Q. I’ve just come back from a holiday in Greece and love the bright colours of the bougainvillea and oleander. Can we grow these here and what other Mediterranean plants will survive in London?
A. You can certainly create a Mediterranean style garden in London and the starting point is good drainage which will broaden the possibilities. You may have to omit a couple of favourites you see in Spain Greece and Italy and of course they’ll be less vigorous and floriferous.
Bougainvillea unfortunately will not expect to survive even an average British winter and rumour in the trade has it that there is a race on to breed a hardy one! The beautiful blue Plumbago is another which will only qualify as a conservatory plant but you can replace this climber with the small hardy shrub Ceratostigma plumbagnoides which has the common name Hardy Plumbago.
If you have a sunny sheltered spot Oleander (Nerium oleander) is well worth a try and should cope with minus 5C. It is however a bit like Ouzo – not quite the same when you’re home! Lantana which is the bright orange or red bush you see all over the place in the Med can be grown as a half hardy bedding plant here.
Vitex agnus castis is a fab blue spikey flowered shrub which will cope with most but not all London winters.
Olives will survive cold winters as long as they’re not paddling, but don’t expect any fruit! Jasmine for background fragrance to your barbecue is totally hardy.
And finally Euphorbia, Verbascum and Thyme which all grow wild in Greece will each give the flavour of the Med without too much worry from all but the harshest winters.