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I am not going to turn the blog into a site for gardeners so this will be the last update for a little while. I know from the comments from the last garden post HERE that there are some readers who enjoy following the development of a new tropical garden so for that reason and the fact there has a lot of progress over the last couple of weeks I decided to publish this latest story. I have a lot of other insights on Isaan life to share with you so you can expect a few posts on other topics shortly.

The main focus on the new 1,000 sq mtr block of land we bought in December last year was the main pergola seating area and upgrading the landscaping for the rest of the land, especially getting hundreds of new plants into the ground to fill up the empty spaces. This post covers the week’s progress from 29 Jan to 5 Feb:

29 January 2018

What we started with was pretty well a blank canvas. This photo was taken on 5 January a month ago.

The same area as the previous photo. Still work in progress but what a change in three weeks. New ceramic tiling laid today to lead from the existing outdoor area into the new garden.

Man of action.

After a lot of uncertainty I finally decided to use these small locally made bricks for the paving. We actually went into Udon Thani to buy concrete pavers. As we about to order them Gaun spotted that the garden place had used these bricks for their own paving and pointed them out to me. I not only liked them but at less than half the cost it was an easy decision.

These bricks are hand made from local clay and fired in smallish batches. 

Each brick is completely individual with some wonderful colours. They cost 1.5 baht each ($0.06) bought from a husband and wife team supplied and hand stacked for free.

I also changed my mind about the colour of the feature wall. The red oxide that was mixed into the render just didn’t give the look I was after so I decided to paint. This colour is perfect.

Just out of interest Thai paint is charged in two components being the the base paint and then the tinting. The cost of tint varies wildly. The colour we used for the house is called Pearl White and costs 24 baht for 9 litres of base, which is cheap at around 600 – 700 baht. However if you head into vivid colours like my brick red expect to pay 900 – 1,500 baht FOR THE TINTING!!!

This is day three of paving and I am still smiling (for the camera).

In reality my back and knees are killing me and the arthritis in my wrists is wondering what the hell I am doing. I could employ someone to do this job but I would miss out on the satisfaction of achieving something that I created. That pot was found in the only decent up market garden supply place that I have seen in Isaan. A lot of their items are newish but left outside to weather and look ancient.

The path from the house leading to what will be table and chairs in front of the wall.

Tomorrow the edges of the path will be concreted so that everything stays in place especially with the torrential rain we get in the wet season. Thankfully someone else is doing that and I can fall back to my supervising role!

The brick piers for the display are temporary but I like the look so they will return in a permanent form. That piece of timber was sourced yesterday from a friend of Yuan for the cost of a bottle of Thai whisky ($4.00). It still has to be treated and stained.

Some side things happening in these following photos.

An order of gravel and sand being delivered this morning.

In Australia if you wanted a load of materials delivered under a tree that restricted the tilt the guy would probably tell you to find another spot. Here the delivery guy lifted the tray as far as the mango allowed and then hopped up to unload by hand. No muttering or sad faces he just got on with it. It took him 20 minutes and as the delivery fee was $4.00 a contribution to some whisky was appreciated.

The area the truck is in will be a utility area with a covered clothes drying area (essential in the long wet season), storage for garden things and a plant nursery for Gaun. It will all be hidden by a high hedge.

Yuan and Lud arrived to fit some of the sprinkler system, which Gaun had organised unknown to me. It was on my list of to-do’s. Typical generosity from them as they have plenty of work at the farm. No payment or any other reimbursement required.

The feed pipes will be buried of course and the sprinklers will be lost in greenery soon. How wonderful just to turn on a couple of taps and have a big area watered.

Happy Gaun.The whole garden will be watered this way in time.

We have been spending money at a variety of local garden nurseries but Gaun has been tapping into the village stock as well. These ones were bought for 100 baht ($4.00) ……..

And these (front and back) for the cost of a small bottle of whisky ($2.50).Cutting from the farm have made up some bulk planting, lemongrass from a neighbour (free) and galangal from the farm and mama’s house.

Ten plastic pots were bought for hanging ferns. I didn’t like the black so back to painting for me. The pots were 30 baht, the wire hangers 20 baht and five ferns per pot 50 baht so $4.00 each complete. You can see them hanging in earlier photos.

With the almost total focus on the new garden I sometimes forget how lucky we are with the existing oasis of greenery.

That tree in the background – photo above – is a mango and like most of them this year after a proper wet season it is covered in flowers. A huge crop in the making for any of you mango fans out there.

From literally nothing to this in less than three years. The new garden will be as lush as this but much more tropical in feel. I can’t wait.

This is the climber that Gaun has planted for out new pergola. Unfortunately you have to climb a ladder to get the full effect of the wonderful flowers. This is one of the climbing plants that covers our existing pergola across the front of the house.

31 January 2018

End of the day and workman free with the main area completed. Has to be worth celebrating.

Just like a resort but better.

Heaps of new plants added, which will turn this into the dream tropical jungle in time.

Yuan dropped in for a drink. Lud had a heavy night out two days ago and is still recovering!

1 February 2018

It’s the little things that add interest. Today Gaun landscaped the washbasin and I add a couple of touches and we now have both a feature and a useful addition to the garden.

Hasn’t that piece of scrap hardwood I showed you in the last post turned out well. What a beautiful colour. Total cost for all aspects of the basin – $16.00.

How do you hide that ugly blue water pipe? See next photo.

Find some old bamboo, cut it in half and place it around the pipe. A natural and free disappearing act.

2 February 2018

Today has been a pot day. Firstly we drove 40 minutes to an area that specialises in terracotta pots, mostly made and fired locally. I was after some for a spot in the garden and Gaun picked up some unplanned extras. We were also after more plants.

