When I moved out from our over 500-sqm house in the suburbs and into a four-storey, all-concrete townhouse with my own family, one of the things that I dearly missed was having a garden. My childhood bedroom window used to face the west, and outside was a backyard populated by a large santol tree, an equally large Indian mango tree, some coconut trees, a papaya tree, and scores of other vegetables. That was the un-tended part of our garden, which almost completely wrapped around the perimeter of the house. I used to wake up to the sound of rustling leaves and birds chirping merrily among the branches.
On the more “manicured” side of the garden, we had calachuchis, Shanghai beauties, birds of paradise, five-leaf clovers, and an amapola tree that was so tall (as tall as our house!), we nicknamed it “Jack and the Beanstalk.”
Obviously my all-concrete house now can’t quite compare. So I bought plants in pots and decorated my roofdeck with it.
As early as the next day after I’d bought these plants, the petite roses wilted. In a few weeks, the bougainvillea shed all its flowers, and several other plants shriveled up and browned.
This is what remained of my sickly potted garden.
So my husband said, maybe they don’t like the pots. Maybe what they need is bigger space to grow and establish their roots. I don’t know how true this is because I’ve seen lush city gardens filled with plants in pots, and they did just fine in their own confined spaces. But I was willing to try anything. So I called Mang Jun, our family gardener, who’s been tending my mom’s garden for years, and told him my plan.
“Mang Jun, I want a raised-bed garden,” I said. “And I want a trailing vine up the walls, and all those creeping ground crawlers with little yellow blooms. Yes, I want flowers. I want color. But I want plants that aren’t too high maintenance, won’t require too much thinking. I want them to grow and thrive freely, and I won’t have to cut and trim as often. I want a garden much like a provincial English garden.” I don’t know if he knew what I was talking about, but he said yes, and that he’ll bring me cuttings of plants and vines. I needed bricks, he said, and 4-6 sacks of soil too.
Gardening Day came and Mang Jun and I first headed for the hardware store to buy concrete bricks and hollow blocks. Our plan was to use the hollow blocks as the back wall of my pocket garden, the holes of which we would also fill with soil and plants. Then the bricks would form the rest of the perimeter wall.
Next we headed to Rona’s Garden along Visayas Avenue and then to QC Circle to visit the plant nurseries that were formerly from the Manila Seedling Bank. Mang Jun was actually against buying plants from there as he said their prices were crazy expensive. But he was recommending that we go to faaarr away Fairview to his suki sellers, and I, ever the impatient one, told him that I didn’t want to drive all the way anymore and was okay to pay the price for convenience.
We looked at several varieties of plants and asked him and the sellers every time how each would grow, and what kind of care each needed. If it only required lots of sun, watering when the soil becomes dry, and a bit of space to let their roots establish and grow, then it went right into the shopping cart. Back home, I already had mayanas, bougainvilleas, a dwarfish Hawaiian palm. and the last remaining white angel. Mang Jun was also kind enough to provide me with free cuttings of crossandras (plants with small peachy orange blooms), some bromeliads, and purple and white varieities of the thunbergia vines I had requested. I supplemented it with a couple more white angels, some chichiricas (pink periwinkles), a red variety of the mayana, cupheas, blue sage, Italian grass, and peanut plant ground cover. We also bought two sacks of moss to cover the soil with, so that it won’t easily erode. All in all, I spent about P3,000 on the plants, soil, bricks, and hollow blocks.
Mang Jun agreed to incorporate the existing plants into the arrangement. I basically just left him to it for a few hours, and when I came back, I saw that he even placed the resin-made turtle that I’d bought many months ago from Dapitan into the garden. He gave me specific instructions on how to trim the peanut plants once they’d firmly established their roots on the ground, so that they would grow more beautifully. He also told me to get a certain type of fertilizer from the plant nursery to spray on the bougainvilleas, so that their flowers would bloom.
It’s a pretty small garden, but wow, it’s made all the difference. Every single day, I’m up there on the roofdeck, sometimes to just look at it. It’s been over a week now since Gardening Day, and so far, the plants are thriving despite unbearable heat and sporadic bursts of thunderstorms. My husband is even requesting to install a small water fountain up there, to really complete the garden feel. That’s our next project (Mang Jun even said he could make us one.)
Here’s a closer look at some of the plants we have:
We’re still waiting for the thunbergia vine to grow before we let it crawl up the wall. Will post that soon.
What do you think? What about you—what plants do YOU like?