With the summer months upon us, it’s clear those of us in California are living in a dry summer/wet winter climate. This weather dynamic along with specific ocean currents and winds defines the ‘Mediterranean Climate’. Covering only 2-3% of the world’s land mass, it’s a special place to live. 

climate map - Illustration by Helen Krayenhoff

Other countries with Mediterranean Climate regions are Mexico (parts of Baja California), the central coast of Chile and parts of Argentina, twenty-one European and Middle Eastern countries that touch the Mediterranean Sea, three North African countries: Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, as well as the Cape Provinces of South Africa, and south and west Australia.

Plants native to this climate are generally drought tolerant, and sometimes dry season dormant. Many have evolved strategies to survive the lack of precipitation with succulent, light colored, or furry leaves to reduce transpiration. Most require well draining soil to make it through the wet winters without succumbing to root rot. Some have adapted to the fires that frequent these regions because of the long dry spells.

As you add or replace plants in your garden, try working with, not against the climate we live in by using plants that thrive with less frequent watering in the summer and wet winters. Plants, trees and succulents native to California as well as other Mediterranean regions around the world are well represented in most sections of the nursery. 

The following are just a few to consider: 

  • Western South America: Alstroemeria, Calandrinia spectabilis, Bougainvillea 
  • South Africa: Leucospermum, Watsonia, Kalanchoe, Osteospermum 
  • North Africa: Papaver rupifragum, Lemon Balm
  • Southern Europe: Santolina, rosemary, thyme, lavender 
  • South + West Australia: Anizoganthus, Banksia

It’s great to feel connected to all these other special places in the world by discovering and surrounding ourselves with their native plants. And it’s the easiest path to a beautiful, thriving low maintenance garden. ­­—­Helen