Landscaping in a Mediterranean Climate

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008 by Jenny Watts
    • Pansies, snapdragons, stock, calendulas and primroses can be planted now to replace summer annuals.
    • First-year fruit trees need to be well-watered through the dry weather. If they are neglected the first year, they may never be strong, productive trees.
    • Trim foliage on grape vines to allow more sun to reach the fruit and ripen the grapes.
    • California fuchsia is a native plant that blooms now with bright orange flowers that attract hummingbirds.
    • Cool season vegetables should be planted right away to insure good crops this fall.

Our Mediterranean Climate

Our California climate is sometimes referred to as a Mediterranean climate because it has mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers. Areas with this climate occupy 3% of the land area of the world and include the Mediterranean Basin, California, Central Chile, Cape Region of South Africa, Southwestern and Southern Australia.

These areas lie within 30°- 40° of latitude north and south of the equator and between oceans with cold currents and arid deserts. The largest area with a mediterranean climate is the Mediterranean Basin, which has given the climate its name.

Mediterranean climates can be divided into maritime climates, in coastal areas, and continental climates, which are inland. We are located in a Continental Mediterranean Climate, which is characterized by cold winters and hot summers, a large daily temperature range, large seasonal temperature range, and low relative humidities.

It is also known for irregularity of the rainfall, which can vary considerably from year to year. Areas with this climate receive almost all of their yearly rainfall during the winter season, and may go anywhere from 2-5 months during the summer without having any significant precipitation.

Variability of temperatures in this climate mean the 50-degree fluctuation between day and night that Willits often experiences is typical, though more dramatic than most areas.

Because we share the “mediterranean climate” with four other regions, we have also borrowed many plants from them. Some of them are so common that we give little thought to their place of origin.

South Africa’s Pelargoniums, in particular, have contributed greatly to gardens all over the world. Also from South Africa come Agapanthus, Gladiolus, red-hot pokers, pink breath-of-heaven, African daisies, Gazania and Gerbera or Transvaal daisy.

Australia has given us many unusual plants. Grevillea, with its “spider flowers”, Eucalyptus, Acacias, Pittosporum, and Callistemon (bottlebrush shrubs).

Alstroemeria, called Peruvian lily, is native to Chile, as are the common Nasturtium, Fuchsia magellanica, Podocarpus, and Escallonia.

We are most familiar with plants from the Mediterranean region like lavenders, rosemary, rockroses, sunroses, oleander, garden sage, Santolina and snapdragons. Grapes, olives, figs, almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, pomegranates, persimmons, apricots and citrus have been cultivated there since early times.

Of course, California natives are uniquely adapted to this area, especially those from inland areas. Ceanothus, manzanitas, incense cedar, flannel bush, evergreen currant, California fuchsia and Oregon grape are excellent landscape plants that need little or no water once established.

This is just a small listing of plants native to these regions, but it includes most of those that are hardy enough to endure Willits winters. If you landscape mainly with these hardy, drought-tolerant plants, you’ll find that they are much easier on your water bill and will survive our dry summers with little or no watering.