I was looking back at the photos I took for A Thailand Tropical Garden – Update 2 HERE, which was written at the third month point after we started this project and things have progressed so much that I thought a further update might be of interest. I know not everyone is as focussed on gardens as we are but from feedback I have received in various forms I also know that a lot of my readers are. We have now just passed the six month anniversary offrom when we started work, so that in itself is a milestone worth sharing. I have probably added far too many photos but that’s the problem with enthusiasts on any topic. I hope that the words I have also added make a story of it all and show that I’m not not just posting photos for the sake of it.

It has been three months since the last update and that’s about twelve months growing time or more from where I come from, Canberra, the hot/cold capital of Australia. Having never lived in the tropics before I am still amazed at the speed at which plants take off, especially now in the wet season, which has actually been pretty dry but still wetter than normal. I can almost watch things grow, and certainly from week to week there is a noticeable difference in the height of some of the more enthusiastic plants in the garden. I thought I would try to explain how the garden looks now when compared to the original design I had in mind when we started in january and that’s the base theme for this post.

Just to remind you of our starting point in January 2018. Someone described my in this photo as a garden gnome, which I thought was a bit cutting 🙂

And this is the original plan for the garden:

The street frontage is at the top, our existing land and house is off-plan on the left and this is a 1,000 square metre plot of land. My initial concept had five distinct areas. (1) was a utility area – an undercover clothes drying area, a garden storage shed and and general “out of sight” area, (2) was to be a Dok Khun (Golden Rain/Shower) grove of trees link HERE for more info. A central pergola area with a paved walkway to the main house, and bougainvillea and palm areas in (3) and (4).

Me, my stepdaughter Peng and one of the Dok Khun trees Gaun planted at her mama’s house. They flower around the same time as Thai New Year (April).

Each area would be separated from each other by taller plants and hedges so that the totality of the garden couldn’t be seen in one go. You’d have to go wandering the paths to discover everything it had to offer.

This design has basically been followed but there have been a number of tweaks along the way that I will tell you about. The concept for the pergola area, shown below, hasn’t been changed as you can see from the photos:

You can see the design in reality here soon after it was finished in january 2018, with our existing land being where I am taking the photo looking out into the new plot with the feature wall in the background.

The same view taken last week. A basket of papaya in the foreground more words on that later.

The seating area under the pergola, which was pretty exposed has now been enclosed by greenery.

I wanted this to be a garden “room” so the smaller pots and other items help add character and “furnish” the area.

Another view showing how softened that feature wall has become now the plants are covering some of it.

The view from the seating area looking towards Areas (1) and (2).

And looking the other way to Areas (3) and (4). I am hoping to pave this area next month.

I wanted this pergola area to be a “room” walled in by greenery with glimpses through to the wider garden. My vision is almost complete as these plants almost reach the pergola. Once the top is covered in climbers this will be a shady tropical cave (no SEAL rescue required).

You might have noticed (although if you’re like me probably not!) that we have added some paving since Update 2. We ordered 6,000 locally hand made bricks to upgrade about 60 metres of paths to cover the gravel, which although functional is hardly attractive. We still have a lot to do but it’s a start.

Watching our bricks being made at a small family run factory on the outskirts of Si Bun Ruang, our home town. Clay goes in one end and bricks out the other.

The bricks are stacked to dry in the sun.

They are then moved to a simple kiln where they are slowly fired over a ten day period.

Stacked ready to go. The husband and wife team use rice husks as the fuel. 400 sacks of it to fire 50,000 bricks.

Three weeks after ordering our bricks are delivered. Everything done by hand.

We employed a guy (Yah) to do the hard work laying the bricks but Gaun (my wife for new readers) thought that moving the sand and bricks slowed him down too much so she jumped in to take on the labouring job.

Gaun keeping up with Yah.

The circle around one of the pots really makes a feature of this space. Gaun working on concrete edges.

She has boundless energy and a huge commitment to the garden. Yah in the background and Gaun working on the concrete edging. What can I say.

This path leads to an area Gaun created herself, which wasn’t part of my original overall plan. It was only fitting that today she did most of the paving to complete her personal area of the garden – although in reality all of it is her achievement.

The choice for bricks rather than other options for the paving came from my garden role model, Jim Thompson’s House in Bangkok, which you can find HERE. A must-do if in Bangkok:

This was a photo I took late 2011 in Jim’s garden. It became the “look” I wanted to achieve in our new tropical garden. Curved brick paths with an mystery destination and lush plants cascading from high to low ending up overhanging the path.

