To show how the border progressed: in spring it was a riot of colour, although patches of bare earth showed through:
Note the stunted bird of paradise plant to the right: found pot-bound in a nursery on the old railway track in Gisr El-Suez Street, Heliopolis, it was rescued and has since taken to its new home. Now, it is truly flying.
By late summer, the border had come into its own. Hibiscus plants topped the hedge, the bougainvillea was in overdrive, and jasmine cascaded down the hedge perfuming the garden by day and night – just as we planned.
Even now, in mid-winter, the growth is luxuriant, and the bottle brush tree is snugly surrounded by friends from around the world: hibiscus, roses, Arabian jasmine, plumbago, pinks, and canna.
One curious reason for the astonishing growth: I finally twigged that the story spun by the Engineer and the gardeners, that the hugely overgrown branches of Indian laurels forming the hedge belonged not to us but to our neighbours, was not true. Whenever they told me this, of course it meant: no need for us to cut it. An inspection (nothing sophisticated – just shoving my head through the laurels, among a shower of dust and dried leaves) showed that the offending branches were all ours. Oh boy!
So: for a couple of weeks in June I worked as a lumberjack from 6 to 9 in the morning (before the heat really bore down) to fell the overgrown sections. It was the hardest job I’ve ever done in any garden, but it was worth every speck in the eye, every bruise, and every crick in the shoulders. This, I think, is the reason why the herbaceous border took off in 2015.