Can you help me select plants for my Mediterranean Garden?

jxa44March 19, 2004

Hi Everyone,

I'm trying to beef up my Mediterranean garden this season. But it's been a difficult challenge. I've added agapanthus, some aloes, salvias, lavender, rosemary, echinvera (sp), and knipfofia (sp).

My climate makes it hard for me -- wet, wet cold winters (6' of rain with snow in feb) and hot, hot, hot summers -- july and august are 100+ degrees most days. I'm looking for plants that will need summer minimal water.

My soil is well draining (our garden soil is decomposing granite), that I supplement with home-made compost. All of my plants are doing well so far. But I would like to add a little more color -- could SA bulbs be the answer?

Anyway, would love to hear some of your suggestions for plants you think would do well here.



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bahia(SF Bay Area)

zone 9 California is not much description to help you with your plant selection, it could be anywhere. What is your sunset zone? What's the nearest town? I would hesitate to make specific recommendations without a lot more info. Somehow I truly doubt you get 6 feet of rain each year, they don't even get that much in the wettest parts of California. The typical range for California is more normally between 8 and 45 inches in a year, not 72 inches!

The qualifying factor is likely to be your degree of winter frosts, as the majority of winter rainfall species do not get much below 25F minimum temps in winter, and the high elevation species from winter dry/summer rainfall areas are not mediterranean climate,(although many are quite adaptable with good drainage), but will not like sustained 100F temps in summer, as they don't normally get that hot coming from higher elevation areas. You will probably find that you have a wider selection of mediterranean species from zone 8/9 climates in Spain, France, Greece and Italy, which will take both the winter rain and cold and dry summer heat. The majority of Mediterranean climate South African plants will take extreme summer heat with moderately cool winters but not freezing ones.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2004 at 11:45PM
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Thanx bahia,

Yes, I live in a micro climate that really does get a normal fall/winter rainfall of 6' (that's *feet*) of rain. Which is one of the reasons i'm having such a difficult time finding plants that will do well here.

I will see if I can research mediterranean plants from Spain, France, Greece and Italy. It's going to be a challenge for me though, as I'm not that familiar with species from those regions . . .


    Bookmark   March 22, 2004 at 3:02PM
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euphorbphreak(z10 SF)


As you might expect, I would recommend Euphorbias. There are a number from the Mediterranean region of Europe that will take your cold, your rain, your heat and summer drought. Euphorbia characias wulfenii "Lambrook Gold" is stunning; Euphorbia characias "Portuguese Velvet" has many characteristics of the species (the notable "black eyes") and furry leaves; Euphorbia pithyusa; Euphorbia amygdaloides purpurea; Euphorbia cyparissius and its cultivars ('Fens Ruby' is my favorite). All prefer lean soil and are very hardy.


    Bookmark   March 24, 2004 at 12:07PM
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Thank you David for your Euphorbia suggestions. You're right, Euphorbias are a wonderful suggeston for my micro climate. I actually have Euphorbia characias wulfenii "Lambrook Gold". And in addition to being an absolutely stunning plant (at least in my book), another great reason to have them in the garden is that the deer won't eat them! :-D But they will eat my babiana -- wonder if they think they're baboons ;-)

I will definitely try to add more Euphorbias to my garden. Thank you again for your great suggestions.


    Bookmark   March 24, 2004 at 6:22PM
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JayEmVee(z9 SF Bay, CA)

You're in Aptos, right?
Why do you get so much more rain than Santa Cruz and why is it so hot when you're that close to the ocean? Six feet of rain is wild.
Are you in the mountains?
I don't even think Watsonville stays as hot as you are saying you are in the summer. Why is it so extreme? What do other folks grow sucessfully in your area that you admire?

    Bookmark   March 25, 2004 at 1:14AM
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JayEmVee(z9 SF Bay, CA)

Sorry, J,
I meant to also recommend two books by Bob Perry: "Trees and Shrubs for Dry California Landscapes" and "Landscape Plants for Western Regions" as well as, "Water-Conserving Plants and Landscapes for the Bay Area" put out by EBMUD (East Bay Municipal Utility District).

    Bookmark   March 25, 2004 at 1:27AM
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georgeinbandonoregon(z9 OR)

you might take a look at the catalog (print or online) of high country gardens ( has many many drought tolerant plants that are attractive and reliable in hot,dry summer/cold winter climates. lavenders, rosemarys, santalinas, thymes, salvias, phlomis, penstemons, and several neat south african "ice plants" like delosperma, rabia, etc should all be good for you. also has an excellent selection of stuff you might be interested in---check them out

    Bookmark   April 2, 2004 at 11:59PM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

It would still help to know where you are gardening if you would like more pertinent climate specific plant recommendations. Unless you are up in the Sierra Nevada foothills at sufficient elevation to receive significant snowfall, it is also highly unlikely you are receiving 6 feet of rain in an average year. Kentfield in Marin County is one of the local wettest spots in the SF Bay Area, and even they don't get this much rain. The normal range of precipitation is more in the 20 to 40 inches range for coastal northern California, unless you are getting particular increased rainfall from mountain uplift rain effect as Kentfield or Ben Lomond do.

There are quite a few Western Cape species that are well adapted to seasonally wet/saturated winter soils that later dry out in summer, so winter wet soils are not the problem. The majority of these plants will not take hard frost in combination with winter wet, as they are lower elevation or coastal in habitat. The higher elevation plants from the Drakensberg Mountains are dry in winter and wet in summer, so you will also have to be more careful of providing good winter drainage for anything from there, although most plants from this summer rainfall/high elevation mountains will be more winter cold adapted.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2004 at 1:04PM
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Thanx georgeinbandoregon -- I'm on my way to the sites you suggested now!

bahia, thank you for your words of wisdom on western cape plants.

I'm filling my garden slowly. It looks like what would work best for me is to winter protect my plants (as they do in the Ruth Bankcroft garden -- to which I'm going this weekend, and I can't wait! ;-))

thanx to all who are helping me to build "the garden of my dreams".


    Bookmark   April 6, 2004 at 3:10PM
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Meant to say in a previous post -- thanx to JayEmVee for the book suggestions. I've ordered them and can't wait to add them to my reference collection!

    Bookmark   April 8, 2004 at 3:20PM
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Odd I found this ...I am in Aptos..haha and was looking for mediterranean ideas too. I understand that the UCSC arboretum has some infor on this...I went to San Lorenzo Lumber & to Hidden Garden Nursery and purchased some new lavender from some varigated geramium ( pelargonium ) and mixed it with lemon thyme & curly leaf parsely in containers...looks pretty cool...I thing I will have to do a woodland/mediterranean/asian fusion though...cheers P.S. I don't remember ever getting 6 feet of rain here...although we did get 18 inches of rain in 24 hrs back in 1982....

    Bookmark   April 28, 2004 at 2:14AM
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Thanx Sudhira,

For your suggestions. Can you tell me the name of the lavenders your purchased? And where is Hidden Garden Nursery?


    Bookmark   April 28, 2004 at 11:54AM
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