Connect with us

Thai Life

Gardening: Slippery slopes of landscaping

Legacy Phuket Gazette

Published 

 on 

PHUKET: I was recently consulted about changes to a large, established garden of some four rai in Laguna. Nothing unusual about that, but here’s the catch. The villa, itself in the throes of major renovation at the behest of a new owner, is sited on a steep hillside and the front garden – mostly Malaysia grass – slopes steeply down from the adjacent swimming pool, then suddenly levels out as a flat expanse. Originally designed as a play area and bordered by mature rubber trees, this level ground slopes briefly away again to the boundary wall. At the right-hand limit of the property, a natural barrier is created by a bamboo screen about two meters tall.

Despite its dramatic situation and south-west aspect, the garden lacks color and floral interest.

Moreover, the most precipitous slopes are becoming denuded of grass because the soil has been leached away, leaving bare patches of reddish and sterile subsoil. In places, more robust, local grasses are taking over. Lower down, the problem is compounded by the overhanging branches and exposed roots of mature trees, which means that here too grass is struggling to survive.

Part of my proposed solution – a traditional one – is to erect dry stone terracing from natural materials on the steepest inclines, and to add new top soil to the areas behind the walls. These beds could then be planted with shrubs, succulents or perennials. My personal preference would be for low-upkeep and colorful shrubs such as ixoras, cuphea and lantana, or for succulents such as adeniums, agaves, yuccas, sedums, or bromeliads. These would not only add color but also interesting sculptural shapes to a presently featureless area.

A less expensive alternative, especially if the terraces are not intended to be continuous, is to create one or more rock gardens across the gradients. Like the terraces, these would have a dual function: both retaining pockets of soil which could sustain a variety of plants, and adding interest and color. Such rocks need to be partially embedded in the existing slope, with any striations running horizontally to create a natural effect. Impermeable rocks such as granite which do not stain are the best bet.

The single existing steep stone path down to the flat area, needs to be made more substantial and set on a diagonal, so that it is less difficult to clamber down. It could then usefully be continued along the base of the hill until it reaches the proposed ‘sala’ at the end of the play area.

As for the mature trees in the garden, sadly some need to go, or at least be subjected to drastic pruning. Overgrown rubber trees and devil trees (alstonias) add little or nothing to the appeal of the garden. They could be replaced with small ornamental trees which flower all year round, by adding colorful plumerias to the existing white ones, or by palms which not only allow grass to flourish but add an exotic feel. My choice of palm would be the elegant foxtail palm – both at the top of the slope below the swimming pool to provide a tropical vista from the house, and maybe at the lower edge of the lawn.

To the right, where the incline is less steep, there are a number of randomly planted trees. Currently, none are in bloom and the less healthy ones need replacing with new and more dramatic varieties. In fact, the slope could become a small arboretum featuring unusual specimens. How about pink or yellow blooming tabubuias, white or purple bauhinias, red coral trees (erythrina), or yellow schoutenias or tecomas? All these are relatively compact, and provide vibrant blossoms. Moreover, since they are not densely foliaged, they would not prevent the grass from growing beneath. Flame trees (delonix regia) are maybe a bit big, but look fantastic when in full bloom. You could add to the feature by making circular beds around the base of each trunk, decorated with low growing cupheas, or spiderworts.

As for the bamboo screen at the far side of the property, now losing much of its lower foliage, I would replace it with fast growing cristina or the more densely leaved Siamese rough bush. Both are sold at most plant nurseries and can be readily clipped. In time, they will form a more effective and neater barrier.

A dream garden? It certainly has the makings of one.

If you have gardening questions, email drpaccampbell@gmail.com. Many of Patrick’s creative and academic publications can be found at Green galoshes WordPress.

— Patrick Campbell

 

Want more Thailand news from the Thaiger family?

📱 Download our app on Android or iOS for instant updates on your mobile
📝️ Join the conversation on Thaiger Talk - discuss news & life in our Thailand forums
📧 Subscribe to our daily email newsletter
👍 Like/Follow us on Facebook
🔔 Subscribe to or Join our YouTube channel for daily video updates

image

Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Follow Thaiger by email:

Coronavirus (Covid-19)4 hours ago

AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines to be donated to Thailand from Japan

Bangkok4 hours ago

Bangkok police warn that protests planned for Thursday break the Emergency Decree

Thailand4 hours ago

Thailand News Today | Hotel occupancy, Phuket beaches hit with tar balls, doctor ‘warning’ | June 21

Phuket Sandbox July 1st

days
hours
minutes
seconds

Thaiger is getting behind local businesses for the restart of tourism in July - up to 50% discounts across all advertising packages in June!

Thailand5 hours ago

Pattaya residents complain of sinkholes in road, couple sustains injuries

Insurgency5 hours ago

2 suspected insurgents killed in gunfire exchange with police-military team

Best of5 hours ago

Top 8 Things to do in Hua Hin

Thailand6 hours ago

Army raids a house, arrests 53 as part of alleged gambling operation

Best of6 hours ago

Top 5 Insurance Companies for Expats in Thailand

Thailand6 hours ago

Thailand abstains from vote on UN resolution condemning Myanmar violence

Leisure6 hours ago

Top 5 Rooftop Bars in Bangkok

Best of6 hours ago

Top 5 Shabu-Shabu Restaurants in Bangkok

Indonesia6 hours ago

Indonesia approaches 2 million Covid cases

Thailand7 hours ago

Monday Covid Update: 3,175 new cases; infections rise in the Deep South

Pollution7 hours ago

Oil slick and ‘tar balls’ wash up on Phuket’s beaches – what caused it?

Best of7 hours ago

Top 5 Ice Cream Shops in Bangkok

Thailand4 months ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism4 months ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket4 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism4 months ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand4 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism4 months ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Southern floods, Face mask fines, Thai Air Asia woes | January 8

Trending