The Mediterranean region is famous for its fascinating culture dating back many thousands of years. It has found resonance with visitors from around the world since travelling has become commonplace. The Mediterranean garden represents an aesthetic combining pleasure, scent, rich colours, sun and warmth. For most people, myself included, the Mediterranean aesthetic is associated with holiday memories of particular intensity reaching back to early childhood.
Mediterranean Gardens by Terza Natura
The following images show my own Mediterranean garden creations in various parts of Switzerland, and also in Marrakesh.
Origins of the Mediterranean garden
The Mediterranean region surpassing all others in its archetypal significance is Provence in southern France, in particular the triangle between Orange, Nimes and Aix en Provence, the best-known towns being St. Rémy de Provence, Avignon, Arles, Tarascon, Les Baux and Chateauneuf du Pape. A Roman province, it was cultivated two thousand years ago, and evidence of this formative time is visible throughout the region to this day. Mediterranean cuisine and its fundamental ingredient, olive oil, is inextricably linked to Mediterranean gardens and the indigenous scrubland (“garigue” in France and “macchia” in Italy). There are certain typical plants which have made it into our collective memory. We perceive them, in view of their form and scent, as belonging to the Mediterranean. As a quartet, the shrubs lavender, rosemary, thyme and the olive tree, whether seen, smelled or tasted, form the archetype of what we consider to be Mediterranean. This combination of functionality and aesthetic, their prevalence in the Mediterranean cultivated landscape, their use as both ornamental and crop plants in gardens, and their numerous applications in the kitchen, are unique. In all four cases it is principally a question of the oil: essential oils from the three shrubs, and the distinctive, slightly bitter oil from the fruit of the olive tree, so crucial to Mediterranean cuisine.
Further typical plant species in the Mediterranean garden
The Mediterranean garden is home to a variety of plants, some of which originate from other parts of the world, including South Africa, South America and Australia and have adapted to the climate. Bougainvillea, whilst originally from South America, has belonged to our image of the Southern European garden for decades. Agave and aloe, succulents without which the Mediterranean would be unimaginable, were also once imported from the New World. On the other hand, Oleander – a plant well-favoured for creating a Mediterranean atmosphere – has always been at home in the region. Its most prolific natural habitats can be found in Morocco and Southern Spain. Wisteria, too, is a welcome guest in Mediterranean gardens, although it actually originates from Japan. Various species of palm are also to be found in Southern Europe, having made their way from other parts of the world.