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Mediterranean Garden 2020-2021

April 14, 2021

By Chris Tarrant, Plant Propagation and Production Manager, Royal Botanical Gardens.

Since my arrival at RBG in 2017, the Mediterranean Garden (or “Med House” as we refer to it) has needed a major pruning and general clean up. However, being open year-round makes it quite difficult to achieve a thorough and correct job. We have “nipped” a little there and “cut” a little here but nothing that would meet our goal of managing the collection correctly.

BAM……. along comes COVID and all the things that go with it, but one silver lining is that we were able to take advantage of the timing to take on a major pruning operation in the Med House.

We closed in mid-March and were initially left with a skeleton crew of Interior Horticulture staff. Fortunately in the summer of 2020 we were back to our full staff complement and while the greenhouse was still closed to the public we decided to have a go at cleaning up the collection once and for all.

I took pictures of both the Upper Med and Lower Med in July of 2020 prior to pruning taking place and as you can see below, it was quite overgrown, but full. The groundcovers were taking a beating and in some cases, were choking out other species or dying due to lack of light. Not all the groundcover material was in stress; some was taking over rapidly, such as the Geranium canariense in the Lower Med.

upper med garden
Upper Med House, July 2020
lower med garden
Lower East Med House, July 2020

So, our staff reduced its coverage dramatically. Now we have some minor Allium species showing up where we did not have them before, but that too can be a potential problem as we must maintain an even distribution of everything so it grows in harmony.

Our staff worked tirelessly for weeks in extreme heat and humidity amidst lots of dust and debris from the overhead canopy as it was cut away. Some trees were pruned very hard – down to almost a stump!

But, as shown in the pictures below, taken this February and March,  you can see that things are recovering nicely. Even now, we are already preparing and conducting a second softer prune on some of the plants. This will reestablish the tree framework and also begin the careful control of the overall mature size of all of the larger growing material, minimizing the overall loss of ground cover material and encouraging it to grow.

lower view of the eastern med garden
Lower East Med House, February 2021
View of the lower med garden
Lower Med House, March 2021

We are seeing early evidence from some of the plants that they are eager to grow; some are showing signs that they will be better looking and in better health than they have been for a long time.

And why stop there?! We are also taking on the Cacti and Succulent collection as it too is overgrown. Interior Horticulture staff started taking apart the collection starting in this month, and it is our intention to do a soft redesign of this space with the existing material and maybe some of propagules from larger parent plants. This is a slow process as I am sure you can appreciate. These plants have a remarkable defense system; in fact,the common name of one of the Agaves is “ Jaws “ ( Agave gentry). Need I say more!

We eagerly await the opportunity to have all our visitors enjoy the full experience of our interior spaces soon, and we hope you will enjoy the refreshing look of the Med House.

Hope to see you all soon!

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