer subtropical climate. The lands bordering the Mediterranean Sea have this type of climate, which means the winter is wet and the summer is dry. Summer drought can put stress on plants; therefore, it is important to choose plants that can adapt to it. South Africa, Australia, Chile and California experience Mediterranean climate, in addition to the lands bordering the Mediterranean Sea.
Stucco, which is one of the elements of a Mediterranean architecture, absorbs heat, which along with the summer drought can put stress on plants. Choose plants that can adapt to these conditions. Plants that are drought-tolerant or have low water requirements will do well. Some examples are catmint (Nepeta faassenii or N. mussinii), sage (Salvia), beard tongue (Penstemon), wallflower (Erysimum), yarrow (Achillea) and society garlic (Tulbaghia violacea).
Picked as Perennial of the Month in January 2006 by the University of Vermont, Nepeta faassenii, also known as 'Walker's Low,' was also 2007 Perennial Plant of the Year of the Perennial Plant Association. It can grow up to 18 inches tall and 18 inches across. The fragrant, gray-green leaves are 1 to 2 inches long with an arrow shape and scalloped edges. Lavender-blue flowers are 1 to 2 inches long, bloom in early summer and grow clustered on upright arching stems. Walker's low can thrive in USDA zones 4 to 7, prefers well-drained soil and tolerates drought once established. It also prefers full sun; however, it will tolerate part shade.
Possible problems include leafhoppers, black root rot and powdery mildew; however, none is significant. Plant in front of borders, as groundcover or in rock gardens. Walker's low can attract butterflies, bees and hummingbirds in your Mediterranean garden.
Shrubs to consider include glossy abelia (Abelia grandiflora), which received a Merit Award from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1993. Glossy abelia is a semi-evergreen that can grow up to 6 feet tall and 6 feet wide. It requires full sun to partial shade; prefers moist, well-drained site, but tolerates clay, damp or dry soil.
Glossy abelia will thrive in USDA zones 6 to 9. White, funnel-shaped flowers measure up to 1 inch across, bloom from early summer to frost and develop a light purple-pink tinge that are slightly fragrant. Glossy dark green leaves measure up to 1 1/2 inches, which turn bronze-green to bronze-red in winter.
Other shrubs that will do well in a Mediterranean garden are New Zealand flax (Phormium tenax), escallonia, rockrose (Cistus), varieties of rosemary (Rosmarinus), wild lilac (Ceanothus) and lavender (Lavandula).
Vines can beautify a stucco wall or cover a fence. Bougainvillea, which belongs to the Nyctaginaceae plant family, is a vigorous climber that provides exuberant summer color, but it needs frost protection. The Royal Horticultural Society awarded merits to several species of bougainvillea in 1993 and 2006. Bougainvilleas are evergreens that can grow vigorously with characteristic woody vines with spines. They grow up to 30 feet in locations that do not freeze, or more commonly, 10 to 12 feet with spread of 8 feet.
Flowers will bloom beautifully on branches on 18 to 20 inches long. Small insignificant flowers surrounded by showy colorful bracts of red, hot pink, purple, yellow, gold and white; flowers mostly arrive in spring and again in fall. Bougainvilleas tolerate heat and drought. They grow in USDA zones 8 to 10 and require full sun.
Other vines to consider are trumpet vine (Campis radicans) and potato vine (Solanum jasminoides).