Dark Verandah

Needless to say, when I first started thinking about what I wanted to do with this new garden, I already had some ideas in mind namely an ongoing fascination with dark colors and a new found interest in native, wilder plant specimens.

The front porch and side verandah seemed the ideal location for this particular endeavour. There are sliding doors off the living room out onto that space, a concrete rectangle that connects to the porch. A container garden it was destined to be, and thats where I started, with the purchase of eight large, dark chocolate, rustic ceramic planters.

Then I went in search of black bamboo, it took a while but I got three large ones which immediately provided this porous vertical element that I wanted and then wanted more of. A storm snapped a large part of my neighbours rambutan tree which required our shared gardener to hack up the large branches with a chain saw. Liking their lines and their lichen mottled color, I dragged the pile destined to be hauled away and started an 'installation' that took a couple of weeks to take shape which was basically a framework for thing to climb up and also for things to grow on, namely epiphytic ferns and orchids.

With that, as the basic premise I have been shopping the nurseries and farmers markets for dark plants, like the mondo grass pictured left which also has a chocolate coleus blurred into the background. I have black Colocasia and a dark leaved Perilla, which I trimmed today along with some of that Coleus and put them in a vase.

Its not strictly a dark palette though, theres some lime green splashed coleus and some yellow flowers like the Maidens Jealousy (Tristellata Australasiae) and Ylang Ylang (Cananga Odorata). 

I have also been shopping for epiphytes and have discovered this guy at the farmers market that sells wild orchids, like the Bulbophyllum lobbii pictured right which has just begun to bloom. He also occasionally has unusual jungle ferns, gingers and other assorted plants. It is now a ritual to go see what he has every couple of weeks, sometimes returning with the strangest things -more later about these.

'Wild' has also come to mean things I find on walks like the large branches covered with Bulbohyllum Vaginatum that had fallen from a nearby tree. A branch of Congea Tomenosa ( or is it Veluttina ) that had strayed over the palace wall is now established and making its way up to the roof of the porch.

And there you have it, a rough sketch of my 'dark verandah'.

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The Orchard

Sitting down for tea at a friend's house one day in an old neighborhood called Straits View, I took in the long expansive hillside views from her terrace. Apart from a single house below hers, the view rolled uninterrupted  into the Sultan's palace grounds, an area that he has left as virgin forest. As far as the eye could see there was nothing to interrupt the vista of trees, clouds and sky, one that I was hard pressed to believe was still available in the urban sprawl that my hometown has become.

I was at the time beginning to look for a property so that I could have some studio space with maybe a small garden. Somewhere I could work from and and perhaps stay too, occasionally. This gorgeous view I was enjoying, was ruining the modest expectations I was harboring for this abode. This. This is what I really wanted, an old house with a garden with views. Ugh. I hate you I told my friend to which she chuckled.

The next morning she called, incredulous. You are never going to believe this, she spluttered. Someone who lives down the street had come to her gate asking if she knew of anyone who might be interested in renting his uncle's property - that single house below hers. Yes she said, I'll get him to call you.

If the universe had conspired to effortlessly put this into my lap, then it soon played hard to get as months of dialogue with the owners seemed to stall with a complicated set of family circumstances. Then it fell back on course and I held the keys in my hand, the keys to a house with a garden so large it has taken me the best part of a year to sink my teeth into and I am not including the part of the garden that I haven't even touched yet, the incredulous bonus part, an orchard with eight mature fruiting trees.

Apologies for the long silence, I am back and ready to tell you about how I have become somewhat more than an occasional gardener.

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