Winter inspiration for Mediterranean Gardeners

Shorter days mean long evenings by the fire, quite often curled up with a good book. We seem to be living through a golden age of garden writing and there is much to choose from for both practical advice and inspiration; as well as planning for some much-needed ideas for diversion and just plain fun.

In the fun category, I think we can all agree that this is where gnomes belong, even such delights as “Gnomeo and Juliet” and “Elton Gnome” … and all the other weird and wonderful concrete garden features offered in garden centres. But, have you thought about all the possibilities offered by kinetic and other sculptures, metal arbours, trellis panels and the currently fashionable shepherd huts? Have fun planning some surprises for your garden visitors.

Firmly in the practical advice section are books on the native plants and wildflowers of our region. Any journey during the growing season of winter and spring can be dangerous if travelling with a keen plant nutter. Shouts to stop the car occur regularly as fresh roadsides show their treasures, from the intense blue of small irises to the tall orchids showing their pink/yellow flowers above the grasses. *The Field Guide to Wildflowers of the Algarve has a new revised second edition from Kew Publishing with bang up to date taxonomic references, if that is important to you!

A well-illustrated guide to suitable plants can help those less familiar with Latin names.

Garden Plants for Mediterranean Climates by Graham Payne is a lavishly illustrated introduction to over 1,000 plants suited to Mediterranean gardens with details on characteristics, and water requirements. Useful to help a novice Mediterranean gardener get started. Graham Payne made a beautiful garden in the Algarve which inspired this book.

Providing both practical advice and oodles of inspiration is a favourite author for Mediterranean gardeners worldwide. Olivier Filippi runs a nursery in southwest France specifically focusing on drought-resistant plants. His frequent visits with his wife, Clara, to Portugal are mentioned in his three books on creating drought-tolerant gardens, which are inspired by his lifetime of research on plants and Mediterranean landscapes.

He is an acknowledged world authority on dry gardening where beauty is not compromised in the search for maximum water efficiency and appropriate plant choices without the need for fertilisers or chemicals.

Olivier says: “By working with – rather than against – drought, we can make remarkable gardens that are both beautiful and original.” Climate change is a reality for us all, for gardeners, landscapers and professionals working in horticulture. The new trend in garden design is to work with nature and these books by Olivier Filippi will show you the way:

*The Dry Gardening Handbook – Plants and Practices for a changing climate – A new hardback edition of Olivier’s first classic guide to gardening in dry climates.
*Planting Design for Dry Gardens – Beautiful, resilient groundcovers for terraces, paved areas, gravel and alternatives to the lawn.

*Bringing the Mediterranean Landscape into your Garden – Inspiration from other Mediterranean climate zones.

It is rare indeed to find a guide to edible gardens which is focussed on hot dry climates. Mediterranean Kitchen Garden: Growing Organic Fruit and Vegetables in a Hot, Dry Climate by Mariano Bueno explains how to meet the challenge of growing edible plants in the Mediterranean climate. This book brings the expertise of Spain’s top organic gardener to an English-speaking audience. As well as outlining the principles of gardening organically, it provides full practical information on how to grow vegetables, fruit and herbs, advises on irrigation and describes the kitchen garden through the gardening year.

If you are thinking about redesigning an old area or starting a new garden, then Dan Pearson can often provide some whacky and wonderful thoughts. Not only on making good use of what you have but also being brave and bold about new plantings for the future. His Spirit – Garden Inspiration book is bang on current sustainable garden design trends and an object lesson in working with nature and accepting what the seasons bring.

Sunset Western Garden Book is the classic garden tome for the west coast of the USA, including the Mediterranean zones – 6,500 plants, 24 climate zones and basic garden data for each plant. Limited illustrations mostly in black and white but an extensive and useful listing of plants. There are also useful guides to pests and pruning available. After all, it is usually the results of pruning and trimming that keep us warm through the winter months!

For more information on these books, email Rosie Peddle at [email protected] or visit

*publications for sale online

By Rosie Peddle
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