And this is our version now. We are getting there. Considering Jim’s garden has been around since the 1960’s I think we are doing OK 🙂

Edging in and all finished. I was so pleased that Yah had done paving before (probably the only person in Si Bun Ruang who has) and was able to give me an interesting pattern in the bricks. It makes all the difference. You can see how many bricks had to be hand cut to complete the edging. A huge job.

The 6 month milestone view from Area (1), actually the decking of the rice hut – read on.

One of the biggest changes has been in Area (1). Since Update 2 we have added the utility structures, which in their raw state looked a bit harsh, as all new structures tend to just after the builders leave:

The wall is to hide the clothes drying area and also allow for the storage of larger items out of sight from the rest of the garden. The storage shed is on the left and the clothes drying area on the right.

The view from the garden side. Gaun working on landscaping already if course. The world’s most enthusiastic gardener.

At this time I had expanded my wish list for this area by including a “maybe” in the form of a timber Isaan rice storage hut. Many homes have them but an increasing number of families no longer use them as intended. To me they are an iconic part of Isaan and I was hoping I could include one in the garden behind that wall. Regular readers will know that we did achieve that vision and I published that story HERE.

My hut in its original location. 5 x 3 metres, built from hardwood and in good condition. 6,000 baht or A$240.00. It would cost you that for a couple of those posts back “home”. It will cost more to move and rebuild it than to buy it but the overall cost will still be less than $1,000.

With the inclusion of the rice hut this utility area now looks like this:

There are a couple of trees and a number of taller palms planted in this area so it will soften increasingly over time. Even now it looks a lot more settled.

The other iconic Isaan feature are the drinking waterpots. Also going out of fashion as cheap delivered drinking water takes over.

One of our pots being transported to the garden from elsewhere in the village. They weigh literally a ton.

Enjoying the rice hut as intended. Morning coffee in hand. As I have covered the transformation of moving and rebuilding the rice hut in the post I have mentioned I won’t repeat it all here as this is a broader update.

Inside at night. This is my mini-Jim Thompson house!

A lovely view of the garden and paving as it leads to the steps to the decking of the rice hut. The edgind hasn’t been done yet.

Area (2) has been left as planned and the small grove of 12 Dok Khun trees are doing a jack-in-the-beanstalk thing, with some of them now over three metres high. They will be ten metres in a couple of years and the path that winds through them will be a shady forest themed one.

This is a smaller version in our “old” garden. These Dok Khun trees are three years old, which gives you an idea of how quickly they grow.

Gaun planting a Dok Khun seeding in January 2018 just to give you a comparison. From this to the previous photo in three years!

Area (2) back then.

And today.

Area (2) on the right. The tallest plants are the Dok Khun trees. They have gone from literally a twig, (they are deciduous) four months ago to this today.

This is Area (2) flowing up to the rice hut decking.

From the last photo if you can imagine walking back towards the central pergola area, but then head left and walk behind the feature wall, another “room” has been added, which would be Area 5 if I had thought of it in more detail when planning. This was the photo I showed you of Area (5) in Update 2:

My words then: Once the hedges have grown this will become a separate garden “room” with a doorway cut into the hedge.

And today. We have an extensive sprinkler system using water from a bore/well and the calcium in the water has faded the paint, which was newly applied in the previous photo.

Yet more paving needed! See how much the greenery at the back has grown up when compared to three months ago.

This is where the path exits Area (5) by passing through what will be a doorway cut into a high hedge. You can see the hedging plants crossing from left to right. That pot is sitting central to Areas (3) and (4) on my original plan.

This photo gives you a better idea of the hedge that will cross from one boundary to the other, creating a separate large “room”, Areas (3) and (4). There are three “doorways” through this hedge from the rest of the garden.

This is the “doorway” on the opposite side to Area (5). A newly bought pot will be framed by the hedge once it grows. Once again this path will be transformed once paved. Lemongrass filling in the far right.

This is a hedge “doorway” in the process of happening. It leads from the carport into the new garden.

And this is a more mature example from the carport again but leading to the front door of the house.

Areas (3) and (4) have now been combined into a larger single area each with their own raised mound of bougainvillea shrubs at the back. These will flower in the cool season Nov – Feb and beyond and provide a cascading wall of colour.

I had planned for this area to be a more formal gravelled area but Gaun had other ideas. This bed of flowers is what she calls her Isaan tulips! They are all cuttings she has taken from her garden at the family farm.

