Arlington Garden Landscape Designer Shares Tips On How to Create Your Own Mediterranean Wonderland

Published : Friday, September 13, 2019 | 5:20 AM

Mayita Dinos is the visionary behind the lush three-acre grounds of Pasadena’s Arlington Garden which is the perfect inspiration for creating your own Mediterranean climate garden at home.

Boasting trees that are California native plants and others from other climate similar countries around the world, think Australia, South Africa, and more, the landscape designer created it with the intention of being a demonstration garden when it opened back in 2005.

“The thing about creating a garden is you want to create a place that has a strong sense of place. When you enter this space you know you are in a special place. It has its own personality,” explains Dinos.

Mayita Dinos

But how does one go about attempting to mimic the impressive Arlington Garden on a smaller home scale? Dinos says do it from a tree-to-tree basis. Know what you want and use your imagination.

“When you’re starting a garden you really should start with the big idea and the big idea is knowing how you are going to get your shade and climatize your house. One thing that anyone can do here is to find plants that will do well and thrive in this climate and that will pretty much follow the seasons.”

She calls this thinking in terms of layering your garden.

“Placing your trees are your most important thing and trees are forever and the other things come after that. We did that here,” says Dinos.

Her approach is not thinking as a gardener but as an outdoor architect.

Just as a house is built with a foundation, walls, doorways, furniture, and more–your garden can really take on a life of its own if you build it accordingly.

“You’re going to be using the garden as an outdoor room.”

The most important ecosystem in your garden is the one underground. The native plants require adequate groundwater systems to survive the constant heat.

But one tip should not be overlooked when planting anything.

“Re-awaken your soil.”

Dinos recommends a simple combination of using quality compost, worm castings and if in doubt, hire a professional to conduct a biological soil test. This is a good way to know how to get your soil back in action and keep the pH levels balanced.

Here are 5 trees Mediterranean climate trees found at the Arlington Garden Dinos personally recommends, adores, and hopes to inspire for local gardeners to consider planting.

Sycamore Tree – “They grow really big and if you have space for one, you should put one in. They create a landscape that looks much larger than it is.”

Oak Tree – “It creates an environment for all kinds of animals and insects. It also collects water and stores it, making it an essential tree for virtually any garden.”

Crepe Myrtle – “They are one of my favorite trees. They are tough and graceful and erupt in color.” Fun fact: Yoko Ono gifted the Arlington Garden the Crepe Myrtles, also know as Wishing Trees, after an art exhibition in Pasadena some years back.

Strawberry Tree – “It’s one of the best trees if you want to attract hummingbirds.”

Catalina Ironwood – “These are great if you have narrow spaces. They can form a beautiful hedge and have beautiful flowers.”

Arlington Garden has been developed by a collaboration between Arlington Garden in Pasadena, City of Pasadena, Pasadena Department of Public Works, and Pasadena Water & Power, with help from Pasadena Beautiful Foundation and the Mediterranean Garden Society. Continued support comes from garden clubs, local businesses, nurseries, neighbors and friends.

Founders, Betty and Charles McKenney, and designer, Mayita Dinos, were inspired by Jan Smithen’s book Sun-Drenched Gardens: The Mediterranean Style, and in the summer of 2005, the first of many plantings began. Their goal was to create a public, water-wise garden that celebrates Southern California’s Mediterranean climate. The garden demonstrates how beautiful and practical a well-planned, water-conserving and climate-appropriate garden can be.

Arlington Garden is also a great place to host your next event.

Arlington Garden, 275 Arlington Drive, Pasadena. For more information about booking events, how to get invovled, and more, visit

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