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Go Mediterranean with Southern California New Home Builders

Depending on the month and year, drought parches the ground or El Niño brings plenty of rain. But over the long term, the climate and landscape in Southern California follows a consistent and predictable pattern. Taking advantage of this when you landscape your backyard is not only environmentally responsible but yields benefits such as lower water bills and gardens that are easier to maintain. 

Mediterranean Climate

Drive your car through the wilder stretches of Carbon Canyon Road in Orange County or hike among the natural trails of Griffith Park in Los Angeles and it becomes apparent what the native environment consists of. It’s not the temperate and rain-blessed greenery of England, where our gardening heritage originates. Neither is it the dry desert of the Southwest United States.

Without the copious amounts of artificially pumped in and increasingly expensive water, our native landscape reverts to the Mediterranean. This ecosystem consists of grasses, chaparral shrubs, and evergreens that easily survive hot summers and cleansing forest fires to drink up the winter rains. 

Plants for Your Garden

Obviously, the natural climate here does not support expansive green lawns, rose bushes, or tropical palm trees. (The only palm tree native to the area is the California fan palm.) Neither is it particularly appropriate for most cacti and other desert dwellers that require drier climes. During the drought, desert-type gardens have become common since areas of sand and pebbles, punctuated by cacti, use up far less water than the typical green lawn. However, come the first heavy rains, such sand gets washed away.  

More sensible plants for Southern California include succulents. Crassula adds touches of red among the green, aloe is not only showy but contains soothing sap, agave provides architectural interest against walls and hedges, the rosettes of echeveria comes in a rainbow of colors, and low-growing sedum works as ground cover. Spices such as thyme, oregano, and lavender, also do well and bring a pleasant scent. Check out these sample garden plans suitable for our Mediterranean climate, which were developed by the California Native Plant Society. 

A reliance on drought-tolerant landscaping doesn’t mean you can’t have a thirstier plant, like a rose bush, in your garden. Confine such guzzlers to a container nearer the door, so you can tend to them individually without wasting water. 


Avoid using sprinkler systems for your garden because they scatter too much water to the wind. Instead, rely on drip systems that focus liquid on the ground around particular plants. This irrigation technology is relatively inexpensive and easy to install, compared to traditional drip systems. You can hide the flexible supply lines under a layer of mulch or plants, making them more convenient to maintain and expand than systems buried underground. 


One way to minimize the use of water is to rely on hardscapes such as patios, stepping stones, boulders, and walls. Large flat areas also work for outdoor seating, picnic tables, or barbecue grills. Add greenery through the use of planted containers, which you can set on the ground, mount on walls, or hang from rafters. These areas extend your living areas to the outdoors, which is typical of Mediterranean lifestyles. Since rain runs off hardscaping, make sure you have sufficient drainage or water-recapture systems to prevent flooding. 

If you want more suggestions for water wise backyard gardening or using hardscapes around your home, or want to tour the developments we have to offer as Southern California new home builders, please contact us. We can also show you how we minimize water by using drought-tolerant landscaping in the common areas.