Oleanders are ideal for a Mediterranean garden

OLEANDER: Can be grown as a shrub or a tree.

IF you are in an area that has had good rain you are fortunate. The gardens in most areas are desperately waiting for post summer rains. It has been so dry with lower than average rain this year in much of Spain.

The main challenge of Mediterranean gardening is this survival through summer, often with scant supplies of quality water. It is so important to select your plants with this in mind when setting out or developing your garden.

The careful selection of plants to suit Mediterranean conditions does restrict the variety of species we can include in our gardens. It is easiest to use tried and tested plants you know will survive here and that will have a harmony with neighbouring gardens.

With appropriate summer preparations that allow the traditional hardy plants to thrive, you can add additional varieties that need more protection and care. 

Amongst my colourful Mediterranean shrubs I have a deciduous ‘Flamingo Maple (Acer negundo flamingo). It emerges with pink leaves in spring, has variegated leaves in summer and cream light brown autumn leaves. It flourishes in the microclimate created by the rest of the garden. 

A beautiful example of a hardy acclimatised flowering plant, that most Mediterranean gardens have for their abundant flowers and hardiness in the summer months, is the oleander. Its name is derived from its botanical name (Nerium oleander). It has many cultivars to provide a variety of colours and forms and can be grown as a shrub or tree and pruned after flowering has finished or as required to keep it contained to make hedges, pot plants, wind protection and shade. 

It is very important to know it has toxins in its sap that can irritate the skin and can also cause illness when exposed to the skin. Protective clothing is essential to prune or handle the plant. It is best as a peripheral planting or background plant.

Smaller plants are not expensive but you can easily grow them from tip cuttings 8cm long taken in late summer. I have grown them from seed and have a beautiful red one I had to wait a year to know which colour it would be. Planting it out as a young seedling has made it extremely hardy. It is best to plant oleander in the autumn.

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