This week starts a new series of posts exploring how to achieve specific landscape styles using drought-tolerant plants! These posts are in partnership with Mooch Exterior Designs, who specialize in period-specific and historic landscaping.
Today we look at the plants perfect for a Spanish or Tuscan style landscape. Luckily, Spain is a Mediterranean climate just like Southern California, so many of the plants iconic to a Spanish style landscape thrive here in San Diego. Let’s take a look at a few of the most classic.
1. Lavender – This perennial subshrub, although grown throughout the world as both an ornamental and culinary herb, is actually native to the Old World, including Spain. It is tough as nails and grows in even the most arid, nutrient-poor soil. While there is a species known as Spanish lavender, any lavender, including English or French, look great in a Tuscan landscape.
2. Agave – These low-water succulents make an excellent statement piece. Their geometric form adds low-maintenance interest to the Spanish landscape. Just about any variety will do, including Agave attenuata (pictured), Agave americana, Agave vilmorinia and Agave parryi.
3. Rosemary – Another fragrant and hardy herb native to the Mediterranean basin, rosemary is a staple of the Spanish landscape.
4. Bougainvillea – This shrubby vine comes in a variety of colors, although the bright fuchsia of the cultivar ‘Barbara Karst’ is the most iconic. Looks great climbing a fence, trellis or pergola, and requires almost no water!
5. Olive – The Mediterranean landscape is known for featuring many edible plants, including olives! However, California requires that olives used for home and commercial landscaping be fruitless, to avoid the horrible staining mess their fruits make. Their beautiful blue-green foliage and contorted stems make them an excellent specimen tree. The small, shrubbier ‘Little Ollie’ is a great backdrop plant or screen.
6. Citrus – Citrus, especially in pots or in a “standard” form, are beautiful and useful trees to use in the Tuscan landscape. They bear fruit and have fragrant white flowers with infrequent, deep waterings. Choose whichever suits you – lemon, lime, orange, kumquat, grapefruit – you name it!
7. Palms – While some tropical palms can be water hogs, there are many low-water varieties perfect for the Spanish landscape. Mediterranean fan palms are medium size with multiple trunks, while queen palms are taller single-stemmed specimens. Try a Cycas revoluta, or sago palm, for a short border plant.
8. Bird of paradise – With just a little water, these plants will grow into large, multi-stemmed shrubs with showy flowers. Perform well in a pot or around a water feature.
There are many more plants that look great in the Spanish landscape. Succulents of all kinds perform well. Classically, the color pallet is made up of blues and greens with a few splashes of purple and yellow. Here are some additional selections for each of the colors suggested:
Blue: Mediterranean blue fan palm, Agave attenuata, Agave ‘Blue Glow,’ Rosemary, Olive, Blue Fescue, Blue Oat Grass
Green: Queen palm, Fan palm, Bird of Paradise, Sago palm, Cypress
Yellow: Citrus, Texas sundrop, Kniphofia, Kangaroo Paw
Purple: Salvia leucantha, Russian Sage, Lavender
For ideas on how to put together your own Tuscan landscape, or to let the pros do it for you, head over to Mooch Exterior Design’s Tuscan landscape portfolio!