Italy is a country which, like many others, is now feeling the pinch of climate change and is having to re-think the way it consumes water supplies. The explosion in tourism has seen a dramatic rise in the number of large gardens, swimming pools and extensive ‘English lawn’ areas all over this beautiful Peninsula. This has increased water consumption so drastically that water supplies are becoming scarce for both human and agricultural consumption. By eliminating large expanses of lawn around the house we can reduce our water consumption and maintenance by around 80% or more.
A gravel garden about as close to a truly Mediterranean garden as we can get, it relies on gravel to form the medium on which we walk, instead of costly lawn/irrigation installations. When installed correctly a gravel garden will perform a number of very useful, time/money saving tasks in the garden. It will reduce water consumption by ensuring that the soil beneath it remains moist, providing water for plant roots and a healthy soil environment for soil organisms.
It will reduce the need to weed regularly as a gravel substrate eliminates almost all weed growth. And, a gravel clearly does not require mowing! Plants roots will be insulated by the layer of gravel and trapped, still air.
A garden of this nature offers addresses precisely the needs of the majority of Mediterranean and aromatic plants /herbs etc. yet echoes the aesthetics of a Sicilian beach. This ‘dry garden’ also provides a pleasing environment adjacent to the house that can even be used for sunbathing immediately after a rainstorm, without the risk of trudging dirt and grass into the house!
Given that most plants benefit from their roots being covered by the gravel the choice of planting style is endless and the choice of plants, nothing short of exceptional! Planting style can range from the elegance of topiary (plants clipped into shapes) and rose borders – to lazy, colorful herbaceous borders filled with a mix of perennials and climbing vegetables and even to modern cacti gardens. The choice of plants is extended from rare lavenders and other aromatics to poppies and other perennials.
Plants such as poppies are especially adapted to growing in gravel gardens as they need warm and free-draining soils to thrive in and they suggest a somewhat Mediterranean feel. However an equally harmonious 18th century England feel can be achieved by using English perennials, such as foxgloves…
I feel that it’s clear that the gravel garden really is a valid solution for the area around the house or ancient Tuscan courtyard, as in this particular photograph…