Back to work

I have been away for so long this summer; it seems like aeons since I was stacking protective “mulch” in the raised beds and frantically clipping borders ahead of going away. Now, six weeks later, I am back in the Jasmine Garden and it’s payback time.

This is stating the case quite mildly. Some plants have gone wild. We have bizarre and straggling roses, with mini-blooms atop meandering stems that reach above my head; the rosemary mother plant is about halfway across the lawn (which has flaked out almost completely in places); some hibiscus flowers are almost atop the hedge:

Hibiscus by hedge 9.17this means they are some 7 feet high, possibly more; the osteospermum is galloping across the path, even though it was well trimmed before I left. My old friends, the ornamental basil plants, are full of flowers in some places but in others have gone bohemian with wild flowering heads and long brown fronds full of seeds.

Some of my favourites, however, gave up the unequal struggle with the summer months in Egypt and faded away:

Dianthus 9.17Dianthus – and this was a particularly lovely one – couldn’t cope whether in pots or in the borders, and I have lost several. What a pity! I have loved their grey-blue leaves and sweetly-scented flowers in colours from pure white to delicate pink to salmon-red and even deeply luxuriant crimson. Some had been with us for a few years, and I truly feel their loss.

But – and there is usually compensation of sorts somewhere in the wilderness – there are some high points in our now-wild borders, with their overgrown edges, rambling perennials and surreal roses. As I surveyed the front border I came across jasmine tumbling down from the top of the hedge, a mass of white flowers cascading through the shrubs and speckling the lawn below:
Jasmine cascade 9.17

I was alerted first of all by the glorious fragrance in the air nearby; this is by far the best of the jasmines this year, though the climber over the gate is running it a close second and has now twined itself into the trees outside our garden, as well as over the gate, and, come to that, the jasmine on the pergola is doing well too.

And then, in the side border, a lovely surprise: our rounded-leaf frangipani has produced blossom this year. As far as I remember, this is the first time it has flowered so I suppose it is now fully at home in a new garden, a new country. We brought it as a small cutting from our garden in Doha some 7 or 8 years ago, asked the gardener to place it in the ground long before the herbaceous border existed, and then rather forgot about it. Now, we have a real beauty:

Frangipani 9.17It is flowering long after the other, larger frangipani bought in a local nursery, and produces even more glorious blooms than the local variety, which also has more pointed leaves. Positioned close to blue plumbago (from South Africa), and the bottle brush tree (from Australia), with the Indian laurel hedge behind, this lovely tree is one small part of our international garden.

Meanwhile, all sorts of grasses and weeds I haven’t identified have sprung up all over, including in the new herb bed. I need to get to them before the heads of seed throw their loads to the winds, or I shall be scuppered for weeks to come.

So I am rolling up my sleeves to get on with tidying up and rescuing, composting and clipping, as fast as I can. I have to get a move on, not only in the borders: The raised beds urgently need attention as some of them are drowning in rampant chicory, tomato plants and basil, and the planting season is just around the corner. More on this in my next post.

Advertisements

“A very pretty garden”

The purpose of this post is not to blow my own trumpet. But a young visitor, who popped into our garden the other day, bowled me over with the comment: “You have a very pretty garden!”

At this time of year, when flowers (Hibiscus, Ipomoea, Jasmine) last barely a day and brilliant sunlight drains much of the colour from them, it’s hard to see great variety in the borders. But, look closely and you begin to see all sorts of attractive qualities.

For a start, there’s a certain variety in the contrasting colours and green tones of foliage, from the copper-red of the beefsteak plant (Acalypha wilkesiana) – below, top left, and right; to the delicate fresh green of Pelargonium Graveolens, also seen below:

There are also more flowers than you might realise at first glance, but you may have to look skywards or in out-of-the-way corners. Our lovely blue Ipomoea, for example, shyly emerges at the top back of the pergola (mea culpa: I placed it there!) which means it is best viewed from a bedroom window. But we also have lots of jasmine (Jasminum grandiflorum) tumbling down from the top of the hedge, and white bougainvillea contrasting wonderfully with the bright red of Hibisus chinensis standing tall at the back of the borders:

Sometimes, the detail of a cluster of flowers wins my heart, as with the delightful frangipani (Plumeria acuminata) whose tightly furled buds tinged with delicate pink contrast with the open flowers, shimmering white with yellow centres:

Frangipani

These sweetly perfumed, lovely trees, native to Central America, can grow to quite a size – maybe up to 7 or 8 metres. Ours are still quite young, but one in particular is generous with her blooms. The trees are very much part of the summer garden in the Middle East, and you see stands of them in El-Azhar Park. Another variety, P. rubra has spectacular deep red flowers, rather less scented.

