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The Secret Life of a Tree

Our kumquat tree has taken us totally by surprise. During the winter citrus flowering season, it produced nothing – not a single flower, while every other citrus tree bore glorious blossom. Confounded by its refusal to go along with the rest, I looked back over the year to ask: Where did we go wrong?

The tree wasn’t pruned much over the winter – just a bit of thinning here and there. It was well fed with chicken fertiliser back in February. Watering was within reason. It has grown well since the hedge was cut to a more manageable height, and doesn’t appear to be suffering from the proximity of the Indian laurel (Ficus nitida) trees:

Kumquat tree 5.18

So what was the deal? Read more

Retreat from the Heat and the Dust

We are in the middle of a mini-heatwave. The air in Heliopolis yesterday felt like a fan oven. Today, the temperature in New Cairo hit 39C (100F) in the shade, and I can only imagine what it must be like for farmers working in the fields, or commuters travelling downtown.

On top of all that, Cairo has been named by the World Health Organisation as the second most polluted major city in the world, after New Delhi.

In the circumstances, the Jasmine Garden is now, more than ever, our retreat from stifling heat, dust and pollutants.

Garden view 5.18

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After Morocco: Re-thinking the Garden

Time to come clean: The Jasmine Garden privileges a European concept of gardening over what might be truly appropriate for the local environment. The house, a new build, was delivered complete with a nascent lawn and the odd tree or yucca along the perimeter fence, plus an irrigation system. So the model was assumed, if not set.

Without reflecting too much, I planned herbaceous borders, fruit trees, and herb and kitchen gardens.

The borders are quite unusual in Egypt, and the kitchen garden with its five raised beds almost unheard of. Apart from that, the garden is conventional – by English standards!

Plus – there’s an underlying assumption that water for irrigation is plentiful. In theory, it is. Or, rather, it has been. But it’s an open question if that will remain true for much longer. So, is there another way to garden? Read more