A very satisfying weekend

10 Nov, '07

There is so much happening in my little patch of Heaven that it’s difficult to find a place to start. Suffice it to say that it was brilliantly tiring! I love it. I really do. Such a sense of fulfillment is really hard to come by. I guess this is one of the major reasons that I have been so taken by gardening. It is truly a rewarding activity.

Since putting Mr. Buddha in his place to christen the Oriental patch, the adjoining side which is overlooked by the “Old Lady”, our trusty and gnarled Frangipani we brought with us from the old house, just didn’t look right. It had a few shrubs here and there, a few cacti at the back wall (I got those for my last birthday) and well, it now looked completely unbalanced. So it need a major rethink on what I wanted it to be.

I decided to make it complement the Oriental patch, in fact, I wanted it to be completely integrated and not regarded as a separate piece of the garden at all. I decided that probably the best thing to do there is take everything (apart from the Old Lady) out and cover the whole area there with stones or pebbles. This will immediately bring the “Zen” back into the game and the Oriental patch would simply flow into the dry river-bed motif.

Plan in place, I started working. The first thing was to remove all the cacti and put them in pots, those pots I wanted to position on the pool deck in a cluster of variously sized pots and shapes. I think looking at the previous post where I featured this change, you will probably agree that they look quite the picture. I promise you that in real life they look even better!

Not all were moved as I didn’t have enough pots. I certainly didn’t have a huge pot which I needed (wanted) for the big cactus. That then had to wait until I bought more pots and they get delivered. I had two bushes in there too that needed to come out, a hibiscus and a lantana. The lantana was thriving while the hibiscus was just sitting there not doing much, but not dying either. A bunch of mother-in-law’s tongues and another cactus as well as a henna tree were scattered in that patch too.

I was rather happy that I moved the majority of the cacti on Thursday evening. That would free up a lot of time for Friday and beyond to tackle the various tasks.

Friday morning comes and I am awake at 4.45AM (I know I know!) and down having some tea, reading the papers and thinking about the stuff I needed to do. By 8.00AM I had cooked breakfast and had everyone up! I needed to get out and wanted to drag Frances out with me too. Time for some quality time together too.

The primary task was locating the right type of stone I had in mind and buying more plants for the Oriental patch. After going through 5 or 6 garden centres, the only one that had something resembling what I needed was Jassim Garden Centre (the “old” Jassim) but they didn’t have a driver and didn’t want to deliver on a Friday. Their prices too were astronomical for the quantity of stones I required to cover about 16 square meters of ground. We hit the road again and finally found bigger stones than I initially wanted at A’alia Garden Centre on Janabiya. I bought 500 kgs thinking that that would be enough.

Next door to A’alia is Bader Garden Centre. It’s an excellent place to pick up good quality and reasonably priced plants and shrubs. They have a good and well organised nursery in the area too so they not only have the “standard” Saudi-sourced annuals from The Sultan Centre, but have some nice things they propagate from seed. We picked up some nice annuals from them – Lobelia erinus, Cordyline australis (Red Sensation), Nicotianas and some carnations.

Before that we stopped at another favourite of mine, Marj Al-Zuhour on Jidhaffs highway. They’ve got an excellent selection of indoor plants and their outdoor selection is okay but as they seem to be solely supplied by Al-Sultan, you might not find any “unusual” plants there too often. Like all garden centres though, they can improve somewhat. We got some tired looking Sword ferns from them as well as three unidentified shrubs. I bought them because I do like the leaves, they’re rusty coloured on top and green below. I’ll post a close-up to get your help in identify it later this week. In any case, I thought that the ferns would look right in place in front of Buddha’s pedestal (or chimney as Frances insists on calling it, and as Christmas is rather close, I think she’s got some plans involving it!) as to the unidentified shrubs, they can reside in front and to the side. Looking at the place now, I think we made the right choice.

On returning home at around mid-day, I immediately started leveling the Frangipani area and planting the various things we bought for the Oriental patch. I dragged Arif into the task and got him to bring some more garden sand from outside to fill in what was the bird feeding area, which I moved into the lawn now, and I proceeded to fork over the area, patting it down, walking on it just to get a nice relatively level plane which is not too soft that it will just absorb the stones once positioned. Of course I removed all the drip pipes from that area too; the only line that is left is one that waters the Frangipani and the Passionara grandiflora.

