from The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner – intelligent garden design software
In the summer, you can smell the herbs on the air as you head south towards Provence, but our visit at Easter was a tad too early for that. The morning and evening air was chilly, but by mid-morning the sun was hot enough to cast off cardigans and enjoy an alfresco café noisette.
Not too early though for the vines to be in full leaf or for red pelargoniums to be flowering brightly in window boxes at wooden-shuttered windows.
Scented Jasminum officinale – summer jasmine – was already clambering over stone walls and above blue-painted windows in St Rémy de Provence.
I’ve admired the flower displays on French roundabouts before, but here the road islands have a distinctly Provençal flavour. Everyone is unique, but each displays a microcosm of Mediterranean plant life.
At a road island in St Rémy de Provence, it’s all jaunty yellow-orange, underpinned with silver foliage and highlighted with bronze grasses. Perfect inspiration for a Mediterranean style garden border back at home. Here are some cheery yellow/orange flowers to bring Mediterranean sunshine to your back garden!
The common wallflower, Erysimum cheiri, has scented, vivid yellow-orange flowers in spring. Erysimum ‘Bredon’ has cheery yellow flowers while those of E. ‘Apricot Twist’ are warm orange.
Oenothera macrocarpa (Evening Primrose) is a low perennial, growing to only 15cm in height. Its bright yellow flowers appear from late spring right through to early autumn. The Large-flowered Evening Primrose – Oenothera glazioviana – is an upright biennial. Huge, pale yellow flowers open in the evening, in summer and autumn, on stems up to 1.5m tall.
For silvery foliage and bright yellow flowers, try Santolina chamaecyparissus (cotton lavender), which has deeply dissected silvery leaves and bright yellow button-like flowers.
Helichrysum italicum also has the typical silvery leaves of Mediterranean plants and has yellow flowers in summer. Its evergreen leaves are curry-scented, giving it the common name of curry plant.
Palette of sun-drenched colour
Just outside a tiny French village, another roundabout combines subtle silver-green foliage with pale yellow Euphorbia and cool purple rock roses.
Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii, the Mediterranean spurge, is an upright plant, with grey-green leaves and whorls of chartreuse flowers. Euphorbia characias ‘Black Pearl’ is more compact, with distinctive black eyes. ‘Humpty Dumpty’ is smaller still, growing to only 60cm.
Cistus × purpureus (purple-flowered rock rose) is a bushy evergreen shrub, growing to a metre in height. The papery purple flowers have yellow centres and dark red blotches at the base of each petal. Cistus × pulverulentus ‘Sunset’ has clusters of yellow-centred, magenta flowers. Each flower lasts a single day, but the plant will flower its socks off all season long.
Lavender is a must for every Mediterranean style garden, with its aromatic grey-green leaves and scented purple flowers.
Lavandula angustifolia, despite its common name of English lavender, is a Mediterranean plant, of course, as the fields of scented lavender in Provence will testify.
It could be the amazing Provençal light, making every wisteria-draped arch and blue-shuttered window look fantastic. Or just the sun’s warmth down in the south of France bringing flowers to bloom which are still months away from flowering in the UK. Or perhaps it’s the laid-back, holiday atmosphere, with breakfast on the terrace, surrounded by terracotta pots and topiary box, or an afternoon coffee with a tarte citron under the awning of a local patisserie. Whatever the impetus, like so many others, I’ve returned with a burning desire to recreate a bit of the Mediterranean in my back garden.
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