Building My Garden Part 3 – Mediterranean Bed

I got tired of being sick and lounging about so yesterday I jumped into action and started planting one of my new gardens beds.  It is a large island bed that is home to a purple leaf plum.  I was going to get rid of the plum but it was one of the few plants that my landlady has an emotional attachment to. I considered moving it but she was too worried it wouldn’t survive so I had to modify my plans.  Not a huge set back in the scheme of things.  I’ve wanted a mediterranean garden (lowercase m for describing the garden style. upperclass M for describing the region of the world) for a while now.  It didn’t really matter where on the property it was.

OK I know it doesn’t look like much.  You have to remember that even though I live in California it is still February!

Just try and imagine what the plants will look like three months from now at the start of spring after months of cool weather and winter rains.

Come on!  I know you can do it!  Stop laughing.  Picture the plants all big and in bloom and imagine that I have put down some nice mulch.

Gardens always look a bit sad in photos when they are first installed and for a few moments I always despair a bit.  But I have a mind that imagines gardens and I just walk around the bed picturing what each plant will look like once it is full sized and bursting with flowers.

This isn’t just a garden for fun. Mediterranean style gardens are perfect for California so are a big share of the type of gardens I design.  It was important to me to be able to grow and experiment with some of the plants that I use in designs.  You can be an OK designer reading about a plants growing habits and dimensions and looking at pictures but I to be really good I think you need to grow the plants you work with.  Most of the plants in this bed are from Native Sons, a wholesaler that specializes in plants for our mediterranean climate here in California.  By growing their plants at home I can get a better idea of how these plants will look in future designs and play around with some nice combinations.

Eryngium ‘Sapphire Blue’ is a plant I have coveted since it first came on the scene about ten years ago.

Eryngium planum ‘Jade Frost’ has beautiful variegated foliage that will really set off the metallic blue flowers once they color up.

Dorycnium hirsutum is a small fuzzy leaved shrub with pale pinkish white pea flowers.  At the bottom of the plant you can see a bit of the chicken wire sticking out that I used to cage the root balls of my plants.  It was kind of a pain but worth the extra planting time protecting my plants from gophers rather than crying months from now when an established plant is devoured from under ground.  The only plants I won’t cage and am confident won’t be eaten are Euphorbias.  I also didn’t cage a rosemary, Salvia, and Nepeta as an experiment to see if the things that make them unpalatable to rabbits and deer will work against gophers.

Plecostachys serpyfolia forms beautiful silver mounds about a foot tall and four feet across.

Have you ever seen a plant in a book or magazine and coveted it for years before you could grow it? Maybe it isn’t something that will grow where you live.  Maybe it is something that is so rare in the trade it took you forever to track one down. I still remember the first time I saw Helianthemum ‘Fire Dragon’. It was back when I was in school almost ten years ago and I was on a bus from NYC headed to my dads house for the weekend. I was reading an article about a Colorado rock garden in a magazine that had just arrived and this plant caught my eye.  I memorized the name and lamented the fact that I lived on the east coast where Helianthemums don’t do particularly well.  Well when going over the list of plants available at Native Sons last week this name jumped out at me and I knew I had to have it for my garden!  Just imagine in a few months it will be covered in tons of little reddish-orange flowers.

I am really looking forward to seeing how this garden turns out.  Aside from the plants pictured above the garden will feature Rosmarinus ‘Tuscan Blue’, Salvia ‘Aromas’, Nepeta X faassenii, Eschscholzia ‘Moonglow’ and ‘Buttermilk’, Scabiosa ‘Butterfly Blue’, Epilobium ‘Marin Pink’, Stipa gigantea ‘Pixie’, and Gaura ‘Whirling Butterflies’.  There are still a few spots left for Lavenders (I’m still trying to decide which species and cultivars I want to grow) and some other choice plants.

Remember I complained about birds attacking my mesembs and seedlings the other day?  This is what a Conophytum that has been attacked by a birds beak looks like.

And a Lithops.  I might have thought they had burst from too much water if it wasn’t for the fact that other small plants were completely torn out of their pots and my nearby seedlings were also nibbled on and torn up.

Now my precious little year old Mitrophyllum dissitum seedlings are protected with bird netting.  I’m so relieved the bird didn’t find these plants.

In fact all my seedlings are protected with bird netting now.  Hopefully by next year I’ll have a greenhouse.

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7 thoughts on “Building My Garden Part 3 – Mediterranean Bed

  1. I’m the same way…even right after planting…it may look sad and empty to everyone else, but in my mind’s eye, all I see is the plants full and lush…full of flowers! Love they Eryngium…such great color and texture. I actually first saw Dorycnium hirsutum this summer on a garden tour and searched for weeks before I figured out what it was…just love it…so charming! Can’t wait to see this in a few months…it’s gonna look great, I’m sure 😉

  2. Thanks Scott. It actually looks OK in person but not so much in photographs. I’ve been seeing the Dorycnium available at wholesalers the past few months so I thought it would be fun to try. I can’t wait to see what it will look like when full grown and in bloom.

  3. “I have a mind that imagines gardens”…me too, and it is always a shock when I’m snapped out of that vision and into the reality of what is by others comments, or seeing it in a picture. Anyway, I’m sure your reality will match with your minds picture soon!

  4. A shame the rest of my grammar isn’t up to par. And Loree photos can be particularly cruel. The worst is backgrounds that you have become used to tuning out in your mind but are rudely reminded of. Like my landlady’s 5th wheel trailer in the driveway!

  5. Dorycnium is such a great plant, one I don’t see planted too much. And Stipa gigantea ‘Pixie’ sounds interesting — will have to look it up. I wasn’t sure this stipa would bloom here in zone 10, so was thrilled to get some good bloom from it last year. And so sorry the birds are causing such havoc with your plants!

  6. I can’t wait to see the Dorycnium when it is fully grown Denise. I can’t really picture what it is going to look like. Right now I have only seen tiny 1 gallon plants. Stipa should handle the heat OK right? I think it is just the combination of humidity it hates. It was great up in northern California so I imagine it will be very happy here on the coast. I’m not sure how much smaller Pixie will be.

    I should have taken precautions against the birds earlier. I knew it was going to be a problem.

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