Nepali Times
How does your garden growing?


After a tedious afternoon\'s work at the traffic island at Tripureswor, a taxi driver\'s offhand remark made our day. "The city looks prettier with these flowers and greenery, we should protect these gardens," he said, before launching into an angry diatribe against vandals who stole flowers and trampled the carefully laid-out beds. We were encouraged, at least there were people who care, and appreciate the hard work that goes into setting up and maintaining these verdant islands.

It is obvious Kathmandu people are getting sick of concrete, glass and brick and yearn for a soothing patch of green by the roadside, or at home. Even congested middleclass apartment balconies are now draped in greenery as more and more people take to gardening as a hobby. A home garden is a practical and beneficial option to turn your home green, splash it with colours and even (as my medical friends tell me) turn gardening it into an antistress therapy. So, on doctor\'s orders, if I may say so, you should take up gardening as much as you can. Open your personal space to admit plants that exude charm, pleasure, beauty and, yes, oxygen. The benefits of gardening are priceless, what you get in peace-of-mind, stress relief and aesthetics cannot be measured in rupees.

Unless you are a horticulture fanatic, gardening can be quite time consuming and take up most of your leisure. So better be sure about it, and do it seriously from the outset, looking strategically at nittygritties like compost heap, hedges, ponds, rock gardens and how these fit with your other requirements such as driveway, garage or even barbecues.

Some of the golden rules of gardening are self evident: a garden is an extension of the house. A visual link must exist between the house and garden in order to combine outdoor entertaining and family meals, and make the most of internal and external space.

A split-level garden may look daunting, but with imaginative treatment, it will literally give your garden an added dimension. An artificial slope adds variety and drama to an otherwise dull flat area. Proper drainage is always underestimated. Soil that is too wet retards plant growth (roots need to breathe too). The soil must then be broken, topsoil spread over for grass after which fertilizers and plant food are applied before the final setting.

Planting has to be worked out very carefully. It is helpful to consider the planting design at three levels: trees, shrubs or hedges and other smaller plants.

Trees are necessary to give a vertical backbone to any garden. Trees can be decorative, and serve to outline a garden\'s structure and add colour, and shades.
Shrubs, for their part, can fill the awkward gaps between the tallest perennials and the smallest trees. With shrubs, you will also notice a richer biodiversity, especially birdlife -in your garden. And if the shrubs are integrated with shallow ponds, birds will find it even more irresistible.

Some people get carried away by colour, or are surprised when flowers start blooming all over the place in a splash of primaries. Foliage plants can be indispensable in preventing colour clashes. Spectacular colours need quiet companions to show them off. When choosing plants for colour it is a good idea to select one base colour and build upon it, experimenting with harmonies and contrasts in a continuous stream of colour grouping. Such a monochromatic scheme can be very tasteful.

Different shades of the same colour with tiny traces of another brighter one can also have an interesting effect. Hotter colours should be placed in the front with the cooler ones at the back. If you reverse this order, you reduce the visual width of the border. Always place the tallest upright plants first, and then arrange the larger ones down to the smallest at the front.

If your budget is tight let your garden grow slowly to its form even if it takes several years. A garden gets better with age.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)