The MGS Forum

Gardening in mediterranean climates => General Cultivation => Topic started by: Uli on February 26, 2016, 01:36:10 AM

Title: In search of the Paradise.....
Post by: Uli on February 26, 2016, 01:36:10 AM
Dear Forum Members,

first I would like to introduce myself, being very new to this forum. Living in northern Germany I plan to retire. Plants have been my lifelong passion since childhood and there is a large and diverse plant collection both hardy in the garden and tender in the glasshouse, so many pots that need moving twice a year to prevent them from freezing....  All this work makes me dream of a garden without frost where tender plants can grow in the garden and do no longer need to be moved around all the time.

Having travelled to many places I wonder where the best place would be to start my 'Paradise' ? Can members of this forum please help me with information?

Where in the wider (European) mediterranean is a frost free winter? Is there such thing at all? Maybe Portugal is not really considered mediterranean but it seems to come closest to what I am looking for. I learn there is a portuguese branch of the MGS, so I hope to get some details. We travelled Portugal from North to  South and we were very impressed by the gardens we saw, in particular the Porto Botanical Gardens, the gardens of Lisbon, Sintra and Coimbra and The Mata de Bussaco. How cold can it get in these places? How much cold can the giant Ficus take that grows in Coimbra? Does it ever freeze in the Lisbon or Porto Gardens? A very tempting aspect in Portuguese gardens is the amout of available water. The portuguese gardens came close to what I saw in California: Cactus beside tree fern beside apple tree beside Camellia beside tropical palm beside....
We also travelled the Canary Islands which are guaranteed frost free at the lower elevations. Are there members of the MGS gardening there? The distance and the fact of having to fly to get there are some drawbacks that might outweigh the climate in the long run, though.
Hoping that these questions are not to vague.....
At the moment no decisions have been taken as yet, so there is the luxury of painful choice..... Please help....

Thank you very much     Uli
Title: Re: In search of the Paradise.....
Post by: John J on February 26, 2016, 08:14:07 AM
Hello Uli, first of all welcome to the forum and second good luck in your search for your retirement 'Paradise'. I have to say that finding such a place may prove to be quite a challenge. We all start out with a vision of our ideal location and a list of the conditions we expect to prevail there, but finding somewhere that ticks all the boxes can be somewhat daunting.
I live in an area of Cyprus that very, very rarely suffers a frost, has hot, dry summers and reasonably mild winters. However, on the down side the issue of water is a constant problem, not only as regards irrigation but for general domestic use. For example this current winter has, so far, been very dry and the water level in the dams is falling rapidly. Unless we experience a period of torrential rain in the next few weeks I can foresee a summer of water rationing looming ahead.
We do have a number of your countrymen living on the island, one is our neighbour in the village and another is a good friend and fellow member of the MGS.
I see that you are a member of the Cactus Society Germany. There is a very active society here also, the Cyprus Cactus & Succulent Society, whose President is also a member of the MGS and we maintain a close working relationship with them.
Cyprus is also, of course, a member of the European Union and the Eurozone.
Once again, the best of luck in your search and, hopefully, more of our forumers will be forthcoming in providing information about their particular areas of the Med.
Title: Re: In search of the Paradise.....
Post by: JayB on February 26, 2016, 10:14:38 AM
Hi Uli, somewhat of a task you have set yourself but one that could be very rewarding.

I live near Alicante city in Spain and in the few years we have been here I don't think we have even had a frost, I'm sure it is possible but only very occasionally and like I said I haven't seen one yet so if we do get the odd one I doubt it would be too much of an issue in the long term. Just a little bit further inland and higher up then it may become an issue.
I can't really speak of Portugal aside from that the weather I see on the forecasts it is usually far more variable and rainy than here. Like John we have long, hot, dry and stable summers and the winters are quite mild.

While water and drought can be a big issue in some areas it hasn't been restricted for us as we get desalinated sea water as our water supply which seems to cover it very well.
Alicante city itself and at the Castle have quite a number of examples of large Ficus, google "Alicante Ficus" and look at the pictures for an example or two. They are quite impressive and do grow well here and tolerate whatever cold we get with ease.

I would happily recommend this area as I know it and I think it may fit into the sort of climate you are searching for, I'm sure there are plenty of options but I can only speak for here really and if Cacti are something you enjoy there is plenty around too.