Bougainvillea at the farm in Feb 2018.

Hidden away behind one of the bougainvillea mounds is a path that leads to a small seating area. Custard apple trees and fruiting now.

A cool shady spot.

And finally some miscellaneous photos covering various spots around the garden and some specific happenings:

This path, newly paved, comes off the main access to the pergola area. We have a few coconut growing!

Gaun with papaya picked from the garden. These were given to my 18 year old stepdaughter Peng, who sold them at the Si Bun Ruang Friday markets. She made 100 baht, enough for some new earrings for her and her grandma.

The hand washing basin has merged into the greenery over time too. Can you spot the buffalo bells hanging up? I ring them if I can’t find Gaun for morning coffee 🙂

Focal points like this are becoming inundated with plants where before they were on their own.

Amazing growth for six months.

Two small pot-ponds that Gaun organised in Update 2. Once again about to be overwhelmed with greenery.

Gaun is practicing her paving to extend it into this little pond area. Rain today so progress has been put on hold.

This statue sits under a jack-fruit tree that is pushing out new fruit in enormous quantities.

Where does it get the energy to make so many huge fruit?

If you know jack-fruit you will also know that the end result is at least double the biggest seen in this photo.

I had a reader of my Facebook “mini-blog” tell me that he enjoyed jack-fruit chips. Here’s a link to the recipe if you happen to have one in the back garden HERE! While we are on the subject, my Facebook is a daily version of many of the topics I write about in these blog posts. I don’t do selfies, masses food photos and meaningless sayings and reposts like so many feeds but I publish very regular updates on everyday life in Isaan. By becoming a friend you will follow the events and photos as they happen. You will find me HERE.

Gaun enjoying a crepe myrtle that’s flowering now.

And Yuan, Gaun’s younger sister popped in to say hello and had her photo taken too.

Two buffalo yokes given to me by Gaun’s uncle.

Now hanging on the end of the rice hut.

You wouldn’t recognise the timber once it has been stripped back and oiled would you.

The other one. Different timber underneath the grime.

Old and new. A great contrast.

One of the joys of village living is that if you wait long enough everything you ever desire will pass by your front gate! I heard the advertising for gutters this morning (I do have some Thai words) and sure enough on their next sweep through the village they came down our road. I wanted guttering for the rice hut to keep roof rain off the decking and at the back water pouring into the clothes drying area and garden shed. I also thought guttering would finish off the look of the hut at the front. 45 minutes later 12 metres of guttering had been installed at a cost of $70.00 (150 baht a metre supplied and installed).

Pull them over and ten minutes later they are working on your gutters.

The ends and downpipes are made by hand soldered in place.

I only added this photo because he was an unusually tall Thai, and I thought had made a good career choice.

These lime shrubs are three years old and this year is their first big crop. What would this lot be worth in the western world?

Tips & Tricks: If you see one of these in the local markets it’s worth buying.

It’s a lime squeezer and really efficient. Cut the lime in half, put face down in the part with holes and squeeze. This one is made from hardwood and cost 70 baht (?) about $3.00. Gaun has fresh mint growing in the garden so Mojito cocktails are on the menu if you wanted to pop in. Forget expensive imported rum. Use Thai SangSom rum – I think it is better and at $12.00 a bottle that third cocktail won’t strain the retirement budget.

And to finish off a couple of photos of the “old” garden, with has been sort of forgotten with all the attention and money being given to the new one. Gaun keeps it immaculate even though we don’t spend much time there. It like everything else has become established in record time.

What we started with just before we moved in late March 2015. I hasten to say that this photo is more for show than go. Gaun did the vast majority of work on this as well as the new garden.

And the same area now.

A much more “farang” sort of garden. Lush but not essentially tropical. I love the contrast between the two gardens. That sala (hut) is where I was delivering soil to in the first photo. The two mango trees have grown somewhat!

Gaun went with extensive hedging in the old garden. They give a more formal feel to it. The house is disappearing behind greenery.

The main entrance to the house over a koi pond.

Another view of the Dok Khun area in the old garden.

The carport with pebblecrete.

In contrast this photo was taken in August 2015.

And more recently. I forget how much things have changed until I do a before and after. A nice entrance to the house.

August 2015 again, just as we started to upgrade the entrance and add a storeroom and extra bathroom area.

And now a bit under three years later!

The undercover dining area. This faces the setting sun and those hedging plants have now grown to roof level and now stop the hot evening sun from coming into this area.

Enough already!

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Tony