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Say the words “Mediterranean garden” to five different people, and its very possible to conjure up five different, but correct, images. Everything from sumptuous Moroccan splendor to whimsical French decor may be considered Mediterranean garden design, since many different countries and cultures share borders with the beloved Mediterranean sea. Whatever the national or cultural style, however, Mediterranean garden design tends to revolve around similar plants and attitude toward climate, while allowing for endless variation in the smaller details.
One of the most common factors in Mediterranean garden design is a sparseness of water-loving plants. Whether drawing from North African, Spanish, or Greek design, this can be an excellent way to incorporate eco-consciousness into the garden. Gravel, sand, dirt, tile, or paved surfaces are frequently used instead of grass or moss, which can provide excellent savings on water usage. Plants are often displayed in containers or twined around pergolas and fences, rather than being planted in beds or simply in the ground.
Mediterranean garden design often has the added bonus of incorporating plants that are quite useful. Many herbs, such as lavender, basil, thyme, and rosemary, are associated with this type of garden. Citrus fruits, pomegranates, figs, grapes, and olive trees are also common elements, making the garden both a beauty to look at and a feast for the lucky owners. Climbing plants, such as vines and roses, are often incorporated to help dress up walls and other bare spaces. Flowering plants are typically less common in this type of garden, though many fruit trees and climbing plants provide heavy fragrances and beautiful blooms in the right season.
The layouts used in Mediterranean garden design often take advantage of the available light and warmth. The climate of the area is quite temperate, making gardens usable and enjoyable in all seasons of the year. While gardens typically provide some source of shade, such as a loggia or covered patio, much of the garden is usually designed to take advantage of full sunlight. The use of pale sand and dirt for ground cover also helps increase the light and bright look commonly associated with this type of garden.
Along with plant selection, garden furnishings and decor can help lend specific cultural character to Mediterranean garden design. Tuscan or French designs frequently incorporate delicate wrought iron fences, chairs and tables. Spanish-inspired design often makes use of beautiful mosaic tile and large water features. Moroccan gardens may include stunning tile birdbaths or fountains, or a covered pavilion filled with jewel-toned cushions and elegant carved wood furnishings.