What do you get when you choose Waterwise Gardens?

Well, I’m glad you asked. There’s really an enormous amount that goes into the design of any space, however small, and the following is a brief explanation of this, and how and why we work (and charge) the way we do.

What's in a garden?

Any garden is a combination of elements that will guarantee its success or failure. Soil will be sand, silt or clay or combinations of these. Climate and aspect – is it sunny or shady? Hilly or flat? Sheltered or windy? The surrounding landscape and architecture can enhance or detract from your scene; should it be framed and included into the garden, or screened from view? And importantly, what is its purpose? Does it provide the restful, useful, beautiful space the owners desire, or is it a constant headache of expense and maintenance?

And that's before we mention plants...

Did you know? There are in excess of 75,000 Mediterranean climate plant species in the world! Not all are appropriate for gardens, but there are certainly several thousand which are, and several hundred of those which can be obtained for use in the Algarve and surroundings. It is necessary to know, however, which of these will adapt to your garden’s conditions and really thrive there, but not invade.

Bespoke, Local and Peronal

Bringing all these elements together, it’s easy to see each garden is a unique case. There are many thousands of combinations of the above elements possible, but only some will work in any given garden. One of the key elements of the design process is working with the client’s wishes for the garden. Are their aims realistic? Can I make more appropriate or additional suggestions? Does the design answer their brief while also fitting well in its setting? Have I taken into account their personal taste, allowed for their own expression? In light of this, it’s easy to see that a good design will be as unique as its owners.

Our experience and expertise

What you get with Waterwise is a sensitivity to these combinations of practical elements and individual design sense. This is informed by a lifetime of passionate exploration and learning about plants and their habits. A lifetime’s study of composition, colour, line, texture, and design, in various media. Formal training in graphic design and landscape management, and ten years professional experience in the Algarve building and maintaining drought-tolerant landscapes in a variety of different locations and conditions. 

The Bottom Line

There is a lot involved in building a garden. How to lay things out, what plants work in a given soil and climate type, where to get them, how to install them right and how to give them the best start in life. It’s possible to learn this on your own, read the right books, experiment, observe, wait and see, correct mistakes, ask your friends, try again. But if this sounds like a lot of work – it is! And we can offer you the fast track and take all the time effort and worry out of the process, leaving you free to enjoy your corner of paradise much sooner.

Marilyn's Philosophy

A wealth of practical and theoretical learning and experience has informed and propelled me along the Waterwise way, but something more personal contributes to the essence which underpins our gardens, something which goes beyond the simple choosing and arranging of plants in a pattern, or laying out paths. There are a few concepts which guide me, and the first of these is love.


A true, deep, passionate love for what I do informs all my work, along with a love for our planet and for the people and other lives that inhabit it. I pour this love into our projects and it is my hope that the gardens will feed this back to their owners as the years go by.


The intrinsic beauty of plants and landscapes fascinates me and I ardently wish to share this. The importance of beauty in life: to bring us alive, to delight, to enchant; to relieve the cares of a hard day. The beauty of a garden as a sanctuary and a source of joy.


The truth of the environment today is fundamental to me. Every natural space is a precious haven for wildlife and humans, part of the enormous, vital lungs of the planet. The truth is that these spaces are endangered, and though one garden may be small, considered together they are large. The planet needs us, and we need our gardens, for food, for rest, for all sorts of things. Each garden will have its own truth, its own reason for being, waiting to be discovered and enhanced.


Respect for the land, for plants, for nearby wildlife, and respect for the client’s needs, wishes, hopes and desires for their garden. None of “my” gardens are “mine” – they belong to their place and to their residents, human and otherwise. May we never forget this.


I feel immense gratitude to have discovered this career, this way of life. For each opportunity that comes my way to create a small piece of paradise. For all the challenges each situation brings, and the growth and learning that results. For so many possibilities to bring positive change into people’s daily lives, and to the world at large.

About Marilyn

Marilyn Medina Ribeiro grew up near Windsor, England. Two gardening grandmothers encouraged her love of plants and nature from an early age. Initially pursuing studies in the arts, a degree in Graphic Design and work as a designer in London quickly gave way to the call of the outdoors.


Marilyn enrolled at Hadlow College in Kent, qualifying with a BSc in Landscape Management and the RHS Certificate in Horticulture, and supplementing her studies with gardening for private clients, work in nurseries, and later for environmental consultancy Jacobs, supervising landscape maintenance contractors in public spaces.


When, on the last day of term, an opportunity arose to take a head gardener role at a boutique hotel in the Algarve, Marilyn jumped at the chance. A three-year contract as garden manager for a large resort followed, where she supervised the installation and maintenance of large areas of Algarvean native plants.

These experiences highlighted the great need to share information and waterwise gardening techniques with a wider audience, so when her last contract came to an end, Marilyn took the obvious step to set up her own company.