Philippine Garden

Created this site while on "gardening leave" as a pictorial reference to the changes that occurred over the gardens development lifecycle and as a pictorial inventory of what exists in the garden that would be useful to me and might interest others thinking about their own garden in the Philippines.

Garden Development Pictures

It took a few of years of work to establish the garden, the pictures below show some of the progress. Now the garden needs a couple more years for the big plants to mature; then will focus on putting in the garden beds and flowering annual / perennials at a later date when I actually live full-time in the Philippines.

2012 - 2013 - September 2014
 December 2014 - January 2015
Progress as of Mid to Late 2016
Progress as of May 2018

The Intent

Wanted a garden that was open, with large grass areas that one could walk on barefoot with no worries about stones or objects in the ground that could hurt your feet. The garden planting was to be focused on various specimen herbaceous plants that would grab your attention and make you linger to look at them. The plants were to have their natural shapes maintained and arranged in busy competing patterns rather than high maintenance manicured designs that local landscape designers suggested.

The front garden was to be tidy grass area with the orderly planting around the boundary boarder to maximize the sense of available space and to avoid security surveillance system obstructions; whereas the back garden was and is to be more jungle like with multiple directional walking choices. With all this in mind, a planting plan was created so the correct number of plants could be initially obtained and space would be left for the ones that could not be found. I also only visited the property infrequently as worked in Singapore, so planning and remembering what had been done was important.

Another google earth view at the end of February 2018 showing two years growth in the garden as well as a person watering the lawn at the front.

Planting around the boundary is not my preference, but to prevent impulse purchases and partly to explain to others what I was up to, I drafted a chart to show the rough order of which to plant first with that taller plants closer to the fence and shorter ones in front of them. I had to take chances and plant when I could with consideration of the wet / dry seasons.

Inspiration came from many sources, but two gardens stood out, pictures of Dennis Hundscheidt's Brisbane garden that I had read about and in Singapore a garden that I would visit often, which was the Singapore Botanical Gardens [SBG]. With 3000 square meters [30 wide by 100 meters long] to play with, the front 2000 sqm was to give the open SBG feel around the house and to give children space to play games.

Actions, Challenges and Choices

The section is an old rice field and as a consequence, its profile is very flat and prone to being water logged, one of the first things done was to raise the height of the property so that did not occur when the farmers irrigation channels were full to flood the surrounding rice fields. About 900 elfs [small truck loads] of soil were added favouring the front two thirds of the property.

Then the house was built. Builders are messy people it was a constant source of aggravation to find bits of concrete, plastic strewn and dumped around the property during and after construction. There is little local understanding about keeping the environment clean during construction. Even post construction visitors sweet papers are dropped where they are opened or flicked away a short distance assuming that is ok. It is still an ongoing challenge to this date to stop people littering as they do it without thinking.

I like herbaceous plants, specifically the Alpinia, Heliconia, Canna, Costus and maintain a Plant List, which is general inventory of plants in the garden and one with some photos of the Various Plants. It is hard to make mistakes with Gingers & Heliconia, they offer a wide variety of choices, unfortunately I could not find many local choices other than red ginger or the Heliconia Rostrata; which I like very much, so had to import some. The first plant choice was easy, I wanted Foxtail palms around the property and planted about 26 of them in September 2014. These palms became the structure by which all other plantings were influenced. Followed by the Red Ti Plant [Cordyline Fruiticosa] and Calathea Lutea [Tobacco Plant] locations. These Various Plants are hardy and they had to be as after planting and watering for a week, did not see them for another 3 months.

Cathathea Lutea grows quickly, they have big showy leaf blades on long golden stems. It did not take long before the short plants were 2 meters tall and now they stand as stout dense groups sending stems with large leave blades to 3.5 meters in height. If you let them, they could almost become invasive.

A challenge faced was planting in a manner that gave the plants sufficient space to grow but allowed them to seen and watered after planting. Since I was not able to look after the plants, I relied on others to do this while I was away, so some plants perished as a consequence. A few mistakes were also made in under estimating how much room they needed or thinking that some would grow fast enough to outpace another plant when in fact they got overwhelmed.

The time difference between the middle two pictures below is only 10 months. The planting combination of Cathathea Lutea [Left], Red Ti plant [Center], Golden Pandan and Red Wax Palm [Right] hiding the Heliconia Longissima [six inch seedling] at the back, but 3 years later and the Longissima has begun to dominate, probably overcrowding all the other plants in another 2 years. So wish I had put an extra meter of space between some of the plants. The expectations is that once the Red Wax palm gets to 5 - 7 meters tall that it will add some additional vertical height to the arrangement, but that is many years away.

First Picture January 2015. The Middle Two Pictures Are Taken Ten Months Apart. Forth Picture is October 2018.

Red Ti Plants gets quite "leggy" giving the Yellow Pandan a bit more space and every now and then I have to remove some of the overhanging Heliconia Longissima leaves to open up the area, but overall I am pleased with the combination and performance of the plants. The side planting of red ginger was added later. On the far right the Heliconia Chartacea x Platystachys 'Temptress' which was planted about the same time, can be seen, compared to the 5 meters plus height of the Longissima, it looks delicate.

It is expected that there will be beds of flowering plants in front of one or two of these, but this will be done at a later date when I have the time to dedicate looking after them, this will create a more irregular structure around the Palms & Dracaena. I tend to repeat planting formations with the aim of having some colour continuity across the perspective, when viewed from the house as shown in the picture below.

A series of May 2018 panoramas

Progress as of May 2019 

A couple of pictures taken just before heading off to the airport, my bags can be seen beside the orange gate. Not much has changed over the last year, the plants got bigger or taller, with almost no empty spaces to put an extra plant in. Which is good as it is now time to think about putting in the garden beds. I prefer not to have hard boarders, however if use some small upright heliconia, I will need to, as they are "runners" and seem to perform best when confined. At this time of year the weather was fiercely hot, about 35C with some candy floss like clouds providing no shade at all, so it was a lot hotter standing in the direct sun.

I use grass everywhere, my assumption is that I prefer to have the ground covered with grass and deny weeds the opportunity to grow. Plus I think it looks nicer to have the grass everywhere. I am not tempted to put in a pond or swimming pool, the grass is my water equivalent.

A big decision was the type of grass to use for the lawn, something durable was wanted. A good lawn can amaze people, where I live people typically do not have the space nor the commitment to put aside space for a lawn, but I wanted people when they enter my garden they see an oasis of grass that stretches almost the entire length of the property. Putting a lawn down is transformational, it changed the property from a building site to a tidy house almost overnight, so a lot of thought was given to Lawn Grass.

Rain And More Rain

I put a slight slope on the property so that water does not pond and there is a concealed drainage on entire length on one side, with another drainage line on the high side for just half of the property. When it rains, and it can rain for weeks during the rainy season, the water runs off afterwards quite quickly, but on the heavy downpours the water just covers the entire section before it runs off.

It is impressive to see the just how heavy the rain fall can be, in these environments having gutters is futile, they would just overflow. Add some wind and nothing will stay dry and I have seen large trees with the weight of the water and a strong gust in one direction topple the tree over. Typhoons are another complication as they bring heavy rain and strong winds with the rain coming down at an angle, sometimes horizontally.

Rain September 2018.mp4