What is Mediterranean?

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John

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What is Mediterranean?
« on: February 21, 2012, 10:16:21 PM »
I couldn't post this under this title as it has no reply application!

Thinking about the accepted geographical boundaries of the Mediterranean region I started thinking about what is generally accepted. Most of us know the obvious areas that are within the Mediterranean zone but where the boundaries finish is less obvious and perhaps down to opinion.
The Macronesian islands are included within the Mediterranean by many authorities or should I say that the Canaries and the Madeiran archipelagos are included but perhaps the Azores less so. Also some of the valleys on the African continent in Morocco are botanically part of Macronesia.
I have been to Tenerife and Madeira and have seen the incredible diversity of habitat. From subtropical cloud forest to desert or steppe and on the top of Tenerife, snow desert with many other habitats in between.
Though varying in the percentage of components you can find much of this on Crete including snow desert!
By snow desert I mean that in winter there is a sub zero environment with snow cover and come the snow melt all the moisture drains away due to the porous rock leaving effectively a dry desert.
I mention this as many plants from Macronesia are grown in the Mediterranean. Indeed we saw a good collection of them at the Botanic Gardens in Barcelona last May. Phoenix canariensis being an obvious example.
« Last Edit: February 23, 2012, 08:03:07 AM by John »
John
Horticulturist, photographer, author, garden designer and plant breeder; MGS member and RHS committee member. I garden at home in SW London and also at work in South London.

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MikeHardman

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Re: What is Mediterranean?
« Reply #1 on: February 21, 2012, 10:33:28 PM »
I feel the need for 'penemediterranean' coming on...
...But I prefer to resist the urge!
Mike
Geologist by Uni training, IT consultant, Referee for Viola for Botanical Society of the British Isles, commissioned author and photographer on Viola for RHS (Enc. of Perennials, The Garden, The Plantsman).
I garden near Polis, Cyprus, 100m alt., on marl, but have gardened mainly in S.England

ezeiza

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Re: What is Mediterranean?
« Reply #2 on: February 22, 2012, 12:37:10 AM »
I live in eastern South America where we normally have year round rainfall. We have a very long summer lasting for some 7 months or so thanks to greenhouse effect. This obvioulsy shows ours is not a proper Mediterranean region but most (if not all) plants mentioned in this fantastic forum we grow or can grow in gardens without much elaborate conditions. But, this year for the first time ever we have experienced a period of total drought in summer which makes us (at least once) a proper Mediterranean region. Over 80 days without a drop of rain. That period of drought is over and now we have shifted to subtropical: downpours and overwhelmingly humid heat. Of course nothing will make them change but these drastic transformations give food for thought. What is awaiting us?

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Alisdair

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Re: What is Mediterranean?
« Reply #3 on: February 22, 2012, 11:06:22 AM »
John, I've put a link to this discussion - thanks for starting it! - in the original What is Mediterranean? section.
« Last Edit: February 22, 2012, 11:08:07 AM by Alisdair »
Alisdair Aird
Gardens in SE England (Sussex); also coastal Southern Greece, and (in a very small way) South West France; MGS member (and former president); vice chairman RHS Lily Group, past chairman Cyclamen Society

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ritamax

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Re: What is Mediterranean?
« Reply #4 on: February 28, 2012, 09:04:25 PM »
About the "cool, wet winter". In the southern corner of Costa Blanca it is sunny and cool in winter, but not wet at all. This winter there has been about 10 drops of rain. It resembles a desert climate, I guess.
Hobbygardener (MGS member) with a rooftop garden in Basel and a garden on heavy clay with sand 600m from seaside in Costa Blanca South (precipitation 300mm), learning to garden waterwise

