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HOMES & GARDENS : Hot plants for cooler climes; Just back from your hols and fancy a Med look in the garden? Hannah Stephenson shows you how.

Byline: Hannah Stephenson

Foreign holidays inspire many people to change their gardens to reflect holiday memories.

With this in mind, the Royal Horticultural Society is offering advice and a list of the top ten "Award of Garden Merit" plants for people wanting that Mediterranean look back in the UK.

"In recent years we have had a steady increase in calls from people in the mood for a 'Med-style' garden, or who need advice about growing their own olive and citrus trees," says Guy Barter, head of RHS advisory services.

"Gardeners often call after a holiday to find out more about growing what they have seen abroad."

Climate change is leading to wetter, warmer winters and hotter, drier summers in this country, so Mediterranean-style plants once thought to be exotic, like olives, are becoming easier to grow. Mr Barter's top planting tips for achieving the "Med" look are: n Create a Mediterranean look with a gravel garden, a good alternative to conventional borders in dry, sunny sites. They are a popular low-maintenance choice, especially as they help gardeners adapt to the demands of climate change. They allow a wide range of ornamental, yet tough, plants to be grown, need relatively little maintenance and reduce the need for excessive watering during summer.

n Gravel gardens are best sited in full sun as this favours the majority of drought-tolerant plants. Ensure the intended site is free of perennial weeds and well drained. Free draining in wetter winters is essential for most drought tolerant plants.

n Pergolas often feature in Mediterranean gardens. Clothe them with evergreens, such as star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) and vines.

n It is common to find drought tolerant plants in Mediterranean gardens - look out for the following characteristics: grey or silver leaves which reflect sunlight, fine hairs or a waxy covering on the leaves to trap moisture in the air, small leaves and low growth habit to prevent loss of moisture through transpiration, swollen modified stems or leaves, such as succulents, that store moisture.

The following plants should get your Mediterranean planting scheme off to a good start if you thrive in a sheltered southern area.

In colder regions the plants willneed a sunny, well-sheltered spot. 1. Purple-flowered rock rose (Cistus x purpureus) 2. Pink dandelion (Crepis incana) 3. Martin's spurge (Euphorbia x martinii) 4. French lavender (Lavandula stoechas) 5. Bowden Cornish lily (Nerine bowdenii) 6. Jerusalem sage (Phlomis fruticosa7. Trumpet creeper 'Madame Galen' (Campsis tagliabuana 'Madame Galen') 8. Swamp lily (Crinum x powellii9. Rosemary 'Sissinghurst Blue' (Rosmarinus officinalis 'Sissinghurst Blue') 10. Algerian iris (Iris unguicularis) All the suggested cultivars have been awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM). Mr Barter says: "When people go on holiday outside the European Union they sometimes think about bringing plants back with them.

"It is quite a complex issue and the same regulations apply to amateur gardeners as to commercial nurseries importing thousands of plants.

"There are limited allowances for holidaymakers returning from certain countries outside the EU, so check defra.gov.uk/planth/trav.htm the DEFRA website for details.

"Within the EU there are no restrictions, but pests or diseased plants should never be brought into Britain.

More information on Medititerranean planting, go to www.rhs.org.uk

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Italy boasts some of the finest Mediterranean gardens
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Aug 27, 2005
Words:548
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