Also if one was to move here and you are planning on purchasing a house then now is the right time, prices are very low and there are plenty of bargains to be had all over and as far as general expenses go the cost of living is much lower than northern Europe. The lifestyle is great too and if you want to you will find that there are many Europeans around as well as locals.

Anyway, that would be my vote. Somewhere around Alicante. I don't suppose that makes it easier for you but if you have any questions I'm happy to try and answer them for you.
Title: Re: In search of the Paradise.....
Post by: Pallas on February 26, 2016, 11:31:49 AM
Dear Uli

Welcome to the forum! I afraid I can't help with information about Portugal, but I thought I'd tell you about where I live, Málaga in the Costa del Sol of Andalucía.

Our climate here on the coast is almost guaranteed to be frost-free: it has snowed only once in living memory, in February 1954. We are categorised as zone 10b in the USDA system or H2 in the new RHS system.The annual average temperature is 18C, with the average winter low about 7C and average summer high about 30C. On the coast, the sea gives us cool breezes and keeps the summer months from getting too hot.

Obviously, mediterranean plants thrive here but so do subtropical ones: the Parque of Málaga is considered one of the most important subtropical gardens in Europe and both mangoes and avocados are important local crops. As regards Ficus spp., there are many fine specimens of at least 12 different species in the city, including the 150-year-old F. retusa L. trees on the Alameda, a central avenue ( There are several botanical gardens of interest in the area, including a cactus and succulents garden inland.

Although water has not (yet?) been a problem, it is a precious resource. There were some very wet years a while ago but 2014 and 2015 have been very dry and very warm. However, there have not been any restrictions and none have been mentioned even with such low rainfall for the second year running. The reservoirs are slightly down now so we'll see what happens. Rain is forecast for this evening, fingers crossed!

Málaga itself is a very liveable city with lots of museums, restaurants and bars, a theatre/opera house and a first-division football club :) . The airport is very well-connected. Further eastwards along the coast towards Nerja are smaller villages and an area called the Axarquía, which is very beautiful and popular. There are many German, English and other northern European people living there, which is a consideration to help you settle in if you don't speak Spanish yet. House prices may be starting to pick up a little, but it is still a good time to find value.

I should add, for complete honesty, that since my husband is from Gibraltar, we did not do comparisons or research like you are doing, because we knew we would settle here -- but we have never regretted it.

Anyway, that's the end of the advertisement!

I wish you lots of fun in your search: it is a nice "problem" to have and I hope you enjoy finding your paradise.
Title: Re: In search of the Paradise.....
Post by: Umbrian on February 26, 2016, 01:57:44 PM
So good to see people responding so comprehensively to your plea Uli. I cannot contribute with my location (Umbria in Italy) where the winters can be quite severe but might recommend a look at more southerly areas of Italy as it is another wonderful country to live in. Good luck, do keep us informed - I am sure you will find the Forum invaluable as you start your adventure.
Title: Re: In search of the Paradise.....
Post by: Uli on February 26, 2016, 11:41:34 PM
My Dear Advisors,

Thank you very much for answering in such a detail to my question. I have never been to Cyprus. The idea I have about Cyprus is that it is a several thousand years old culture-land with a deep history. Apparently it was deforested several times in history and has always recovered. I would love to go there one day but do not feel to settle there, mainly because of the language.
I have been once to Marbella and Malaga, went to see Cordoba and Granada with a rental car and was very impressed by the nature, culture and history. BUT I was shocked by the drought I saw everywhere, even the Opuntias along the road looked shrivelled.... You say that water is no issue which is reassuring.
I will look at the pictures and websites you recommend but not today: tomorrow I open my greenhouse to the public.... which means I worked hard today to get it cleaned and fixed for the day.... I cannot move plants outside because it is freezing..... see why I look for a paradise?  Big smile and thank you all again.


Title: Re: In search of the Paradise.....
Post by: Pallas on February 27, 2016, 03:33:58 PM
Dear Uli

Wow, an open day is so much hard work but I am sure people appreciate it in order to be able to see all your plants -- hope it goes well.

Yes, in summer the Andalucian landscape can look brown and unpromising -- more so away from the coast where it is much hotter. Sadly, however, the shrivelled Opuntias may be more sinister: they were more likely victims of the cochineal bug (Dactylopius opuntiae / Dactylopius coccus) which, although it has been present in Spain for decades, has in the last 2 or 3 years become really aggressive and is killing the prickly pears everywhere. No-one is sure why and as far as I know there is no treatment.

Keep smiling in the cold!