This Place is Growing on Me

front entry.jpg

The front entrance--with plants!

The last several couple of months have been taken up with lots of writing work and domestica. Hence the radio silence.

We feel truly settled into our new home--which means, of course, that it's time for a vacation! We'll leave in two days for a few weeks in Spain. Meanwhile, here's a peek at the garden, which is not struggling as much as I thought it would in the summer heat. Daytime temperatures hover around 110-115 degrees Fahrenheit. 


New patio

The only prominent feature of our front yard when we moved in was a big metal utility panel, about 2 feet square and rising about 6 inches above the ground. We had this patio built at the same level as the panel to make the best of it--and it turned out exactly as I had pictured it! How often does that happen with home improvement projects?

dust covers.jpg

Dust covers

The only kind of storms we get during the summer months are dust storms. So we had these covers made for our outdoor furniture. The dirt color works great: the covers are filthy in this photo!

gardening center.jpg

The compound's garden center

When we first moved in, I went to the greenhouses on our compound, where they grow the plants for all four of the company's residential camps. A gardening manager walked around with me, showing me dozens of plants and describing their habits and growing conditions. I chose what I wanted in my garden, and the next day they came and planted everything. Wow. It was like winning the grand prize in a garden center contest.

umbrella plants.jpg

Umbrella plants

Choosing the plants was an interesting process. I was looking at a completely different set of flora than I'm used to back home, so while in Maryland I knew the common names of at least the most widely cultivated plants, here I know almost none of them. Add to that the fact that the gardening staff here is mostly Indian and Bangladeshi. So even if I did know the common names of these plants, it still wouldn't translate. I am experiencing firsthand why it's a good idea to learn the scientific names of plants. 



This is one I know from living in California. We have an even more prolific bougainvillea in the back garden, and it's hot pink! These are the only plants that were already on the property when we moved in.



We have cannas with green leaves and with striated reddish leaves. They bloomed about a month after they were planted, so I take it they're happy here.

climbing jasmine.jpg

Climbing jasmine

I strung some kitchen twine up and around the porch support, and a climbing jasmine is now happily working its way up. When it blooms, the whole front porch will smell like jasmine; that's the plan, anyway.


Jasmine, growing like a weed

Here's another view of the jasmine, which was about 8 inches high when it was planted.

sand rose.jpg

Cactus and Sand Rose

There are places out in the desert where, with a sharp eye and a shovel, explorers can find these naturally occuring sand roses. I don't know exactly how they are formed, but it has something to do with water evaporation in the sand over a period of time. Some friends who have just retired gave us all kinds of things for the house and garden, including this beautiful pot of cactus, and the aloe plants behind it.



Here's another plant that was given to us by our friends who retired. They tell us it blooms with tiny flowers right around sunrise. Maybe someday I'll get up at dawn to see for myself. Or not.

petrified wood cactus.jpg

Petrified wood

The picture does not convey how much you would not want to drop this piece of petrified wood on your toe. Even if you're standing right in front of it, the piece's appearance is deceptive. It looks like driftwood, but has the heft of iron. The pots behind it are starting to flake and fall apart, as ceramic pots do after a couple of years in the Saudi weather.



Every garden needs a good "relic" or two. Our recently retired friends handed down this replica of a jug that was meant to carry wine (as if....) I think it'll look great when the garden has filled out and it's half buried in the greenery.


The sprinklers that make it all possible.

These tiny bubblers come on three times a day for ten minutes each. Amazingly, that's all it takes to keep the garden alive. All this greenery in Saudi Arabia seems a bit excessive, until you realize that without plants and moisture to hold the ground down, the dirt swirls up with every slight breeze. The fine, silty sand gets into the tiniest cracks in doors and windows and leaves a fine coating on furniture, clothes, skin, eyes--everything. This is the desert, but the sand is not like beach sand; it's like the fine dirt on a baseball diamond. People who live in the American Southwest will know what I'm talking about. Without irrigation, life here would be miserable. It's a pleasure to learn about this new set of plants and growing conditions, and to understand how lush I can make my garden with a lot less water than I used back in Maryland. When we return to a more humid climate--wherever we go after this, I guarantee it'll be more humid than Saudi Arabia--I plan to install an automatic sprinkler system. It's convenient and it delivers just enough water, exactly where it's needed.