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JTh

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Re: What is Mediterranean?
« Reply #5 on: February 29, 2012, 05:56:27 PM »
I am not quite sure what kind of answer you are looking for, John, but here are some of my thoughts:
I would say our place in Sithonia, Halkidiki (Greece) has a very typical Mediterranean climate, with hot, dry summers and most (around 90 %) precipitation during winter. Mean annual temperature is about 16 °C, mean annual precipitation is 500-700 mm. It is strange in a way, the amount of precipitation  isn’t that much lower than in here in Oslo, but it certainly does not feel as dry here in the north, I guess the temperature makes the big difference. 
But exactly where would I draw the line for what I could call the Mediterranean region? I find it easier to define it as the countries around the Mediterranean  Basin, and accepting that there are great variations within that area. We have a small mountain area not far from our Greek house on the coast, it does not take much more than half an hour to get into the Holomondas, up to 1200 m above sea level, which is cooler and it rains more often in the summer in summer, and it regularly gets snow in the winter, but I would still say it’s a Mediterranen area.
Retired veterinary surgeon by training with a PhD in parasitology,  but worked as a virologist since 1992.
Member of the MGS  since 2004. Gardening in Oslo and to a limited extent in Halkidiki, Greece.

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John

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Re: What is Mediterranean?
« Reply #6 on: February 29, 2012, 08:25:01 PM »
My posting wasn't a question, more to point out that the boundaries of the Mediterranean are not so obvious and to some extent are a matter of opinion.   
John
Horticulturist, photographer, author, garden designer and plant breeder; MGS member and RHS committee member. I garden at home in SW London and also at work in South London.

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JTh

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Re: What is Mediterranean?
« Reply #7 on: February 29, 2012, 08:36:41 PM »
I agree with you, there, John.
Retired veterinary surgeon by training with a PhD in parasitology,  but worked as a virologist since 1992.
Member of the MGS  since 2004. Gardening in Oslo and to a limited extent in Halkidiki, Greece.

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Alisdair

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Re: What is Mediterranean?
« Reply #8 on: March 01, 2012, 09:38:27 AM »
As far as this forum is concerned, we'd keep the boundaries of "mediterranean" as flexible and as wide as possible. We certainly wouldn't want to say anything was "off topic" simply because it was outside a strict interpretation of the usual warm dry summer, cool wet winter definition.
Alisdair Aird
Gardens in SE England (Sussex); also coastal Southern Greece, and (in a very small way) South West France; MGS member (and former president); vice chairman RHS Lily Group, past chairman Cyclamen Society

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John

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Re: What is Mediterranean?
« Reply #9 on: April 26, 2012, 06:58:29 PM »
I have just re-read Alisdairs description and it fits the SE of England quite well at least for some of the recent years though certainly not all!
John
Horticulturist, photographer, author, garden designer and plant breeder; MGS member and RHS committee member. I garden at home in SW London and also at work in South London.

David Bracey

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Re: What is Mediterranean?
« Reply #10 on: May 03, 2012, 09:04:28 PM »
I have spent sometime moving between a Languedoc mediterranean climate and a temperate/continental climate.  While winter t°s can be colder for longer in the latter climate, summer t°s are not so different.  The major difference that I have found is relativehumidity.

The air in the North is always humid as anyone will know if they have travelled to Ireland, indeed this gives rise to the soft light expression.  By contrast the air in the mediterranean areas is always dry.  Light is intense in the South which is why the Impressionists Cezanne and Van Gogh etc made home there.  There are just more days of rain in the North.

I would like to take time to cf the RH of the two areas over time.

Rainfall in the med will be hard and over in fewer days.  The lack of humidity has selected plants with hairy leaves, thick cuticles, fewer  stoma in order to conserve moisture.

Alisdair writes somewhere a "warm dry summer", "I would say a hot dry summer". 
MGS member.

 I have gardened in sub-tropical Florida, maritime UK, continental Europe and the Mediterranean basin, France. Of the 4 I have found that the most difficult climate for gardening is the latter.

