Just. Look. At. That.

When we were home over the Summer holidays (which were technically the winter holidays because we were in Australia), I spent a lot of time in the car with The Little Travellers. At least once a day I would stop the car on the side of the road and declare “look at that, would you JUST Look. At. That”. One of the travellers would then sigh out loud in a here she goes again kind of way “are you going to make us get out of the car again Mum?” They would then make the obligatory glance towards either the wildflowers, tree, field or hill that I was marveling over.

A year in the desert, looking at sand dunes, construction sites and camels had provided me with a fresh set of eyes in Australia.

I arrived home to my mothers house and decided to enlighten her with the magical bushes I’d seen scattered through a certain area in South Australia, she raised an eyebrow and said “do you mean the camellias? Darling, you had one of those at Seaview Street, in the front yard”.

Oh. So I did. I can’t remember stopping to actually look at that bush once. I just took it for granted that there would always be camellias. I spent a long time taking gardens for granted.

We’ve had 8 gardens. Eight entirely different gardens, scattered all over the world. I wish I would have taken more photos of them.

I would have taken photos of the Jakarta garden in the wet season, water flooding through our front yard, the steam coming off the grass in the heat. In KL, I would have taken a photo of the monkeys that came to swing in the tree next to the First Little Travellers bedroom window. In Libya we have a photo, two little travellers are standing in the front garden with G, they’re on their way to the Remembrance Day ceremony held at the British Embassy. That embassy has now been looted and trashed, it sits vacant, waiting like the rest of us, to see what Libya’s future holds. Nearly there Libya, nearly there.

In Canada, I have photos because, like many Calgarians, I became obsessed with those 4 months of summer before the snow returned. I took so much pride in the tulips that were planted in October and then popped up in April, they were invariably snowed on 3 weeks after their arrival. In Houston, it was a tropical paradise in our backyard, I miss that house. It was like living in PG American movie, sunshine and tree lined streets with a swing hanging from a big oak tree in the front yard.

When we first walked in to the backyard of our house in Doha, we were speechless for a moment. We stood metres away from a towering peach coloured concrete wall. Our backyard was a concrete squash court. On the ground was a patch of dirt and some very tired and stained pavers. That was our garden. Not a leaf or a blade of grass in sight. In those first few weeks, G would stand outside and bbq and we’d look at the concrete wall trying to think of what we could do – quickly.

We planted some grass, bought a few pots and removed a few pavers. Slowly, the bougainvilleas began to creep up the wall. And then one day, one of the little travellers said “what’s that smell?” and the answer was jasmine, our jasmine.

Yesterday I drove past the back of our house and noticed the bougainvillea now hangs over the top of the wall. This is what it looks like now.

We had these in our garden in Canada they were called Impatiens, they didn’t like the cold (I now understand why). In the UK they call them “Busy Lizzies”. These gutsy girls will stay with you all through the summer, I’m talking hard core 48 degrees for weeks – keep calm and carry on. It was 40 degrees when I took this shot, have a look at them, no wilting, keeping a stiff upper lip. I imagine them speaking in posh accents and drinking Pimms, telling me that Busy Lizzies don’t sweat – they perspire.

The door/window is from Souq Waqif. We’ve just bought it and it’s going up on the wall this week.  We didn’t barter very well because we’d just been through some serious bartering for candle holders and were both suffering with barter fatigue. Plus, I loved it and it was so obvious to both G and the man selling it, that I was taking them home in the car with me. The lemon tree is the latest purchase from the plant souq. Next to it, in the pots is rosemary, coriander and basil. It still amazes me that these things survive in the heat.

When we arrived back from our Summer/Winter holidays, I expected to walk outside and find everything burnt to a crisp. It was still there (thanks to G and and his constant reshuffling of pots). Despite the heat, the bougainvillea had continued to climb and the peach coloured wall was almost a distant memory. No more peach wall.  Just. Look. At. That.

What’s been your biggest gardening challenge?

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