Every month Jennifer and Alexander Warren-Gash of Mashamba Garden and Terrace Design share their valuable in-depth knowledge with us. This month, Alexander talks about why autumn is the perfect time to begin planning your garden to prepare for next summer and what’s special about Deia and the west coast. We also discover what it takes to create a wonderfully-named Mediterranean Cloud Garden.
Why is autumn a good time to plant, Alexander?
The growing seasons for plants in the Mediterranean are spring and autumn, when there’s natural rainfall and cooler temperatures. But when you plant in autumn you have an extra advantage because roots have much longer to become established in preparation for the summer.
What are you planting for your clients at the moment?
We’re fortunate to have a broad spectrum of plants that work well in the island environment, covering pretty much all of the bases. Right now, we’re working on an aromatic meadow with lavenders, grasses and gaura sprinkled with a few feature plants.
It’s a lovely, feathery flower that comes in either white or a variety of pinks. It doesn’t require much attention or water and is fantastic for summer and autumn colour. Gaura is also known as Bee Blossom or Whirling Butterflies because its flowers suggest butterflies flying in the breeze.
Are you working on anything else?
We’re creating a Mediterranean Cloud Garden for a client. This is a garden of evergreens of varying colours and textures such as pittisporum and teucrium, clipped to form.
That’s such an evocative name.
It’s a relatively new concept of mine that I have been developing over the past couple of years. I hope to tell you more about it in a future edition of the Deia Olive Press.
Do you have a favourite plant or kind of plant that always forms part of your designs on the island?
Few of my gardens escape without a nice feature olive. These transplant very well and offer instant magic to any garden.
Where do you get your plants from?
Well, that’s a bit of a trade secret. Over the years, I’ve worked out the best suppliers for each of the plants, so they come from all over the place. Some I source locally in Mallorca, others come over from the mainland.
Few viveros – nurseries – would survive long if they sold you dud plants. The most important factors are that you’re buying the right plant for the right place and that the proper ground preparation is done for that plant. For example, some plants such as citrus trees favour areas protected from the wind and will never thrive if they’re in an exposed spot.
Are there any specific plants that grow best on the west coast of the island and around Deia?
There are so many different microclimates and conditions involved it’s hard to generalise. For example, the Soller valley is fairly protected with deep rich soil and avocados and citrus plants work well here. But people with the good fortune to be on the front line with amazing sea views tend to be a lot more exposed to salt and wind and have a lot less soil to work with. Here it’s best to work with hardier plants like rosemary or succulents that can handle the conditions. One piece of advice is to have a look around you. See what looks like it’s doing well and, chances are, if the conditions are comparable, these plants should work well for you too.
How long does it take from planting for someone to have a beautiful garden?
In the Mediterranean environment, plants grow much quicker than people in northern Europe are used to. That said, there are multiple scenarios and some plants grow faster than others and, in any case, it’s possible to buy larger plants in the first place. I generally recommend my clients don’t get excited about Day One, when we say the garden is finished, but reassure them that they’ll start to be wowed after about a year. After two years, the gardens we create will be ‘blow your head off’ spectacular.
If someone wanted to commission you now to start a garden project, what would be the procedure?
The first step is always to arrange a site meeting. This allows us to discuss the client’s wish list for that garden and establish the general parameters. It is also gives us a quick insight into the logistics that would be involved with the project. Once terms have been agreed upon, we start work on preparing the concept plan. This is the foundation of the garden design and is presented to the client to make sure that all is on track and they’re happy with the general layout. When the concept has been signed off on, we start work on the details and start pricing everything. One thing to take into consideration is that the design/project can actually take as long to put together as the garden itself.
Any garden, irrespective of the design, will only look good if it’s cared for. Garden maintenance is absolutely key and I always recommend that my clients contract a professional gardener. We always incorporate an aftercare package into any quote that we do which takes care of the garden for the first few months – the most vulnerable period. During this time, a professional gardener will replace any plant that dies and tweak the garden as necessary. The aftercare crews we work with are always independent professional gardeners so once the aftercare package is complete our clients can make a contract with them directly. Personally, I like to keep an eye on my gardens and how they develop over the subsequent years, offering advice when it’s necessary.
Thanks for sharing your insights, Alexander. If any readers would like to talk to Mashamba Garden and Terrace Design, start here.
And watch this space for more from Mashamba Garden and Terrace Design next month.