There are other aspects of our garden to appreciate too: For one thing, the play of light and shade through the fruit trees illuminates the herbs (basil, rosemary) in the border as the sun goes down:

Back border sunlight thru trees I rather hope our young visitor looked back across the front garden as he was making his way out: we only have a narrow strip of land in front of the house, but it has been planted to present a vista in both directions. One way, you look past our Calliandra tree to the lawn opening out beyond; in the other direction, the eye is led onwards to the palm tree (currently bearing a decent crop of Zaghloul dates, on the way to ripening).

Spring – almost

My Tao reading today is as uplifting as the day is beautiful:

Bird song flies unfettered

Over blue sky and green fields.

Once you feel Tao run,

Give way, give way.

“What is it like to feel Tao?” writer Deng Ming-Dao asks. “It is an effortless flowing, a sweeping momentum. It is like bird song soaring and gliding over a vast landscape.” He adds: “You can feel this in your life: Events will take on a perfect momentum, a glorious cadence.”

Just now, I can feel it all around in the vivid re-birth of nature. True, the orange tree (if that’s what it is!) and the oldest of our three limes have bunches of flower buds on their branches tantalisingly close to blooming, but not quite there yet. And true, the borders are showing bare patches of earth… But the promise is there, the energy is flowing upwards, the tender shoots of red-to-pink-to-light green leaves are bursting out on our roses and vines. This is what is meant by Tao in full flow, I think.

Above, soft vine leaves from rose to light green contrast with the darker green leaves of a rose – and the dark red shoots, as soft as they are colourful, it is sending up into the air. Below, a pear tree presents young leaves that feel as if they might melt when you touch them, still textured with a luminous down:

pear-2-3-17

As with the energy of nature, so with me: I feel “the nerves aglow” as the Tao commentary has it. Gone is the January torpor, I’m rolling up my sleeves and working on the herbaceous border after meandering through the back border last month. This means tearing myself away from the raised beds and pots of seedlings for a while, but the borders are equally satisfying and immensely rewarding once the shrubs have revived and put on their spring-into-summer growth spurt.

Today’s tasks include getting the gardener to help spread manure over the border (above right) after my weekend efforts to clear it of weeds and cut back plants where necessary, extracting and composting all the dead wood I could find. I haven’t finished the border yet, but it’s looking a lot better. As for the back bed (above left), it looks untidy once again as the mint has popped up all over the place, but the fruit trees have been pruned, weeded and fed, and I feel: well, satisfied.

bed-by-green-fence-3-17

My resolution to sow seeds of assorted flowers serendipitously along the borders is partially in hand, notably in the bed in front of the green fence separating kitchen and flower gardens. I cleared this out last week, added manure, and sowed morning glory at the back to climb up the fence, with cornflowers and snap dragons in front plus a few hyssop for the bees. I have no idea how well this little English flower garden will fare in Egypt’s heat – assuming success with germination.

It’s a somewhat messy bed, without much of an edge, but I figure that it could look both natural and attractive if it fills up with flowering plants that tumble over the scrappy grass in front. It has some taller herbs – rosemary and Lebanese thyme or zaattar, plus a geranium – so there’s no planting scheme here!

Next thing is to extend the sowings to the back border, perhaps with the inclusion of marigolds: Time to add a splash of colour to an otherwise dull bed. I’m following the Tao, carried along by the flow, as much in touch with nature in this little corner of New Cairo than anyone even in the deepest English countryside – and it’s wonderful!

via Daily Prompt: Vivid