Designing your
Mediterranean Paradise

How to Create a Garden for Outdoor Living

Written by Meridith Moore  |  Photographs by Alexander Warren-Gash

At Mashamba, we believe that life is better outdoors. Not only does this core value guide us personally, it’s at the heart of all our garden and terrace designs. We aren’t just about creating beautiful spaces, we want to help people live their best lives outside in nature.

And more and more, clients are asking us for just that – a private Mediterranean paradise that helps them foster a deeper connection with the island and nature. They see it as the ultimate luxury, escaping from Mallorca’s summer crowds to live a simpler and more relaxed outdoor life at home. Our designs allow this indulgence, balancing beauty and the function of outdoor living.

Whether you are working with us, another landscape designer or creating your own outdoor retreat, we think it’s beneficial to understand the mindset of a designer – especially one that believes gardens should be used and not just admired.  Alexander Warren-Gash, founder of Mashamba, shares his design process to help you create your own Mediterranean paradise.

Predesign Possibilities

“My goal is to make the garden the most loved and lived-in area of my client’s home,” Alexander tells us. Achieving this begins with a collaborative process where Alexander engages clients to get a picture of their lifestyle, aesthetic preferences and vision for outdoor life. 

All this – combined with a site visit and a careful study of architectural and topographical plans – sparks Alexander’s imagination to the possibilities of the land. 

And while he designs with a practicality trumps beauty attitude, his expertise in balancing the two translates into gardens where nearly anything seems possible. The beauty draws you outside and encourages you to explore or take a moment to bask in the sun, while its functionality integrates into your everyday life, creating the outdoor life you always wanted.

Questions to Determine Possibilities & Practicalities

Alexander asks clients these questions to gauge personal preferences and the physical realities of their property. 

What’s your version of the Mediterranean dream? What do you envision doing in your garden?

Answers can range from favourite plants and colours to experiences such as al fresco meals and picking oranges for morning OJ.

What’s your water supply?

While Mashamba is committed to sustainable landscape design, our gardens do require minimal watering to look their best. Factors such as water source, cost and the ecological beliefs of our clients all influence the design.

How much of your land do you want landscaped?

Our gardens normally range from 3.000 to 5.000m2. Maintenance, water consumption and cost are more manageable at this size.

Can trucks and heavy equipment access the garden?

A gnarled 2000-year-old olive tree might be the perfect poolside complement, but can a truck and other heavy equipment access your land to get it there? During our due diligence, we assess both road and land access to manage the logistics of the project.

Image credit:  Clive Nichols

Designing the Magic

Design Phase 1: Themes

Once the practicalities and wish list are known, Alexander decides on the themes to include in the design. He explains, “Themes are outdoor rooms. They give your garden a purpose and invite you outside to spend time there.” One theme might be a sensory aromatic meadow, full of scent, sound and views. Another might be a quiet spot with a hammock, hidden deep in the garden. It’s these outdoor rooms that create the magic and charm of Mashamba’s gardens and give clients what they desire from outdoor life in the Mediterranean. And Alexander’s favourite theme? “A dining table placed in the garden, not a terrace. To me, the ability to eat al fresco is the ultimate way of life. It’s living simply, but luxuriously, surrounded by nature.”

Themes that Add Magic to Your Garden

Aromatic meadows with swaying grasses and scented flowers.
Dining areas under the shade of a tree.
Cloud gardens filled with evergreen topiary.
Dry gardens to stroll through paths of colourful succulents.
Outdoor kitchens to cook and entertain in the open air.
Sculpture gardens where nature’s beauty harmonises with human creativity.
Hidden escapes to relax and disconnect.
Pool areas surrounded by nature.
Fire pit areas to bask in the warm glow with loved ones.
Water features to calm and soothe.
Cactus gardens filled with nature’s own structural works of art.
Herb gardens & fruit groves to grow and pick your very own food.
Pétanque & tennis courts to indulge your competitive side.