A’alia delivered a few hours later but it was soon apparent that I needed about the same quantity again to get good multi-layer cover. I didn’t want the cover to be a single layer because experience told me that immediately anyone walks on it the stones will disappear into the ground. I went there again and placed another order for 500 kgs. Thankfully they delivered in the evening and I finally finished that area when I spread the second lot of 500 kgs of stone in the area. Although I think I still need a couple of hundred kgs more, but I shall just spread what I have now to cover the small pockets which should do.

Earlier in the morning, Frances and I stopped over at Jassim Trading (“new” Jassim’s) on the Budaiya highway and bought some stuff: pots (1 huge one, 4 large, 2 medium, 2 small); 175 petunias and some indoor hanging plants which Frances fell for. All of that order got delivered in the afternoon, just before the 2nd batch of stones arrived! I was potting the hibiscus and the lantana while they were delivering the stones, so it was cutting it fine, but at least everything is done now that I can just look at the area and am fairly happy with things so far. There are a couple of things I have in mind to complete it, but that will have to wait for another time. I was absolutely tired and didn’t want to do anything else. The shower and bed awaits!

Saturday morning arrives and this time I stayed in bed longer. Until six! What luxury. But the petunias and co. await my pleasure. I mixed the single 50kgs bag of manure in the front path borders and turned them over to prepare them to receive the petunia goodness. I must confess that I didn’t want to plant petunias this season as I thought I would fill the garden with more exotic varieties. But Frances seems to have a love affair with them. She’s the boss! Anyway, I planted most of the petunias in both sides of the front path and what was left over went into the beds outside on the street. The way I planted them is white on inside, then purple and finish off with pink in long lines. I’ve interspersed white and purple in some areas to give even more variety. I think once they take hold of the area the path will look quite nice.

I have a couple of “humps” at the top of one of the borders, in the centre of one I have a Sterlitzia (bird of paradise) and the other I have a golden ficus but both are off centre intentionally so I can fill the areas with annuals. Last year I had the Lobelias on the edge, but seeing how they took over the border and really spread, this year I put them right in the centre to give them the space they need. Looking at the area in my minds’ eye some 8 – 12 weeks into the future, the place I think will look a delight. The whole garden will I think and not only the borders which are graced with various annuals.

I have so many seedlings in the nursery waiting to be planted too. I’ve got to find new places for those…. oh my back!

It was a really satisfying weekend for me and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I hope your weekend and week ahead is just as satisfying my friends.

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  1. Anwar Y Abdulrahman says:

    Dear Mahmoud,
    Believe it or not, this is incredibly close to what I do every weekend..Try using woodchips (New Jassim) next to the river stones..they enhance the stones beauty…and preferably near the grass sprinklers so as to remain clean and new-looking all the time..for fungus control just use normal pesticides between now and then..

    A perfect little hint is surround a good looking tree with these stones (1 ft wide around the tree)..followed by another ring of woodchips and you will have a perfect look..plant 5-6 small green shrups in the woodchips ring and..and another 5-6 Gladilous bulbs in the inner stone ring…Mahmood, prepare your camera.

    Another idea for these lovely stones is to use them on the grass borders (10-15 cm wide)..they look really nice..Similarly, you can place two (not recommend more) different coloured stones in their assigned areas next to each other..they look nice..

    The only set-back in these stones is that when you need to aerate the soil..

    From my own experience, one should avoid using the small stones (3-4 cm)..slightly bigger (5-7 cm) is my preference..the reason being that it it much easier to handle when you change your mind the next season. Also avoid the temptation to arranging them in lines or shapes, just through them slowly over the required area to end up with a natural look..

    The white stones, though they look beautiful, contain small amounts of iron, which gets rusted when wet and you end-up having a mix of brown and white stones later on.

    For all gardeners, my best solution for a back-ache is to lay down on the floor (with your back down) and raise your legs to make them rest on a coach..In any case, before going gardening, do some stretching..it helps.

    Good weekend

  2. Mahmood says:

    And a good weekend to you too my friend! I’ve got plans for tomorrow, starting another border!! (I’ve got too many flower seedlings and I’ve got to put them somewhere ;))

    The “new new border” is small (I’m making it around 4 meters by 1 – 2 meters in an arc) I’ll plant the various bulbs still sitting in the fridge, and of course augment them with some of the annual seedlings I’ve got in the nursery.

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