One the way back we saw some of the large water storage pots (“ong” in Thai) that had obviously recently been moved into position. As I have been frustrated in finding anyone to transport the three pots I have on standby in the village to our new land we stopped to see if we could get a contact number.

In true Thai fashion it wasn’t that easy. The guy told us where we could find the contractor so we drove there and after asking two people found his house. He wasn’t there but his mum was. She told us he was off selling sugarcane at the local weightstation. She didn’t know his phone number. We called in at the sugar collection point but he had already left. Luckily someone knew his number but when he called he told us he was busy with sugar and couldn’t help us until April!!!! Square one.

The Thais who knew of my efforts to contact a pot mover (phoning builders, notices on the side of the road, checking with locals) told me that I just needed to relax (sabai sabai) and that eventually someone would come through the village advertising on loudspeakers. If not this week then next, if not this month then……….

Well, evidently my road signage paid hit the jackpot because a contractor was passing looking for work, spotted the sign at the family home and spoke to Gaun’s mama. She got hold of my stepdaughter Peng who tried to contact Gaun on the mobile but couldn’t get a reply (not unusual). Mama sent the contractor round to our place while Peng walked there just as I was opening the gate as I saw her coming. Peng pointed up the road – “ong” coming! One hour later and 1,200 baht ($48.00) I have three pots in the new garden and am a happy man. Thanks Peng and mama.

In true western mindset I had the minimum requirement as a truck with a lift mechanism and a cradle of ropes to move these very heavy pots. How complicated we make our lives. All you need is three blokes and a sort of trailer!

The family was donating one pot to me and here it is loaded with Lud helping.

I also had two other pots waiting to be moved bought at a cost of 250 baht each ($10.00). Here the first is tilted, the trailer slides underneath and is hitched to the pick-up.

No high tech required.

And the final resting place. Once in place these jars are going nowhere. They are old so made twice the thickness of the new versions (if you can find them – plastic replaces all).

Just to give you an idea of their size. Even by compact Thai girl standard (but still beautiful Peng if you are reading) they are a decent chunk of concrete.

The vision I have been wanting to finalise.

This will be an avenue of golden palms leading from the pergola area to the pot with two fan palms framing it. Floodlit at night. The plants on the left haven’t been able to be put in the ground until the pot arrived. We can now finish off the rest of the garden that was in the “flightpath” of the pot delivery. Yes, I know that pot is slightly tilted. It will be corrected 🙂

The smaller pot will be filled with lilies once they come back into season.

Looking from the pot back to the pergola.

The other pot on the opposite side of the pergola. It will be surrounded by a rose garden and circular path. A new path marked out on the left.

All paths lead to a pot.

Not bad even if I am biased. I was going to paint them but I like the weathered original look. I will investigate some sort of sealing coverage that will bring out the variations in colour.

Gaun picked up five of these small pots for $4.00. A slight size difference.

And they ended up in her mini-pond area.

And these are the pots I was after in place under a mango. Plants bought today to be dug in tomorrow. A big step in finishing the new garden.

A reader of my blog kindly shared a link for a magnificent tropical garden in Queensland, Australia. It is exactly the theme that I am trying to reproduce with ours. If I can get even slightly close to this one I will be happy man. Worth a look HERE.

4 February 2018

Needless to say work continues in the garden to settle the big waterpots into place. They have really made such a difference. New paths and plants have gone in to start the development of the areas waiting for the delivery of the pots.

I was going to paint the pots but I just love the natural colours of this weathered concrete, which has been brought to life with a coat of sealer – half half in this photo to show the contrast.

The matching pot at the other end of the garden has a beautiful (in my eyes) pearl sort of feature also enhanced by the sealer. You couldn’t order a design like that.

Back in the day these pots were made on-site and the tradesmen would engrave their names and a date into the surface. This one was made in 2543 (the Thai Buddhist calendar is 543 years ahead of ours). It is only 18 years old but 2543 is Peng’s birth year, so that’s a nice coincidence.

The pot donated by the family was less interesting so it has received a coat of paint today. The avenue of plants to the central pot is now complete and the sprinkler system is being extended to cover this area.

There would now be a thousand plants in the new garden and I haven’t dug in one!

Gaun is the powerhouse behind this achievement and all of the credit goes to her. HOWEVER I wanted to claim to have done something so I had two avocado bushes waiting to be planted and this was my moment. If you do visit I will take you to this spot to proudly show you my efforts 🙂

I will now prove how honest I am and tell you this is mostly fake.

I have a medical situation that means I can’t lift or dig ATM so Gaun dug the previous hole for me and then rushed off to get the camera and capture the moment!!!!! She is one of a kind. I DID actually manage to backfill the hole 🙂

A job completed by teamwork. Isn’t the shape of that water jar great. Once it is softened with plantings it will become a real feature.

This is the real achiever in this project. Today Gaun was moving barrow loads of gravel to create paths, gathering cuttings at the farm, and endless digging in concrete-like soil to expand the planting. A massive energy level and endless enthusiasm.

New paths and new plants everywhere. What was a barren area two days ago is being quickly filled in.

And just to finish off visiting a different garden. We haven’t been out to the family farm in a little while so when we called in today it was lovely to see that the bougainvillea has taken a new lease of life and shows no sign of stopping flowering. Stunning colours.

Sugar cane in the front and a wall of colour at the back.

The entrance to the farm – unlike anything I have seen in Isaan.

Thank you for reading and please leave a comment if you enjoyed your time in our new garden 🙂

Cheers Tony.