Mediterranean Landscape Design

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Every garden has a bit of fantasy in it and, for Houstonians longing for the look and feel of, say, Tuscany or the Italian Renaissance period, no garden fills that desire like a Mediterranean landscape design.

Combining elegant elements of nature with the relaxed Mediterranean culture, the Mediterranean landscape design can go from simple, yet cultivated to elaborate lavishness. Crystal clear water and outdoor water fountains, sweet herbs right off the vine to be used in outdoor kitchens, relaxed spaces for entertainment, and lush, practical vegetation characterized the Mediterranean landscape design.

Just as a rose by any other name smells sweet, so too the Mediterranean landscape design. It is known variously as Andalusian, Santa Barbara Revival, Tuscan and Moroccan styles. Primarily taking its name from the climate of the Mediterranean region and southern Europe, it falls midway between the broad formal and informal garden design categories. The influences of classic landscape design can clearly be seen in this style due to the proximity and prominence of ancient Rome.

Mediterranean Landscape Design�Through History

The Mediterranean landscapes originated in ancient Arabia and evolved, as all garden styles have, throughout the centuries. Major influences were the gardens of Greece, Rome and Italy.

Since it is so closely associated with the warm, sometimes arid, climate of the Mediterranean region, this style has little in common with English garden design, largely due to plant material choices. Because of its evocation of another time and place, the Mediterranean landscape design stands apart from modern landscape designs with its emphasis on contemporary choices and imagery.

Features of Mediterranean Landscape Designs

You can pick and choose among several different striking features suitable for residential gardens done in the Mediterranean style. The byword to remember is �Old World ambiance.�

� Stone, weathered bricks, terra cotta tiles, flagstone, tumbled travertine
� Wooden beams
� Wrought iron
� Classical statuary and Roman columns
� Outdoor furniture that evokes Arabian, Moroccan or Italian sensibilities

The architecture of the house needs to be carefully considered when using a Mediterranean landscape design. Actually the house dictates this choice, as some architectural styles�Colonial and Federal-style come to mind�would jar the senses if paired with a Mediterranean garden. The intelligent placement of a hardscape feature, perhaps a wrought iron garden gate in the curvaceous style of Barcelona, can be used to solidify the connection to your home.

When this style is appropriate, the home and landscape can also be tied together through selective use of plantings. Your choice of plants, in fact, further defines your Mediterranean design:

� Trees and shrubs. Given the hot climate from which this style arose, shade is extremely important�making it perfect for the Houston area. Live oaks, with their twists and turns, look lovely in this garden. Also, Italian cypress, olive trees and fruit trees such as orange and lemon trees.

� Vines. Use creeping vines like wisteria and grapevines.

� Herb gardens. Basil, rosemary, sage and thyme enhance the Italian influence and create enticing smells. Herbs are especially attractive in terra cotta planters.

� Vegetable gardens. Since authentic Mediterranean gardens are practical, heralding back to their roots in farming cultures, a vegetable garden fits right into the landscape. A vegetable garden not only provides sustenance, but also color.

The Spaces of the Mediterranean Landscape Design

The residential garden with a Mediterranean flair is beautiful and relaxed, capturing the easy living of the outdoors. In choosing the spaces and hardscapes to further augment that tone, consider these options:

� Outdoor kitchens. A focal point of outdoor entertainment, a summer kitchen provides a natural gathering place. Its design should tie the house and the landscape together and must, above all, be functional.

� Outdoor water fountains. Water is a critical part of the Mediterranean landscape design, so consider fountains done in an Italianate, Romanesque or rustic style. Be mindful of scale�you want the fountain to be in proportion to the rest of the landscape. Also consider the sightlines of the shooting water from your favorite viewing spot.

� Luxury swimming pools. Within the Mediterranean landscape design, classic shapes, like rectangles and circles, work well. Which, given the versatility of basic forms, means the pools can be simple and austere�or eye-catching and mesmerizing. Often, you can combine them with an outdoor water fountain that eliminates some redundancies while adding vitality to your overall design.

� Walkways. Gravel, stone, bricks and flagstone work well for paths in the Mediterranean landscape design. Neutral colors are preferred.

Final Thoughts on the Mediterranean Landscape Design

Jeff Halper with Exterior Worlds says, �Our clients travel to Europe and come home wanting to emulate a scene that they fell in love with in Italy, Tuscany, Spain or Greece. As the name implies, Mediterranean gardens are usually formal, dry-climate gardens. They have the same attributes�linearity, use of axis and central focal points�of formal landscape design. I think their most distinguishing feature is in their use of materials: limestone or gravels for paths, junipers, Italian cypress, dwarf yaupons and other blue-green or grey dry plants. Think of the dry, rocky hills of Austin with olive groves.�

He goes on to say, �What surprises people most with this type of design is the amount of math and order that it takes to create chaos in a garden.�

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Jeff Halper is an a landscaping expert from

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