Guest Column

Kathy’s Gardening Guide: Tropical, Coastal, Mediterranean landscape styles


Spring is officially here! Flowers are in bloom, and landscape work is in full swing. Are you considering a full landscape redesign or just a refresh for your yard? Here in Northeast Florida, many homes feature landscaping in the Tropical, Coastal and Mediterranean styles.

A Tropical landscape design is reminiscent of an island paradise — full of lush plants and lots of color. Most plants in a Tropical landscape love the heat. For this reason, our Northeast Florida home is one of the most northern climates in which the Tropical landscape style can be successful.

Tropical landscapes display plants and flowers overlapping and free-flowing. They include abundant varieties of green plants featuring various sizes and types of leaves as well as pops of vibrant color. Many designers add a water feature in a Tropical landscape to further enhance the serene, oasis-like environment.

When creating a Tropical landscape, look for Sylvester palms, queen palms, and Roebellini palms. Consider surrounding the trunks with coquina shell or lava rocks. Add both variety and color with hibiscus, caladiums, Hawaiian ti, arboricola, variegated ginger, foxtail fern, white and orange birds of paradise, apostle iris, crotons, flax lily, agapanthus, allamanda, and bamboo.

Landscaping in the Coastal style creates a relaxed, beachy atmosphere. Coastal landscaping takes an organic approach to landscaping with plants “blowing in the breeze.” Clusters of grasses such as muhly grass or fountain grass give a whimsical look and add movement in the landscape.

A Coastal design often includes plants and flowers in whites, greens, blues and splashes of pink. This landscape may also feature climbing vines such as confederate jasmine on a trellis or pergola. In place of mulch, use coquina shell and plant blue agave; complement the combination with foxtail fern and blue daze. To develop a coastal landscape, use a mixture of the following: Sylvester palms, queen palms, Bismarck palms, ribbon palms, muhly grass, fountain grass, blue agave, gaillardia, gaura, dune sunflower, dwarf fakahatchee, foxtail fern, blue daze and confederate jasmine.

Mediterranean-style landscaping involves a lavish mix of palm trees and clean-cut plants. The style displays a sculpted, maintained look and frequently features roses. A Mediterranean landscape design often incorporates “gardens within gardens.”

Pathways within the landscaping can lead to secluded areas of the garden, water features or arbors. The Mediterranean style also includes climbing plants such as creeping fig on a trellis or on the side of the house. Use canary date palms, medjool date palms, and Sylvester palms as well as boxwood, podacarpus, Asiatic jasmine, roses, creeping fig and crotons to accentuate your Mediterranean look.

With all landscape designs, be sure to identify the sun-versus-shade ratios in your yard. Note the amount of sunlight needed for your selected plants and trees in order to place them in appropriate areas of the landscape. Finally, add annuals to any landscape for seasonal color within your design.

Happy spring!

Flower of the Week: Agapanthus

Please email Kathy at for any questions or gardening tips you would like to see in the future. For more information & ideas, visit Kathy’s Creative Gardens & Nursery, 196 N. Roscoe Blvd. The phone number is 904-655-7373.