I asked Alex of upmarket Mallorca garden and terrace design specialists and Deia Olive Press regulars Mashamba for some advice on how to make the most of entertaining al fresco (or in the open air) this summer.
First of all, can you suggest some plants that scent summer evenings and also look beautiful, Alex?
Most plants native to Mallorca and the Mediterranean environment go dormant in the heat of the summer, so our list of flowering plants during the summer is actually quite limited. Spring and autumn are another thing.
A plant doesn’t need to flower to be aromatic, of course. Many plants, such as the aromatics, just need to be brushed against to give off their herbal perfumes. Also, the resiny scent of pines is almost emblematic of the Mediterranean.
But, if you do want flowering plants, one of my favourites that gives off an intense perfume in the late summer evening, while not necessarily beautiful, is ‘cestrum nocturnum’ or Night-Blooming Jasmine. This should be planted in serious moderation though, as otherwise the smell could be totally overpowering.
What about herbs for drinks and seasoning barbequed food for perfect Mallorca outdoor entertaining?
Here in Mallorca, everybody should have a herb garden. Even if you just have a small terrace, you can plant herbs in pots. There are countless varieties of thyme and sage that thrive here, rosemary literally grows wild and oregano is another colourful addition. Many herbs can be used in the kitchen year-round for that classic Mediterranean flavour, although others like mint are a bit more seasonal. Spice up your Mallorca outdoor entertaining with some summer cocktails with mint and lemons from your garden, or slow roast that lamb with lemon thyme freshly picked.
Could you give some growing tips for herbs?
There are two different types of herbs – perennials like rosemary, thyme, sage, mint and oregano and annuals such as basil, coriander and parsley. Perennials all work well planted in the ground and require very little water or care. You really just need to cut them back from time to time to make sure that they don’t become too leggy and don’t overwater them.
Perennials like sunny spots and don’t be disheartened if the mint dies off in the winter. It will almost certainly bounce back in the spring. The annuals, on the other hand, are a bit more complicated. I would keep these in pots in a relatively shady and cool location as they have a tendency to go to seed very quickly in the heat. My recommendation with these is to replace them as and when necessary. We frequently go through three basil plants over the course of the summer.
Do you have any suggestions as to how to use plants and herbs to combat mosquitoes and other irritating insects for truly relaxing outdoor entertaining?
There are many old wives’ tales about plants being useful against irritating insects – lavender versus scorpions, lemon grass versus mosquitoes and so on but the truth is that I haven’t seen much evidence to support them. There is probably some truth to them, but certainly not enough on which to base your garden design.
Citronella is said to keep away mosquitoes. So you could try citronella candles or even tikki torches filled with citronella scented oil.
Do you have a favourite cocktail for outdoor entertaining?
Summer time is a great time of year for the blender. We come up with all manner of concoctions. Some, especially those using seasonal fruits, are better than others I have to say. Most of our summer cocktails are rum based and we only use delicious Nicaraguan Flor de Caña. One cocktail that does work quite well and can be quite dangerous is rum, strawberry, crushed ice and mint with a squeeze of lemon. You could call this a daiquiri of sorts I guess.
Where would you position the barbeque so it causes the least disruption?
I am a man that takes my barbies seriously. Summer barbeques are great social events so where the barbie’s placed is of great importance. The host and maestro behind the barbeque wants to feel part of, if not the heart of the action. So, the barbeque needs to be positioned somewhere where you are likely to entertain. Practicalities come into play, like proximity to the kitchen and so on but, most importantly, place it where the chef can feel king.
Men are usually the ones in charge of the barbie. Does Ali have a hot sauce recipe he’d share?
A man never reveals his secret recipes. Shame on you for asking!
It was worth a try, Alex. Thanks, as ever, for the great Mallorca outdoor entertaining tips.
Check out this cool table
Jennifer, Alex’s partner, drew my attention to this splendid ‘cool table’, available from Mashamba. It’s an oval zinc side table with a built-in cool space which, as she says, ‘makes it the perfect fun party table for outdoor entertaining’.
The cool table is available in a standard size but can be customised if you plan on entertaining big.
If you’d like to find out more about the literally cool table, get in touch with Jennifer at email@example.com.