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Alisdair

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Re: What is Mediterranean?
« Reply #11 on: May 04, 2012, 07:36:58 AM »
I can't disagree with you, David, about the hot rather than warm summers, and so will think about changing that explanation - what it actually says is "warm or hot dry summers".
I put in the "warm or" because we hadn't wanted to exclude from our interpretation and the coverage of this forum all those people who would think of their summers as being warm rather than hot but do live in what you and I would certainly agree is a mediterranean climate.
« Last Edit: May 04, 2012, 07:40:01 AM by Alisdair »
Alisdair Aird
Gardens in SE England (Sussex); also coastal Southern Greece, and (in a very small way) South West France; MGS member (and former president); vice chairman RHS Lily Group, past chairman Cyclamen Society

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ritamax

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Re: What is Mediterranean?
« Reply #12 on: May 29, 2012, 05:41:13 PM »
To summarize a bit -the Mediterranean climate is originally the area of evergreen oak forests (like Quercus ilex) and olive tree. There are hardly any frosts and you have the typical summer drought with annual precipitation of about 300-900 mm falling typically from October to March. The average annual temperature is min.+15 C. In the summer the soil temperature might reach +70 C, which makes gardening a challenge. Where the evergreen oak give place to deciduos oak (like Quercus pubescens), Castanea sativa and viticulture, the climate is called Submediterranean (something between Mediterranean and temperate climate), for example in North Spain and North Italy (slight frosts in winter, more rainfall, less drought). The temperate climate has beech and mixed deciduous forests and covers the Middle Europe from the Alps up to South Sweden. Maritime or oceanic climate is a temperate climate like in Great Britain, Holland, large parts of France. In eastern Europe and Russia you have the continental climate with bigger differences between minimum and maximum temperatures (less influence of the Golf stream). In Scandinavia begins the subarctic climate. When you go to higher altitudes anywhere, you experience these different climate zones, which go over to mountainous, subalpine and alpine climates if you go high enough. Every climatic zone has its own typical vegetation. Here is a map of Mediterranean climate. 
Hobbygardener (MGS member) with a rooftop garden in Basel and a garden on heavy clay with sand 600m from seaside in Costa Blanca South (precipitation 300mm), learning to garden waterwise

Umbrian

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Re: What is Mediterranean?
« Reply #13 on: June 06, 2012, 06:36:48 AM »
Here in Umbria we are not really truly "Mediterranean" as John has pointed out to me in the past but this year it feels as I am back in the UK with the strange weather we are experiencing. Night temperatures much lower than normal (still down to around 10c many nights), cloudy days with frequent showers and low cloud/mist in the mornings that lingers for hours. On Sunday it was so chilly all day that we resorted to lighting our wood burning stove, unheard of in June, Monday dawned bright and sunny with clear blue skies all day and temperatures in the mid 20's (managed a swim!) and then yesterday we awoke to mist that engulfed the garden until mid-morning.
As other members have noted the spring display of flowers is wonderful this year. Are other areas experiencing similar strange weather conditions? My biggest problem is with seeds that are failing to germinate due to the low and fluctuating temperatures. Growing things from seed has always been my weak point and after this year I feel like giving up altogether. :(
MGS member living and gardening in Umbria, Italy for past 19 years. Recently moved from my original house and now planning and planting a new small garden.

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John

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Re: What is Mediterranean?
« Reply #14 on: June 06, 2012, 11:15:07 PM »
Climate wise I had a somewhat unexpected weather experience in Spain. After working on the coast near Barcelona for a few days which were surprisingly mostly overcast I arranged to spend a few days on the mountain Montseny. It is a Natural Park not far from the coast between Barcelona and Girona. It's peak is at 1712m but it is mostly of mixed Mediterranean woodland especially at lower altitudes dominated by the evergreen oaks Quercus ilex and Quercus suber. Higher up on the northern slopes are Beech woods and only near the top is it open with what I would describe as possibly a sub-alpine flora rather than alpine as was suggested to me.
Anyway after a long period of drought over most of Spain my first two days here were quite extreme. Torrential rain and the forest itself was creating cloud, especially early in the morning when it looked like the Amazon rain forest but much colder. It was so damp that when I placed a book on a table water accumulated between them!
Here's a picture of the clouds forming from the forest.
John
Horticulturist, photographer, author, garden designer and plant breeder; MGS member and RHS committee member. I garden at home in SW London and also at work in South London.