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A Mediterranean garden in South Australia

By Lib Bartholomeusz, Moonta Bay SA


I am enjoying growing a Mediterranean garden in Moonta Bay, in South Australia.

Distinct seasons in a Mediterranean climate

A garden in a Mediterranean climate is fun because the seasons are distinct and interesting. They are generally not too harsh to restrict what can be grown. We have wet mild winters, rarely a frost and hot dry summers.

Planting needed to be adjusted as plants grew, image Lib Bartholomeusz

Drought tolerant plants essential

The hot dry summers are a critical consideration in our garden design. The section in the photo was initially planned to be viewed from outside seating on the wide front verandah. So high plants were planned along the footpath, followed by the midstorey and low plants near the seating.

That didn’t really work because I couldn’t bear to remove self-sown plants in the foreground.

I chose drought-tolerant plants, many of them local species. Trees provide height, shade and screening from the street. Various eucalypts, including Eucalyptus woodwardii from Western Australia, Pittosporum angustfolium and Callistemon rugulosus are all thriving.

Midstorey plants include a variety of eremophilas. Although there are only two local species of Eremophila, the genus flourishes here. The foliage comes in a range of colours and the grey Eremophila nivea adds light, complementing the greens of other shrubs. I prefer Correa sp. although they’re harder to grow. However Correa alba and C. reflexa varieties are now doing well. Various acacias as well as Dodonaea revoluta and Templetonia retusa are hardy additions to the garden.

Hedge – a feaature of Mediterranean garden design

Hedges and clipped plants are a feature of Mediterranean gardens, and it’s been interesting working with these styles in an informal garden. A hedge of Atriplex paludosa grew beautifully for ten years. But then it deteriorated and was removed this year. Re-planting with a border of strappy plants, Dianella revoluta and Lomandra longifolia, is the next task. Grevillea sp. respond well to clipping, making them bushy and encouraging abundant flowering while creating interesting features in the gardens.

Grasses, including Poa poiformis, Cymbopogon ambiguus and Austrostipa elegantissima add texture and movement. Their seeds spread and germinate easily so I usually ‘act like a wallaby’ and trim them back after a spell of flowering.

Pot culture for difficult plants

Our climate is ideal for the diverse plants of southern and central Western Australian but many of the ones I really wanted to grow cannot tolerate our alkaline soil.  A solution is to grow them in pots.

For example, it’s taken some time but Grevillea bipinnatifida and Acacia denticulosa both flowered in pots this year.  I wonder how long it will take to have them big enough to grow in large terracotta pots.

Outdoor living spaces

Another delightful aspect the Mediterranean climate is the ability to create outdoor living spaces surrounded by native plants.

Our shaded fernery is a favourite mealtime spot in summer.

Autumn and spring breakfasts are spent contemplating the front garden and watching the wattle birds and honeyeaters jostling for position. I do enjoy growing our Mediterranean garden in South Australia.

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Billardiera heterophylla

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Acacia longifolia

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Acacia baileyana

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Acacia podalyriifolia

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Acacia pycnantha

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Eucalyptus globulus

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Leptospermum laevigatum

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Melaleuca quinquenervia

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Pittosporum undulatum

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Schefflera actinophylla

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Syzygium paniculatum (variegated form)

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Chrysanthemoides monilifera
var. monilifera

Senecio madagascariensis

Opuntia stricta