Design Phase 2: Flow

Alexander then likes to create a series of meandering pathways that link themes to each other and the house. Here at Mashamba, we call it the flow.
The pathways are distinctive because the designs transcend the practical. “The importance of a transitional planting scheme that carries you seamlessly from one area of a garden to another is often overlooked in landscape design,” Alexander says. It’s his careful plant selection and placement that creates a journey that’s as stunning as the destination and invites you to take a relaxing stroll.

Design Phase 3: Plant Palette

It may come as a surprise that plants are one of the last elements Alexander considers in his garden designs. But as he explains, “It’s only after I consider the practicalities of the garden - elements like outdoor living areas, pathways and features – that I can move onto the finer detail of plants.”
This isn’t to downplay their significance. Plants are a landscape designer’s palette. It’s their texture, colour and look that set the tone for the garden and create the magic that makes you want to spend time there. Alexander first chooses evergreen plants. They provide the garden’s structure, add volume and create points of interest that help with the garden’s flow. He uses a statement olive or the striking silhouette of a spiky yucca to catch your eye and draw you deeper into the garden. And most importantly, an abundance of evergreen plants makes your garden attractive for year-round outdoor living and enjoyment.
Seasonal flowers punctuate the evergreen to add visual interest and joy to the garden. Alexander’s preference is for hardy, drought tolerant perennials that fall on the cooler side of the colour spectrum. Mashamba gardens are filled with blue, purple and white flowers and the occasional pink accent. These colours contrast well with the dusky sage tones of many Mediterranean plants and the golden hues of the ornamental grasses he frequently uses.

Our Favourite Mediterranean Plants

You’ll find these plants in most of our gardens. They can withstand our hot and dry Mediterranean climate and aren’t too water thirsty.

Evergreen plants

  • Agave attenuata (foxtail agave)
  • Grasses like Stipa tennuissima (Mexican feathergrass) & Pennisetum alopecuroides (Chinese fountain grass)
  • Olea europaea (olive)
  • Pistacia lentiscus (mastic)
  • Pittosporum tobira (pittosporum)
  • Salvia rosmarinus (rosemary)
  • Teucrium fruticans (germander)

Colourful Blooms

  • Bougainvillea spp. (bougainvillea)
  • Bulbine frutescens (bulbinella) 
  • Echium candicans (pride of Madeira)
  • Erigeron karvinskianus (Mexican fleabane)
  • Oenothera lindheimeri (gaura)
  • Osteospermum (African daisy)
  • Perovskia atriplicifolia (Russian sage)

Design Phase 4: Final Touches

We believe memorable experiences come from magical settings. And to us, gardens and terraces are the ultimate canvas for creating that magic and bringing your Mediterranean dream to life. In Phase 4 we make your garden truly livable, thoughtfully planning the final touches to your themes (and dreams) - whether it’s lazy poolside days, wine-soaked dinners under the stars or family-fun on the pétanque court. The goal is to balance aesthetics, comfort and practicalities to create a place you never want to leave.

Exterior Design Elements We Consider

Shade in the form of umbrellas, pergolas or even the canopy of a large tree that help you stay cool and comfortable in the summer heat. 

Effective lighting that extends the usability of your garden well into the night. Ambient lighting from lanterns and well-placed fixtures create a warm and magical atmosphere. And well-lit pathways and key areas are practical and add to the garden’s aesthetic appeal.

Comfortable lounging and dining furniture that encourages you and your guests to linger longer outside. It’s also important that the furniture is durable and can withstand the elements.

Accessories like pots and planters that bring the garden onto your terraces and add warmth and personality. As do decorative cushions, pottery and artwork.

Practicalities such as the installation of utilities for lighting and water features and storage for cushions during the winter months.  

Life is better outdoors. If you need help designing a garden and terrace that are a practical living part of your home, but rich with nature’s beauty and tranquility, get in touch.