Sub-tropicalesque gardens?

townhouserOnt(z6aOnt)February 11, 2004

Any experience with gardens that looks like Northern Mediterranean (South of France or Black Sea coastal climate)?

I'm growing some subtropical plants as houseplants, for the summer outdoors, and other (hardy) - outdoors. This is really a mix of plants from different climatic zones, including higher altitudes, not pure coastal Mediterranean: oleandres, ferns, rhododendrons, hibiscus.

Plan to find Powder Puff tree as a smaller replacement for a Mimosa (Silk tree, Albizia julibrissin) and small growing pine tree.

Can anything similar be grown as perennials, or grow fast enough to be planted as annuals?

I was impressed when found that eucalyptus can be grown outdoors as annual or even perennial.


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zoneimpaired(z5b-6 ont.can.)

Hello... I also live in Toronto. I grow Musa Basjoo, a hardy banana. I wrap it well in the winter- you can't get much more tropical looking than that. At the caribbean or chinese grocery I buy edo which grows into a beautiful lush plant in shade. You could also try figs. ..Robb

    Bookmark   February 11, 2004 at 2:46PM
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safariofthemind(z7b NC)

Design for the mediterranean areas are characterized by
1. No grass or very little in the form of clumps
2. Use of hardscape, whitewash and tile - earth tones
3. Spiky, often silver or light green foliage, many succulents
4. Use of stones, rocks, gravel/pebbles and drift wood in the landscape
5. Extensive use of clay pots, often antiqued, for color accents in containers

You can achieve this look with a number of plant materials such as dracaenas, herbs (esp Santolina and Rosemary, Lavenders and Pelargoniums), bulbs and trees that have gnarled or intricate personality in the bark such as Henry Lauder's walking stick. Agaves in pots and other succulent plants that are somewhat hardy or can be overwintered in a cool garage would complete the picture. The imagination is the only limit, really.

A good resource website is

Goof luck. RJ

    Bookmark   February 11, 2004 at 4:14PM
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don_brown(Zone 6A NS)

For the Mediterranean look, I would look at potted bay laurel and rosemary. Lavender can be permanently planted as an outdoor perennial. Some potted palms would be good. You might be able to locate a fig tree that is hardy enough for your zone as well. Add a big, fast growing splash of annual colour with Castor bean (carmencita variety). These grow very large and give an exotic appearance. They are annuals, but are cheap to grow....especially if you give them some coffee grounds around the roots.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2004 at 9:02AM
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watergal(z6/7 Westminster, MD)

Make sure you have good drainage. I tried a bunch of Mediterranean plants in a hot, dry clay bed. They did OK in the summer but everything rots in the winter. I will be sticking to annuals there from now on, and I hate planting annuals every year - I'm lazy!

    Bookmark   February 12, 2004 at 12:01PM
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Thank you all!
We have wet springs and autumns too, I would have to check drainage.
And - figs should be grown in pots or as annuals?

    Bookmark   February 12, 2004 at 7:00PM
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safariofthemind(z7b NC)

You can grow figs in a big pot and overwinter in a cool area -- under your house or in a garage after they drop their leaves. They are root hardy here in zone 7b so they can take a good frost or 2.

I've seen figs as bonsai so you may want to ask over at the bonsai forum for tips. RJ

    Bookmark   February 13, 2004 at 11:52PM
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    Bookmark   February 15, 2004 at 8:49AM
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zoneimpaired(z5b-6 ont.can.)

Dear Townhouser, I don't know where you live in Toronto, or how much effort you want to put into your garden, but if you go down to little Italy (College-Clinton) area and walk down the back lanes in the summer you will see fig trees that reach 15 ft. These trees are burried year after year. The grower digs up around the trees and tips them forward then covers them with mulch and soil. If you are downtown where there is very little frost in the ground, they don't have to be burried very deep 12 inches or so. Fig trees can be pruned very hard and only become more beautiful with age. You should be able to find them at almost any nursery. If you grow them against a warm wall you may just have to wrap them...Robb

    Bookmark   February 17, 2004 at 1:24AM
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Thank you, Robb! I'm in East Toronto(Bloor line). I also saw somewhere (uptown and West) oleanders and what looked like tropical hibiscus in the summer time. In the ground, not in pots. How could they possible managed?

Also, here at forums was thread a year ago, mentioning growing Albizia (Mimosa, Silk tree) in Toronto. Any more info?

I'm more interested in small-leafed shrubs and trees, like Albizia, Powderpuff tree, eucalyptus, oleanders, rhododendrons, wisteria and ferns(last four I already have).

I began pay attention to tropical plants after purchasing tropical hibiscus, in tree form. It was half-dead at the time of purchase, but month later it was most vigorous grower I ever seen. Now it is in house, of course.

With such incredible rate or growth and flowering it makes sense to try tropical and sub-tropical plants.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2004 at 12:20PM
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watergal(z6/7 Westminster, MD)

Hibiscus was my "gateway drug" into tropicals too! I imagine they either sunk the pots or planted into the ground just for the summer, or else you saw a hardy hibiscus. I can't imagine overwintering a tropical outdoors.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2004 at 10:08AM
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Salix pentandra, or bay-leaf willow, is a dead ringer for bay tree, and is hardy to zone 5. Forestfarm in Oregon, among others, carries it. Works well in a tropicalesque garden.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2004 at 9:46PM
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It may be that the hibiscus you saw were rose of sharon which will withstand cold winters. I can't imagine tropical hibiscus surviving a Canadian winter. The same would be true of Oleander, although I would guess that they are somewhat hardier than hibiscus.
I agree about the fig. Fig trees are beautiful and really are emblimatic of this part of the world. I have seen these grown in England, as suggested, very sheltered against a south facing wall. You have to keep them well pruned so the sun gets into the middle of the tree. I don't think you will ever get fruit, but the folliage and branch structure is stunning.
You might consider geraniums, datura or brugmansia. These grow rapidly enough to be used as annuals. Or you can over-winter them in a garage. Beautiful red geraniums or white brugmansia in terracota pots-what could be more mediterranean than that?

    Bookmark   February 28, 2004 at 5:05PM
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Thanks for the replies! Suggestions are welcome!

    Bookmark   March 7, 2004 at 6:48PM
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alexg(z5b ONT)

Check the nurseries for hardy hibiscus (Hibiscus moscheutos), I have some that return year after year and have flowers that rival my tropical hibiscus in the house(in many colours - these are not the same as Rose of Sharon, but related, and of course they are beautiful also). Started some from seed this year - they are not difficult to find. You can also grow hibiscus trionum as a self-seeding annual. Rosemary in pots is medit, and can be shaped - looks lovely in terracotta - an Italian mainstay - bring it in over winter, but be sure to pay attention to watering it - dries out in our central heating. Broom (Genista in Italian) is a variation of the plant which grows wildly and is sweetly scented in Tuscany - there is a variant available from seed which is hardy to zone 6 but I am not sure it is as fragrant as the Tuscan mainstay. Try some Cypress look alikes for the feel also - I have noticed some good ones hardy here (shrubs aren't my forte)- no Tuscan vineyard would be complete without them. Red poppies sweeping through your grasses are very medit also.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2004 at 1:35AM
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grovespirit(Zone 9)

A small bougainvillea is a lovely touch, and can be brought in for winter.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2006 at 8:25PM
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