Mediterranean gardening designs are those based on the courtyards, small house yards, and balconies of Spain and Italy. The style is sophisticated and highly structural, almost architectural in its effect, emphasizing flat horizontal and vertical planes of texture such as stone and brick, punctuated by columnar plant forms, bursts of striking flower colors, and fruit, nut, and olive trees. Fountains, statuary, and paths play a key role in drawing the eye and the ear through the Mediterranean garden, creating a strong sense of motion amidst the stillness and formality of the plants and hardscape elements.
A key feature of Mediterranean garden design is a strong vertical element. Create vertical planes with terrace walls or free-standing walls of brick or stone. Use white stone for a truly classical effect, or stucco over the brick face. Let trailing nasturtiums or herbs cascade over the top edge of the wall, adding to the vertical effect.
For plants with a distinct dark upright line either as a free-standing colonnade or set starkly against a vertical wall, use columnar conifers such as Tree of Life or Lawson's Cypress, or trim traditionally conical conifers like dwarf spruce into a more vertical shape
Grow fruit and nut trees such as orange, almond, or olive, in large terracotta pots and prune them as standards drawing the eye up a vertical trunk to the rich foliage and verge above. Adapt the vertical elements to your growing environment by choosing locally-cultivated species (such as cedar or apples in colder climates) and pruning them to an upright standard.
Paths and Patios
Stone or brick paths flow like rivers through Mediterranean garden design, while patios act like still, calm pools, providing a place to sit and reflect on the garden environment. Crushed white stone or gravel, with a suitable edging, can be cost-effective for covering large areas, and provides drainage in locations that have heavy seasonal rainfall, while brick or paving stones, with moss or creeping thyme growing between them, pay a more stately homage to the ancient streets and piazzas of the Mediterranean.
Use tall plantings like clumps of ornamental grass at curves in the path to add an element of surprise and continuation as the garden visitor passes the planting to see a new garden vista.
Fountains and Statuary
Fountains and statuary add to the choreographed sense of movement in a Mediterranean garden. Build a grotto--a trickling fountain covered in moss and ferns, often with a goldfish pond at the bottom--into a vertical wall next to a patio for a soothing, cool summer retreat, or place a dramatic, tiered fountain in the center of a patio to create a piazza-like spot to socialize.
Choose a statuary that conveys motion and place it so that its lines draw the eye to a special planting feature, such as a rose bed or a cluster of bright-flowering potted plants.