This Tuscan garden in Montecito needed a make-over. Since the drought most people have allowed their lawns to die and this property was no different. But, we love a challenge and this project was a perfect place to flex our creative muscle. The Tuscan/Mediterranean-style house and central fountain set a formal tone so that is the direction we decided to go. But what defines a formal garden? Does it have to be all boxwood hedges and topiary? We don’t think so. When you see the before and after photos you’ll see what I mean.

Fountain in courtyard of crushed stone gives a Tuscan garden a formal feel drought tolerant plantings of lavender, rosemary, sages and Italian cypress

We constructed this gravel courtyard with central fountain and Italian cypress to give the landscape a formal vibe

As you can see from this before photo, this location used to be a lawn, but with the recent drought and Montecito water restrictions, an expansive lawn was no longer a smart choice.

dead lawn before picture with fountain and Tuscan home

This Tuscan garden with a dead lawn and a disjointed garden desperately needed a make-over

Our intent was to give this Mediterranean garden a classic feel by giving the courtyard straight lines and and perfect angles. The addition of the Italian cypress were punctuation marks to the design’s formality and Tuscan feel. The selection of crushed stone paving for the courtyard is a very specific design decision. Gravel provided an “old world” feature that enhanced the classic ambiance we were looking for.

There were some beautiful, old Olive trees in the garden which we actually moved slightly to better anchor the space.

The Design “Twist”

Okay, here’s the twist. Typically, a formal garden is all clipped hedges and plants in unnatural shapes. There are times and places for such things, but this was not one of them. We chose instead to use very informal plantings of drought-tolerant Mediterranean perennials. But here’s another twist for you. Formality speaks of simplicity and for us that meant a very limited “pallet” of Lavender, Sage, Artemisia and Rosemary. Thus with just a few plants the end result is formal, yet beautiful, simple and calming at the same time.

The bonus? The fragrance of lavender and sage and rosemary waft on the soft breezes carrying you away to another time and another place. Perhaps Italy or France or even home in Montecito.

Until next time, fill your garden with joy. xo Lisa

tuscan drought tolerant formal garden with fountain, gravel, lavender, Mexican sage, Cleveland sage, Tuscan blue rosemay

Mediterranean landscape design: beautiful, simple and drought-tolerant

Mediterranean landscape design with central courtyard, fountain, olive trees, rosemary, sage and lavender

Tuscan villa with fragrant plantings of lavender, sage and rosemary