Kew Gardens planted The Mediterranean Garden in 2007 to educate and encourage gardeners to think about the wide range of drought loving plants that will survive our hotter summers. The plants are well established despite the record summer rainfall of 2007/2008 and are simply loving the mercury busting temperatures so far in 20011http://www.kew.org/visit-kew-gardens/garden-attractions-A-Z/king-williams-temple.htm
The native wild plants of the Mediterranean thrive in dry conditions .The garden at Kew is planted with ancient cork oaks in red soil, a grove of gnarled centenarian olive trees, rescued from a road-widening scheme somewhere in Italy , scented Stone Pines, elegant Italian Cypress, lavender, sage and rosemary to create an authentic mediterranean landscape. For more Mediterranean plants visit http://www.myclimatechangegarden.com/blog/category/climate-change-gardening/plants/mediterranean
A question comes to mind – if our summers are going to be hotter but our winters also wetter what is the point of planting drought-tolerant plants if everything is going to be drowned by more monsoon style weather?
Historically, lots of things that are now grown in the Med originated in seaside climates such as in New Zealand and South Africa – so they actually appreciate a bit of a soak. Tresco in the Scillies, is a fine example of this where Agapanthus grow wild in the lanes, revelling in 30 inches of rain a year. Bird of Paradise plants, too, need lots of water in their growing season, as do Bougainvillea and Plumbago, which are accustomed to Caribbean downpours.
When I was standing by the olive trees at Kew recently, it began to rain heavily, and I wondered whether rain is foreign to these sun-loving plants. According to Mort Rosenblum a New Yorker who wrote Olives, the Life and Lore of a Noble Fruit (Absolute, £7.99), heavy winter rain is the reason that Italian and French olive groves are so heavily terraced.
What about lavender – for me, this plant typifies a mediterranean scene from the South of France. Predictions are that as temperatures rise in the area around the Med, many regional plants will simply not tolerate the intense heat and will begin to thrive further north. Maybe this is happening already?
Take a dip into Hugo Latymer’s The Mediterranean Gardener http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mediterranean-Gardener-Hugh-Latymer/dp/0711218285 This is a useful site about growing lavender in the UK : http://www.herbexpert.co.uk/GrowingLavender.html
The Mediterranean Garden Society has more information and advice about selecting and growing mediterranean plants – in particular, an excellent definition of what defines a mediterranean climate : http://www.mediterraneangardensociety.org/climate.html