Visions of Mediterranean summers make many of us long for lazy days of outdoor living, soaking up the sun or relaxing in leafy shade, surrounded by the scents of aromatic herbs, pines and citrus. A Mediterranean patio is the perfect place to have a refreshing lemonade with beautiful colours and an emphasis on light. Nothing is more perfect for a patio style than a Mediterranean inspired design.
Use the shade. A real Mediterranean patio is usually a slightly shady place, often a courtyard, brightened with pots of vivid flowers and sheltered by a pergola draped with fruiting vines. Your Mediterranean patio should include a shaded area to offer relief from the sun on the hottest days. Erect a simple pergola over a seat or table, and plant climbers to scramble over it.
Bleach or paint the surrounding structures. In real Mediterranean patios the walls and woodwork are often bleached and cracked by the sun. In patios inspired by the style, they should be painted in the palette of clear blues, dusky pinks, terracotta or white.
Use patio materials that retain heat. In cooler climates, a Mediterranean style patio can maximise the available sunshine by using white or pale paving to reflect heat on to the plants. Another way to achieve this is through the use of gravel or, if your budget will stretch to it, dolomite chippings. If you can layout the garden as a series of terraces that face the sun, so much the better. A brick or stone wall that faces the sun will retain the day's heat and radiate it at dusk, appreciably raising the ambient temperature. To a lesser degree, so will stone and terracotta pots and paving.
Keep the patio area dry. A positive aspect of this style is that you will feel as if you are always on holiday at least as long as the sun is shining. As soon as wet weather arrives, you may notice that gravel starts to turn green as moss and lichens take hold. Either chemical treatments or a blast with a pressure washer will solve this problem for you.
Know that typical plants of the Mediterranean include most of the woody herbs, including thyme, rosemary and lavender, which thrive in gritty, well-drained soil in your sunniest spot. Together with rock roses (Cistus and Helianthemum), with gummy, aromatic stems, will fill the patio with evocative scents as well as attracting bees and butterflies. Oleanders (Nerium oleander) are also characteristic of the region, with their leathery leaves and richly coloured flowers.