Mediterranean Courtyard Design


Based on ideas of faded classical charm in the gardens of Italy, Greece and Spain, Mediterranean courtyard gardens combine practical paving -- softened by water features -- simple structural lines, understated flowering accents and fruit, ripening in the reflected heat of a hot summer sun. Drought-tolerant plants with silvery-gray leaves and pastel flower colors suit containers in Mediterranean courtyard gardens.


  • Flashes of reflected sunlight and the sound of running water are central elements in Mediterranean courtyard gardens, where the hard, paved ground requires a cooling balance to summer heat. Fountains can range from large, formal structures with a classical statue spouting water into the air to a humble half barrel and water pump. Elegant water lilies will grow wherever the water remains still. Hardy water lily "Comanche" (Nymphaea "Comanche") blooms from May to fall, bearing yellow flowers that turn coppery bronze. Hardy in U.S. Department plant hardiness zones 4 through 10, it grows between 1 and 4 feet deep.


  • Evergreens growing in simple, strong, clear lines form the bones of Mediterranean courtyard garden design. Sweet bay (Laurus nobilis) supplied the leaves for Roman laurel wreaths. This fragrant evergreen tree is suitable for USDA zones 8 through 11 and grows slowly to between 12 and 15 feet tall and wide. It suits container growing and can be clipped into an even, regular shape. "Gray Gleam" juniper (Juniperus scopulorum "Gray Gleam") is columnar conifer with evergreen, silvery-gray foliage. Hardy in USDA zones 4 through 7, it grows slowly to 15 feet tall and 5-to-7 feet wide. Drought-tolerant, it can be grown in containers.


  • Drought-resistant, aromatic Mediterranean shrubs are obvious choices for Mediterranean courtyard gardens; they tolerate containers and provide restrained color accents. "Otto Quast" Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas "Otto Quast") grows as dense clumps of gray-green foliage topped with deep purple, fragrant summer flowers. Growing 20-to-28 inches tall and 18-to-36 inches wide, this evergreen is hardy in USDA zones 7 through 9. "Roman Beauty" rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis "Roman Beauty"), for slightly warmer climates, is hardy in USDA zones 8 through 10 and bears soft blue, late spring flowers.


  • Practical as well as beautiful, Mediterranean courtyards often include fruits, such as figs or citrus. Figs (Ficus carica) are hardy in USDA zones 5 through 11 and suit containers, where root restriction encourages their fruiting. "Black Jack" fig (Ficus carica "Black Jack") bears sweet, long, purple summer fruit and is suitable for USDA zones 7 through 9. A low-maintenance citrus for container growing is "Meyer Improved" lemon (Citrus limon "Meyer Improved"). This evergreen shrub, bearing fragrant white flowers and juicy, thin-skinned lemons all year-round, is suitable for USDA zones 9 through 10. Citrus fruit trees are available for USDA zones 4 through 11.

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