Written by Clare Ferrige
Photos by Alexander Warren-Gash
Mashamba’s Lead Garden Designer, Alexander Warren-Gash, has worked for nearly fifteen years as a landscape designer on the island of Mallorca. His distinctive approach to planting is an outward reflection of his creativity and his signature style exudes a natural elegance.
It is this elegance that has become synonymous with a Mashamba garden.
A love of the great outdoors and a strong belief in the importance of connection with nature has shaped Alexander’s style. He designs Mediterranean gardens that act as a bridge between your home and the natural landscape, blending gardens into their surroundings.
His designs elevate your landscape in a way that is visually stunning and bring pleasure to your home life, inviting you to spend more time outdoors. The cherry on top? It’s also a solid financial investment into the future value of your home.
Every garden should complement both the architecture and its surrounding environment. With country estates in particular, gardens serve the purpose of positioning the house within its natural setting. A buffer zone within the garden takes this a step further by blurring the distinction between where a garden ends and the countryside begins.
Alexander achieves this by planting a more manicured garden closer to the house and further away, incorporating a buffer zone with meadow-like plants and grasses, native plants and orchards.
A buffer zone brings a touch of wildness and romanticism to your garden. By combining grasses such as Stipa tenussim (Mexican feathergrass) and Pennisetum alopecuroides (Chinese fountain grass) with flowering perennials such as Perovskia atriplicifolia (Russian sage) and Gaura lindheimeri (whirling butterfly), great swathes of movement and colour carry your eye out to the propery’s boundary.
Other larger species such as Echium candicans (pride of Madeira), with its magnificent cobalt-coloured spires, can be dotted along the perimeter.
As with all good design, function as well as beauty is considered. Gaps in the planting create natural pathways winding through the grasses, transforming the whole area into the perfect place for an evening stroll. Or maybe the pathway leads you to a hammock under an old gnarly carob tree, where you can while away the hours with a good book.
At its heart, a Mashamba garden is about re-awakening our connection with nature. Outdoor spaces are intended to be used, not just admired. As Alexander says,
´I love creating a garden that has to be explored. Romantic nooks and hidden escapes to be discovered. Alfresco dining within the garden itself. This is really the essence of a Mediterranean garden for me – a great chance to escape from the hectic digital world into a slower paced, natural place where problems somehow seem less serious. ´
It is this disconnection that ultimately reconnects us. Dinner with friends and family on a beautiful terrace, a simple bench perfectly placed or just lazing by the pool under the shade of palm trees. It is these things, these little hidden gems, that elevate your garden and your enjoyment.
Cloud gardens are traditionally made up of a single species such as box or yew cut into topiary shapes. Alexander likes to create his gardens using a mix of species, all with their own characteristic size and foliage shape, colour and texture. It’s these variations that elevate Mashamba’s cloud gardens and make them so beautiful and unique.
Classic Mediterranean shrubs such as Pistacea lentiscus (mastic), Teucrium fruticans (germander) and Rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) are Alexander’s favourite plants to use. An added benefit – rosemary and teucrium flower in the summer months and bring a touch of purple and pale blue colour to the evergreen foliage.
Although topiary has a reputation for being formal, this isn’t the case in Mashamba’s cloud gardens. Alexander prefers organic forms that are both balanced and slightly random in shape and pattern. Planting seasonal flowers along with the topiary adds colour and contrast, creating a wow factor.
Yes, cloud gardens can be higher maintenance. They need to be clipped to look their best, but they offer year-round beauty and are made up of native plants that require little water or treatment.
The importance of a transitional planting scheme that carries you seamlessly from one area of the garden to another is often overlooked in garden design. A garden needs to flow. Establishing how to do this is something that Alexander looks at right from the beginning of the design process.
‘Before I start designing a garden, the first thing I do is define the general structure. How can we create a garden that is going to get maximum use? What special features or elements have the clients requested and how can we incorporate them? How are we going to link everything together? I like to design a series of meandering paths that link key areas together. As with many things in life, the journey is often more interesting than the destination!’
Pathways can be as simple as a break in the planting with the plants defining the pathway. Or you can lay stone slabs if you prefer a more formal and defined path.
Alexander often uses a fine gravel mulch on pathways, it allows you to comfortably walk barefoot through the garden and gives the pathways a more manicured look.
All Mediterranean gardens, large or small should have a herb garden. Besides looking lovely in late spring, you get the pleasure of growing your own fresh herbs, making your own orange juice or picking a lemon straight from your tree to make a gin and tonic.
When it comes to planting herbs there is a huge variety to choose from, Mentha saveolens (mint), Salvia officinalis (sage) Rosemarinus officinalis (rosemary), Thymus vulgaris (thyme), Allium schonenoprasum (chives) and Origanum vulgaris (oregano) are just a few of the versatile herbs Alexander uses.
You can add another dimension to your herb garden and include fragrant flowering plants like Pelorgonium graveolens (sweet scented geranium) that is prized by perfumiers. Its wonderfully citrussy scent and pretty pink flowers blend beautifully amongst the herbs.
Let’s Work Together:
Contact us to find out how a Mashamba garden can transform your outdoor spaces and life.