The Colours of a Mediterranean Summer
Longer days and warmer weather…spring/summer is the perfect time to see the explosion of beautiful blooms and blossoms all around the Mediterranean. There is plenty of variety and here is a selection of the most eye catching, fragrant, herbal, exotic and toxic!
These plants are flowering machines. You can’t beat them for an explosion of colour that can be seen in all shades of pink and purple, also red, yellow, white, salmon and orange. There are quite a few dwarf bougainvillea on the market now if you don’t want the maintenance that goes along with one that grows to 25ft. They love full sun and warmth and subsequently are fast growing. The long, scrambling, thorny stems soon cover a wall or fence and when crowded with their deep rose, purple, red or orange flower-clusters, the effect is both stunning and exotic. They are sometimes trained into trees, which they climb with great speed and tumble their glorious stems from the highest branches. The flowers are produced over many months of summer and autumn, making this one of the most popular and reliable of all subtropical climbers.
It is probably the most beautiful tree you can have in your garden that puts on a breath-taking floral display, and the best part of the tree are the feathery leaves. But at this time of year (May June), when these trees are nearly barren of leaves and as stark looking as deciduous trees in winter, they suddenly burst into bloom with showy trumpet-shaped, lavender-blue flowers.
Jasmine is a genus of shrubs and vines in the olive family. It is a very beautiful fragrant climbing vine that blooms all summer long. The Jasmine flower releases its fragrance at night after the sun has set and especially when the moon is waxing towards fullness. In India it is known as the “Queen of the Night” because of its intoxicating perfume that is released at night.
In Chinese medicine Jasmine flowers are known to “cool” the blood and have a strong antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-tumour properties. Because they cool the blood they help with reducing a fever or cooling an overheated person (from the sun).
Jasmine oil, a type of essential oil derived from the jasmine flower, is a popular natural remedy for improving mood, overcoming stress and balancing hormones. The oil is also used in high-grade perfumes and cosmetics, such as creams, oils, soaps, and shampoos.
There is also syrup made of jasmine flowers which is used as flavouring agent in the food industry.
Jasmine tea is scented with aroma from jasmine blossoms to make a scented tea. Typically, jasmine tea has green tea as the tea base; however, white tea and black tea are also used. The resulting flavour of jasmine tea is subtly sweet and highly fragrant. It is the most famous scented tea in China.
Lavender, a herb with many culinary uses, also makes a stunning addition to borders and perennial gardens, providing sweeping drifts of colour from early summer into autumn. You can use it for fragrant floral arrangements, sachets, and potpourri. It also can be used as a delicate flavour for ice cream and an interesting note in a chocolate brownie! Take advantage of this natural and wonderful scented plant. As will the bees, using the nectar to flavour their delicious Spanish honey.
Geraniums are a long-time favourite with gardeners. They are easy to grow, colourful, and emit a lovely scent. This evergreen perennial is native to the southern region of Africa but has been exported throughout the world as a popular garden plant and medicinal herb.
Here, we are discussing Geranium pelargonium, also known as rose-scented geranium, which is the only known species that can safely be consumed. Unlike many other herbal remedies, there is not a major culinary application for geranium, and they are almost exclusively used for either decoration or for their medicinal benefits.
The most interesting health benefits of geranium include its ability to lower stress levels, reduce inflammation, relieve menstrual pain, strengthen the immune system, ease digestion, and improve kidney, skin, and hair health. It has antiseptic, antibacterial, and anti-fungal properties, which help heal wounds faster. For minor cuts, apply crushed geranium leaves to stop the bleeding.
Word of Caution: It is important to remember that the only rose-scented type can be safely consumed. You should be absolutely certain about the type you are using for herbal remedies if you aren’t getting your herbs from a professional. Also, be sure to consult your medical professional before adding it to your herbal supplement regimen.
Bird of Paradise/Crane Flower
The unusually beautiful shape and brilliant colours of Birds of Paradise have made these flowers not just a designer’s favourite, but also a popular symbol of paradise. The popular plant bears a unique flower that resembles a brightly coloured bird in flight, giving it the common name, Bird of Paradise. This unusual plant also has another beautiful name, namely “crane flower” as it resembles a brightly coloured crane in flight.
A low maintenance plant that could grow up to 6 ft tall, the crane flower needs very little water, especially in the winter when the soil is fairly dry. However, it takes almost seven years to grow a plant from seed and for it to produce its first bloom!
This unique exotic ‘bottlebrush plant’ has the most eye-catching fluffy red cylindrical flower heads during late spring and summer and they get their name from the spikes of flowers’ resemblance to a bottle brush. This plant is a must for gardeners looking to attract hummingbirds and butterflies. The bottlebrush is often sold as a shrub but can grow as a tree up to 25 feet in height. There is an upright species and one that has a weeping form. The upright type can also make a nice screen or unclipped hedge. Bottlebrush will thrive in full sun.
You will find that Oleanders are hardy plants and a single Oleander in the garden will give you colour throughout the summer. The plants can get quite larger, so pruning is necessary. Oleander shrubs are also commonly used as hedges and make a great screening for the garden. If you choose to grow oleander, be aware that the plants are very poisonous and should not be grown where young children and gnawing pets will be playing.