Helping out to make a greener earth

Monday, October 4, 2010

Before and After Images- A New Garden Emerges

The job of a garden designer/installer is very much like that of other professions dealing with the creation of beauty, of transforming something from being not so pleasing aesthetically (ugly, in not so kind words) through the use of the various tools of the profession, to something that most people, especially the client, would consider to be beautiful.

Sometimes, there is a tendency, once the desired state is achieved to develop instant amnesia and forget how things were. For this reason there is a real need for documentation. Recording "before" and "after" states helps us remember and be thankful for our blessings.

I have always been remiss in doing this basic task, that is, taking BOTH "before" and "after" pictures of gardens that I have done. But clients always appreciate presentations that not only show the beautiful gardens that were done but also how these things of beauty used to be.

Since I have been planning this blog for sometime, I decided that I would be more conscientious in documenting not just the "after" states (here I have no problem) but the starting points too. And while at it, I have also taken in-between photographs that will show the actual job progress.

Below are photos of a project that I completed a few months ago, mid-June to be exact. It was supposed to be started February but building construction delays pushed the starting point for the garden to the early part of April.

The client who has so generously consented to having the photos of the garden posted (without which it would not have been possible to make this post) has some very specific requirements as to what to put and not to put in the garden. (I was given a three page brief where all these requirements and specifications were listed. This has made the conceptualization much easier but to a certain extent placed considerable constraints on the range of materials that may be used. This by the way is not typical of most of my local clients who would mostly give generalized and loosely stated specs.

Some general site descriptions, in the beginning . . .

The property is almost 800 square meters of which about half has to be landscaped. The latter area is made up of a main lawn which is about 75% of the whole area and the remainder is made up of smaller areas that will have to made into pocket gardens that will surround the whole house.

The main lawn sits on a previously low area that has been filled up with crushed adobe. A high (almost 20 ft.) retaining wall that also serves as a fence holds the area and which hides the deep creek behind it.

The picture above shows about a foot-and-a-half fence and not the deep precipice behind. This is an area that is part of the main lawn and which is visible from almost all the main parts of the modern house with its mostly floor to ceiling glass windows.

The garden installation progresses

I must admit that this must be one of the more difficult gardens I have done, not so much in terms of creative complexity but more in terms of brawn power that was needed to prepare it for planting.

We had to remove much of the crushed rocks and debris for up to a foot deep or more in some spots and fill the area up with good garden soil plus the necessary amendments. In all, several dumptruck loads of rocks and debris had to be hauled out and more dumptruck loads of good garden soil brought in manually to prepare the site. Once done, the planting began in earnest.

The first to go were the taller plants, the blue palms, the Manila palms, and the various plants to be used as clipped hedges. The picture to the left showed the garden soil all laid out and leveled, the plant mounding completed and most of the perimeter planting already done. Since this was the peak of summer in Manila, the plants suffered considerably and many wilted temporarily and lost lots of leaves. Needless to say, the water bill of my client would also have been considerable during this time.

From the picture above, the next that were planted were the groundcover which in this case was the ornamental peanut (arachis pintoi) which was specified by the client and the grass popularly called "blue grass" in the local trade.

Just before the school year began (mid-June), the project had been completed. Coming from an area which required a one-way travel time of 1 to 2 hours, I did not want to waste too much of my, and my workers' time on traveling to and from the job site. And besides, the project has experienced its fair share of delays, and with the client's family eager to move to their brand new home and garden it just had to be finished.

The picture to the right was taken early September, three months after project completion. The lawn was already growing densely and in very good condition, the hedges starting to shape up very nicely. Still the shrubs that are being trained have not attained their ideal sizes but for a three month old garden, neither my client nor I could complain.

If one carefully looks at the three photographs, it may be seen that it was not only the garden that was showing considerable progress. A house was also being constructed behind the garden. Where one can only see the red-roofed house on the far upper middle-right side of the garden in the earliest shot of the area, the second photograph clearly showed the steel bars and wooden forms of the new house that was being built. In the latest photo, the roof of the new house was already being done.

One year from now, when this garden is more mature, it would be most interesting to see how it would look like, with the new house in the background.

For now, I take pleasure in reading the text message of my client that says, "I love the garden. Thank you." Coming from a self-confessed "non-gardening type," this comment says a lot to make a gloomy day bright.

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