Friday, January 14, 2011

Plants take a backseat, Concrete takes priority

The first 'regular' weekend of the new year has gone past and we used that time to actually sit down and go through our plans properly for the garden this year. It was actually quite an enjoyable thing to do, it's nice to be in 'normal' mode again after the dizzying business of the so called festive season which can temporarily derail you from your usual routines. Not to mention exciting! Another year, another chance to do something new and get stuck in again.


Taken last summer
 Sifting through all the sketches, plans, paperworks, and technical sheets, it soon dawned on us that we actually have a massive task ahead of us. It has crossed my mind that we may be biting more than we can chew, which I immediately dismissed of course. Always up for a challenge, these sort of thoughts have crossed my mind before but always try to run the extra mile to exceed our personal expectations.

Looking ahead, for us I think this will be the year that the plants will have to take a backseat, and concrete will have to take priority.

I'm not implying that our plants will have to fend for themselves nor I won't be doing much gardening and maintenance, they have their own protected time in our busy lives. And certainly not meaning that we'll just pour concrete on the unfinished parts of the garden as the ultimate low maintenance outside space.

For nearly everyone who has a passion for gardening and plants, whatever type they may be, take delight in thinking about what new plants to buy and acquire, and learning as much about them as part of the entire package. And add to that spending some time poring through books, magazines, and countless of online photos looking for inspirations that one may be able to apply to their own space. 
Files of Notes, Sketches, and Ideas
These activities entertain and occupy me in my spare time too, and it is these activities that I recognise that I must tone down as we need to focus even more on the hard landscaping aspect to the garden. 

Plants will always play the central part for any garden, and will always be a main consideration (apart from a few exceptions of course). But creating a garden is more than just about plants, it is about the interplay between plants, accessories, planting combinations, and of course hard landscaping. And throw in a few more elements into the mixture. The challenge is there to create a harmonious balance that will be pleasing and satisfying, above anyone else, to the creator and owner of this space.
Concrete Roof Tiles
Undoubtedly, hard lanscaping plays an essential part in creating a garden. It provides structure, form, and support to the space . Essential it may be, it's not always the most exciting of tasks to do, and can be hard work and intimidating. But carefully planned and considered, they are generally a one off task that gives a sense of permanency to a place.There is a dazzling array of materials to choose from too; stone, wood, terracotta, steel, and of course concrete. The list goes on!

And speaking of intimidating, the extra challenge for us is that neither of us are in the building and practical trade, far from it being our jobs are in the field of medical and finance. So plenty of effort is poured into doing research, and learning via trial and error from previous projects.

Building a raised bed last summer
Team work and partnership is a big advantage when it comes to this aspect! Fortunately one us is already reasonably skilled when it comes to construction and building work, while the other is good at technical aspects and precision jobs. Most of the demands though are just plain labour intensive and physically demanding, we just help each other out, after all once it's done, it's done. Tiring it may be, the sense of achievement you get afterwards is invigorating.

Admittedly, if budget is generous we wouldn't hesitate calling in the professionals to do most of the work. The project gets done quicker and the finish more impeccable. But doing it mostly yourself certainly does keep the cost down, and any extras can be used to buy more expensive materials instead. We do recognise our limitations too, there are certain aspects that are beyond our skills, not to mention legal requirements, and that's when professionals has to be called in now and again.
Charcoal, our 18 year old cat finds an unusually comfy spot!

But more importanly, doing most of the work yourself, you do get an immense sense of satisfaction seeing something take shape and get completed, knowing it's mainly a product of your own hard graft. And that feeling is priceless.

Gardening is a wonderful hobby, plants are delightful things. But now and again, stone, wood, steel, and concrete has to take priority over them. Just think of it this way, if you care about your plants so much, give them a beautiful and sturdy home too :)



  1. Ooooo I am sooooo envious, maybe I should move in with you....... well maybe not, I think I would be missed.
    Can't wait to see what you are up to this year, I will get over and visit...... one day ;o)

  2. Sounds like you are going to be really busy. Your right its not always all about plants, not that I have been very good with the hard landscaping. I suppose ours is quite a traditional garden. I will follow your progress eagerly.

  3. Looks like you have a lot of work ahead. Best of luck, I am sure you will succeed

  4. Sounds exciting - I'm impressed that you are willing to tackle so much of it yourselves, whatever the "it" is... Hope you both avoid injury and look forward to seeing the results.

  5. good luck....Im rubbish with hard landscaping stuff as anything needing concrete I just ignore, however I now have so many bricks I may give it a go. Your positivety is inspiring....i look forward to seeing pictures of progression!

    Nice Fasicularia in your tree!

  6. I don't think I could face concreting - I might puty in a raised pond if I can find the time andf money.

  7. Fantastic post. 2011 might be the year of structural work in our garden as well. I'm not handy at all but I'm trying to push myself to learn new skills so I can do and build more things. It's good to dream big and then adjust those dreams as reality sets in :-)

  8. Well that was a post that kept me reading...I was waiting for you to say what you are doing with all that concrete! So i suppose you are going to make us all wait? Or did I miss something?

  9. Plantaliscious and Hazel, only after reading your comments have I realised I haven't mentioned what the project is :) I focused more on the importance of hard landscaping in making a garden, and just paralleled it to our current journey.
    It's actually an entire section of the garden and includes everything, a long term project that will be spaced in a period of months, maybe a couple of years. No instant before and after shots, but I'll keep updating the blog on our progress.

    Thank you for the lovely compliments and encouragement. I'm genuinely looking forward to everyone's progress this year, that's the best bit about just entering a new year, lots of new things to look forward to.

    Clive, I do like that Fascicularia too, and even flowered last year growing epiphytically :)

  10. Good for you for being willing to focus on the less tempting (for most of us) hardscaping vs. the much more seductive role of selecting more plants. Really enjoyed eating my lunch while reading your post!

  11. Thank you for the lovely compliment Eliza! Glad you enjoyed your lunch while reading the post :)

  12. I agree! I bet the hardscaping looks beautiful! I did a (big project) wall a few years ago and on a dreary day like today when everything is brown and dead, the wall still looks fantastic.

  13. Hi Wendy, very true! And concrete is totally hardy :P


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