The making of an English garden in Janda Baik (17-20th July 2017)

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On Saturday 22nd July, Hanis Harun’s ‘Forest Lodge’ hotel on Radiant Retreats Site A in Janda Baik will be officially open for business.  So, on 17th July I drove up with her from Johor Bahru to help plant an English garden; something she has long wanted to do here. The climate in Janda Baik is much cooler than in Johor Bahru as it is up in near Genting Highlands to the east of Kuala Lumpur. The photos shown here were taken by myself and Hanis, and have been mixed up to help tell the story of how Forest Lodge came to be surrounded by a beautiful English garden! (This explains the non-matching sizes of some of the photos.)

Our first task was to select and buy the plants, soil, and flagstones needed to convert a construction site into a beautiful garden. There were many nurseries along the roadside in Shah Alam, a suberb of Kuala Lumpur where Hanis’s family live. Some items were to be delivered the next day, while others were squashed into the back of Hanis’s car. When everything was off-loaded on site, we questioned whether we had bought sufficient. Miraculously we had, and this was all down to Hanis’s natural intuition.

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Here are the people who helped make this happen. Most were Haniss Indonesian workers who have been building Forest Lodge over the last few years and who help service the existing Mountain Lodge and Orchard Villa on this site. We also had to rope in the Radiant Retreats staff for a few hours as digging up this heavy sandy clay soil for planting was a very difficult task.

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And here’s myself and Hanis hard at work!

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Hanis’s workmen seemed able to cope with any tasks asked of them and watching them manoeuvre heavy logs and cement water pipes with just a piece of rope, a length of bamboo, and a metal hoe was incredible.

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While we had intended to take ‘before and after’ shots, the chaos of the worksite and the relentless toil (!) meant some intentions were not entirely fulfilled. Still, you should get a sense of what was achieved from the following photos.

Here is what was to become known as ‘Sunset Corner’. Sadly, when we had completed this section at the front of the property we did not have a photo-worthy sunset, so I have used a photo taken on the morning and evening of the day before.

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One incredibly effective way to beautify Forest Lodge was to add some hanging baskets containing brightly coloured flowers. I will have to cross my fingers though to hope these are watered daily or they will not survive for long.

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Around the side of Forest Lodge, we made a flagstone path to lead to a long flower bed, which then led to a continuation of the flagstone path with some logs for sitting on. Eventually there will be a gazebo at the end, but that is for later.

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You will have to imagine this photo on the left to be pointing in the other direction to match the photo on the right!

And here we are at the end of the garden where the gazebo will be built. As you can see, there still remains plenty of construction waste to remove but the presence of plants provides an excellent distraction for the eyes.

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In addition to hanging baskets, we put a number of pots around Forest Lodge and in front of Mountain Lodge to provide instant colour with orange marigolds and brilliant coloured zinnias. And as you approach Forest Lodge from the carpark, you will see more marigolds and two stunning hydrangea plants.

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We also produced a flash of colour by the wall as you enter the property. Here the ground was solid sandy clay and it was very difficult to dig deep enough to plant the flowers. Eventually, more soil will be dug into this plot and it should then become easier to work in the future. The blue flowers at the front of the flower bed open in the morning sun while the other plants should display their flowers all the time. Once this flower bed was ready, we had instant wildlife in the garden with the arrival of a huge black and white butterfly.

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We further tried to disguise this wall with some red-and-white-flowered Rangoon Creepers, but it will take a while before we see the creepers dominating the wall. While not so familiar in English gardens, we planted tall dill plants near the wall as these are reported to have additional anti-mosquito properties.

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Finally, we made a few more feature plantings at the entrance to the carpark. These may be modified later once the carpark area is completed.

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So, in just two days of solid work, we produced an English garden in the hills of Malaysia. Finally, I must offer my thanks to all of Hanis’s staff who helped make her dream come true.

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