BOOK REVIEW: Make Your Own Mediterranean Garden by Pattie Barron.
This large, lavishly photographed coffee table book is a wonderful source of inspiration for the herb enthusiast. Most classic herbs are of Mediterranean origin: angelica, basil, bay, coriander, fennel, lavender, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, summer savory, thyme, and winter savory among them.
Do you live in the desert like I do here at the Ornate Bird Garden? A Mediterranean garden is the perfect choice to withstand prolonged drought. Do you live in a wetter, more northern climate? The author herself lives outside London, England. The photographs in the book illustrate the Mediterranean garden she has created in her own back yard.
The most appealing feature of Mediterranean gardens is their toughness and independence. You do not have to spend very much time on these gardens at all. They thrive in poor soil so you don’t have to waste time and money with mulches, manures, and fertilizers.
All you need to do is mix a lot of gravel in with your soil before planting in order to ensure good drainage. Herbs and other Mediterranean plants are tough and adaptable. Their only gripe is wet feet – the little leafy guys really do not like standing in pooled water.
In England, you may have trouble with prolonged rain, and the author took care of that with something she calls a cloche: a tiny transparent covering you set on top of the plant. You can make one yourself by cutting off the bottom of a plastic 2-litre soft drink bottle and pushing it into the soil over the plant. The neck of the bottle, minus its cap, lets in oxygen.
The author starts with an absorbing forward that details her introduction to the beauty and hardiness of Mediterranean plants. Beautiful photos accompany the text. Then she devotes a two-page spread to Mediterranean plants in the wild, and four pages to Mediterranean plants in your classical temperate garden.
Next, she delves into the botanical properties of Mediterranean plants that enable them to thrive under conditions of drought and in poor soil. She talks about the five other Mediterranean type climate zones in the world: southwestern United States, central Chile, the South African Cape, and southwestern and southern Australia.
Then she devotes the next few chapters to getting your soil in shape (add gravel), landscaping with gravel and grass, and building terraces and raised beds. For the fans of miniature landscapes and container gardens (that would be me), she walks you through a crafts project on building a stone trough with concrete and a mold, and then shows you what tiny plants you can arrange in your finished creation. She has another project for a Moroccan style patio arrangement, complete with tiles set in gravel and pieces of glass and stone scattered around warm terra-cotta pots.
Next she gets into serious landscaping, illustrating with gorgeous photographs and clear text how you can mix and match plants for color- and textual-effect. She includes sections on shade-loving plants and creepers and vines. Lavender gets its own special landscaping section. She even investigates seaside plants, bulbs (detailing which will bloom in which seasons), and succulents!
There are lavishly photographed sections on herbs, fruit, and vegetables. Then she includes sections on plant propagation, container gardening, and pruning. Last of all, she delights the interior-decorator in a lot of us with a “Decorative Living” chapter that shows photographs of different Mediterranean-style courtyards and patios to give you ideas for your own humble back yard. She even includes crafts projects on decorating terra-cotta pots and tabletops with colorful mosaic tiles.
Last of all, she includes the all-important Plant Directory with the Latin names so that you can go pick out exactly what plants you need. I really can’t recommend this book highly enough. It may inspire you to go beyond herbs and landscape your entire back yard with Mediterranean trees and shrubs!
Make Your Own Mediterranean Garden is available on Amazon.com through this link: Make Your Own Mediterranean Garden