Lihat Keboenque, A Smallish Garden of Delight. Plus Gardening Tips!

Take a look at keboenque my garden, I mean, my jungle! When I moved to the island two years ago, I joined The Joy Luck Bali Club. We love doing things together, like jalan-jalan and nongkrong, hanging out, but mostly, due to our aging bodies, eating and cooking at Madame Twilight’s house. When we do hit the road, usually we go someplace where we can see good landscapes, like the hilly North, the rice fields in South, and those suburban plant shops.

I love the suburban plant shops because they more resemble small forests. They are big, but not that big. They make good use of the space so they appear big. I mean, they’re not only selling flowers but also trees and landscape gardening. And they capture the essence of Balinese gardens well: throw in everything and they will still look good.

One fine balmy day on our way home from Tabanan, Ms. Gek stopped her car by the shops. “Hey, these gardens make good photo ops!” I said and everyone agreed. “But first, I want to populate my garden with jasmines and lemongrass,” she said.

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We helped her choosing young plants and were surprised to find the prices of the beautiful plants were cheap, like dirt cheap. I wanted to buy a lot of plants but I considered I had no green thumbs, so I said to the seller, “What’s the most low maintenance plant?” He handed me a small jasmine bush which cost 50 cents. Everyone went home not empty handed. Even Aunty D. who confessed not so into gardening bought plants too!

The seller was right. I just “added water” and the jasmine thrived. Sestra jokingly called it Mbok Mel after ‘melati’, that is jasmine, when it first bloomed about three months after I brought it home. The flowers are so fragrant, often fully bloom at night. Oh I love the sickly sweet smell!

Simple gardening tips:
– Choose hardy and low maintenance plants. Which ones? Just ask plant sellers! I don not know the names. OK, I can give you a few: aloe vera, palms, jasmines.
– Water them regularly. Do not overwater them.
– Make your own homemade pupuk fertilizer: a mixture of ampas coffee, banana peels, and eggshells.
– Homemade pupuk fertilizer #2: a mixture of MSG, unused instant noodle seasonings, cinnamon powder
– homemade pupuk fertilizer #3: a mixture of seafood shells (of crabs, mollusks), eggshells, put under and not over the soil
– talk sweet to your plants (Prince Charles of England reportedly does it and I think it works)

Fast forward two years, Mbok Mel grows more than two meters tall now. And Mbok Mel (Miss Jasmine) is not alone now. I started buying more (low maintenance) plants which I don’t know the names and planting seeds of madre de cacao (now within a year, it’s a young tree, growing more than 2 meters tall!). I started to rescue plants too: a nearly dry moth orchid which belonged (still does) to Iburatu and a nearly drowned wild orchid from Bedugul. My smallish garden is now a smallish jungle!

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