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10 Things I learned about gardening. After Fighting with a Bougainvillea

If you would like to see more of my “Expat Lifestyle” posts, click HERE!

I love beautiful gardens, but I am no expert when it comes to gardening. Moving in to our new house in Bali and finding not one but two gardens was terrifyingly exciting. They were overgrown, full of weeds, confusing and seemingly uncontrollable. I thought that my gardens should be perfect, like a fancy hotel. But who was going to do it? Me? It took me three months to embark on that adventure and I have learned that I really knew very little about gardening.

The first order of business was to cut back the bougainvillea that I didn’t even know we had until it started flowering in the far corner of the yard. It had grown so much that it had toppled over itself from the weight.

My nonna´s Ikebana

I tapped into my childhood memories of watching my grandmother create beautiful Ikebana from the plants in her garden. I found that I knew plant names, and that I knew how to dig out weeds and cut back overgrowth. I remembered that I loved ferns and so I got some and planted it next to a big rock.

I realized that I was never going to have a hotel garden unless I hired a hotel gardener. My kids started discovering all the different little plants growing all over the place and I decided that maybe it was better to just have the weedy grass cut short and keep things interesting and fun for the kids, frog eggs and snail poo included.

Big Kiddo loves watering the garden with the new hose and getting soaked in the process. It’s a daily afternoon routine.

Even if I could tell that the huge plant in the back was indeed a bougainvillea and that the aloe plants in front like lots of water, I learned a few things the hard way when I took on the upkeep of the gardens. Not surprisingly, three of those are about the darn bougainvillea!

And so I made a list.
Who doesn’t love lists?
They make for good memories.

10 Things I learned about gardening.

After Fighting with a Bougainvillea.

1. Bougainvillea have thorns.
2. Bougainvillea grow extremely fast.
3. You can have Bougainvillea Bonsai .

Bougainvillea Bonsai? yup, that’s right. That’s how they do it here. I am trying to make mine look like the gorgeous flowery balls of pink fluff I see all over the place. It’s hard work, I keep getting spiked and scratched! I never knew bougainvillea had thorns, and I always just thought it was a plant that crawled up walls and over roofs. I have a whole new respect for that plant, it turned out to be a total predator.

4. If you put an over ripe tomato in a pot with leftover dirt and rice husks, tomato plants will grow.

We have around 20 little tomato plants, I wonder how many will survive and if any of them will grow to fruit giving size. I have never even thought of having a tomato plant, I will let you know how it goes.

5. If there is a wasp nest, no matter how many times you cover it, it will make another one.

That wasp is going to be the end of me. When I filled the front garden with new plants I bought randomly at the nursery, turning up the soil and taking out rocks seemed to really bother the wasp but it never left. It tried to make a new nest every single day, even if Big Kiddo covered the hole with rocks. The wasp is still there, maybe it doesn’t like confrontation and is a peaceful wasp. It better never sting us.

6. You can make a mini ecosystem for frogs and snails where the AC drips water.

The corner of the yard where my AC drips has become the home of frogs and snails and all sorts of moss and ferns.

I do nothing to that little area and every day it surprises us with something new. Even a frog skeleton that slowly disappeared into the earth.

Yes, the frogs sing at night and we love it.

7. Cotton balls dry rock hard when you forget to water the seed you are trying to germinate.

I almost killed a loofah baby plant for leaving it in the sun and not watering it for four days. I think I managed to revive it although the cotton balls it was growing in were seriously rock hard!

8. Cats like freshly dug up and moved soil for doing their business.

The next door neighbors moved out last week, they left behind two cats. They like to dig up my new fresh soil as their kitty litter!

9. One rose does not make a rose bush.

When I went to buy the plants, the lady at the shop gifted me a little rose plant with one rose. Now that the rose has died and fallen off, I can’t tell if the actual plant will survive, it looks like  dry stick coming out of the ground.

10. Bilimbin fruit trees give fruit every freaking month and make a stinky mess.

There is a tree at the front of the house that flowers and gives fruit once a month, and I’m talking kilos of fruit. And it’s inedible; bitter and sour.

The cleaning lady has started helping me with the garden and she finally figured out how to control it, remove the flowers before they become fruit.

Sometimes the neighbors come to pick the tree, Indonesians make it into a salad with chili and lime.